Chicory is a root that has been roasted, brewed and used as an inexpensive coffee substitute for many, many years, but the most notable modern example of chicory use is in the coffee and chicory blend that is a staple for many New Orleans residents and Mardi Gras-goers every year. It’s a unique drink that becomes addictive once you’ve aquired a taste for it – and it is something that can be hard to find outside of New Orleans – especially if you want to make yours with high quality, freshly roasted chicory (just like your coffee beans!). Blue Bottle Coffee offers a New Orleans Iced Kit that will allow you to make your own delicious New Orleans-style coffee and chicory coffee blend at home. The kit includes their signature recipe, a pound of Blue Bottle’s New Orleans coffee blend and an envelope of pre-measured, roasted French chicory that is scaled for one pound of coffee. You will need to add your own milk, sugar, and ice to finish the recipe and complete your drink. BB recommends whole milk and organic sugar, which is what they use to make the drink themselves. It’s a taste of New Orleans (or at least, a taste of New Orleans via the SF Bay Area!) at home.
If you have a Starbucks fan in your life, a gift card is probably a good choice of gift if you are unsure of what to get them. With a gift card, they can always stock up on their favorite whole beans or simply enjoy a few drinks over the course of a month. An even better gift, however, might be the 2013 Coffee Refill Tumbler. This tumbler entitles the user to one free grande drip coffee every day in January. The tumbler costs $30 and a grande drip (in my neighborhood, anyway) runs $1.95, so you’re basically getting 50% of those coffees for free. Starbucks offered a similar tumbler that granted free grande espresso drinks in January on Black Friday (for $75/$65 pm sale, though they have long since sold out). I’m assuming that, if you’re a Gold card holder, you’ll probably be able to get free refills on that coffee, as well.
The cup itself is made with 35% post consumer recycled materials, so it is eco-friendly in general in addition to being less wasteful than the usual paper cups. And you, or your giftee, will still get $.10 off per drink after January is up.
Single serve coffee makers are, hands down, the most convenient way to make coffee at home. The Keurig machine takes just a few minutes to warm up, the coffee is prepacked and and there is virtually no cleanup. The downside is that K-cups are fairly expensive (unless you are a very savvy shopper) and they can add up quickly if you drink a lot of coffee. Consumer Reports recently (March 2013) set out to see if there are K-cup alternatives that would work as well, but that could save you a little money in the long run.
They estimated that someone who drinks one K-cup a day ends up spending somewhere from $220-$275 on the little cups over the course of the year. They tested both disposable and reusable cups that work with Keurig machines but that are designed to be filled with coffee by the user. The original K-cups were still winners when it came to convenience, but they found at least one good alternative that could save you some cash in the long run.
Simple Cups are disposable cups that you fill with your own coffee. They cost less than the K-cups, but not by much. CR estimated that a cup-a-day drinker would still spend around $185 a year with these, including your own coffee. EZ Cups are reusable cups with disposable filters inside, and you also use your own coffee. They turned out to run about $135 a year, including coffee. Neither model was as easy to use as a K-cup and could be difficult to close.
The winner when it came to saving money and ease of use was the Keurig K-Cup Adapter, with its reusable cup and filter system. It’s only about $18, so your only cost after that is the coffee, at about $80 a year. It does require cleaning, but it offers a good value and was Consumer Reports top pick for a K-cup alternative.
One way to ensure that you get a good cup of coffee is to freshly grind your beans just before you are ready to use them. Oils escape from the beans when they’re ground and your coffee will age much, much faster than whole beans do. Dried out coffee grounds lead to less flavorful coffee. The problem with grinding as you go is that you have to devote some extra time to measuring and grinding the beans before brewing. This can be a slow and noisy (especially for those of us who make coffee very early!) process and there are times when it would be nice just to have that coffee already ground and ready to go! I don’t want to compromise flavor for speed, and neither do the people at Zevro, who came up with the Indispensable Coffee Dispenser. This gadget holds up to 1/2-pound of freshly ground coffee in an airtight environment. With the touch of a button, it will also dispense coffee grounds in 1 tbsp amounts directly into your espresso machine, coffee pot, or other coffee-making equipment. It does not grind the beans, so you can grind them as coarse or as fine as you like before storing them.
The best thing about this dispenser is that it holds enough grounds to be useful, but not so much that you’ll end up with past-their-prime beans in your dispenser. It will keep things fresh until you’re ready for a refill. The dispensing action is also useful because it means that you don’t need to constantly open the container and let air in as you access your beans.