Top 5 Coffee Gifts for the Home Barista

Coffee, and its related accoutrements, almost always make for nice gifts. Because surely you know at least one person who loves, or is heavily dependent upon, that morning cup and thus would appreciate anything related to that happy moment. And, for you -- well, it doesn't get much easier than stopping in your local coffee shop to pick up the gift, where you probably go often enough anyway. Turn the page for five holiday gift ideas for the coffee fiend in your life.

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5. Coffee books:

Because everyone loves (or should love) a good book, your friend probably would appreciate The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee (Ten Speed Press, 2012), by the owners of San Francisco's Blue Bottle Coffee. Yes, it makes for a good coffee table book even if they don't actually read it, but the content -- a look into the coffee supply chain, the basics of roasting coffee, a primer on the various brew methods, plus a few pastry recipes to boot -- is pretty solid. Available on Blue Bottle's website, your local bookstore (Vromans, Skylight Books) and Amazon.

For the real coffee geek -- or even for someone simply obsessed with Nordic food and drink -- Coffee with Tim Wendelboe by Tim Wendelboe (Schibsted Forlag, 2010), the 2004 World Barista Champion and owner of a much heralded coffee bar in Oslo, makes for a fantastic gift. Originally published in Norwegian, the English edition can be a bit hard to find; for now, a few copies are available on Hario's online shop.

Green coffee beans
Green coffee beans

4. A D.I.Y. home coffee roasting kit:

Sure, do-it-yourself trends among those who otherwise don't do much themselves come and go, but your buddy's sudden interest in home coffee roasting might be one that sticks -- or at least, it may be more successful than last year's go at urban farming. In which case, you can easily start your friend off with a simple stovetop Whirley-Pop popcorn popper and a bag of green beans. Sweet Maria's sells the popper and small 4-pound bag of green beans for not much more than $35. Or, as an early holiday present, the Institute for Domestic Technology has a home roasting class on December 15, led by Plow & Gun's Daniel Kent. The $95 fee includes the popper and a bag of green beans. In either case, throw in a pack of 9-volts in the gift bag: Given that roasting on the stove likely will produce as much smoke as making Pizzeria Mozza's budino at home, the kitchen fire alarm probably will be working overtime.

The Kalita Wave, available at G&B Coffee
The Kalita Wave, available at G&B Coffee
T. Nguyen

3. A good coffee brewer:

The vessel in which one brews coffee is a surprisingly very personal matter, with people often defending their brewing method as staunchly as they defend their preference for cellphone or gaming console. That said, the Kalita Wave might be the coffee version of the new Nintendo Wii U: Most everyone wants to get their hands on it, if only to test it out themselves. The Wave looks like your traditional pour-over cone, except with a large flat base punctured with three small holes; this design, some say, promotes a more even extraction than coffee brewed in a V60. The friendly folks at G&B Coffee (set up in SQIRL's space in Los Feliz) brew their coffee with the Wave, so you can try before you buy. If you do buy, the cone is available at the shop for $43.

For a somewhat less expensive option, or for someone who might find any pour-over too fussy for their morning routine, a plastic Clever dripper -- a low maintenance combination of a French press and a pourover cone -- probably is your best bet. You can pick one up at Balconi Coffee Company if you're on the Westside or, if you're closer to Downtown, you'll find them at Cafe Demitasse, which brews its coffee exclusively with Clever drippers. Demitasse also sells the brewer as part of a $35 gift set that includes filters, a bag of its fresh roasted beans and a Demitasse mug.

Porlex Mini Mill coffee grinder
Porlex Mini Mill coffee grinder

2. A coffee grinder:

One of the most important things you can have on your kitchen counter is a high quality burr coffee grinder that will produce uniformly sized grinds. Machines from both Baratza and Capresso have been recommended to us by more than one coffee professional; check your local coffee shop to see what they have on hand. The only drawback here is the price: Even Baratza's refurbished machines often available on its website can be expensive.

For a less expensive, travel-ready option, try a hand grinder from Porlex or Hario, with Hario's being the more affordable (about $40) of the two.

Coffee from Tonx
Coffee from Tonx

1. Beans:

The easiest gift to find on this list is the most obvious, and the most important: Fresh coffee. A bag of your friend's favorite coffee is your best bet, but if you're looking for just a stocking stuffer, G&B Coffee at SQIRL sells a few select coffees in slim 6-ounce jars (on our last visit, these were filled with beans from Ritual Coffee Roasters). As it's half the size of a typical 12-ounce bag, it's also perfect for someone who loves coffee, but only brews at home a few times a week.

And, finally, consider what might be the ultimate coffee gift: A subscription to Tonx. This would be one of the best coffees in the city, but, because it's subscription-based, you can't buy these beans anywhere other than online, and you won't find these beans anywhere other than a subscriber's kitchen. Thus, you can (and should) gift this to someone whom you happen to visit fairly often so you can have your coffee cake and eat it too. Choose between The Half-Sack -- one 6-ounce bag delivered every other week ($24 a month) or The Standard, two one 12-ounce bag every other week ($38 a month). Like a subscription to The Paris Review, this one really is a gift that keeps on giving.

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