If Black Friday passed you by, black coffee can save the day, as both fuel and theme for holiday gift shopping. Besides all of the splendid coffees reviewed here, the unprecedented boom in new coffee brewing tools and accessories entering the market over the past couple of years has made it easier than ever to bring more excitement to a well-crafted cup, be it your own or a loved one’s.
When gifting for a fellow coffee lover, it’s a good idea to start with this fact: People brew the way they brew because that’s how they like it. Change can be fun, flexibility is healthy, yet while coffee is a delicious destination to which there are many routes, not everyone wants to go off-roading.
There’s no wrong way to enjoy a great coffee, although there may be a better way. Here, we’ve compiled a list of thoughtful gift ideas that will help any coffee lover up their game — even while staying in their lane. Everything on this list is less than $100, and there are no affiliate links here, just a variety of effective upgrades and hacks we’re confident will make the recipient’s coffee journey smoother, more effective and more fun this holiday season, and beyond.
* Coffee Review does not use affiliate links and does not receive a commission for sales from links in this report.
For the Generous Entertainer
For people who take pride in manual brewing when company comes, the only beautifully crafted multi-serving brewers available until now have been designed around cone-shaped filters. And yet, commercial batch brewing machines are universally flat-bottom brewers. The Etkin 8-cup Coffee Dripper arrived this year to level the playing field, so to speak.
While taste is always subjective, at least one scientific study has determined that an even depth across the bed of grounds is beneficial to an even and thorough extraction when brewing higher volumes of coffee, i.e., more than just a cup or two. The Etkin — a lovely, hearty porcelain brewer with ergonomic indentations on the outside and dual-wall construction to trap heat on the inside — comfortably handles up to a one-liter batch.
It works with common paper basket filters and provides a new platform on which pourover lovers can show off for friends or family, or simply prepare for their own multi-cup-guzzling days. I find it works particularly well (although requiring some creative filter folding) with Sibarist Flat Fast specialty filters.
For the Manual Brewing Novice
No fancy kettle or technique is needed for this classic immersion dripper. Simply stand it on the counter, combine hot water and coffee, steep for a few minutes and then place the brewer on a mug. The eponymously clever bottom valve then automatically opens, and down your ambrosia flows.
If the recipient eventually wants to experiment with spiral-pouring and percolation, they need only keep the brewer on a mug from the beginning and it acts like any other standard pourover cone.
Though the original Clever is made entirely of plastic, we find the glass version to be a worthy upgrade. While not altogether plastic-free — the outer base is made of a coffee-tinted Tritan — many of us avoid petrochemical materials wherever possible, and the Germany-made Schott glass is a sturdy pleasure to handle and behold.
Pro tip: Adding hot water first and ground coffee second with a gentle stir results in a faster drawdown for a sweeter, more articulated cup.
For the Advanced Pourover Practitioner
It’s exciting when the water hits the coffee — literally. The bed of grounds is disturbed, causing divots of ground coffee that promote channeling while also sending more fine particles lower in the mix, potentially clogging the filter. This phenomenon, known as “fines migration,” is inevitable to some extent, but if you can control the agitation that occurs when adding water to your coffee, you might enjoy the outcome more.
The Melodrip is an attractive, well-made and precision-oriented hand-held tool designed to interrupt the stream of water from your kettle, splitting it into an array of tiny gentle droplets that don’t disturb the bed of ground coffee when they land. Pourover devotees seeking to one-up their own steady hands will delight in this new level of control, potentially finding greater clarity, sweetness and mouthfeel in their Melodrip-assisted cups.
For The Cold Brew Compatriot
Through the magic of a patented recirculatory pump inside this 1.1-liter borosilicate glass carafe, a hearty batch of cold-brewed coffee is finished in minutes — not hours.
Somewhat similar in principle to an old-fashioned stovetop percolator, the Vinci Express drives water (and eventually brew) again and again through ground coffee. Unlike the stovetop percolator, however, the heat-free flow won’t over-extract. The pump won’t cook the brew, and the movement coaxes the goods from the grinds for a ready-to-drink delight in as little as five minutes.
Run it for 10 or 15 minutes for stronger brew, or 25 minutes for a concentrate, and the result will likely earn the status of a once- or twice-weekly ritual for the cold brew lover in your life. The electronics and delicate filters warrant careful handling, though the durable carafe doubles as an attractive fridge-friendly server.
For the French Press Romantic
The American Press brewer is not a French press. In fact, there’s no other brewer quite like it. Its appearance and operation will be very familiar to French press fans, though, making for an easy transition to broadened brew horizons.
Rather than allow coarsely ground coffee to steep passively before pressing down a filter through the brewed coffee, ground coffee in the single-serve American Press is sealed in a filter pod that’s attached to the plunger. The user presses the pod down through the water in order to brew the coffee. This combination of immersion, pressure and flow makes the American Press more like an Aeropress than a French press, though rather than pressing water through the coffee as the Aeropress does, it’s the coffee that travels through the water.
Ratio, grind, temperature and time are all still variables one can play with, and the result is always a visually arresting transformation: A column of clear hot water becomes a column of dark brewed coffee like magic as the pod descends. This product got a lot of “wows!” around my Thanksgiving table this year.
For the Budding Home Barista
WDT stands for Weiss Distribution Technique, named after the enthusiast who invented this simple handheld array of needles used to stir freshly ground coffee in an espresso portafilter before leveling and tamping.
Beginners may skip this step or use whatever they have lying around to get it done — a piece of wire, a toothpick, who knows? But a proper WDT tool does a far better job of gently and evenly breaking clumps and spreading the grounds and should be a pleasure to handle.
The WDT Tool by Austin, Texas-based LeverCraft Coffee is sturdy and versatile. Its CNC-machined and -anodized body comes with eight built-in food-grade stainless steel needles, each .4mm thick, and it can hold fewer or more needles up to a maximum of 16. Their splayed orientation is very effective, and my shots are decidedly more consistent with much less channeling when I use this tool.
For Your Grab-and-Go Amigo
Effective insulation, ceramic lining that includes the lip, and a wide, aroma-friendly opening — these are the top features we seek in a travel mug. The lightweight and attractive Porter by W&P ticks all those boxes, with a grippy silicone exterior that makes it easy to twist off the cap even while wearing gloves, and that will also prevent the unsightly dings and scratches to which more rigid exteriors are prone.
It’s nice that the Porter also comes with both a threaded cap and an optional flip-open sip-through lid. My preference for sipping from a ceramic rim is so great that I’m happy to forego the flip-top convenience, but it’s nice to have options.
The Porter is too narrow at the top to accommodate brewing directly into it with an Aeropress, but it can be used with many pourover brewers, and its slimness is a boon for cup holders, coat pockets and backpack bottle sleeves.
For the Avid Home Roaster
Roasting coffee at home is not only a pleasurable craft but also a great way to buy and enjoy more coffee for a lower price per pound. With a gift card, some might treat themselves to a fancier, truly exceptional green coffee, while others might simply buy the usual in a higher volume that brings the cost down even further.
Showroom Coffee is an excellent resource for both of these scenarios. The website is easy to navigate, the information provided is thorough yet concise, fresh crop is always rolling in, and the selection ranges in price and cup score from easy-access blend fodder up to rare and exciting gems. For the friend roasting at home for the holidays, a gift card to Showroom widens the world of possibilities.
For the Stovetop Revivalist
The stovetop moka pot has made something of a comeback in recent years, although there still hasn’t been much innovation where the hardware is concerned. With several important tweaks to an otherwise classic platform, the Varia Pro Moka is a significant upgrade.
Its high-quality steel brew chamber has the feel of a precision instrument. Laser-etched steel filters both above and below the bed of coffee promote even saturation and a cleaner cup. Additional silicone gaskets fully seal the brew chamber for higher and more uniform pressure, and its insulated upper steel portion keeps the brew hot.
For a gift that really goes the extra mile, consider the award-winning full Varia Pro Brewer bundle. It includes the Pro Moka as one configuration among a set of additional components that can alternatively be assembled into either a French press with an innovative filter system of its own, or a pourover brewer and carafe.
For The Coffee Lover Who Has It All
One thing no coffee fan can ever have enough of is knowledge. The latest book by Coffee Review co-founder and editor-in-chief Kenneth Davids, 21st Century Coffee: A Guide, offers a comprehensive exploration of contemporary coffee from seed to cup, including detailed sections on tree variety, farming, processing, brewing equipment and techniques, roasting and beyond.
In frank and engaging prose, Davids guides readers through the latest developments in coffee producing countries, environmental issues related to production and consumption, even adding a thorough chapter on coffee’s health issues and benefits. The large-format 289-page soft-cover volume includes 170 photographs and dozens of maps, tables and infographics. The index alone is 10 pages.
Our understanding and approach to coffee’s cultivation, preparation and enjoyment is constantly evolving. The industry is always shifting. No matter what your experience level with coffee may be, there is always more to learn, and 21st Century Coffee: A Guide is bound to enlighten.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – HOWARD BRYMAN
Howard Bryman is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance journalist and photographer who focuses on the specialty coffee industry, which he has either worked in or written about for the past 10+ years. He is the associate editor of Roast Magazine’s Daily Coffee News website, and an occasional contributor to the print magazine as well. With experience as a barista, manager, roaster’s apprentice, origin tourist and equipment tinkerer, Bryman’s fascination with specialty coffee’s tools, trends and challenges is matched only by his enthusiasm for the beverage itself.