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.
Hot, steamed milk is always a nice addition to a cup of coffee even if you’re not setting out to make a specialty drink with it. But when you’re brewing drip coffee, or any other type of coffee that doesn’t come straight from a high powered espresso machine, steamed milk is usually not an option because the machine doesn’t come with any kind of attachment to make it easy to make! Fortunately, there are all kinds of neat gadgets out there that will make it easy and convenient to get steamed milk at the drop of a hat – and your coffee drinking experiences will probably be the better for it.
The Capresso Froth Pro is a good example of this. This machine delivers enough steamed milk for a couple of drinks in a small pitcher that actually looks a lot like a coffee mug itself. It will froth or steam and it works for both hot and cold milk (or soy/other nondairy milks, per the manufacturer). Perhaps the best part is that the gadget has a very small footprint and a nice, tight lid on it. This means that you can park it on your desk at work and be enjoying your own lattes without treking down the street to a more expensive coffee shop when you want one. You’re not going to be able to make latte art with this, but you’ll still get a creamier cup of coffee.