The 2006 Christmas Coffee buying guide.

Time is running out! We keep it simple this time around by offering a short list of possible gifts for the specialty coffee lover. This is, by no means, a complete offering but a brief overview of largely inexpensive ideas... with a couple of not-so-inexpensive gifts. Enjoy.

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Here at the CoffeeCrew website, we do not sell any coffee equipment so please do not ask. We are a consumer review webpage only!


The 2006 festive season is here again. I am a tad late on this (better late than never) so this is in response to the pile of e-mail I have been getting daily on... what do I buy? What is the best grinder for the dollar? What is the best espresso machine for a certain price? What accessories should I get my coffee-addicted significant other? Help, Colin, help!

Ok. I am here. Calm down. Keeping in mind that this is not the kind of buyers guide you would find on the much larger c-offee-g-ee-k website... much, much more boiled down but dedicated and focused for the begineer to intermediate coffee and espresso enthusiast.

Another thing to point out is: This article is also a long-awaited update to our very popular buyers-guide which has become sadly out of date.


You can e-mail me directly for more information on any of these coffee solutions. This time of year, I generally reply within a few hours.


 

Products reviewed and tested here are home and semi-commercial accessories and units, reasonably priced, and reliable. - suitable for any cafe or kitchen application.


All the product (and product images) on these pages were graciously provided by:
  • Fantes.Com
  • EspressoTec.Com
  • WholeLatteLove.Com
  • EspressoParts.Com
  • QualityCoffeeSystems.Com

Pallo coffee-tool

Coffeetool is a better, smarter way to clean and maintain your espresso machine. At Pallo, they've approached daily espresso machine cleaning and maintenance from an entirely a different angle. Coffeetool's unique design and innovative features means espresso machine maintenance just got a lot more efficient and a lot less painful.

The award winning Coffeetool is a truly unique, multi-function tool designed specifically to prevent scalding water from reaching your hands while you clean. Add to this our replaceable bristles, pre-measured detergent spoon and replaceable steam wand vent poker and you'll agree that there really are no comparisons. Try one for yourself and feel the difference.

The original multi purpose barista tool! This revolutionary super tool will change what you expect out of your espresso brush forever...
Available from EspressoParts.Com for < $10

Taylor thermometers

Thinking of making cappuccino or latte? Do not approach a chalice of cold milk Taylor Cappuccino Thermometerswithout an experienced hand and a Taylor... Get yourself a Taylor thermometer!

There are a wide variety of them available and we found a good selection on Fantes.Com for < $15

Stainless Chalice

Every cappuccino machine needs a milk jug - a steel one? Why steel? It dissipates heat fast enough that, while foaming milk, it allows the milk to heat up at a certain pace - guaranteeing a quantity of froth and steamed milk. There is a fabulous selection of milk jugs at Fantes.Com in the U.S.A. - EspressoTec.Com in Canada and Cairo Coffee for Victoria residents. Generally < $20

Stovetop steamer from Fantes.Com

 

One of my most common e-mail: Where can I get a stove top steamer for making foam, steamed milk or froth for stovetop espresso or flavored steamers? Well - there is one really good item and it is the Stovetop steamer from Fantes.Com. There was a time you could get an electric version of one of these but hey - this unit covers all the bases and it is simple as heck to operate. To the best of my knowledge, this unit is available in the U.S. and not in Canada - I could be wrong. If anyone sees one, let me know!

From Fantes.Com for < $70


Stovetop espresso

What is that expression? 40 million Italians cannot be wrong. That is (it is said) how many stovetop espresso makers there are in this boot shaped country. Heck. I have one. Do yourself a favor. Buy a stainless steel one. It will last longer and the coffee will taste better. Tip: the hotter your stove, the better. Have a gas stove? Excellent! This is best. For those who want "espresso style" Coffee but do not want to spend hundreds of dollars.

Available from Fantes.Com in the U.S.A. - EspressoTec.Com in Canada and Cairo Coffee Victoria B.C.

The Bodum Vacuum brewer

Nothing says: "I challenge you!" like a Bodum vacuum brewer. It is not for the faint of heart. This is a classic method of brewing coffee - much in the way any home chemist would. The original vacuum brewer is still available in glass but there is inherent risks with glass over flame. The Bodum vacuum brewer from Fantes.Com is made from space age and fireproof plastic. I had one. I loved it but passed it on during one of the many coffeecrew giveaways in 2005.

Available from Fantes.Com for < $139

The French Press

The ubiquitos french-press has been the sleeper brewing method of the 70's, 80's and 90's - and now I am pretty sure it is here to stay. I first bought a French Melior stainless steel 2-Cup press from Cairo Coffee in the mid-eighties for fifty dollars. Now there are a myriad of choices, like this travel press (from Fantes.Com) in a variety of colors, styles and prices. The french is very tolerant of grind types (it likes coarse generally) and is hard to mess up. If you have a source of hot water, some beans and a grinder (a plus) then you are all set.

Available everywhere for < $50



 


The Melitta #4 Cone holder


This was my 1st coffee maker. Okay, so my mom had an old aluminum percolator - that does not count. I had a paper filter holder from the early seventies (it was made out of glass or porcelain) The one I have now is plastic and is mated with a Melitta glass carafe. In my opinion, this is the best way to get into specialty coffee - from the 1st step! It is simple: ground coffee, paper filters and a carafe.

Various filter cone holders and carafes available from Fantes.Com

The Aeropress from Aerobie.Com

The Aeropress has generated the most buzz in 2006. It is only fitting that it should be in everyones stocking stuffer this year. I had the good pleasure of meeting Alan Adler and his wife this summer. Alan believes in his product and so do I. So much so, that I have pretty much ditched espresso for the time being. In short, the Aeropress is kind of a French press on steroids - a cross between a pressure brewing system and traditional french press or gravity drip. I love it and so will you.

Available from Aerobie.Com, EspressoTec.Com and others - $35

Cups and saucers from Fantes.Com

Listen up. You can never have too many cups and saucers. Sure you will never use them all - but they make great gifts and display items. I know... I know... Anyway, this is a gift item than can never fail. They come in a variety of sizes and styles and never fail to please.

Generally < $40 a set from Fantes.Com

Coffeecrew pick - Rancilio Silvia
With the boiler, brew head, group and filter holder being constructed of precision machined forged marine brass, I would suspect that the Silvia will be making a home in your last will and Silviatestament as well as your kitchen. It is sturdy and well thought out for placement of controls. To get everything right with your relationship with the Rancilio, you need to study the manual carefully as well as do some Internet reading to understand the sometimes-fussy nature of this classic appliance. Once you do, however, you will be rewarded with session after session of perfect espresso and associated beverages. Front panel includes: Ready lights for brewing, steaming, and hot water. This makes everything pretty clear as far as timing is concerned. I find the Rancilio, with the right grinder and fresh coffee, to be the creme de la creme of espresso machines, neck and neck with the Gaggia Classic.

The rancilio silvia is available from EspressoTec.Com in Canada and WholeLatteLove.Com in the U.S.A.

Best brewer! The Newco OCS-8 Thermal CarafeThe Newco OC8-8This brewer uses a 1400 Watt heating element that brews through a commercial bunn basket filter. The brew temperature is a perfect 198 - 199 degrees F. producing coffee in a thermos carafe that is 170 degrees. This brewer is one of 2 drip brewers approved by the Specialty Coffee Association of America! The brewer makes 40 fluid ounces or 4 big mugs of coffee in an astounding 7 and 1/2 minutes!
Typical price: $129 US.

Available from Newco Coffee and vendors. brewer is now our official office coffee maker for hot drip coffee in our offices and labs.

The Reg Barber Espresso Tamper

When you are ready to put your plastic toys away, it is time to bring out the RB Tamper. There is only one RB, it is handmade and there are no substitutes. Would you trust your espresso with anything less? No, I did not think so. Handcrafted custom designs in Steel and Aluminum and powder-coated with a rainbow of colors.

Visit his website - www.coffeetamper.com or buy from EspressoTec.Com and WholeLatteLove.Com as well as EspressoParts.Com

The ECM Giotto

Okay, when you are good and ready for one of the most serious home espresso machines out there, it is time to start thinking about:

  • spending some serious dough (think between 1000 and 2000 dollars)
  • finding a bit chunk of counter space in your kitchen. if you have to ask "How much space, Colin?", don't bother me, you do not have the space!

Yes, the Giotto eats space and electricity but it pays off in awesome espresso and reliable performance. When you need to brew shot after shot and drink after drink, the Giotto will not let you down. This is the ultimate home machine. A Classic E61 Brass brewgroup, Brass boiler, and a shell of steel that tips the scales at over 65 pounds, the Giotto is a coffee machine for only the most demanding and coffee obsessed.

The Giotto's heat exchanging boiler-brewgroup design means that you can brew espresso and foam milk (or produce hot water for tea) all at the same time without missing a beat!

Where can you buy one of these behemoths? Go to EspressoTec.Com, WholeLatteLove.Com as well as others.



The Solis Maestro Plus

Looking for a grinder that will not shake itself off of the table or a grinder that is actually capable of grinding espresso, drip, french-press and perk styles all in the same day? Consider the big brother to the Solis Maestro, the Maestro-Plus. The Plus is not only heavier(it feels twice as heavy) than the regular Maestro but it has a significantly higher range of grind settings!

A new the PLUSmetal base and grey enclosure give this new grinder a distinctive look, with physical improvements more than doubling of the weight over the basic Maestro to 7.5 lbs. The additional weight gives the Maestro Plus a professional feel with increased stability and quieter operation. The Maestro Plus design is a product of coffee experts Canada and the U.S.A. wide! Who says no one listens!?


The Solis Maestro Plus is the primary drip coffee grinder in the CoffeeCrew.Com day-lab. Alongside a Newco OCS-8 thermal carafe brewer, our Maestro-plus chews through an average of 1/4 to a 1/2 pound of coffee beans daily.
Available from Baratza.Com - EspressoTec.Com -
QualityCoffeeSystems.Com and WholeLatteLove.Com for around $225

The Baratza Virtuoso grinder

The Virtuoso is the first in a series of new grinders that boasts all-new upgraded components, higher performance and sleeker style. The Coffeecrew team has performed countless tests on the Virtuoso and here are some of the features:

  • 40mm commercial Italian conical burrs.
  • 40-click settings for all grind styles.
  • Cast metal upper housing and base for beauty and stability.
  • DC motor kicks like mule and bites into coffee like crocodile.
  • 600 RPM grind speed means: No cooking the beans!
  • Timer switch.
  • Front-mounted pulse button
We tested the heck out of the Virtuoso and found, for the extra dollars, it beat out the Solis Maestro in terms of overall quality of grind.
Available from Baratza.Com - EspressoTec.Com -
QualityCoffeeSystems.Com and WholeLatteLove.Com for around $225

 


Credit where credit is due: Machines provided by, EspressoTec.Com, WholeLatteLove.Com, QualityCoffeeSystems.com, Machinesnbeans.com, CoffeeTamper.Com(Reg Barber), Dezco-Canada.