Thousands of miles away, a farmer marches up a mountainside, picking beans. They’ll be left to ferment in the sun, wafting lazily in an open air breeze like a tourist on holiday. So while a quick sip of coffee on your way out the door in the morning may be a necessity, it’s also so much more. It’s a time and place, a moment that happened in a world you’ll never see, a negotiation between soil, water, sun, and manual labor.
In this sense, coffee can be two things. It’s a tool for our productivity, sure, but it’s also an experience that we can savor that much more through unique brewing, focused sipping, and all of the wonderful coffee accoutrements that are on the market. Here are some of our favorites.
Nordic Moka Pot
Italians love their Moka pots. Placed directly onto the stove, water bubbles up from a bottom chamber, through a basket of ground coffee, to finish filtered and brewed in a top chamber for your consumption. The method brews a rich cup of joe, somewhere between espresso and coffee, with minimal effort. The thing is, everybody buys the same old Moka pot, which is why Daniel Debiasi and Federico Sandri of Something Design gave the Moka pot a Scandinavian makeover for Stelton. Their Collar Moka pot (£64.95) is made of matte black steel tempered by a warm wood handle. And in fact, there’s an entire line of Collar coffee products over at Stelton if you dig this aesthetic. Buy them here.
Blue Bottle Ground Coffee
The company that said it would never pre-grind coffee is now pre-grinding coffee. Called Blue Bottle Perfectly Ground, it’s prepackaged, single-serving ground coffee that will be sold at Blue Bottle’s shops, online, and in Whole Foods alongside the likes of Illy and Peets. Each packet is ground for a specific production method (such as pour-over or French press), includes detailed instructions on how to make a perfect cup, and has the sleek white and blue design that has become a Blue Bottle calling card. Packets cost $3.50 each or $17.50 for a box of five. Buy them here.
Designed by Ammunition, the same studio behind Beats headphones, the Ember Mug ($150) uses a microprocessor, battery, and heating element to keep your coffee (or tea!) at a perfect 106 degrees for up to two hours off its charging base. A case of Silicon Valley over-engineering? Perhaps. Then again, for anyone who frequently takes a swig of lukewarm swill at 10 a.m., it’s hard to imagine a sweeter everyday luxury. Buy it here.
Sudden Instant Coffee
But for the truly lazy (or the truly busy), even Blue Bottle ground coffee might be too much work. It was for these folks, and probably hikers and travelers, too, that Sudden Coffee was founded by Kalle Freese–the ninth place winner in the 2015 World Barista Championship, who had the idea of giving prized single origin coffee beans the freeze-drying process. So like instant Folgers, you can pour a packet into your cup along with some hot water, and presto, decent coffee. I’ve tried Sudden coffee and I think it’s great–especially with cold milk. For $3 a serving it’s worth just drinking the real stuff when you can, but there’s someone for whom the perfect gift is a box of Sudden. Buy it here or check out their special holiday pack here.
I unboxed the Ratio with a predisposition to hate it. A shamelessly aluminum Apple product knock-off, I was sure it was the worst of Kickstarter culture. Then I drank the coffee. It’s essentially an automated Chemex, combining precision water temperature control with a perfect drip that resembles the even flow of rainwater to seep and brew the beans just right for optimal flavor. I’m still not sure that I can justify any coffee machine when making pour-over is so good. But if I could, it’d be the Ratio. Buy one here.
Coffee Houses For Coffee Tables
Coffee houses around the world are designed to be hip, hospitable gathering places, which makes them a fascinating case study for anyone interested in branding and architecture. BRANDLife: Cafés & Coffeehouses ($36), published by Victionary, is a look at the design of over 50 different cafes from across the world, with examinations on packaging and interior design. En masse, the book creates a visual thesis where midcentury modern meets mid-aughts hipster heaven–a whole other dimension where Eames chairs, copper fixtures, and unfinished wood reign supreme. Just one word of advice: Don’t even think about reading it without a cup of joe within reach. Buy it here.
La Marzocco Linea Mini
While it’s easy, and relatively cheap, to make great coffee at home, making decent espresso–which requires massive amounts of water pressure to brew–is a whole other ballgame. But if you’re looking to gift the ultimate home espresso maker, it’s this striking, small-scale reproduction of La Marzocco’s most famous machine, the Linea Classic. At $4,500, this Italian wonder won’t ever pay for itself, but neither will a Ferrari. Find one here.