No one knows exactly when people started swilling coffee. One legend says a ninth-century Ethiopian herder named Kaldi wondered why his goats wouldn’t sleep at night after eating red berries from a certain bush. He shared a sample of the fruit with a monk from a nearby monastery, who found that the stuff kept him awake throughout long stretches of evening prayer. Perhaps there’s some truth to the myth. Many centuries later, coffee somehow worked its way to Pope Clement VIII, who liked it so much he suggested baptizing it.
Whatever its origin, coffee is a multi-billion-dollar commodity today, demand for which is bested only by oil. It stands to reason that you have a friend or family member who’s a java junkie, and as the holidays draw near, you may want to consider of these five gift ideas; they come in every price range, and any of them will thrill your favorite coffee fiend.
Plenty of coffee makers promise superior brew, but the Aerobie Aeropress ($29.95 MSRP) delivers. By quickly forcing hot water through a generous helping of grounds, the syringe-shaped device extracts your coffee’s rich essence, but doesn’t steep long enough to draw out its bitterness. The downside is, it demands more grounds than other coffee makers, as well as precise water temperature. Most coffee drinkers will want to dilute the concentrated shots the Aeropress produces, but it can also double as a poor-man’s espresso maker in a pinch.
Death Wish coffee
Of course, if strong brew is what your coffee lover adores, you can’t get more potent than Death Wish coffee ($19.99 for a 1 pound bag). Created by a New York coffee shop owner who wanted to perk up his clientele with a single cup, Death Wish offers maximum oomph per ounce. It’s a robusta-based blend, using a type of bean that packs more caffeine and bitterness than common Arabica coffee. Death Wish boasts about keeping that bitterness to minimum while still providing a fair-trade, organic product that’s the strongest in the world.
You don’t necessarily need special beans to make stout coffee. Instead, try one of the oldest brewing methods in the book–the ibrik. Also known as a Turkish coffee pot, the ibrik cooks up a super-intense shot using a couple of tablespoons of powdered grounds, about a half-cup of water, and a steady hand. Gradually heating the water in the ibrik (which looks like a shiny sloped metal cylinder) causes the coffee to foam up. After settling, it’s carefully poured into a little demitasse cup, the pot’s handcrafted ridges trapping most of the sediment. While not quite good to the last drop due to the lack of filtration, ibriks are part of a tasty Middle Eastern tradition. You can find affordable ibriks on Amazon.com (usually $12 to $25), but consider paying a little extra for a Brillante manual grinder ($59.99 MSRP, but you can often find it for less). Ibriks require powdered coffee, and the prepackaged stuff goes stale extremely quickly.
Sometimes, though, what you want is intense flavor without the jolt to your central nervous system, and decaf just doesn’t cut it. Chicory coffee is a two-century-old solution to caffeine jitters. Some historians trace the practice of cutting java with the perennial vegetable back to Napoleon’s continental blockade. Looking to stretch their supplies, people started looking to the plants in the backyards. The result was a brew with an unctuous mouthfeel, a long finish, and a deeply nutty flavor. It’s not your normal cup of coffee, but its popularity continues to this day in certain sections of the American South. Cafe du Monde is the most well-known brand ($6.70 for a 1.25 pound can).
Nesco Coffee Bean Roaster
For the true coffee connoisseur, nothing beats home-roasted coffee. Not only does it allow you to select exactly how dark you’d like your beans to be, it’s also economical. A bag of green coffee beans will stay fresh for a months. Then there’s the taste. Lemon, cocoa, raisin, almond–these are just a few of the flavors that green-coffee drinkers find in their cups. It’s so vibrant and smooth that many start swilling it black. The Nesco Coffee Bean Roaster ($220.99 MSRP, although it’s significantly less expensive at various online retailers) is the best no-fuss option for neophytes. Throw in a 4 pound sampler ($20.50) from Sweet Maria’s, the premier green-coffee retailer, and you’re sure to have a happy coffee drinker on your hands.
Sure, gift buying can seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be when it comes to the coffee drinkers in your life. Whether your budget is expansive or slight, some of the items on this list are sure to prompt a smile once the wrapping paper comes off. So go on! Add a little perk into the life of someone special this holiday season.