The 2007 Festive Season Buyers Guide - Part 2

Pour yourself another cup! It's part two!

I get asked: "Colin, what is your favorite method of brewing coffee?"

Drip coffee. No question.
There is nothing more tasty than a fresh single origin coffee brewed with a paper filter and a Number-4 Melitta filter holder.

What's a single origin coffee, you ask?

Although not a precise interpretation, we can often think of coffees like Sumatra Mandheling, Kenya AA, Guatemalan Antigua and Costa Rican Tarazzu as good examples of single origin coffees. One kind of coffee from one region, CO-OP or Farm... as opposed to Blends. Espresso coffees are almost always a blend of coffees from around the World. And what the coffee vendor is looking for is something that takes advantage of the various attributes of various beans. You will find lots of coffee roasters, large or small, that offer signature blends - to kind of stand out from the rest of the pack - as well as other reasons. Do yourself a favor: If you are a budding coffee nut, stick to single origin coffees - make it a process of exploration. Learn what all the single-origins have to offer and then (and only then) start to explore the art of the Blend! At its most basic, a cup of coffee can be prepared by throwing finely (or coarsely) ground coffee into a cup and splashing hot water on top of it. Give it a couple of stirs. Let the grounds settle as best they can. And drink up!
Sound crude? That might be so, but this is cowboy coffee at its best.

Alone this does not make much of a gift. If you think about it for a moment, you will realize that there is a whole universe of seasonal coffee gifts outside of the realm of espresso. So, let's talk about some of the classic methods.

Drip. One of the most simple methods for brewing up a cup of mud is my personal favorite:
  • One Mug
  • One Filter Holder
  • Ground Coffee
You can buy the filter holder from virtually any drug store, super-store, hardware or grocery for $10 or less.

Paper filters? $1 from any and all grocery.

Coffee? Hopefully you found a supply of great coffee in the previous chapter.

Add an old kettle on top of this and a supply of fresh soft water and you are set for life. You could easily explore the Planet Earth's single origin coffees for years before you would need to think about espresso coffees or blends... or any other method for that matter.

If you want to replicate this experience for 4 to 6 people in one shot - get a glass carafe (Melitta makes them too!) and the Number-Four filter holder we have been talking about... Not surprising, the glass carafe and filter holder were meant for each other. Add a paper filter and 2 tablespoons (or more) ground coffee per 6 to 8 fluid ounces of water and away you go. Grind the coffee a tad finer that your normally would for an electric drip brewer. This slows the brew time down a bit and gives you a better cup. The last thing you want is a rushed brew. Ideally, 4 to 6 servings of coffee should take about 6 minutes to brew.

French Press - Bodum: Invented over 50 years ago in France, the Melior French press is a masterful achievement in design and great coffee! What is amazing is that it took over 30 years for the French to catch on in North America. I may have been ahead of the curve because I bought mine in 1981 at Cairo Coffee Victoria (Established 1913) - and I still use it today and I have not replaced a single piece.

Melior's are still available and for the money, they are a great investment - Mine was almost 50$ in 1981 - ironically, that is there list price today. Get one for someone you really, really love - because they are going to be around for a long, long time!

On a budget? You can buy a glass Bodum brewer for as little as $19 (or less) from a myriad of locations.

French meets Tek: I have actually seen thermal travel mugs with Presses built in. Very cool and I will be talking about travel mugs later on in this article - so keep reading! There is an important eco-message here.

Vacuum: Yet another 50+ year old design (By Silex if memory serves me correctly) - this chemistry set of a coffee brewer is another visual masterpiece - and if it isn't exclusively reserved for the most neurotic of coffee aficionados, it should be. Starting at $39 dollars and topping out just over $100, the Vacuum brewer comes in a variety of sizes and compositions. I have used the composite bodum vacuum and a glass one - all with great results. A word of caution: Anything made with glass and combined with high heat sources, either gas or electric (or flame) pose an explosion hazard. Keep that in mind when giving this gift! The Vacuum brewer offers the cleanest and purest cup of coffee when compared to all brew methods. If you enjoy a bright and very hot cup of coffee, the Bodum composite brews one of the hottest cups - easily topping 175 degrees in your cup! There is a wide selection available from Fantes.Com - one of America's finest kitchen supply stores.

Alternative-Fringe: When I was first introduced to the Aeropress Coffee brewer just over a year ago (by none other than the inventor himself - Alan Adler), I thought to myself: "Oh. Okay. Another neat coffee toy to put up on the shelf after a few uses..." Boy, did I end up eating (or drinking) my words...

I said it before and I will say it again - the Aeropress coffee maker is the single most important coffee invention of the 21st Century thus far. $34 in Canada from EspressoTec.Com and $28 from SweetMarias U.S.A. There is a staggering wealth of information on the Aeropress on the coffeecrew website - Go use the search utility and don't bug me! ;-)

Percolators: No one has ever e-mailed me about finding a replacement Percolator when their old one wore out. That said, you can find new ones here. If you are looking for a brewer more bitter than your Ex, you have come to the right place.

Cold Coffee: I have had more than my share of coffee fringe types e-mail about how wonderful their cold-coffee brewers are. And if you know what the food science is where coffee brewing is concerned, you will quickly dismiss cold-coffee as bunk too! That said, I had an ice-Americano from Oso Negro coffee of Nelson, British Columbia this summer that knocked me on my ass... so to speak. They cold brew their espresso blend overnight for iced Americano and Iced coffee and it was, gasp *I cannot believe that I am admitting this...* but the coffee was... good. Shame on me. You can buy one too at Toddy Coffee Makers Inc. Cost - about $37.

Stove-top Espresso coffee: The stovetop espresso maker, also known as "macchinetta", is still the World's most popular way of making espresso at home. It works by creating pressure through heat to force water through finely ground coffee and into a serving chamber. I have one and I use it from time to time. So do over 20 million Italians - and they cannot be wrong. From $29 to $99, the Stove-top in Aluminum or Steel makes a very sexy gift for just about anyone. Source: Fantes.Com in the U.S.A. and EspressoTec.Com in Canada.

Travel Mugs: There is one condition when joining the CoffeeCrew coffee circle at 10 AM weekdays on campus - No paper cups! Get this - we hold court at the Finnerty Express on the campus of the University of Victoria. Our group usually consists of technicians, consultants and a variety of professors - some retired, some not. Some of us buy our coffee in the cafe. Some don't. The bottom line is - glass, porcelain, ceramic or travel mugs only. Paper cups are the scourge of the environment. The average coffee consumer contributes kilograms of waste paper to landfills - and we all know that coffee tastes best in a solid china cup.

So if you know an offender... Get them a mug that they can tote around. They are available everywhere in all shapes and sizes. Get a steel shelled thermal coffee mug. Mine is steel on the outside with a steel thermal shell on the inside. I think it originally came from Starbucks but it has been bullet-proof.

Coffee Wear: I have more coffee T-shirts that I care to acknowledge. If you know someone that loves coffee but has no coffee-wear, then they will really appreciate the gesture - Trust me, getting a coffee-themed anything as a gift is just so cool. So, if you are going to avoid everything else leading up to this point in the article, get your caffeinated-other some coffee threads this year! Start at Cafe-Press.Com where else?

Conclusion: For me, coffee is a ritual every day of the year. This time of year you can take some extra special moments with the sacred bean by thinking about those around you and how you might express your love - java style. This is just the tip of the ice-berg where coffee gifts are concerned. If you are still somewhat stumped, drop me a line and I will be glad to help.

 - Go back to Chapter One.

Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria, B.C and finds coffee drinking a yummy pass-time and talking about it even more fun... the more he drinks, the more he talks... and so on.