Archive for the ‘Chemex Drip Brewers’ Category
Unfortunately, coffee snobs have a tendency to be sort of… well, snobby. This happens in any area of life. When an individual has taken the time to research a topic, learn about it, put time into it, pour money into it, he/she will tend to develop a passion (or hatred) for said topic. The next step from passion to snobbery is, well… one step away.
At times, one will talk to a coffee snob and come away with the feeling that the coffee you drink from a grocery store could taste just like dog poop and you really wouldn’t care because there is no way you would ever agree with what that jerk is saying. The thing is, if you think about it, it’s not what he/she is saying, it’s how they are saying it. It’s been exciting to see more and more coffee afficiandos understanding that great coffee is not something to glory over and hide its knowledge like some Caffeinated form of Gnosticism; but it is something exciting to share with others as the excitement catches on with them as they enjoy tasting their first really, really good cup of coffee.
Therefore, what I mean by the title of this is that, whether “snob” refers to someone who is actually arrogant, or whether it is just slang for someone who cares deeply about good coffee (regardless of whether they are nice or not), you are the mom (or dad, or brother, or sister, or spouse, or significant other, etc) and you need a Christmas gift idea fast!
Therefore, my goal in this post is to give you 10 Gift Ideas under $50 that you can use when shopping for that coffee snob in your family.
Clever Coffee Dripper with Melitta Filters – $18.99
The Clever Dripper is the perfect beginner coffee snob manual brewing method. It is cheap, fast, easy to clean up, and makes excellent coffee. For more information on how to use one, go to this blog I wrote: What Is The Best Method of Brewing Coffee: Part 3, Choosing Your Brewer. If you want a relatively painless way to get your family member out of the Folgers and into the next level of coffee, the Clever is the place to start.
Hario Hand Grinders – $31.95 – $37.95
Arguably the most important part of brewing coffee is grinding (get more info here: What is the Best Method Of Brewing Coffee, Part 2 Grinding Your Beans). Therefore, having a good grinder is essential to getting good coffee. There are reasons why burr grinders are better than blade grinders (again, reference that blog post), but oftentimes good burr grinders can be pricey. For the quality of the grind, it is difficult to beat the price of these two hand grinders. They are excellent gifts for the coffee lover who wants to grind coffee well (or as a supplemental travel grinder for the coffee lover who already has a good grinder!).
Kalita Wave Dripper & Filters - $35.90
So the coffee lover in the family already has a number of interesting and confusing coffee gadgets… what else do they need? The Kalita Wave is the perfect gift for this individual because it is a relatively new brewer and one that he/she will likely not have yet. They can thus far only be purchased at a few retailers in the USA so just to warn you, they just might run out of stock before Christmas.
Chemex CM-8A with Filters - $39.50
The Chemex is old faithful. It is difficult to mess up a Chemex brew (with good coffee at least) and is another excellent choice for a friend/family member who likes coffee but is still new to the manual brewing scene.
Bodum 8 Cup Chambord French Press - $39.95
The Bodum French Press is what Super Mario Brothers was to modern gamers. One often hears stories of coffee lovers who
started their addiction got their start with a french press. Like other methods of manual brewing, the French Press has its pros & cons. However, it is still a valid manual brewing method and one which can still churn out great tasting coffee.
Jennings CJ4000 Digital Coffee Scale - $40.00
If that person in your life who has an obsession with a caffeinated berry seed doesn’t currently use a scale for manual brewing, one of the top gifts I would recommend is getting him/her a digital scale. Before I used a scale I just guessed at everything… no small wonder that my brews would vary widely in their quality. Once I got a scale, I used the basic measuring suggestion from Intelligentsia Coffee (6 grams of coffee per 100 ml of water) and, voila, my brews became more consistent and better tasting all around. IMHO, a digital scale is not an optional step in manual coffee brewing.
Aeropress with Able Metal DISK Filter - $40.95
The Aeropress is a great all around coffee maker and makes a really great cup of coffee. It is also easy to clean and very fast to use. This is another great gift for a coffee beginner or expert. It comes with 350 paper filters, but I would suggest getting the DISK as well. The DISK is an American-Made stainless steel filter that will only serve to enhance the coffee flavors (will not suck up oils form the coffee as paper filters tend to). Plus, with the DISK, your entire Aeropress is easily washable with no paper waste!
I want to go out on a limb and say that the Hario V60 is currently the most popular pour-over method in use today. While it has possibly slowed down a little with the influx of other pourover methods, it is still a highly popular and excellent method to use. The one thing to keep in mind with this (if you are buying for a beginner coffee personage), is that it is a little more tricky than other methods. Because of this, the results on a good cup tend to be even more flavorful than other methods, but it also means it can be a lot easier to mess up. Otherwise, it is a fantastic method that I imagine nearly everyone who manual brews has used at one point or another.
Yama Siphon Vacpot 3 Cup Brewer - $48.95
I’ll just say it. The siphon makes a great tasting cup of coffee… but I think it just looks awesome. This is the “cool” brewer of coffee. It can be a good amount of work to use so it is not for a person who wants a practical brewer for everday brewing. However, it is a perfect supplemental toy for the individual who loves to make speciatley coffee, and loves to show it off to guests. Make sure to also check out the stovetop siphons as well as the butane burners (for the tabletop siphons).
Coava Kone Metal Filter for Chemex Drippers – $50.00
So this is not actually “under” $50 but it is close enough and cool enough that I wanted to include it in the list. The Coava Kone is a metal filter that sits in a Chemex brewer, but it is technically its own manual brewing device. This is the perfect gift for the relative/friend who already has a Chemex maker. The Kone makes a great cup and is easy to clean, with no paper waste. It’s actually a no-brainer… if the person you are buying a gift for already has a Chemex, then get them this Kone. They will love it!
So that’s the end of my list. What about you? Anything you agree/disagree with on this list? Anything you would have included? Let me know in the comments below and if you really like the post, then help those other “mothers of coffee lovers” out and share the post on facebook or twitter!
…The Trek Continues…
I am currently sipping on a Burundi that I roasted up last Friday and just finished my breakfast which consisted of a Blueberry Crisp Clif bar… btw, Clif bars are so good! Anyway, I found a different popcorn popper at a garage sale for $2 (I know right?) and figured I better try it out so I used it with the last of my Burundi. I had about 80 grams so I split it in half. The first batch took a lot longer than usual. I think the difference in the popper and what i am used to. Also, I think next time I just need to have more beans. In that particular popper, I think 60 grams is probably a better amount.
I decided to try it this morning over ice. It is currently 84 degrees & 89% humidity here in Louisville and not yet 7am. For a Minnesota boy, that is too blasted hot for this early in the morning… ain’t no way I’ma gonna drink hot coffee. I figured now was a great time to try out an iced Clever dripper. I ground the coffee with a fairly coarse grind and put in 150 ml of 200 degree water. I let it steep for 4 minutes (I generally only steep my Clever’s for 3 minutes and allow 1 full minute for draw down, but this was so coarse I figured I better go longer). Then I let the Clever draw down over my mug with 150ml of ice in it (in the mug that is). The result? An incredibly smooth and balanced body with absolutely no bitterness at all. Honestly, this is such a smooth cup that its hard for me to pick out specific flavors. Almost seems a bit caramelly and reminds me more of a nutty South American coffee than a fruity African coffee. All in all, a very satisfying cup but one I think I would prefer more in the afternoon. I am a fruity morning coffee kind of person and love nothing more than a good Ethiopian Ardi/Sidamo for the waking up hours.
On another note, if you haven’t heard, the Coava Kone 2 has been released. This release is not so much because of deficiencies in the first, but because the second is that much better (although Coava does address some of slight criticisms of it in the new version… see here: Coava Kone. Lee Sill of Prima Coffee has written a helpful review of his brewing process he used for the new Kone and it is well worth your time to read it: Kone 2 Review.
Speaking of crazy things, last night our home water pressure dropped drastically. Water bill? Nope… paid. Hopped on twitter (the new breaking news place to go) and found out many others in Louisville were experiencing the same thing. Waited a few minutes and pretty soon this report from WHAS comes on to twitter: Massive Water Main Break. This is about 4-5 blocks from our house. Thankfully our water was back when they rerouted it, but still, I think there was a lot of people without water. hope everything will be fixed soon! Reminds you how thankful we can be for these small things like clean water that we so often take for granted.
…The Trek Continues…
So, we have gone over Choosing Your Beans and Grinding Your Beans. In this last part of the mini-series on “The Best Way to Make Coffee” we will look at the brewing options and discover which is the best for what you need. Unfortunately, well-intentioned coffee enthusiasts can often spend a high dollar amount on good beans, and then ruin any chance those beans had at flavor by brewing them in a Mr. Coffee auto-drip machine. ”What’s so bad about automatic coffee drippers?” you may ask. To answer that, allow me to take you back to your high school science classes. You know, the ones with crazy Mr. York and his goggles. What would he always say composed a good scientific experiment? Controlled variables and the opportunity for repeatability. Coffee brewing is, in its own way, science. You are combining various components to get a specifically desired chemical reaction – that of a precious caffeinated beverage. Therefore, logically, what is the bets way to get your desired outcome? By controlling as many of the variables as possible in the process. To make the best coffee, you must control the variables. Those variables include, but are not limited to:
- Quality of Bean (Covered in first blog post)
- Freshness of Bean (also covered in first blog post)
- Quality of Grind (covered in second post)
- Freshness of Grind (once you grind your coffee, it is losing flavor… you should only grind immediately before you are ready to brew)
- Water Temperature (should be about 200 deg F – see this Quora question/ Lee Sill’s answer for specific info – most auto-drip pots don’t get up to 180 F)
- Coffee-to-Water Ratio (ideally you want 6 grams per 100ml of water)
- Rate of Pour (how quickly are you adding the water to the grounds? you cannot adjust this with a auto-drip machine)
- Location of Pour (generally you want to evenly “touch” as much of the grounds with the water as possible – this allows for more even extraction which will help the taste of the coffee. Auto-drip makers generally drip continually in the center of the grounds over-extracting those in the center and under-extracting those on the edges)
- Brewing Length of Time (too short = under-extracted, too long = over-extracted - auto-drip brewers don’t really allow you to adjust the time it takes to brew)
- Quality of Water (since your coffee is about 90% water, having a filter for your water is essential)
- Cleanliness of Brewer (You may not think of this one, but it’s essential… let’s do an experiment. Take used coffee grounds and dump them on a plate and set it upon your fridge. Leave it for 3 months. Now, pull the plate down, dump the grounds in a filter, and run hot water through them. Drink and enjoy. Sounds nasty right? Well, when was the last time you cleaned your auto-drip machine… because you are basically reliving that experiment every time you use it… and you may have had that maker for 5 years without cleaning it. Disgusting isn’t it?)
- Other variables I probably forgot. (There are many other variables involved, some people even get concerned about ambient humidity and temperature. Whatever other variables there may be, know that this list is by no means exhaustive!)
For the very fact that it doesn’t really fit into any “manual brew method” category, I will begin with one of my favorites: the aeropress. The Aeropress is a uniquely designed method that actually puts out great coffee for its cheaper feel and look. Made entirely out of plastic, the aeropress may be one of the most practically designed manual methods out there. The Aeropress is basically designed as an espresso-like coffee maker. Based upon the same principles as an espresso maker, the Aeropress works by placing hot water & coffee grounds into a chamber, and then using a plunger to add pressure to force the coffee through a filter into a cup. Of course, because of the high degree of complexity that makes up real espresso, this little plastic device can’t make true espresso… but I’ll tell you, it can get pretty close. Given the fact that the entire thing is also dishwasher safe, the Aeropress gets my “favorite morning method” award. I can often heat water up, add the grounds, stir, press, rinse, and get out the door. Simplistic, but makes a great cup. Quick disclaimer: I would suggest using some variation of the “Inverted Aeropress Method” in order to get the best results (see here for more info).
Benefits: Extremely cheap. Uses full-immersion brewing as well as pressure (which reduces the amount of time needed for the brew). Simple & quick to prepare & clean up. With different proportions measured out, can actually make an espresso-like drink. Frankly, if you enjoy lattes, some heated milk and a good-sized “shot” from this will taste quite satisfying (though will definitely be slightly different then what you are sued to). Comes with 350 filters in the initial package. Because the coffee is pressed out evenly through the filter, over/under-extraction is greatly reduced (just don’t let it sit too long before pressing.
Negatives: Made entirely of plastic which may discourage some from using on a daily basis. Can only make very small amounts (single cups of coffee or less). Over time, plastic will begin to be discolored from use (Aerobie has somewhat hidden this by making the new Aeropress with a darker plastic – I still have the old one so know the truth .
The French Press is the cornerstone of the total immersion brewing method. As the Beatles are the icons of early rock & roll, so the french press is the icon of “manual brew methods”. It may not be the fanciest method ever, but the french press is a great way to get into the world of manual brewing.
Benefits: Extremely cheap. Uses full-immersion brewing,. Easy to control time of brew.
Negatives: Unless you drink all of it immediately, your coffee will get over-extracted by leaving it in the press. Because there is not much to it and it takes a full 3-4 minutes to brew, the water temperature can drop during brewing. Also, the metal filter leaves a lot of sediment in your cup. If you get a small tear in the screen, be prepared to be straining grounds out of your teeth. Difficult and time-consuming to clean.
Yes, the Cafe Solo is wearing clothes. Yes that is purposeful. The Cafe Solo is basically a remade French Press. It’s Neoprene sleeve helps keep the everything nice and toasty while it is brewing. The filter is attached to the cap, so instead of pressing down to keep the grounds in the water, you actually pour the finished coffee out of the brewer. A drip-less spout and included paddle help make this quite the fancy brewer.
Benefits: Utilizes full-immersion brewing. Sleeve keeps water hot while brewing. Simple to use. Easy to control brewing time.
Negatives: Expensive to buy. Filter on cap is nice, but you still have to have another carafe to pour your finished coffee into when done. Metal filter still lets amount of sediment through that french press does (some people think it is more). Fairly difficult to clean… don’t break the glass cause replacements can be spendy.
The Clever Dripper could technically be put into its own category. It is a cross between a Pourover dripper and a Full Immersion brewer. For the sake of argument, I put it into the Full-Immersion brewing category because there is not a great deal amount of skill needed for the pour and the majority of the brewing happens as a total-immersion method. Still, after using this, as much as you hate to do it, you can’t quite help saying how “clever” this little brewer is. The (IMO) ideal method for easy by-the-cup brewing, the Clever works by placing a pre-wet filter into the dripper, pouring the grounds and water into it, and allowing it to sit for 3-4 minutes. Once finished, set directly onto your mug while you work, and the nifty valve at the bottom will open and drain the coffee into your mug. If you want to stop, lift the brewer off the mug and the valve will close again… clever.
Benefits: Full-immersion brewing. Extremely cheap to purchase. Filters are common filters found at any big box store and are cheap. Exact control over time. Extremely quick to use and simple to clean up. Practicality allows you to do other things while brewing (i.e., I use this as the office and get things done while brewing up my coffee).
Negatives: Can only brew small amounts (400 ml at the absolute maximum). Plastic materials could cause concern in some.
Pourover Brewing is the most similar method to the much-loved auto-drip maker, though with the ability to control all the parameters that the auto-drip cannot. The strengths of pourover brewing tend to be a highly controllable pour-rate of the water (which requires a kettle with ultrathin spout like the Hario Buono), as well as the ability to maintain a high degree of control over the temperature and volume of the water. Because of the paper filter used, pourover methods generally have a much cleaner cup. The ability to control these parameters can make the pourover method more risky in some ways, though this also gives better dividends in more complex flavor notes not as noticeable with full immersion methods.
The Chemex is a classic pourover design that has been around for 60 years. As far as pourover methods go, it is a fairly straightforward and simple design. The water should be poured in a circular motion around the grounds and should be measured so you finish your pour at just over 3 minutes. The super-thick filters allow almost a full-immersion-like brewing process and the creative design allows the coffee to drip cleanly down to the base.
Benefits: Extremely simple design makes brewing process fairly easy for beginner pour-overists (i.e., harder to mess up the brew). Brewer & carafe are all in one and there is no need to purchase a carafe separately. Cleaning is fairly easy with Cafiza and a long brush. Can use the Coava Kone metal filter which eliminates the need to paper filters and gives a better all-around cup.
Negatives: All glass design is easy to break (we are on our third one here at the office).
The Hario V60 is possibly the most recognizable of the pourover methods. It exploded into popularity and has steadily expanded in its reach in the US. The V60 uses ridges on the side of the cone walls and a thin paper filter to push the water outward through the grounds to the walls, and then down into the carafe. This design is primarily an effort to keep all of the water from drifting down the center of the cone and over-extracting the grounds a the bottom of the cone, while under-extracting the ground along the top and sides. Of course, because of this unique design, a fairly exact pour must be mastered in order to fully utilize the V60 design. If the pour is not done correctly, the grounds can become over/under-extracted and will taste bitter, sour, etc. The V60 also requires a carafe and kettle with thin spout in order to fully function.
Benefits: Unique design allows more unique and complex flavors to be brought out of the grounds then other methods allow. Simple to clean up. Allows much experimentation for perfecting different pour rates/times/etc. IMO it allows the most control over the most variables of any pourover method (feel free to disagree with that statement in the comments below and I’d be interested to hear what other methods you feel like give more control).
Negatives: To fully take advantage of the V60 you need numerous “required” accessories: good grinder, Buono kettle, carafe, filters, some way to heat the water… it can be somewhat expensive to initially get in (FYI, you can also get deals on it by getting it pre-packaged in a bundle of some sort). Somewhat difficult to initially get great pours – requires practice (is definitely worth it once you perfect it, though).
Pushed a great deal by Nicholas Cho of Wrecking Ball Roasters lore, the Kalita is the “newest” of the pourover cones to hit the US market. The design is similar to may other pourover methods, although according to Cho, the difference is that the flat bottom of the Wave prevents the grounds from being over-extracted as can happen in cone designs.
Benefits: Unique flat-bottom design purportedly prevents over/under-extraction. Simple to clean up.
Negatives: Like the V60, you need numerous “required” accessories: good grinder, Kalita kettle, carafe, filters, some way to heat the water… it can be somewhat expensive to initially get in to it.
Vacuum Brewing has probably the most complex method of the manual brew methods, but this also results in a high degree of control over the different variables. Arguably, the Vacuum Brewer allows the most control over many different variables then any other manual coffee brew method to date. The design is simple, but complex: heat is applied to a bottom glass vessel where water sits. The water heats up to boiling and climbs a tube into a second glass vessel atop the first. Coffee grounds are then added to the top vessel and allowed to steep (in a Total Immersion fashion) for a period of time. During this time, the heat is adjusted to keep the water from falling back down the tube by keeping it at a high temperature. When the period of time has passed (with some stirring of the grounds depending upon your desired method), the heat is removed from the base of the vessel which causes the water with the grounds to be sucked (by a vacuum) back down the tube through a filter lying between the tubes. The grounds are kept in the top vessel by the filter, and the coffee is left in the bottom… ready to be served. A complicated process, but one that allows such control over the variables, that a vacuum brew done correctly will have complex and wonderful flavors.
Syphon (or Siphon if you prefer) is the most common form of vacuum brewing. The Syphon comes in two different options: stove-top designor counter-top (which come with a burner – generally denatured alcohol or butane). The Syphon works in the method described above and because of its high degree of control over variables and artistic design, is a fantastic method for using while entertaining guests.
Benefits: Provides lots of control over many variables (the most significant being the degree of control over the water temperature… which is untouchable by any other brew method). Fun to brew with. Provides excellent entertainment for guests. Brews an excellent & complexly flavored cup each time it is done well.
Negatives: Difficult to get the brew correct without lots of practice. Can be initially expensive. Takes some time to brew with… this most likely won’t be your morning rush-to-work choice of brewing.
Hopefully this gives you some help as you begin the process of manual coffee brewing. Have questions or a method you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments! Also, make sure to check out Brewmethods.com for the best ways to use all of these methods (and more!).
…The Trek Continues…
The bash went well! My wife and I arrived in Anchorage and easily found a place to park. We opened the doors of the Cafe and the first thing that met our eyes was Prima’s Dalla Corte Evolution 2 Group espresso machine & Mazzer Mini Grinder with a 5 lb bag of Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso just waiting to be played with.
It beckoned. I followed.
I ground the Black Cat (someone had already preset the grind to the ideal setting), dosed it into the portafilter, tamped it down, got the excess grounds off, and inserted it into the machine. The naked portafilter helped me eye the extraction to see how I did, I was a little nervous at first as it began to shift to one side, but after 5 seconds or so it evened out directly in the center, and began to stream a beautiful flow of soft brown liquid into the shot glass. I’ll be honest, I am not a pro by any stretch of the imagination (remember, I began with Super-Automatics at Starbucks) and I was so excited that I forgot to count the time of the shot being pulled. Oh well. It seemed like a pretty decent flow-rate and I stopped the flow at just about the 1 oz line to make a gorgeous looking ristretto. I sipped it and once again was blown away by the sweetness of the shot. I had been raised to believe that espresso is just going to be bitter… oh well. People who believe that have obviously never tried a good shot of Intelly Black Cat. Sweet, caramelly, rich… the shot was fantastic. The night was just beginning.
I headed downstairs to the lower level as John Letoto was beginning his “Best Cup” demonstration. I did not get to try it, but he once again displayed his knowledge of coffee and its processes and did a fantastic job. If memory serves me correctly, he was using his Kouova Kone metal filter for Chemex. You’ll have to read his blog post I linked to since I don’t really feel like taking the half hour it would take to type out the name of his coffee he used
After that was Chris Heiniger, who used a Cafe Solo for his demonstration. Again, these coffee names are so long and complicated because of the farms, that if I don’t write them down immediately, I forget them. Chris also did a fantastic job and actually went on to win the competition and take home the Baratza Virtuoso Preciso grand prize! I had a good chance to talk to Chris Cockrell of La Grange Coffee Roasters immediately after Heiniger’s demo and he admitted that he was very impressed with Heiniger’s coffee.
If you have never checked out LaGrange Roasters, you need to do so. Chris is passionate about coffee, but in a thoughtful way. In other words, he is the kind who will slowly and patiently work on someone to enjoy his coffee instead of sneering and telling them how stupid they are for drinking Folgers. He is a great guy and one that I would love to see succeed in the coffee community. Not only that, but his coffee is pretty fantastic. After I got done talking with him, I went upstairs and grabbed an open cup of V60 brewed coffee that immediately made me think Ethiopia. It was so good that (embarrassed to say this) I thought it had to have been one of the national chains like P.T.’s, Counter Culture, or Intelligentsia. I could taste the berries and hint of citrus, and loved the relatively mild acidity (some of those lighter African roasts can be SO acidic… I had one that tasted like tomato juice one time…). I found out it was a LaGrange Ethipian and was blown away. If your coffee tastes like these national roasters who spend lots of time and money investing in finding the best, and you have a smaller setup and just try to do your best, then you are doing fantastic! Great job on the Ethipoian Haile Selassie, Chris, it was amazing!
By that time, my 7 month pregnant wife was starting to get ready to head out. If you have ever had a 7 month pregnant wife, you know that when she is ready to head out, you HEAD OUT! She is a joy and loves me and does not complain, but I try to be sensitive to her needs, and her back pain gets bad enough that I did not want to hang around longer. So, although I really wanted to hear Jaime’s presentation (you can read his thoughts on the Bash here: Louisville Barista Bash 004, we headed for home so she could get some sleep. I heard it was fantastic, and can’t wait to see how it affects some of the local shop owners and roasters.
My only disappointment of the night was the fact that the Luminaire LB-1 was out-of -action. Apparently, a solenoid was out on it or something, I didn’t get all the techy info, but we were unable to play with it. Completely understandable, though. These kind of things are exactly what helps get all the kinks out of a prototype machine like the LB-1. It was fun to see it, even in its silent state. My initial thought? “This this is built like a tank!” Talk about solid, it was built of very sturdy stainless steel and looked like it could take quite a beating. Will be exciting to see this thing in action someday. If you are interested in reading more, Brown Coffee Company wrote the second part of their review of the LB-1 here and you should check it out: Getting the (Data) Point.
Excited to see what has been happening in the Louisville Coffee Community (BTW, check out these great pictures that Brian Moats shot, notice the studly guy talking to Chris Cockrell;), and excited to see what will continue to happen!
…The Trek Continues…
and this fantastic review at Brown Coffee Co.’s Blog:
Plus, why wouldn’t this be the coolest Water Delivery System in the world when it was the Coffee Brewing System of choice for the Rebel Alliance strategy meetings (“It’s a Trap!”).
…the Trek Continues…
Since my last gag post about the top 10 gift ideas to get for restaurant owners (I mean, if you want to buy those gifts, I have no problem with that, but I’m assuming the majority of people will not spend their Christmas money on a $15,000 espresso machine for a restaurant) has been so popular (by which I mean, not popular) I thought I would try a real “Gift Ideas” blog for the hard-to-shop-for coffee lover that resides somewhere within everybody’s six degrees of separation. Let’s be honest, we all know people who like coffee… but maybe it’s time to really show your love for them by pulling the Folgers blinders from their eyes and introducing them to real coffee. Not burnt coffee. Real coffee. The kind where there is so much flavor you can smell berries in the used grounds. Since we all have a budget, here are the top 5 gifts to get for a coffee lover around $100, and the top 5 gifts to get around $50.
1 – Mypressi Twist V2 Refreshed Hand Held Espresso Maker ($149) - What other product would be on the top of the list than the Mypressi Twist? Probably one of the most revolutionary coffee products of the last couple of years, the Twist has been re-released in an “updated” version with the capability for more of a stable water temperature, grippier handle, simplistic shot counter (not an electric display BTW), and other minor improvements. It is not an understatement to say that this is the cheapest way to get good espresso into your home, office, or vacation.
2 – Hario or Chemex Bundle from Prima Coffee ($115-120) – Need a place to start? This bundle provides the filters, hand grinder, Chemex (or Hario) decanter with brew chamber, V60, and Buono water kettle. Honestly, this is your one stop gift idea. You want to give a gift where that coffee lover can grab some beans and be 100% ready to start making excellent coffee? This is the package you want. For V60 or Chemex brewing how-to’s and ideas, check out brewmethods.com.
3 – Yama Syphon Brewer with Butane Burner ($101) -This is the perfect coffee gift for the coffee lover who already dabbles in the specialty world or for the individual with a flair for the artistic. Not only does it look good, but the Syphon Brewer is one of the best brew methods around because of its ability to hold a constant brew temperature throughout the process. I suggest getting the butane burner with the brewer so as to maintain more control (MUCH more control) over the flame, and thus the temperature. Check BrewMethods.com out for tips on how to use the Syphon.
4- Baratza Maestro Conical Burr Coffee Grinder ($99) – Hand Grinder like the Skerton or Mini Mill are great for travel and budget, however, they will eventually get you looking like this guy if you’re not careful. For all things non-espresso in the coffee world, the best beginner coffee grinder is probably the Baratza Maestro (by beginner I mean, anything under $500). At $99 it will not likely break the bank, but will endear you permanently to the friend/relative you gift it to.
5 -Pino Digital Kettle Pro ($75) – It may seem foolish to buy a kettle specifically for heating up water when you have a microwave right? Well, the Pino Kettle Pro can bring water up to a certain temperature and hold it with a small variable to that temperature. Imagine sipping hot tea while reading a good book in front of the fire and being able to pour more hot water constantly without having to take the time to warm it up again! The Pino is especially useful for manual coffee brewing since it gets up to temperature so fast and can be removed from it’s corded base. I use a combination of the Pino and the Buono at the office to heat the water up and then pour it evenly.
1 – Aeropress and Hario Mini Mill Grinder Bundle from Prima Coffee ($60) – Just slightly over $50, this bundle is a great gift for the traveling coffee extraordinaire in your life. Because both the grinder and maker are plastic, there is almost no chance of breaking (it is suggested that they not be thrown out of moving vehicles of any kind), therefore ensuring their safety in luggage. Also, the Aeropress is one of the easiest and quickest manual brew methods available. Cleaning is simply rinsing the plastic tube out and reinserting the plunger. Also, in a pinch where caffeine is needed, the Aeropress can cover for an espresso maker by producing a concentrated blast of coffee hints at a double-shot.
2 - Hario Buono Water Kettle ($55) -If you can’t (or won’t) afford a bundle with the Buono in it, the Hario Buono water kettle is just about the most important tool in your manual brewing repertoire. A friend of mine says that you can enjoy coffee as long as you have good ground coffee, hot water, and a sock. I agree, but would also add a Buono Kettle into the mix. Without a precise pour from the narrow spout, it is difficult to get time and accuracy correct in your brewing. Also, keep an eye out in early 2011 for the Electric version of the Buono Kettle!
3 – Hario Skerton Hand Grinder ($45) - Sorry about all the Hario stuff, but hey, for specialty coffee preparation, they really have a solid corner on the market. The Skerton hand grinder is a fantastic gift for that coffee lover using his Black & Decker whirly blade grinder. Frankly, blade grinders do a semi-adequate job for drip coffee, but have no consistency in grind control whatsoever. The Skerton is just about the cheapest ceramic blade grinder on the market (the Mini Mill is cheaper but cannot hold as many beans – for a comparison on the two, click here: Hario Skerton vs. Mini Mill)
4 – Chemex 8 Cup Classic Coffeemaker, CM-8A ($38) – One of my office compatriots likes to brag up the Chemex for its simple usability. The Hario V60 has a slight (and this is disputed) edge in control setting parameters, but that edge requires more of a learning curve. The Chemex is an ideal method for the individual wanting to break into the specialty coffee scene. Less volume-control and accuracy of the pour is required and it allows for more “beginner” mistakes without sacrificing the flavor of the coffee. Becuase of its forgiving nature, the Chemex CM-8A may be the best gift you could give to encourage a friend/relative to get to that next level of coffee enjoyment. Check BrewMethods.com out for tips on how to use the Chemex.
5 – P.T.’s Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi Natural Whole Bean Coffee, 1lb. ($20) – You may think to yourself, well that’s great that I have all this equipment, but where do I actually find coffee worth using in that fancy equipment? I suggest that you always find local shops and support them as best as you can. however, if there are no good shopss around, or you would like a little bit of time to establish what “good coffee” is so you can have a good reference point from which to begin, I suggest P.T.’s Coffee (Intelligentsia, and Counter Culture are also fantastic). My particular favorite is the Ethipioan Sidamo Ardi Natural. As my pastor so aptly puts it, “all coffee should be from Ethiopia!”
Hopefully this was helpful, I wish you well as you shop for this Christmas Season!
…the Trek Continues…
Yesterday, I detailed the beginning of my coffee journey with this post “From Starbucks to Single-Serve: One Man’s Search for A Better Coffee.” Today I’d like to explain where I am currently. I recently began working for Prima Coffee ( Equipment Supplier). While here, I have been taught the art of the single serve manual brewing method and have been shown what “real” coffee tastes like. By “real” coffee, I mean coffee freshly roasted where the flavor notes of the specific region and farm can be easily distinguished. For example, a coffee from Ethiopia will generally have a fairly juicy berry, sometimes citrusy taste, whereas a coffee from Indonesia will be slightly more on the earthy side of things with spice notes coming through clearly. Mind you, these are broad brush generalizations… but you get the idea. I quickly learned that, in good coffee, you can taste the difference. The best part of waking up is definitely not Folgers in my cup. I now drink coffee because I enjoy savoring it and sipping it and letting it rest on my tongue to try to identify its various complexities (sound like a psycho yet?).
Let me put it differently. The coffee industry has sometimes been compared to the wine industry. Folgers is to wine-in-a-box as Sweet Marias Ethiopia Dry Process Jimma-Negusie Lemma is to a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1787. Ok, so this may be a slight exaggeration in comparing the two… but the main thesis remains true: coffee should not be used strictly for its “affect on the user” but should be enjoyed for its God-given fantastic and unique qualities. When coffee is grown, roasted, and brewed correctly, it is truly a delight to the senses. When it is done poorly, it is a horrible thing to experience!
“So what is the best way to brew?” you may ask. Well, there are different opinions as to what is the best, but the majority of specialty coffee connoisseurs agree that the best practice for coffee brewing is manual brewing. Whether this is done with the Hario V60 Drip Brewer, the Chemex Coffeemaker, the Aerobie Aeropress, Yama Siphon Brewer, or even the larger and more commmercial Bunn Trifecta, the key to these manual methods is “control over the brew parameters.” If you maintain control over brewing variables, you can more easily manipulate them to achieve your desired outcome. Simple as that.
Personally, I prefer the V60 Brew method. That is the method we use most in the office (twice a day!) and the one I am most familiar with. It allows extreme control over grind and pour time (we use the Hario Skerton as our grinder – set slightly finer than for an auto brewer). If you are going to go with this method, or the Chemex, it is necessary to get the Hario Buono Water Kettle. It’s slender, long spout allows amazing control over the pour.
The question might arise, “what should I do for a shop? I am a small coffee shop owner (referring to the size of the store of course, the stature of it’s owner generally doesn’t affect anything) and don’t know how else to serve coffee except through my large Bunn Automatic Machine.”
Great question. May I suggest finding the middle ground. I previously referenced the Bunn Trifecta Brewer. If you are wanting to provide excellent quality coffee, but want to be able to output it without the hassle of a V60 Bar (although this is another good option), it would be worth your time to consider getting 3 Trifectas for your store (depending on the amount of business you anticipate). With 3 Trifectas, you are able to keep a fairly steady pace of excellent quality coffee. The Trifecta is an “automatic” machine in the sense that you spend the time to dial in the correct information to account for the variables, and then allow it to do the work so you can take money from the next customer… or whatever. Each cup takes approx. 4 minutes (though, you control brew time) to brew. If you are busy enough that you have 3 machines going, it should only be 1-2 minutes of wait time that a customer has to wait for their coffee. That is certainly not too long of a period to wait for some of the best tasting coffee they will experience that week. In fact, I would wager that if the coffee is good (owners: where are you getting your beans from and are they being roasted properly?), the customers would rather wait that extra minute for a cup they can actually enjoy in their morning, then get a quick cup of burnt brew. In fact, if you have a separate line for the “Trifecta” drinkers, you can even see how many people are in line and make it so it is ready fresh for when they get up to the cashier (assuming that you only have one size for the Trifecta to make each time). Might not be a good idea… but might be?
Anyway, that is where I am in my coffee journey. I have graduated from (1) hating it (2) bearing it (3) syruping it (4) liking it, all the way up to the present day (5) LOVING and ENJOYING it.
…the Trek continues…
When I began working here at Prima Coffee last December, things were a lot rougher than they are now. By which I mean, we would maybe get to sip on a great cup of coffee once or twice a week because of lack of beans. Now, we are enjoying a great cup of coffee twice a day. I am getting spoiled. That’s where the Tale of Woe comes into play. We have a Chemex CM-8GH that we use in the office, but for whatever reason, more often then not, we will actually brew with a Hario V60 drip brewer (size 02 unless I bring in my size 03) and use the Chemex as our decanter. Why? I’m actually not sure. I think the brewing parameters are a little more touchy on the V60 and this makes it a little more challenging and thus, a little more interesting to attempt to master each day (although if you want to know how to brew with a Chemex, this highly informative and funny Trubaca video is helpful: Chemex Brewing Guide).
Anyway, regardless of whether we use it to brew or to pour, the Chemex broke… twice. Without naming names and slandering defenseless individuals I will tell you that Matt chipped the pour spout and Lee offered the killing blow. The humorous thing is that we continued to insist on making coffee with it, risking glass shards and the ripping up of our intestines for the sake of good coffee.
Finally, Karen, one of our employees had enough and shelled out the cash for a new Chemex. The rejoicing began. Harmony was brought back to the Prima office. Birds sang and bunnies hopped.
I give it 3 weeks before the next Chemex is broken.
…the Trek continues…
- Wednesday Morning Cup: Costa Rica San Marcos Tarrazu (Prima Coffee Blog)
It has long been disputed as to what is the best water kettle for manual coffee brewing methods like the Hario V60, Chemex, and Yama Syphon Brewer. Well, I think you can generally tell the quality of an object by its history. An Old Chinese Proverb puts it this way: “a hot pot is best discovered in its old age.” Isn’t that good? I have no clue what that means.
Anyway, here is the origination of the Pino Digital Kettle Pro:
In ancient Persia the daughters of kings had many feline friends. Since everyone knows that anyone living in a palace is spoiled, the cats were also spoiled. Before bedtime, these cats would be fed by, on average, 3 eunuchs (no less than 2, no more than 5 by Persian Law) and would be served warm milk. How was this milk heated? Well, at first, the only solution was to hold a stone bowl over the fire until (1) the milk was heated or (2) your hands burned up and you were beheaded for dropping the royal kitty’s milk into the royal fire. Then, a smart Persian named Bohanias discovered that a pot with a handle enabled him to hold the kettle over the fire without having his hands burned off. Unfortunately, in a land with no patent laws, he was quickly assassinated and his invention stolen. Regardless of the power struggle which ensued, the “hot liquid kettle” was born. The funny thing is, that you think I totally made this all up, but just to prove it to you, here is the Wikipedia article where I got this from: Ancient Persian Cat Kettles.
HAHA… you looked that up didn’t you? Actually, I have no clue where the kettle came from, I just know that the Pino rocks, and you should get one.
…the Trek continues…
If you know anything about specialty coffee, I am sure you have heard of the Hario Buono water kettle. This kettle is such a popular one right now because of a few reasons, not least of which is its brilliantly designed pour spout. A thin narrow spout coming from the bottom of the container is the ideal way to pour hot water over your V60 or Chemex. It allows you to evenly distribute the water and time it more consistently resulting in a more even and controlled extraction… resulting in GOOD coffee.
Well, news on the street is that Hario is making an electric version of the kettle. That’s right, you no longer need to quickly transfer your boiling hot water from your electric kettle to your Buono and risk burns or loss in temperature. The Kettle appears to be slightly smaller than its 1200 ml cordless big brother, but hey, if it plugs in, who cares!? Check out this blog post with more info about the Hario Electric Buono Kettle.
Meanwhile, the Trek continues…
EDIT (Dec 2, 2011):
Just thought you should know that Bonavita has just released an electric pouring kettle in the United States. Too bad for Hario since it has taken them so long to get in the game (though how much do you want to bet now that there is a competitor out there the Electric Buono will “magically” get released in the states). Regardless, this new kettle is only $49.99 and is very likely going to be a “Buono killer”…