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Coffee at the Moment by Mark Prince
CoffeeGeek Holiday Gift List 2013 - Under $500
Posted: December 4, 2013
Article rating: 9.7
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Holiday Gift List - Under $500

We've already done our Under $35 and Under $75 lists, so now it's time to present those really big gift suggestions for you!

So here's the scenario: Christmas comes around and your buddies, relatives and loved ones are most likely struggling to find the perfect gift for a true CoffeeGeek - and they end up buying you Nespresso pods or something. Hey, bless their hearts, at least the thought is there! But this list exists so that you can easily point them to the kind of things a true Geek About Coffee would want. In this list, we're finding you innovative, cool and sometimes rare items between $75 and $500.

Many of these products are linked to CoffeeGeek's Amazon Affiliate Link, which helps offset the costs of running this website. For the third year in a row, for the entire month of December, we've donated 100% of the income generated from these holiday gift suggestion links to our favourite charity - CoffeeKids. This December 2013, we raised $2,400 via our affiliate link. And even better, we found a wide variety of companies to match what we raised, to specific dollar amounts. Thanks to these companies - Espresso Parts, Baratza, Bonavita, 8 Ounce Coffee Co, Batch Coffee, Craft Coffee, and Clive Coffee, we were able to raise $8,400 for Coffee Kids in December, 2013.

Now in January, 2014, CoffeeGeek is donating 50% of our entire site wide Amazon Affiliate revenue, and we have three companies - Batch Coffee, 8 Ounce Coffee, and Baratza on board to match our January donation. Last year this donation was $750; we hope to match that this year, but with the aid of our three dollar for dollar matchers, that means $3,000 possible for January!

Elves love CoffeeKids

We encourage all our readers to make CoffeeKids your charity of choice too and consider donating money directly to this great organization. More than ever, they need your help.

And here we go - our 2013 holiday gift suggestions for items under $500!

Breville Infuser Programmable PID Espresso Machine - $400
Posted by Mark Prince, 12:25am Permalink to this blog entry
Breville Infuser

Love it... love it. Love it! And that Cranberry colour (in Canada!).

This is the Breville Infuser (model BREBES840XL) Espresso Machine. We've been informally testing one for six months off and on at CoffeeGeek and I'm very pleased to say this machine is Breville's second best machine (after the Breville Dual Boiler) and at a kick butt  price of $400.

You're talking PID controls on this machine (though the PID is factory set and nearly impossible for the user to change). You're talking a quality 54mm steel portafilter with two sets of filter baskets. You're talking super fast access to steam, and equally fast access back to brewing thanks to an auto-purge system that works after steaming milk (so you can steam milk first, then pull your shot). You're talking nice metal body. You're talking 3 way solenoid valve for nice dry pucks right after pulling a shot. You're talking programmable volumetric shot pulls that you can easily adjust.

And you're talking built in preinfusion. And a lot more. This is a kick ass machine and at $400, a steal. At $470 (lowest US price) it's still a great bargain.

Product Link - Canada (Amazon Canada)
Product Link (Creative Cookware, $470)

Baratza Vario Multi Purpose Grinder - $450
Posted by Mark Prince, 12:35am Permalink to this blog entry
Baratza Vario

Another Baratza choice, and one of the best multipurpose grinders available today. This is the Vario grinder, complete with digital controls, timer functions, engineered ceramic burrs made by Mahlkonig, and rated for commercial use.

This was the first grinder designed for home use to feature the concept of a macro and micro adjustment for grind fineness. One side controls the big steps in how fine your grind will be. The other side controls the fine tuning of each of those "macro" grind steps.

This is also a full digital grinder with built in timers and three programmable memory steps for your choice of grind times. The grinder can handle any grind fineness you would want, from turkish to press pot. It also grinds fast - much faster than a Rancilio Rocky or Mazzer Mini. Baratza includes a portaholder for using a portafilter hands-free with the grinder. The power cord is super beefy for commercial-rated use.

And the grinder comes with Baratza's legendary customer support.

Product Link (Whole Latte Love)
Product Link Canada (8oz Coffee, $470)

Bonavita Thermal Auto Drip Coffee Maker - $160
Posted by Mark Prince, 12:50am Permalink to this blog entry
Bonavita Thermal Drip

We haven't tested a lot of auto drip coffee makers in the past few years, but this is one we have, and the results are very impressive. This is only the second auto drip coffee maker to pass SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) certification. It is the Bonavita BV1800TH auto drip coffee maker.

Here's what to like about the brewer. First, it gets up to the proper brewing temperatures as prescribed by the SCAA - around 200F. Second, there's a good water dispersion pattern created over the bed of ground coffee (better than the other SCAA certified brewers - Technivorms). This results in better saturation of the grounds. Third, it is a thermal carafe, so no re-heating or baking of the brewed coffee.

There's plenty other things to like - it is a good looking appliance, is relatively small for your countertop, and I've always preferred the side style of these brewers over the forward designs of many modern auto drip coffee makers. Lastly, there is no digital timer stuff going on - this is a simple on/off switch brewing device, which I personally like: it means you have to use fresh ground coffee each time - no coffee going stale overnight in the brewer.

This is my top recommended auto drip machine under $200 this year. (nb there is also a glass carafe version for $144)

Product Link (Amazon)
Product Link (I Drink Coffee, Canada)

Bonavita Coffee Maker + Baratza Grinder Combo - $260
Posted by Mark Prince, 12:55am Permalink to this blog entry
Bonavita Baratza Combo

Fantastic combo package for those who want auto drip convenience and a fantastic grinder to fresh grind your coffee.

I've featured both these products in our Under $500 list, but this price combo is so good (you save about $40 off of buying all these items individually) I couldn't pass up listing them.

You get the Bonavita Auto Drip Thermal coffee maker (which, by the way, you can also use with a Chemex underneath instead of the thermal carafe). Excellent brewer that is SCAA approved.

You also get the fantastic Baratza Encore grinder, which will pair up with the Bonavita Brewer quite well. And you get two pretty decent cups on top of the other things. Separately you'd pay $300 for all these things; but this package deal gets you a complete home brewing package for $260!

Product Link (Amazon)

The Espro Press - Three Sizes to Choose From - $80-$120
Posted by Member Submitted, 1:10am Permalink to this blog entry
Espro Presses

One of the more exciting innovations to come to the design of the press pot in some time - the new Espro Presses, now in three different sizes!

What makes this press design unique is its filter. All three models feature a dual stage filter system with a larger outer filter of fine mesh, then a smaller inner filter with even finer mesh. Your coffee is filtered by two stages, giving you all the benefits of full immersion press pot coffee brewing, but with much less grit than traditional press pots.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the rest of the Espro Press' design. These are true double walled vacuum-insulated stainless steel containers that never get hot on the outside (not even warm!) Espro paid really close attention to the vacuum insulation process for these containers, and it shows in their durability, lightness, and insulating factors.

They're a beautiful design, and with three brewing sizes now available (8oz, 18oz, 40oz) work great in the home, office or even a cafe.

https://www.chriscoffee.com/Espro-Press-p/espressg.htm]Product Link (Chris Coffee)

Baratza - A Premier Charity Partner for Coffee Kids
Posted by CoffeeGeek Staff, 1:15am Permalink to this blog entry
Sponsor Partner for CoffeeKids

We'd like to introduce you to one of our premier sponsoring partners: Baratza.

We probably don't have to tell you who Baratza is. They make grinders - darned good grinders - and have been doing it for a while. They're also known for legendary, unparalleled customer service.

But did you know that Baratza is also a company that prides itself on good education? For instance, they put up a page recently of grinding tips with questions and answers culled from years of great customer questions.

Recently, Sarah Dooley joined Baratza in an educational and promotional role for the company, and they're expanding their videos, articles and other multimedia information about their grinders. Have a look at the brand new Baratza Forte Grinder overview video - both versions of the grinder! The Forte grinder is Baratza's latest and greatest, and recently won the SCAA award “Best New Product-Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment (Commercial)" Award.  

While the Forte is designed for cafe use (or the be-all, end all home grinder), Baratza hasn't forgotten about those folks just getting into really good coffee, because as we preach on CoffeeGeek all the time: the grinder is the most important element in good home coffee! Baratza's answer for the budget / beginner market is the Encore, priced under $150 and very capable of doing every grind from espresso to press pot.

We're very thankful Baratza has decided to also come on board as a charity sponsor, matching CoffeeGeek's overall December donation to Coffee Kids, up to $1,000.

Gaggia Espresso Pure Espresso Machine - $199
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:35am Permalink to this blog entry
Gaggia Espresso Pure

This is the lowest priced full blown home espresso machine we will recommend for this year's lists.

The Gaggia Pure does cut a lot of corners - cheap plastic, not much of a cup warming tray, tiny, slidey all across the counter, you name it.

But... where it counts... it has the goods. And I can make as good an espresso on this as I can with $500, $700 machines. It has a chromed brass 58mm portafilter. It has proper double (and single) baskets. It has a stainless steel boiler. It heats up to the right temperatures. And it produces a steady (if loud) 9+ BAR of pressure to brew your espresso.

Whole Latte Love often puts this beginner machine on sale as low as $160 or $180; but even at $200, it's a good price. Important to keep in mind: Gaggia saved money on things that don't matter too much on a home machine, and they spent money on the most important things in this machine.

Product Link (Whole Latte Love)

Walkure Bayreuth All Porcelain Coffee Maker - $95
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:50am Permalink to this blog entry

This fantastic, modern appeal coffee brewer is all you need (besides hot water and coffee) to brew a great cup. Made by the Walkure porcelain specialists in Germany, even the filter is porcelain, and as such, the brewer requires no other filtration - no paper, no metal, no nothing.

Filtration is achieved by a dual-layer stack of porcelain grids that criss-cross each other. It does a decent job, holding back as much sludge as a typical press pot does.

This is a pass-through filtration system (as opposed to a immersion brew filtration system) but one of the porcelain pieces is a water-spreader that does a really good job of evenly spreading your hot water over the bed of coffee - as I observed it, water cascades through the spreader's side holes, but also adheres to the bottom of the spreader to provide a fairly chaotic water fall pattern (a good thing). In addition, the spreader is pretty shallow, forcing you to control your water pouring for a more even brew.

I've included some photos of the innards, since this is a pretty unique device. At under $100, it'd make a great gift for a CoffeeGeek!

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image
Pouring Vessel
Filter + Pour Vessels
Water Spreader
Ceramic Filter Base

Product Link (Prima Coffee)

Ernesto Illy Foundation Espresso Cups - Donation 100Euro+
Posted by Beata Siwinski, 2:00am Permalink to this blog entry
Beata PickErnesto Illy Foundation 2 Cup Set

If you have a hankering for donating some money to a worthy cause, but also like getting beautiful illy collector cups, this is the item for you, or even better, as a Christmas Gift you can give to two - one to the foundation, the other to your gift recipient.

These are the Ernesto Illy Foundation espresso cups. The idea for these cups came from Ernesto Illy himself, who said that coffee should never be drunk alone, always in company. Coffee is a beverage that encourages conviviality and conversation: enjoyed in the company of others it can lead to the kind of encounters and discussions from which great ideas are born.

This is why the Ernesto Illy Foundation has used the metaphor of a bird’s eye view of two coffee cups with a logo created by a Dutch designer for illycaffè during the1960s. The limited-edition, numbered pack contains two espresso cups and a single saucer. You get the cups by making a minimum 100 Euro donation to the Ernest Illy Foundation, donations that go to:

Product Link (Ernesto Illy Foundation)

Espresso Training in Vancouver BC with Sammy Piccolo - $350
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:15am Permalink to this blog entry
Sammy Competes

So this is a special limited offer in Vancouver BC that is run through Kickstarter.

Sammy Piccolo, a 4 time Canadian Barista Champion and a 4 time top three finisher at the World Barista Championships, owns a cafe in Vancouver on Commercial Drive and it just so happens a community project to bring a "parklet" to The Drive is going on in front of his cafe. Sammy is involved, and as an incentive to donate via Kickstarter to this project, Sammy is offering up one on one training (well, max of two students for each session) in the art of espresso brewing, crafting and latte art.

I'll get more details from Sammy on exactly what the training involves, but I think it's safe to assume this will be at least a two or three hour class, and possibly multiple classes, taught by the guy who taught most of the Caffe Artigiano staff back in 2002-2008, and of course did so well on the world stage. A very rare opportunity to learn espresso crafting from one of the best.

Your $350 backing donation gets you the training with Sammy and also your name immortalized into the decor on the parklet and in Prado Cafe.

Product Link (Kickstarter - pick the $350 donation option)

Royal Belgian 500ml Balance Brewer - $140
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:35am Permalink to this blog entry
Balance Brewer

Priced at $10 cheaper than last year! Incredible! After kind of disappearing for a few years, we've managed to find a balance brewer and it's actually now at $140! (though shipping is still quite high at $35).

Balance brewers were based on the siphon coffee brewing method, and came out within a decade of the siphon brewer's invention (1840 for siphon brewers, 1850 for balance brewers). These were also the world's first "automatic coffee makers" in that they would automatically shut off through the elevated balance of the hot water kettle on the right side: as the kettle emptied of water (which moves over to the left side to brew), the kettle would rise, and a cap would then flip closed on the cloth wick heater below, stopping the heat.

With no more heat, the steam inside the kettle would revert back to water, create a vacuum, and suck all the brewed coffee back over from the brewing vessel. All this was done hands off - as the operator, all you had to do was add ground coffee to the left side, add water to the right side kettle, put a flame to the cloth wick, and let the device do the rest!

Product Link (Amazon)

Behmor 1600 Home Roaster - $300
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:55am Permalink to this blog entry

This is one of the few items on this list that I have not yet been able to test. But the Behmor 1600 roaster is a huge favourite with the folks who participate in our home roasting forums, and that is reason enough to include it in the holiday gift list. (apologies for the lack of photo - we couldn't find a suitable one to use)

Quoting from our chosen vendor, "This roaster makes perfect sense for those who want to roast their own coffee once a week, or those who roast coffee for the office, for family, or for gift-giving. It has pre-programmed roast times, heat curves, and an automatic cooling cycle."

The smoke removal system keeps the smoke out of your roasting but the aroma of fresh roasted coffee is still strong in your roasting area. The unit will set off most smoke detectors so keep that in mind.

The Behmor can roast up to a pound of coffee at a time, and has five preprogrammed "profiles", but you can also adjust and control the roasting profile on the fly. It's a nice, quiet roaster with legions of fans. It does have some quirks, but Sweet Marias has you covered in that aspect - read their guide to the roaster.

Product Link (Sweet Marias)

Hario Pota Ice Drip Coffee Brewer - $257
Posted by Mark Prince, 3:40am Permalink to this blog entry
Hario Pota

It's hard to think about ice coffee brewing in the middle of winter, but our article on iced coffee brewing methods was extremely popular last summer, so we're including one choice on our Holiday Gift List, and it is one of the most beautiful (and compact) ice brewers available today.

It is the Hario Pota bronze (or copper) ice slow drip coffee maker. It works like any of the ice tower brewers, but in a much more compact form: the top contains the globe for your ice to slowly melt in; the middle portion contains the drip controller (for drips as slow as 1 every 5 seconds!) and the filter and ground coffee container. The bottom is the collection jar where the ice brew coffee ends up. The appliance is finished off with a nice bronze (or copper) base, and a matching cap.

Product Link (Amazon)

Compak K3 Touch Espresso Grinder - $499
Posted by Mark Prince, 4:05am Permalink to this blog entry
Compak K3 Touch

Long ago, we had a love affair with the Mazzer Mini grinder - but a lot of of that had to do with a lack of choices for a dedicated espresso grinder. Not any longer. We'll recommend Compak's offerings anyday over Mazzer, and this K3 Touch grinder is an easy recommendation to make.

The grinder is just a hair under $500 which is actually cheaper than a few years ago. It has beefy 58mm flat burrs, super solid construction (it weighs 20 pounds!) and has a lot of thought out engineering, including a mounted motor for easy service and repair should it ever need that. Mind you, this is a commercial grinder, so for use in the home, it should last for decades.

Compak has been working extremely hard to make great grinders that last a long time. Our primary lab grinder is the Compak K10 WBC model, and we've extensively tested a Compak K3 doser grinder with great results. If you want a dedicated espresso grinder that is built for commercial use, and one that is under $500, this is the unit to have.

NB We're showing the (rare) red one here, but Cup and Brew has both the black or red models for $499; the polished aluminum one is $30 more.

Product Link (Cup and Brew)
Product Link - Canada (I Drink Coffee - $530)

Chemex Handblown 13 Cup Brewer - $148
Posted by Mark Prince, 4:10am Permalink to this blog entry
Chemex XL

Do you like your coffee in XL size portions? Then this is the ultimate for you. This is Chemex' largest coffee brewer - the massive 13 cup handblown glass coffee maker. And it's even cheaper than it was last year!

It works with Chemex's paper filters filled to the brim, and barely works with the Kone V3 filters (watch out for overflow). But if size does matter, you won't find any manual pourover options that are bigger. Great for larger parties, for people who REALLY want a lot of morning coffee, and especially ideal for cafes looking to do larger volume manual brews.

Every Chemex handblown glass coffee maker is unique - they are hand made in the US, and each one has subtly different shapes. The design is a classic icon, featured in the MoMA Museum's permanent collection.

Product Link (Amazon)

Eight Ounce Coffee - A Donating Partner to CoffeeKids
Posted by CoffeeGeek Staff, 4:15am Permalink to this blog entry
Coffeekids Sponsor
8oz Coffee

We'd like to introduce you to one of the companies that has decided to join us in donating money to Coffee Kids this year. That company is called Eight Ounce Coffee and is based in Canada.

Eight Ounce Coffee is a still new company, founded by a couple of expat Brits, and started in Calgary, but soon expanded to Toronto. Their core passions are specialty coffee and bringing a wide range of specialty products to the Canadian marketplace, including many products that were missing from Canadian specialty coffee etailers. Make sure to visit their website to see their ever-expanding line of coffee and espresso products.

Eight Ounce Coffee, a CoffeeKids supporter.

Scottie Callaghan Dosing Tool 40pc set - $160
Posted by Mark Prince, 4:20am Permalink to this blog entry

What do you get the espresso nerd who has everything? Has a Speedster on the counter? A Compak K10 Touch grinder as his primary grinder (see what I did there?)? Makes coffee the old school way in a balance brewer that is older than his grandma?

You get him something he doesn't have but trust me, will use - a complete set of Scottie Callaghan dosing tools. The 40 pack is crazy detailed. It features 40 differently calibrated sweeps to use in levelling the bed of coffee before tamping. Scottie is a former Australian barista champion and has popularized these tools all around Australia, and now in North America, at least one vendor is importing and selling these - 49th Parallel in Vancouver.

I own a set and trust me, for the longest time I used them every friggin day, since they work especially well with the VST calibrated filter baskets. I generally use the #18 or #16 sweeps, but since I have the full set, I could, if I wanted to, use the #17 to really mix things up (heheh). Find out more about these tools direct from Scottie.

If the full set is just a tad too much, 49th also sells a 3 piece set for $40.

Product Link (49th Parallel Roasters, Canada)

Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle - $95
Posted by Mark Prince, 4:45am Permalink to this blog entry

We love this kettle. This is Bonavita's variable temperature electric cordless kettle, specifically designed for manual pourover usage.

This kettle lets you precisely control the water temperature to 1F/1C. It has a keep-temperature feature. It is fast (though it is slower than standard kettles, because of the way it slows down heating as it approaches your specified temperature). It will keep water at the temperature you set for an hour.

More features: the gooseneck is ideal for controlled manual brew pouring; the kettle is commercial-use rated and comes with additional spill-proof options (a plastic cover for the base); and when you remove the kettle from the base, you automatically get a count-up timer for your coffee brewing times, activated simply by pressing the plus symbol on the kettle's control panel.

A solid warranty, a killer price and some of the most accurate temperature controls found in any hot water kettle make this a must have for any serious manual-brew coffee lover.

Product Link (Amazon)
Product Link Canada (Detour Coffee - $95)

Barista Training Class + Tour in Chicago at Intelligentsia - $200
Posted by Andrew McKnight, 5:30am Permalink to this blog entry
Barista Class

Though it is not cheap by any means (we've listed some $40 and $75 classes before), I hear that the intensive Barista training class that Intelligentsia offers at their main Chicago location is rich in knowledge and worth the money.

The class starts with a tour at 1pm on the days it is scheduled, and the training starts in earnest at 2pm and goes for 3 hours. You'll learn all the beginner aspects of great coffee and espresso and some advanced things too, like latte art pouring and more.

Intelligentsia runs one of these classes every month. Class size is usually between 4 and 8 students but check with them to find out the max and minimum class sizes.

Product Link (Intelligentsia Coffee Chicago)

Handpresso Wild in Limited Silver Colour - $100
Posted by Mark Prince, 6:00am Permalink to this blog entry

For a long time, I didn't recommend the Handpresso Wild Hybrid espresso maker, and for just one reason - it didn't hold enough coffee. The process, mechanics, build, and more were all sound and worked great: it just didn't hold enough ground coffee.

Or at least I thought so, until I undertook to write a "Off the Grid" coffee article set which I'm still working on. And I took my 8 year old Handpresso Wild Hybrid out into the wild to really put it through its paces. And to learn to love the 7g single shot.

I find myself very happy to recommend this product now, with caveats. I would not have this as your daily driver for home espresso. I would not have it as your only source of espresso making. But if you are a person on the go, travelling, camping, bike camping, backpacking, hostel travelling, etc, this, along with a Porlex hand grinder makes an excellent one-two punch for having authentic espresso on the road.

You just have to remember that it will only hold 7g of coffee (maybe 8g if you push things) and as a result, you probably want to limit your shot pulls to 15-20g of liquid maximum. But fortunately, extra filters are cheap (and they even have a 3 filter special holder); my practice was to load up two filters, quickly pull one shot, reload stuff, and pull the second shot to get a decent 30-35g espresso to drink.

Just for Christmas, there's this bonus silver version, available for a limited time only, and available, as of this writing, for $30 off, or $100.

Product Link (Whole Latte Love)

Gene Cafe Refurbished Coffee Roaster - $395
Posted by Mark Prince, 6:30am Permalink to this blog entry

We've used the Gene Cafe roaster for several years, and it's rotating, angled drum action results in fantastically even roasts.

This year, a new N. American importer has come on scene, and is really pushing hard to establish the Gene Cafe roaster as the go-to coffee roaster for home enthusiasts. They've also been doing some serious factory refurbishing of Gene Cafe CBR-101 models and are selling them at the great price of $395.

These roasters are virtually indistinguishable from the new $515 models; they have the same warranty and the same build quality, etc. You can roast up to 12oz of coffee at a time in them (though I recommend 8 to 10oz), and you can fine tune the roast profiles to your heart's content.

Keep in mind two caveats: this roaster is extremely sensitive to surrounding temperatures so don't use it in too cold a spot, and note - it produces a hella lotta smoke - so use it in a well ventilated (outdoor?) area.

Product Link (Batch Coffee)

Beautiful Yama 3 Cup Siphon with Butane Burner - $112
Posted by Mark Prince, 7:25am Permalink to this blog entry
Yama Ceramic Siphon

Lower Price This Year! A very elegant 3 cup siphon complete with painted artwork from Yama. And as a bonus, it includes a butane burner (usually a $50 upgrade!).

Siphons produce some of the best non-espresso coffee you can drink today - the brewing method just lends itself to proper extraction and quick brewing times. The bonus is, it's a fantastic visual way to make coffee too! This is true table-service coffee, and a fantastic show to end your dinner party with.

This particular Yama model features a painted ceramic base, and a very stable stand system for holding the brewer in place during the brew phase. It uses a cloth filter system (extra cloth filters are easy to find and buy and are cheap), and the butane burner reduces heat up times by almost 75% when compared to cloth wick burners.

Ever since Hario "dumbed down" the (formerly) beautiful Nouveau siphons, this is one of our favourite siphons available today. I own two of these - the black model, and also a white one.

Product Link (Amazon)

Handmade Manual Drip Clive Stand - $195
Posted by Mark Prince, 7:35am Permalink to this blog entry

This is possibly one of the most beautiful manual drip coffee maker stands you will ever find. It is the "Clive Stand", designed and manufactured in Portland, Oregon.

The stand is made from salvaged Oregon walnut wood, and each one is completely unique in its wood grain pattern. Clive Coffee designed the shape and style in conjunction with their partner in this project, Carthagh Craft and Design. It is available in a 1 and 3 cup model and can be ordered with or without the Hario glass V60 holder and beaker.

I fell in love with this stand the first time I saw it - so much so, I actually commissioned a one-off two brewer model, which I proudly use at least once a week (and will be using again in the new CoffeeGeek Lab eventually). Though it is not normally available, you too can commission a two brewer stand as well, now that they have the plans.

Our price listed here also includes one Hario V60 glass filter holder and one Hario Beaker.

Product Listing (Clive Coffee)

Baratza Encore Multipurpose Grinder - $129
Posted by Mark Prince, 7:45am Permalink to this blog entry
Baratza Encore

This is the first of several Baratza products we're listing. This makes the list because it is the least-expensive electric grinder I feel confident to recommend: Baratza's entry level Encore grinder.

This is the re-engineered and redesigned "Maestro" Grinder from Baratza to fix one of the Maestro's biggest drawbacks - it could not grind fine enough for espresso. The Encore fixes that with a completely redesigned burr group assembly that brings the 40-click selection of other Baratza models, giving you the ability to grind coffee between 200 and 1200 microns, the range needed for espresso on up to press pot coffee.

This grinder is also fully compatible with Baratza's Esatto attachment, which can turn it into a weight-dosing grinder. It does not come with a Portaholder, but one can be bought separately and used with the Encore.The 40mm burrs are the same found in the Virtuoso grinder. The construction of the grinder is also upgraded from the old Maestro, and the front "pulse" button makes a return for one handed operation while using a portafilter.

Product Link (1st in Coffee)
Product Link - Canada (8oz Coffee, $145)

ROK Espresso Maker with Bonuses - $180
Posted by Mark Prince, 7:55am Permalink to this blog entry
ROK Espresso

So we have a product we're listing this year... it's been around for a long time, but this year something big happened. It got revitalized. Partially through a new distribution partnership, partially through trial and error.

It's the ROK espresso maker (formerly known as the Presso). This is the 2013 model, and it has been beefed up and improved. It also comes in a fancy new package and with a (ugh for serious Coffee Geekers) fancypants stainless steel milk frothy-er.

Well forget the frother and even forget the container it comes in (though that is pretty darned cool and can be used as your home coffee bar catch all or the coolest mini bin you'll ever use in your home); the ROK is quite capable of, without any power, brewing a pretty decent shot of espresso. The arms are substantially beefed up on this new version, and little tweaks like no skid feet round out the package. I liked the Presso. I like the ROK even more.

Product Link (Whole Latte Love)

Macap M4 Stepless Espresso Grinder - $495
Posted by Mark Prince, 8:00am Permalink to this blog entry
Macap M4

Fantastic find this year - a full blown commercial doser grinder, stepless grind selection, and it's under $500!

This is the Macap M4 grinder. A few years a go, we used one extensively in the CoffeeGeek lab and it performed flawlessly. It's not as fast as a Compak K10 or a Mazzer Robur, but it's plenty fast enough for home use. The dosers on the Macaps are quite nice too - they sweep really clean for the most part and have a nice tactile feel.

This grinder is, of course, a full metal body design that is coated with glossy black enamel. It is 16" tall (so it should fit under most kitchen cabinets). The burr set is 58mm hardened steel and it is powered by a nice 250 watt motor running the burrs at around 1600 rpms. And it is no lightweight: it weighs 22 pounds before you put any coffee into it.

A perfect gift for a home espresso enthusiast who likes dosers.

Product Link (Cup and Brew)

Yama Cold Drip Coffee Tower - $250
Posted by Mark Prince, 8:15am Permalink to this blog entry

If you are gonna go all "make a statement" with your coffee making, here's one way to do it! This is the Yama  Cold Drip Coffee Tower, and man does it put on a show.

This brewer is designed to brew coffee from ice, over a long period (4+ hours. The top bowl contains your ice, which melts slowly. The middle portion is made up of a dripper that allows you to precisely control how many drips per second (or how many seconds between drips) will flow down to the coffee, in a vessel just below.

Below that is where the brewed coffee slowly curves around a curly tube and eventually drips into the beaker at the bottom. This brewer can brew up to 32oz (about a litre) and can take up to 8 hours to do a  brew. Theatre and coffee, together again!

Product Link (Clive Coffee)

Behmor BraZen Auto Drip Coffee Brewer - $199
Posted by Mark Prince, 8:45am Permalink to this blog entry
Brazen Coffee Maker

This coffee brewer certainly has developed a lot of buzz, especially in a community of supernerd coffee enthusiasts who normally eschew anything auto drip. It is the Behmor BraZen auto drip coffee machine. And it is not your Dad's Braun auto dripper.

It features PID like controls for the water temperature that allow you precise adjustments in whatever brewing temperature you want. It features a "full soak water dispensing head" that promises to deliver a full-saturation shower to the bed of ground coffee. It has a system called "temperature glide" to control and slow down the heat increase of the brewing water when the machine approaches your set temperature. And it even auto calibrates itself to adjust temperatures depending on your altitude (!!). For instance, water, which boils at 212F at sea level, boils at 202F by the time you get to places like Denver. And it even has an onboard system to let you store and recall favourite settings. Capacity is 8 cups (1.2l) and it features a steel thermal carafe and many other super geek features.

While we haven't had a chance to use or test one of these, but it has become a popular device amongst the coffee enthusiast crowd. At a price that is still cheaper than many of the top line Capressos and Brevilles, this could be your next auto drip machine.

Product Link (1st Line Equipment)
Product Link (I Drink Coffee, Canada, $210)

Cona Model C Siphon Coffee Maker - $235
Posted by Andrew McKnight, 8:50am Permalink to this blog entry

Most siphons these days look like the oldschool tall pillar style that Hario, Yama and others are creating facsimiles of in good numbers at decent prices.

How about a siphon that looks radically different? One still made by hand in England by a century-old company? One that is still more or less the same siphon this company has been making for decades and decades? Let me present to you a siphon not much talked about: The Cona siphon.

With sweeping, art deco lines, wide bowl, narrow spout and an all glass brewing system (even the filter is glass), the Cona certainly stands out amongst the crowd. It is notoriously difficult to clean (hint - get a decanter brush), and won't work with any of the modern butane burners, but who cares - it is a gorgeous work of art and still brews fantastic coffee.

It may be over $200, but what the heck - it's Christmas.

Product Link (Espresso Zone)
Product Link (bonus for UK folk - 96£ incl vat!)

Illy Art Collection Cups - Schanbel Set - $120
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:15am Permalink to this blog entry

And here, this year is a very limited offering: A full blown illy art collection series of espresso cups (with coffee! Albeit kinda old illy coffee!) for $120!

Illy art sets are going for $155 to $200 these days new, so to find a set for $120 is a steal if you're into these kinds of things.

The Juilian Schnabel "Chuck" set is also quite cool and unique - the set comes in one of those old timey rescue life preserver. The five cups and saucers present the different moods and periods of life for Chuck the beach boy and surfer. Chuck, by the way, is a real guy that the artist knows and immortalized in art.

If you want to get into illy cup collecting, this is definitely a good place to start. If this set doesn't appeal, make sure you peruse 1st in Coffee's site for other current illy art series offerings.

Product Link (1st in Coffee)

Baratza Preciso Multi Purpose Grinder - $300
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:15pm Permalink to this blog entry

There's a few Baratza Grinders on this list because of one simple fact: they are the best grinders in their price range for home use.

The Preciso is the middle of the road offering from Baratza, but one that kicks the pants off a Rocky or even a Mazzer Mini. Why? Because of two things: super fine tuning ability for your grind fineness level, and it is faster than either grinder doing an espresso grind.

The Preciso is the company's Virtuoso grinder with the addition of a new collar system that allows for both macro grind adjustments (40), and micro adjustments (11), giving you over 400 different grind settings to choose from. It is also very fast - as fast as the higher priced Vario, and then some. It is twice as fast grinding for espresso than a Mazzer Mini is.

This is a multi purpose grinder, meaning it can do espresso and turkish grind, but also easily handle drip and press pot grinds. The Preciso also comes complete with Baratza's portaholder accessory, allowing you to use your portafilter (up to 58mm commercial size) right in the grinder directly.

Product Link (Amazon)
Product Link - Canada (ZCafe - $318)

Batch Coffee - A Donating Partner to Coffee Kids!
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:00pm Permalink to this blog entry
A Coffee Kids Supporter
Batch Coffee

Let me introduce you to another of our excellent Coffee Kids supporters this Holiday season. It is a company called Batch Coffee! They will be matching CoffeeGeek's fund raising dollar for dollar up to the $500 limit this holiday season.

Batch Coffee is a partnership between a 10 year coffee industry vet and a fellow with a great business sense. They are evolving their new business to sell a wide variety of really top end coffee and espresso gear, but their main focus is a coffee roaster: the Gene Cafe.

The Gene Cafe has been around for a while, but Batch Coffee became the exclusive importer last year and they want to continue to develop and improve the product while providing really first rate support for this roaster to customers in the US and beyond. We've had a Gene Cafe roaster since the early 2000s and it's quite intriguing - this is a combination fluid bed and rotational drum roaster, with advanced controls letting you the home roaster, control your roast profile. Able to roast up to 12oz at a time, this is no small, popcorn popper sized roaster! Check it out at their website!  

Batch Coffee, a Coffee Kids Supporter!

Ultimate Coffee Travel Package (Canada) - $175
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:15pm Permalink to this blog entry
Manual Brew Combo

Last year, we featured a "ultimate" travel coffee package from a US vendor, but this year, we found an even better package, with a better price, from a Canadian vendor!

This package includes literally everything you need to super geek out while out and about, as Canadians are prone to say.

You get an aeropress, a Able DISK filter, a fantastic Porlex mini grinder, a great scale, a Keepcup, and a Bonavita travel kettle. This is a super warrior's travel kit and they fit all very well in most suitcases and for typical hotel / motel / hostel travel and adventuring. The geek out factor is the scale and the super fast Bonavita kettle.

Individually, these items cost $206, but are just $175 CAD when bought together.

Product Link (8oz Coffee Canada)

Akira Halogen Beam Heater for Siphon / Kettles 110V - $368 or less
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:30pm Permalink to this blog entry

Everytime I post of photo brewing with a Hario Halogen Beam heater and a siphon, people ask a) what I am using, and b) where can they buy one. I tell them what it is, how Hario discontinued it, and that it was over $450. Still, many are more disappointed at it no longer being available, than shocked at the price.

Well now, two importers in North America are bringing in a better, lower priced, more powerful, and most importantly -- wired for N. American power (110V) halogen beam heater from another manufacturer: Akira. Where the Hario Beam Heater was 100V (Japan) only and $465 from N. American sources when it was available, this model from Akira is only $368 from the US vendor, and (awesome!) $328 from the Canadian source.

With this heater, you can brew siphon coffee using light: light from a powerful 350W halogen bulb. The bulb is so bright, if you didn't have the red quartz filter in place on the heater, you'd probably go blind from the brightness. The lamp is also infinitely adjustable, allowing you to jack up or tone down the light (and resulting heat). I put the bulb to max to heat up water, then lower it to maybe 60% power to maintain the brew for 1 or 2 minutes. Unlike Hario's model, the front of this unit is slanted. And did I mention it is 110V powered?

For many, this is the ultimate heating source for siphon brewed coffee. It is designed to work with most stand-equipped siphon brewers, and will also work with stovetop models. For more detailed photos, check out this (Korean) blog.

Product Link (Espresso Parts, $368)
Product Link (Avenue18, Canada, $328)

Cordless Electric 4-6 Cup Moka Espresso Maker - $120
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:45pm Permalink to this blog entry
Electric cordless moka

Well you don't see this kind of thing everyday.

It's a very stylish moka (Italian Stovetop style espresso machine) that is electrical and cordless! The base has a cord (of course) but the unit itself can be removed from the base after brewing to serve your coffee anywhere.

This is a very traditional moka pot in many ways. It is all stainless steel in construction so you don't have to worry about aluminum leaching. It has a filters basket and funnel design that also has a spring so it easily comes out of the bottom water unit. And to add to the benefits - the top portion of the unit (where the brewed coffee eventually goes) is dishwasher safe!

If there's a coffee person in your life who loves moka brewed coffee, this one presents many new options - like brewing at work (no stove needed!) or even while travelling (hotel style, of course).

Product Link (Creative Cookware)

Bunn Phase Brew 8 Cup Thermal Brewer - $130
Posted by Mark Prince, 3:05pm Permalink to this blog entry
Bunn Phase Brewer

We had a chance to test this brewer last year in an informal private test, and were quite impressed with the results. This is Bunn's new Phase Brewer auto drip coffee machine.

What makes it special? When it comes to drip brewers, the most important thing that many manufacturers miss is the water temperature - namely, the temperatures are not hot enough for proper extraction. Bunn fixes this problem with a dual stage heating / brewing cycle on this machine. It takes about 10 minutes to complete a pot: 6 minutes to properly heat up all the water, and 4 minutes to actually brew.

This is also one of the few machines from Bunn to have all the bells and whistles normal consumer drip autos have: namely, digital controls and timers. We're not fans of timers on auto drip coffee makers - it means stale ground coffee - but for some this is a very important feature. It also uses Bunn's flat filter, which some believe can lead to a better brew in auto drip machines.

Lastly, Bunn's warranty is awesome - a full 3 years (most machines are 1 year or less).

Product Link (Amazon)

Nez du Cafe Aroma Set - $350 / $275
Posted by Andrew McKnight, 7:35pm Permalink to this blog entry
Nez du Cafe Kit

Wine folks have the Nez du Vin sets in a variety of sizes, and we in the world of coffee have the Nez du Cafe set made by the same people. Many folks in the world of specialty coffee consider this kit de rigeur in their training of palates and sensory skills for the tasting and testing of coffee. We consider it essential in the CoffeeGeek Lab.

Designed in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association of America, this kit consists of an amazing 36 aromas comprising the most common (and uncommon) scents found in coffees.  All thirty-six aromas in a wooden presentation box complete with descriptive cards, the set of four 'Art of Aroma' posters, and Jean Lenoir's bound book which contains a tasting sheet and coffee classification chart.

This kit will help you train your sense of taste with flavors that mimic the specific nuances found in coffee. You'll be a rock star of the coffee cupping world in no time - watch out Ken Davids!

The included aromas are: earth, potato, garden peas, cucumber, straw, cedar, clove-like, pepper, coriander seeds, vanilla, tea-rose/redcurrant jelly, coffee blossom, coffee pulp, blackcurrant-like, lemon, apricot, apple, butter, honeyed, leather, basmati rice, toast, malt, maple syrup, caramel, dark chocolate, roasted almonds, roasted peanuts, roasted hazelnuts, walnuts, cooked beef, smoke, pipe tobacco, roasted coffee, medicinal, rubber.

Price is $350, or $275 if you're an SCAA member.
Product Link (SCAA site - they have a horrible url system at their site; visit the "store" navigation buton, and search for Nez du Cafe)

Baratza Esatto Grinder Accessory - $149
Posted by Andrew McKnight, 7:55pm Permalink to this blog entry
Baratza Esatto

The ultimate upgrade for a wide lineup of Baratza grinders, including the Maestro Plus, the Encore, the Virtuoso, and the Preciso models. What is it?

The Esatto attachment converts your existing Baratza grinder into a very accurate weight based dosing grinder, complete with a new bin to use. You can dial in up to 3 presets, or manually choose the weight you want to grind. Fill the hopper up, pick your grind weight and press one button. The grinder will accurately grind the amount you set, in .1g increments and automatically stop.

In our testing, we found the Esatto to be accurate within .5g under most circumstances. This is fantastic for moka, drip, siphon, pourover, and press pot - you really don't need anything more accurate than that. When grinding for espresso, we've found the finer grind (which means slower grinding time) brings the accuracy down to about .3 grams, which is also extremely good for most espresso situations.

A very worthy upgrade to your Baratza grinder, and a definite choice gift for a true CoffeeGeek. And it's $20 cheaper this year than it was last year!

Product Link (Amazon)
Product Link - Canada (Amazon Canada - $169)

Article rating: 9.7
Posted: December 4, 2013
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Coffee at the Moment Column Archives email author
Mark PrinceColumn Description
Whether it's up to the minute, happening this day, this week, or in the recent past, this column's goal is to present coffee and attempts to make the experience truly culinary. You'll find short reviews about past events, interesting coffees coming on the market, new and different ways to enjoy espresso and other brewing methods, and give an insight into efforts around the globe to make coffee a truly culinary thing. Column written by Mark Prince.

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2013 Holiday Gift List Under $500
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Defining the God Shot
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