Uel Tide Greetings!
As Uel Zing transitions away from our ready-to-drink cold brew bottles, I hope to become a useful online resource for cold brew and coffee in general. It’s that time of year, so I thought I’d help out with some great coffee gift ideas for coffee nerds. I tried to think of more than the latest travel mug or pour-over cone. They’re coffee-related gifts that I actually want or maybe already own and love and am recommending for other coffee nerds. And hey, most of 'em are pretty cheap!
Aerobie Flying Disc ~ $12
Trick question: this isn't coffee! Read on! ... The average coffee nerd already has an Aeropress, maybe they've even attended the World Aeropress Championship (yeah, it's a thing). But not everyone knows that the inventor of the Aeropress has spent most of his time inventing flying sports toys! That's right, Alan Adler, an Engineering Professor at Stanford University, is the creator of the Aeropress and the Aerobie Pro Flying Disc. I had one of these growing up, and boy, you could really let it rip! It holds the Guinness World Record for "farthest throw," plus it's easy to aim and soft to catch for casual frisbee with friends. In addition to the classic Pro Flying Ring, there's a smaller version, a boomerang version (I've never tried this one but it sounds awesome), and several other frisbee-like toys. The flying ring is so well engineered that you can even "tune" it to curve left or right just by bending it up or down slightly. You're right, it's not coffee, but now you've done your research and are able to draw conclusions (#science). Ok, super!
Tinker Coffee Co. Monthly Subscription ~ $30-50
From our all time favorite roaster—Tinker Coffee Co.—this is the one subscription you need, whether you're a local here in Indiana or playing Carmen San Diego (where in the world!?). Roasters Jeff and Steve are always excited about new single-origins they find, and they roast them to perfection every time to bring out the true flavors of the coffee, loud and clear. Bonus: subscribers usually get extra special stuff that's not available any other way... talk about small-batch limited-edition, Mama Mia! Their subscription ships out the first Tuesday of every month and you can choose 2, 3, or 4 bags a month. It's an "experience" and practical—it's the gift that keeps on giving!
Angel's Cup ~ $10-20
There are a million coffee subscription programs out there—I recommend Tinker's, above—but Angel's Cup is not about your monthly coffee supply; it's about expanding your horizons and your palate through small samples of several different coffees. They send you fresh coffees (choose whole bean or ground) from top notch Third Wave roasters in small, blind samples. Yeah, you get to taste or "cup" the coffees blind. With no idea where they're from or who roasted them, you can take really cool notes on your iPhone app (though an iPhone is not necessary), and then find out what the coffees are. Each coffee has a card that goes with it to give you all the information once you've done the tasting (roaster, region of origin, elevation grown, etc., etc.). From their website: "I tried too many new roasters this year," said nobody, ever. End quote.
Cupping Spoon ~ $10
Let your coffee nerd really bask in it when they show up to a coffee cupping with their very own cupping spoon. They are basically big soup spoons, but usually a bit thicker and heavier. Sweet Maria's has a pretty cool one, with coffee leaves etched into the bowl of the spoon. Sweet Maria's is a site for selling small amounts of green coffee to home roasters, so it's worth a look around for more stuff, too. Double this up with Angel's Cup (above) and knock it outta the park!
Flavor Wheel Poster ~ $5
For a little more DIY gift, try making a flavor wheel poster. Counter Culture came out with the neatest flavor wheel a few years ago, and they have it free for download right here—which is really cool of them. What I've done is gone to my local printer and had it professionally printed 11x17" (in color, of course) and then laminated so that it stands the test of coffee while I'm tasting all those flavors. You could also get artistic and draw or paint your own flavor wheel—ya know, get artsy and take some artistic license. Or there are also several other "flavor wheels" out there, just google it. In particular, the SCAA is an industry standard—that's Specialty Coffee Association of America. Flavor wheels are fun because they give you a vocabulary to talk about all the flavors and textures that you might be tasting in coffee, but you can also apply it to wine or beer or anything else. Also, try to eat the items on the flavor wheel and log them in your memory for the next coffee tasting!
Water for Coffee Book + Third Wave Water ~ $50 + $15
Water for Coffee is one of the nerdiest books out there. It actually just sold out, and they have learned so much since publishing three years ago that they're not gonna publish again until it's revised—however, they say it'll be out early 2018. Here's what I'd recommend: make some sort of homemade voucher that says you'll buy it when it's out, plus a pack of Third Wave Water and a gallon of distilled water. Whodathunk but it turns out that coffee is like 98% water—and only in the last few years has the coffee world started paying proper attention to their water. Mineral levels matter a lot in the extraction process: what will be extracted or dissolved into your final drink and what gets left behind depends especially on the levels of bicarbonate, magnesium, and calcium, and how those minerals bond with the chemicals in the coffee (see our water blog here or Tinker's here or Barista Hustle's 67 blogs here). Technically, every origin of coffee could have its own levels of minerals dialed in, but the Third Wave Water team has a general formula that will generally work much better than your average tap water. Get a gallon of distilled or reverse-osmosis water (no minerals), add their capsule of minerals, and now your main ingredient is the best it can be.
Kruve Sifter ~ $50
Like I always say, for even extraction, you need even sized particles. Throughout the ages, we've relied on burr grinders to evenly size our particles, and they can do a pretty good job, but now, you can sift 'em for even more precision. I remember when 2013 World Barista Champion (and 2011 trainer of mine at Gimme Coffee) Erin McCarthy talking about sifting your grinds back then. It seemed so impractical to me, but no, he said it wasn't, that it was the future. Well, here it is, the future: the Kruve Sifter. Check out all those sieves—there's twelve of 'em, and through a two-tiered system, you can achieve 66 different grind sizes. Just pour in your coffee and shake it down. They still recommend having a good grinder, but this takes it next level. It's pretty new, so I've never used one, and there's a good chance your nerd doesn't have one yet. In fact, I would make this my number one recommendation for physical coffee gear.
Coffee Sock ~ $30
There's something magical about filtering coffee through cotton muslin—the texture and flavor that it yields is the juiciest I've ever found—and using a Coffee Sock is the way to do it (don't worry, it's not actually a sock!). In a nutshell, paper filters filter too much, and metal filters filter too little. Muslin filters are just right, and I've sewn our own filters for our cold brewing needs, from our Uel Brew 1000 one-gallon kit, up to our 55-gallon production barrels. But our Uel Brew has sold out, and these folks actually know how to sew. The small company sews all the filters by hand in Austin, Texas, creating organic cotton filters to brew in glass mason jars. You can get just the filter only, or a kit with a jar and accessories, or, other shapes of filters for hot coffee pour-overs and such. For serious cold brewing, they even have a one-gallon jar with a spigot, which is basically the Uel Brew 1000... but nicer!
Stagg Kettle EKG ~ $150
This kettle is soooo sexy; that's all there is to it. I just watched their Kickstarter video and almost cried. Not only does it look cool AF—it has a ton of great features. You really just gotta watch the video, but suffice it to say: it's got a counter-weighted handle, super accurate pouring tip, temperature control and can hold it at that temp, AND the "plus" version integrates with an app that integrates with Acaia scales and Baratza grinders (other industry leaders) for the ultimate nerd-out and process-recording. You can even turn the kettle on from your phone, what!? ...But here's the deal: the electronic version is not actually released on Kickstarter yet (they promise in 2017 or else you get a watermelon slicer, too). Well, actually it's a little unclear—they're available on Williams Sonoma and maybe a few other sites, but still pre-order on their actual website, Fellow Products. ...The stove top version is already out and around $70. Both are/will be available in a few different finishes. The stove top version just doesn't have a heating base, so you have to manually heat it on the stove or pour already hot water into it. I'm gonna wait for the EKG version, and then get three of 'em.
Digital Scale ~ $12–$150
Scales come in all shapes and sizes and weights, but they've all got just one task to do: wait. I mean weight. I mean weigh. I mean MASS. Anyway, while there are several coffee industry scales out there (and your nerd should probably already have one), I prefer this simple one from Amazon. It's clean and sleekly designed, small, and inexpensive. It measures down to .01 grams (which is good!), and can also measure in ounces and a few other units. Just try not to spill boiling water on it; I did that and it kind of screwed up the screen, though it still worked. If you wanna go fancy, the Acaia scales are fancy and work with an app on your phone to record everything, I've just never worked with one but I know people like 'em. The Acaia scales have a built in timer, which is hopefully better than the timer on the Hario scales, which only counts up from zero and doesn't do anything else and isn't actually that useful.
Enamel Pins ~ $7
I first found The Mayven pins at a cool coffee shop in LA (Dinosaur Coffee) and picked up a Hario gooseneck kettle design, but I have since seen them around more and more, and they make more and more designs (I hope they make the Stagg Kettle soon!). Enamel pins are all the rage these days, so your local roaster or coffee shop might also make a few pins. In Bloomington, Hopscotch has some real cute skunks based on their wall designs, and our roaster, Tinker makes cool ones, too (their new logo is on my hat, above). I like to pin 'em on my hats, but hey, you could pin 'em wherever you like!
A few more online stores/resources to check out
Espresso Parts - lots of stuff
Whole Latte Love - great video reviews
Sweet Maria's - home-roaster focused
Sprudge - major coffee blog, this is a link to their gift guides
Coffee Geek - major coffee forum, gift guide under $40, gift guide under $100
All of my links are not affiliate links, so I do not make any money off of any sales. I'm trying to provide the best information, so some of the links might not even take you to a place to buy the item, just more info. You might notice that they're all "bit.ly" links, which I'm experimenting with to help me track the links and see what people like and don't like, so I can better tailor my blog content in the future. There's a whole art to blogging, and I'm just getting started!
These are my big ideas for the year in coffee gifts. I hope they're helpful! Please share the list with other folks you think might be interested and/or let me know any feedback you have by commenting or emailing me directly through contact page.
Happy holidays and Uel Tide greetings from Bloomington, Indiana!