A little help with the final Christmas rush, how to buy beans for a Coffee Lover!
So it’s that time of year, Christmas is bearing down on us all at pace and many of us may experience that “Late Present Moment” as we dash around looking for something for the person who is hard to buy for. Coffee lovers can often fall into this category, the drink we love that many can see as “just coffee surely?” can get a little intimidating as a present option, I mean really just look at the sheer number of articles I have written on it on this site alone. But is there some good advice out there for those wanting to buy a gift for a coffee lover? Well I am willing to give it a try, here’s my easy three step guide to buying gifts for a coffee lover.
Stage One: What do they make their coffee with?
This is probably the most overlooked and yet most integral step in buying coffee. The friend who owns a £4,000 home espresso machine is going to appreciate a very different coffee than the one who lovingly brews pour over on a copper V60. So before we go any deeper into the question take a look below at some images to help identify the “Usual Suspects” of coffee brewing at home.
Stage Two: Ok so what do I buy?
This is where I will risk some generalisation (something I usually try to mitigate or avoid) but for good reason. I am writing this article not for someone who knows what they want, but for someone who really doesn’t, who wants to buy a gift that is not going to be wasted on a valued recipient. So I will look at each brewing method and give some quick advice on the types of beans likely to produce welcome flavours with them. As well as some advice I will end each section with a couple of “Online Quick Buys” these are coffee’s I have personally tried and feel will work well with the brewing method. Please note I have not been paid for these recommendations, nor do I receive commission on any of the sales, it really is my independent opinion folks.
Home Espresso Machines
Right out of the gate I will address the big one, as a rule if you know someone who has a home espresso setup it’s a good bet that they know their beans. This can be intimidating, after all how can you buy for someone like this? Firstly relax, even the most hardened of coffee lovers (trust me I am intimately familiar with the breed) is far less picky than you might think. Most coffee lovers are fans of adventure and discovery in coffee, nothing beats trying something new and seeing what you think (even if its not exactly your thing in the end). Once you accept that this is true these coffee people actually become the easiest to buy for in many ways. Espresso is a pretty specific method to roast for and generally companies mark the beans they intend for the purpose clearly. Find a reputable coffee place and ask them for any “Espresso Blends” they may have for sale, chat to them a little and listen to any advice they may have and then make your choice based on what sounds interesting. But stick to blends if you can, you may find that they also have some “Single Origin” espresso beans available, while these sound exciting and attractive, brewing single origin espresso is a (painfully) acquired skill and the flavours can be particular, so I wouldn’t advise them as a gift unless you really know your friend will enjoy them.
Online Quick Buys
Pour Over (Hario V60, Kalita Wave, and the rest)
Pour over is always popular in coffee circles as it allows a real breadth of beans to be brewed and sampled, indeed it’s often the professional’s (your’s truly included) method of choice. The best and worst of this flexibility is that almost any bean or blend can be a suitable purchase for these brewing kits, so how do you make a choice? I could advise trying to get an idea of the coffee’s your recipient likes (and indeed if you can do so, this can really help) but if we are looking at last minute gifting that’s probably not an option. So my tip is look to the east, ask wherever you are buying from, for coffee grown in China, there a quite a few hitting the market this year and many coffee lovers are excited to see what they bring in flavour. If those coffees aren’t available, try Africa, beans from the heart of the coffee world have been delivering some amazing flavours for a long time (and both my quick buys are from there), if you are really lucky the company you buy from may have some Wild or Indigenous Varietal coffee available, and this is always a worthwhile experience. As ever if you’re shopping in person, ask, you’ll be amazed how willing most coffee people are to help out with ideas and advice.
Online Quick Buys
Cafetière (Plunger Pots) and Aeropress
Another classical and ever popular method of brewing, the cafetière is often found in the coffee friendly homes of the world, the Aeropress is a more modern method still using some hand pressure in brewing. These brewing methods can make some great coffee, and are often a go to for people’s daily drink. I find that they tend to work with similar coffee beans so I have kept them together. When shopping for these brewing systems I would recommend looking for something that will produce a good balance of flavour intensity and weight, so as to encourage a slow drink without risking too much loss of flavour over time, good bets are beans from South America, and have a look for descriptions like Chocolatey or Full Bodied.
Online Quick Buys
Stove Top Coffee Pot
This method is perhaps less often spotted nowadays, having fallen a little out of favour (I still love it) but remains one that can still be found among the community of coffee enthusiasts, a stove top version of espresso style coffee maker it lends itself to robust and intense coffees. When shopping for this piece of kit it’s worth considering any good espresso blend (the pressure used in brewing here is similar to that in an espresso machine) or asking for “French Roast” or “Italian Roast” beans (meaning a longer roast with a darker bean) which also take well to high pressure brewing.
Online Quick Buys
Stage Three: Pre Ground or Whole Bean?
Ok the last stage of buying coffee beans is that moment when the nice salesperson (or helpful website programming) asks if you want the coffee as whole beans or pre ground. I am not going to detail the arguments for one or the other as in the case of gifts it comes down to if you know whether the gift recipient has a grinder at home or not. If they do, then go whole bean every time, the coffee will keep longer and the resulting flavours will be clearer. If not then have the beans ground for the equipment you identified earlier. Simple as that.
What about something a little more adventurous? My last recommendation is a gift that keeps on giving. If you really want to excite the coffee lover in your life, try giving them a few months of a coffee subscription service for Christmas. These fantastic services send out a fixed number of bags of coffee beans each month, directly to your coffee fan, chosen either from a large roaster with a good selection of beans or from a stable of carefully curated roasters through a single dispatcher.
Online Quick Buys
Final Word and Legal Disclaimer
That’s it from me, three (hopefully) simple stages that will allow you to purchase gifts for your coffee loving friends and family with confidence. I hope it helps you out!
One more time and for legal clarity: I do not work for any of the companies mentioned in this article. I have received no payment for the writing of this work, nor do I stand to profit from any resulting sales. While I have met and spoken to some people involved and sampled products, this guide is written based on my independent and personal experience and the resulting advice should be taken as such.
Last Order Dates for Guaranteed Christmas Delivery (AKA Another Disclaimer)
This article is obviously going out close to Christmas to help those of you making last minute buys. So please check the sites linked for last order dates that will get your gift to you before Christmas or for links to places you can buy their products on your footwork powered shopping charge this week. Sadly my magical powers cannot assure opening hours that will fix all problems, its why I give more than one idea.
Merry Christmas All!
About Bear Essentials CoffeeIf you have enjoyed this or any of my writing please check out my Homepage to find out more about me and my work. Follow the blog and if you feel you can, drop a donation to support this project. Thanks, – Bear