Thursday 30 November 2017

Coffee gifts - ideas and advice

A loved one is into specialty coffee and you'd like to get them a gift, but not sure what to get? Or where to start?

I've put together some ideas and tips that will hopefully steer you in the right direction, recommending Scotland's fine local roasters and coffee shops wherever possible, covering the following gift ideas:
  • Bags of coffee - subscriptions, Scottish roasters, pods & capsules, European roasters
  • Coffee gear - brewers, grinders, scales
  • Coffee books and magazines
  • Cups, mugs, jugs and more
  • Training courses
There are two basic things you need to know about your coffee lover before you go gift hunting:
  • how they like to brew their coffee - filter methods such as aeropress, cafetiere, pour over, V60, kalita wave, or espresso or stove top (there are other methods but these are some of the main ones)
  • whether they have a grinder. If they don't, you'll need to buy pre-ground coffee. If they do, they'll definitely want whole beans because they retain the flavour better
So here we go, some ideas to consider...

A bag or two of coffee

This is a present that will be very well received by specialty coffee lovers. It may seem odd to the non-coffee-obsessed, but this is a high end, gourmet gift, so it will be much appreciated!

Whether you shop in a store or online, you'll be able to ask for whole beans or ground coffee for your chosen brewing method.

The majority of the shops on this blog sell 250g bags of high quality beans - many of which are under £10 and are from Scottish roasters. And the Scottish roasters below sell online also.

Just like with wine, beer or whisky, your coffee lover may have flavour profiles they like. If you know what they like, you should find it amongst the variety linked below if it's in season (yes coffee is a fruit that grows on a tree).

If you're not sure, the flavour descriptions on these websites are very helpful - but don't forget to look out for the recommended brew method as some beans are more suited to one brewing style.  Some are better suited to espresso machines rather than filters and vice versa.

If you're new to specialty coffee and are looking for a traditional 'hearty coffee' flavour, then descriptions such as 'cocoa, hazelnuts, caramel, nougat, chocolate' will be safe bets. If you're looking for lighter and sometimes more floral flavours, then there are lots of coffees with fruit descriptions to choose from such as red apple, melon, lime, peach, orange etc. You may like to get one of each :)

Coffee subscriptions - If you're looking for a bigger gift than one or two bags of coffee, a subscription is a great idea. The gift that keeps on giving!

Because coffee tastes best when it's been roasted within the last week or so, it's not ideal to buy half a dozen bags of coffee all at once. You risk the last bags not being at their best by the time they're brewed. Instead, you can pay to have a fresh bag of coffee beans delivered to your loved one each month over 6 or 12 months. Some of the websites below offer subscriptions and your coffee lover would be well-chuffed to get one.

Scottish specialty coffee roasters - for individual bags or coffee subscriptions (and some have brewing kit)

Artisan RoastOvenbird
Dear GreenPapercup Coffee
Fortitude Coffee RoastersSacred Grounds
Glen LyonSteampunk Coffee
Luckie BeansThomsons Coffee (new standard)
MachinaUnorthodox Coffee
Mr EionWilliams & Johnson
Obadiah Collective

European specialty coffee
If you're up for spending a bit more, your coffee lover will appreciate a bag of European specialty coffee. Lowdown (Gardelli), Laboratorio (The Barn), Baba Budan (The Barn), Fortitude Coffee Roasters (Drop) and Cult Espresso (The Coffee Collectif and Five Elephant) regularly change the coffee they serve, often featuring European roasters - the European roasters at the time of writing are shown in brackets.

Coffee pods or capsules that are better
Plenty of coffee lovers are very attached to their automatic espresso machines that use pre-packed coffee pods or capsules - for their model of machine.

You can buy Nespresso-compatible specialty coffee pods that taste infinitely better!

Kaf Coffee generally have a stock of one of the most revered pod coffees currently available - Colonna & Smalls - or you can buy them online direct. I'm quite a fan of London's Department of Coffee (when I need to go to London for work) and Pact also also do pods as well as beans.

There's quite rightly been a lot of publicity about the environmental disaster of pods because they've been un-recyclable. But the ones referenced above are compostable or recyclable (although filter coffee is even better from a packaging point of view - just saying)

Coffee gear
You may want to buy your loved one some coffee kit. Quite often you'll see bundles - from 'starter packs' for filter brewing at home, through to fancy, high-end home espresso machines.

Starting with the latter.  If you're buying for an espresso-based coffee lover and are looking to spend serious money on an espresso machine and associated grinder and other kit, it's definitely worth speaking to a professional before shelling out the pounds.

Many of Scotland's bigger roasters sell and install professional coffee machinery into shops - so you could talk to your local shop or roaster for ideas.

Edinburgh's Machina are also a great place to start. They have a range of domestic espresso machines and grinders which they - as coffee professionals - have given the thumbs up.

The tricky thing with espresso machines is that they not only need to be high quality (i.e. expensive and highly engineered) to get a high quality coffee, you need to experiment and practice a lot to get the best out of them.

So if you pop on down to John Lewis for an espresso machine, you may spend hundreds of pounds and the coffee still won't taste as good as your local specialty coffee shop can give you for £2.50 a pop. But, to your coffee lover, it may still bring hours of joy and produce enjoyable coffee. It's personal.

If your coffee lover is not up for the trials and tribulations of espresso coffee practice, you're better off brewing filter coffee at home - and it's much cheaper!

Filter coffee brewing requires the basics of: a brewer (e.g. aeropress, kalita wave, chemex, cafetiere, v60), grinder, kettle, scales and filters.

There's a good chance your coffee lover already has some brewing kit. So if you're going to buy more, you need to know what they already have  (If you don't know, you're probably better off buying coffee beans or books rather than kit).

If you're looking to buy kit for a new coffee lover who doesn't already have anything, many of the roasters linked above - and shops on this blog - sell filter coffee kit.  They can help you work out what you need. A V60 plastic dripper can be less than £10, an aeropress goes for £25-£35 and an elegant glass Chemex a bit more. And they all make great coffee. The Hario website is worth looking through for ideas.

The most costly items are the grinder and scales.

Grinders - Scotland's Made by Knock make some of the best hand grinders around. They're so popular and well-made that supply is barely keeping up with demand. But right now you can buy their latest Aergrind (it fits neatly inside an aeropress) from Machina, Dear Green and Brew Lab. Get one while you can!

Machina also endorse Wilfa electric grinders and both Made by Knock and Wilfa's grinders are under £100.

Scales are very important!. Just like with cooking, you can't make a recipe (at least for the first time) without measuring out your ingredients. Specialty coffee lovers tend to measure their coffee, water and timing for every brew. Coffee scales that indicate not only grams but seconds and minutes are ideal.  Personally, I'm a fan of the Hario scales with timer because of the functionality. If you use the Hario as a starting point and shop around online (including Scotland roasters and coffee shops) you'll find a pretty wide range.

Coffee books and (the) magazine

There are a lot of books about coffee, but I've listed a few that are at the top of the list:
  • The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing by James Hoffman
  • How to Make Coffee by Lani Kingston
  • The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood
  • Craft Coffee: A Manual by  Jessica Easto
  • Scotland Independent Coffee Guide - this is available at many of the shops on this blog. While it largely overlaps with the Scotland Coffee Lovers free app, in book form, it's also an attractive gift for coffee lovers
On the magazine front, Caffeine Magazine and Standart are both crackers and available as subscriptions - great gifts!

Cups, mugs, jugs and more

There is a world of options here for gift giving!
  • Many of the shops on this blog sell coffee travel cups such as Keep Cups and Frank Green Smart Cups in a wide range of colours, formats and sizes.
  • The enamel mug is also alive and revived hipster style. Steampunk has some nice ones, as does Mr Eion, Luckie Beans, Glen Lyon, Century General Store and Thomsons
  • Kettles are a great present as they allow much better precision pouring than attempting to do the same with a conventional electric kettle. Coffee Hit and Hario are both great online stores and also sell cold brewers, glass jugs and carafes of  varying shapes and sizes and much more.
  • And then there's the Scandi-styling ceramic cups, mugs, milk jugs and carafes. Life Story does some very nice lines, as does Century General Store

Training courses

Brewer and barista training is a great gift!

Some key folks who do training sessions are: Artisan Roast, Brew Lab, Papercup and Zest. If you jump on to their website you may be able to book ahead for your gift recipient.

1 comment:

  1. If ordering one of the Made By Knock grinders (or anything) it is definitely a good idea to order through one of the companies mentioned rather than direct. They are nightmarish at shipping out purchased items or responding to queries on the missing orders.