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Books and Boots Gift Guide: Coffee Lovers

Updated: Mar 1

Whether outfitting your own at home cafe or buying for the coffee lover in your home, the Books and Boots Gift Guide for Coffee Lovers offers practical lived in advice.

I do not have affiliates, so if I make a recommendation, it's because I love it.


Last year, I had to purchase a coffee machine. As a solo coffee drinker in my home, I was content to make a little French Press or Pour Over, relishing in the joy of heating the water and watching the grounds shine with rainbow patterns when the oils emerged in the brewing process. When W. became a coffee drinker, we managed. When Behr decided he wanted in on it, too, I knew I was in a situation. It came to a head when family spontaneously came to visit and my French Press could not keep up with the brunch rush in my home that day.

I am now the proud owner of a 12-cup Cuisinart Mill and Brew coffee maker with a copper filter and a programmable clock. The day I unboxed it, W. just about did a back flip. He could wake up to coffee instead of making it in the morning?! Before bed he enthusiastically preps the coffee maker for the next morning and wakes to the sound of beans being milled into grounds. We all wake to that sound because one of its faults is the sound it makes when grinding the beans. It’s like waking to the sound of a lawnmower downstairs every morning.


Coffee is one of those home rituals. In every home space, the steps and process to making coffee is individualized. Some people brew in the mornings. Some program in the evenings. Some people pop in a Keurig, much to my chagrin.


Slone told me she was going to donate her Keurig and get a slower and more intentional coffee-making device. She texted me asking for advice and referred to me as her coffee guru.

A screenshot of a conversation between coffee loving friends.

I worked as a barista many years ago. And as much as I was a coffee snob then, I am less so now. I love my locally roasted Ethiopian Bombe, but I also love the Peet’s Big Bang I get from Kroger. I have to be able to work with what my life dictates.


A cup of coffee surrounded by hearts

Any advice I provide here is based on a more realistic approach to coffee buying – Folgers and Maxwell House stans are welcome here. If you are interested in the science, the flavor notes, the roasting techniques, etc., there’s a slew of guys on r/coffee who can help you out.


Coffee Makers

Pour over – these makers can be as simple or as complicated as you make them. Essentially, it’s a cone-shaped device that sits on top of your cup and filters your coffee as you pour in the hot water. These can be as inexpensive as $10 or as expensive as $50. I have tried different varieties and have loved them all. The Miletta plastic pour over has traveled with me and served me at home.


Chemex – This is a pour over but instead of doing one cup at a time, you can make a whole pot. It’s a glass all-in-one piece, which makes it the most aesthetically gorgeous option. You must use Chemex filters for it. There is no way of getting around that. They fit in the piece perfectly, where the store variety I tried to use slipped into the lower section and created chaos of my morning. I would have kept it, except I am not a gentle person. I broke it in less than six months. Know thyself. I also warned Slone when she said she was getting one that the glass pot will begin to look dingy unless you scrub all the oils out of it on a daily basis. Many coffee drinkers know that the oil patina contributes to making great coffee – old coffee pots make better tasting coffee. Do you want a dirty looking coffeemaker and great tasting coffee or a pristine looking coffeepot that makes good coffee?


French Press – The most durable of choices. I have two stainless steel French Press pots – one for home and one for the office. They are easy to use. Just dish out the beans, add a little water, let it set, add the rest of the water, let it set, then press. Why all the setting? When the water hits the grounds and the oils start to react, it will release gas. If you put the lid on top during that time, the gasses will get trapped and the plunger will be harder to press. It took me and W. a while to figure that one out. Give it about three minutes or so to set before putting the lid on it.

** French Press makers are also excellent for making cold brew ** If you are a cold brew person, set up your French Press with the grounds and run cold water over them. Place the carafe in the fridge to steep overnight. The next morning, all you have to do it press the grounds to the bottom. Pour over ice and head out the door. I will do this in July.


Grind and Brew – I have owned more than one of these. I have worn them out. They are easy. You load the beans in the hopper along with the water. Set the timer (or just press brew) and the machine does all the work. Why would anyone not do this? Well, the cleanup is a little of a hassle. You have to clean the grinding mechanism as well as the filter whenever you make a cup. If you are a coffee drinker who can’t even with grounds, this might not be your choice. Also – and the reason I was reluctant to buy another one – is the issue with a two in one machine. Whenever one thing breaks, the entire system shuts down. Too many working parts that I do not know how to fix if something breaks. We’ve had a good year with our Cuisinart one. I like the stainless carafe because it keeps the coffee warm until everyone makes it out of bed. I don’t have to worry about the dregs getting burnt in the pot because I left the warmer on – it doesn’t have one.


This is not an inclusive list in any way. I did not include Bunn, Aeropress, Keurig or other systems that I have not lived with on a regular basis. If you have a recommendation, you can leave it in the comments below.


Espresso Makers

Moka pot – If you are the type who looks wistfully at images and illustrations of coffee set ups on Pinterest, then you know what a Moka pot is. It’s the little silver italian feat of engineering that elegantly sits on a stovetop for an incredibly strong espresso strength beve. There is some discussion about whether or not Moka pot coffee is actually espresso. I don’t want to indulge in that debate. What I do know is if regular coffee does not have enough of a kick for you, this little device is the way to go. It’s not great for travel because you need a heating element to make the coffee. To use a moka pot, you must unscrew the bottom part of the device and fill with water. Then you scoop espresso ground coffee into the basket. Reassemble and place the entire piece on a hot burner. It’s small, so if you are using a gas stove, you don’t want the flames to be wider than the device. The water will boil and push the liquid to the top through the grounds. The smell of a moka pot brewing is enough to drop $20 on one. As far as drinking it, it is strong like espresso. We drink it in tiny mugs with cold milk or cream – don’t be scandalized, Purists.


Espresso Machine - Right before our Bed Bath and Beyond closed down, I got an incredible deal on a Breville Bambino home espresso machine. It was not the first machine I have owned, but it is my favorite.

Having a home espresso machine is every bit like having a Starbucks in your home. It’s not as complicated to use as one would think – both of my kids know how to run mine – it simply requires several steps. The water is stored in a trough in the back. So all you have to do is load the espresso grounds into the handle, press down with a tamper, and twist the handle into the machine. Press a button and you have the espresso part. Then pour cold milk into the silver pitcher and under the frothing wand. Press the button for steam. The foam can be as fancy or as simple as you like. I cannot make latte art, but none of that really matters to me. We keep tiny sampler bottles of Monin Syrup in the cupboard. Sometimes we’ll sprinkle cinnamon on top. Behr is a big fan of the candy flavored and cereal flavored dust one can buy at Kroger. We have a little shaker of Twix that I keep grabbing instead of Red Pepper Flakes when I cook.


Grinders

You have to remember the tiers.

Fresh ground is better tasting than preground. Supposedly conical grinders are superior to flat electric grinders. If the goal is to make coffee tasting your new hobby in 2024, then invest in that Baratza Conical Grinder from Williams Sonoma.

I have had success with a flat Mr Coffee electric grinder that I picked up from WalMart for $10. I lost it when I moved.

Recently, I invested in a Hario manual grinder for those afternoons I want to make a pot of French Press for myself. It requires a little elbow grease, but it’s quiet.


Beans and types of grinds

This is where things get confusing. Espresso roast is a darker roast, but if you want to make an espresso, you need espresso ground coffee. This means it needs to be ground incredibly fine.

Save yourself the stress and purchase Cafe Bustelo. It tastes great and is Moka or espresso machine ready.

For the French Press and Pour Over systems, a course grind is recommended. But if you are not planning to grind your own beans or find yourself traveling with your system to make coffee in your hotel room, I suggest using regular grind that you can easily find at the store. The reason a coarse grind is better is because the regular grind can pass through the filter. I have never had an issue with it.

The type of beans you like are completely up to you. Almost all the major coffee sellers now include flavor notes to give you an idea of what to expect.

I am not a huge fan of dark roast. I always go for a medium because I prefer a smooth coffee over a sharp one.


Gift Guide for Coffee Lovers in your Life

  • See if your community has a local roasters and pick up a robust bag of a non-flavored blend of beans. Too many landmines with flavors. Coffee drinkers are more likely to power through an unflavored even if it’s not their favorite than they will one that is flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, or chocolate.

  • Flavored syrups are an excellent alternative to flavored coffees. World Market sells tiny bottles in sample sizes that we buy each season. Sadly, the sampler always includes a flavor that no one in the house wants – I’m looking at your cranberry – but most of the flavors are excellent and I perfect them to some of the other brands.

  • A tasteful but large mug. Some coffee drinkers collect mugs. Some enjoy sassy sayings and puns. But most coffee drinkers are pleased to have a sturdy mug with a good handle that can hold more than 15 ounces of coffee, in a neutral color.

  • Travel Systems. Being away from the creature comforts of home is a whole lot easier if you don’t have to search for a place to get a coffee. I’m keeping my eye on an Oxo Portable Pour Over with a lid.

Because let's face it, a warm cup of coffee in the morning feels like a hug in a mug. And who doesn't need a hug first thing in the morning?


Read Books. Wear Boots.

XOXO,

B.

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