You know what I miss about working in an office? Literally nothing, apart from having access to a fancy coffee machine. It turns out that the magic of the liquid black gold is within reach even for work-from-home keyboard warriors. You don’t even need to spend ridiculous amounts of money for a tasty hot beverage to have you jittering your way through the day.
Got any caffeine fiends or coffee lovers in your life who might want to up their coffee game? Here’s our top six gift ideas, from super affordable to…not.
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1. Start with the beans
It’s pretty rare that a great holiday gift comes at a reasonable price, but in the coffee category, you’re in luck. Go to a specialty coffee store near you, and you can get a great, high-end holiday gift in the $12–$25 range. High-quality, freshly roasted beans is the first step to making amazing coffee at home, provided that your recipient has a grinder. If they don’t, you can buy ground coffee, but be aware that it goes stale far faster.
I’m a sucker for coffee subscriptions that focus on variety, and most third-wave coffee roasters have a subscription plan you can gift. Atlas Coffee Club is one of my favorites; the bags are only for subscription, so they don’t have to worry about how the bags look on the shelf. The upshot of that is they always have some fresh and funky designs.
Each pack they ship comes with a postcard with tasting notes. The company charges $109 for six months’ worth of gift subscriptions, including shipping. If Atlas doesn’t do it for you, Trade has a broader selection of choices, or if that seems too overwhelming and adventurous, the stalwarts of the industry such as Blue Bottle, Peet’s and Equator all have giftable subscription plans too.
Price: Varies depending on brand and subscription type
2. Cheap is great: the AeroPress
Launched back in 2005 and designed by a guy better known for inventing the Aerobie frisbee, the AeroPress continues to be one of the best devices for coffee making at home. It makes a rich, smooth coffee that tastes somewhere between an espresso, a french press, and a drip coffee. At just $40, it’s by far the cheapest way to make a respectable cup of coffee. It’s almost indestructible (I’ve owned mine for more than 10 years, and it’s still going strong) and can make great coffee wherever you can get water up to a certain temperature. The trick is to use cooler water than you’d expect (175°F/80°C), which requires a kettle with good temperature control, but overall, it’s hard to screw up a cup of AeroPress. Get some good beans and grind them a tiny bit more coarsely than you would for espresso. If you buy ground beans, espresso grind works just fine.
Price: $40 from AeroPress
3. From beans to powder: Ode Brew Grinder 2
This might come as a surprise, but for great coffee at home, your first upgrade probably shouldn’t be your machine, but your grinder. Or rather: Make sure you buy fresh, high-quality beans and then grind them with as much precision as you can: A uniform grind is what you’re looking for. Fellow is perhaps best known for its high-precision EKG electric kettle, which has more or less become the industry standard for high-end baristas making pour-over.
In this guide, however, I wanted to give the Ode Brew Grinder a bit of love. At $345, it is astonishingly expensive, but it is one of the best grinders money can buy.
The original version was well reviewed, and the Gen 2 improves on a winning formula: It has antistatic technology, which means less of a mess. It has a cup that goes under the grinder that is held in place magnetically. You grind just enough beans for however much coffee you are going to make, and the grinder stops automatically once your beans are shredded to the appropriate size. The major difference is that the grinding burrs have been completely redesigned; the Gen 2 brew burrs are capable of grinding as fine as 250 microns, while the Standard brew burrs that come stock in the original Ode Brew Grinder can grind as fine as 500 microns. If you love espresso drinks, Fellow warns that this isn’t the grinder for you, but if you’re more of a pour-over person, you can’t go wrong.
Price: $345 from Fellow
4. Bringing the science: Acaia Pearl coffee scale
Is it sane to pay $150 for Acaia’s specialized set of Pearl digital coffee scales when Amazon will sell you a just-as-accurate scale for a tenth of that? Well, the Acaia scale does more than just measure the coffee grinds itself; it can also show you the pour rate you are using for your pour-over brews, helping you fine-adjust and make your brews more repeatable.
Accurately measuring the amount of coffee you put into espresso is a crucial part of fine-tuning your coffee recipes: A double shot of espresso, called a “doppio,” requires 14 to 18 grams of coffee and produces 60 ml (2 fluid ounces) of coffee. From there, you esperiment with the pressure your espresso machine is calibrated to, your tamping, the coarseness of your grind, and… Oh dear, my coffee nerdery is showing, isn’t it?
All I’m saying is that if your coffee-loving gift recipient doesn’t use scales to make espresso, they either don’t really care about coffee, or they haven’t figured out how important it is for consistency. Whether you pick up the $150 Acaia, the $50 Timemore, or the $17 KitchenTour scale, a precision set of scales is a crucial step toward coffee nirvana.
Price: $150 from Acaia
5. For the tinkerers: Gaggia Classic
If you love espresso drinks and are an epic coffee nerd, you eventually fall deep enough into the coffee hole that you start learning to make your own espresso drinks from scratch. That means getting a grinder, some scales, and a good machine. The Gaggia Classic wouldn’t stand up to the intense requirements of a busy cafe, but for home use, at under $500, it is a remarkably affordable machine for anyone wanting to make coffee shop–quality espresso.
The machine has the most important features that baristas look for: It cranks out up to 12 bars of pressure, and it’s been around for 30 years. Spare parts are easily and readily available, and YouTube is overflowing with guides for how to take it apart and repair it if something should go wrong with it. The steam wand means that you can steam milk to create more creative espresso drinks — lattes, flat whites, macchiatos; they are all some experimentation and an internet tutorial away.
Price: $425 from Amazon
6. Just make the coffee for me already: Breville Oracle Touch
If the thought of measuring your grinds to the nearest milligram makes you twitch, and fine-adjusting the coarseness of the grind fills you with a sense of dread, there are luckily fully automatic solutions too. Keurig’s K-cups and Nespresso pods are a good option if you want minimum hassle and don’t care about having some coffee cred. For the lazy aficionado, however, there’s the $2,800 Breville Oracle Touch. Yes, it is eye-wateringly expensive, but it’s capable of making any coffee drink you can imagine. If you’re the kind of person who’s utterly malfunctioning before you have your first cup of coffee, the Oracle Touch makes it as foolproof as it gets: Pour in some beans, water, and milk, then use the touch screen to look for the picture of the drink you want. No hassle, no mess, no skill required. The machine grinds, doses, stamps, heats, pumps, and steams. Sure, there are cheaper bean-to-cup machines out there, but that’s not what we are optimizing for here: This is all about ease of use and a jolt of caffeine while involving as few brain cells as possible.
Price: $2,800 from Breville