It’s that time of year again, when our caffeinated office picks our favorite coffee finds from across the USA and around the globe for our coffee lovers holiday gift guide. From locally roasted beans, to grinders, coffeemakers, and brewers, Barb Webb and I have once again chosen our top picks for the best in coffee for 2015! Whether it’s from Office Monster or Starbucks, here are our top picks for best coffee. There are some that we haven’t put on this list, which is why looking into a site like neptune coffee would show you more coffee brands that we are also loving. You can never go wrong with coffee, especially in the mornings. For comprehensive brewing guides, equipment reviews, and coffee facts, make sure you check out The Full Moon Cafe, a virtual cafe dedicated to everything coffee!
First up, the beans. This year’s submission list was long, and challenging, as so many great beans and grinds were sent in for tasting. Our favorite coffees for 2015 are as follows.
Coffee Lovers Holiday Gift Guide 2015!
As the only Artisan Hasidic Roasters in the world, Chosen Bean offers a line of delicious coffees with fun, tongue-in-cheek Biblical themes. Their fresh roasted coffees are small batch roasted in South Florida, and the single origin organic Honduras Blend was a standout bean, with a fresh, bright medium roast, and sweet flavors of brown sugar, cherry, and spice, with a buttery, round finish. Great hot, iced, and brew over style or French press.
The Chosen Bean products are all 100% kosher for Passover and all year round, with Organics, Fair Trade and all Arabica grown above 3,000 feet.
Editor’s Note: Chosen Bean was our top pick this year for coffee brands. We hope to see more from them in the near future!
Cold Brew Kitchen, Medford, Oregon – $14-28
If you’re like us, and love coffee, but need to reduce acidic food and drinks, the cold brew method is your best friend.
Recently gaining in popularity, cold brew coffee is made by steeping coarse ground coffee in water for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator, then warming, adding water to taste, and stirring in cream or sweetener as desired. The key to a great cold brew, however, is not just in choosing the right grind, but also the right beans, as certain blends will hold their flavor better than others.
Just started in September of 2015, the Cold Brew Kitchen line consists of four core blends, all South American medium to dark roasted South American blends with rich body. Offerings include a Reserve, Elite Espresso, Decaf Elite Espresso, and a Limited Edition Specialty Grade offering sourced by Thrive Farmers. Our team loved the Limited Edition (notes of dark chocolate an raspberry) for cold brew, but also found that the Reserve (dark and earthy with caramel notes and spice) worked very well using the pour over or French press method.
Vega Farmer Roasted Single Origin Coffee – from $15/Month
Freshly roasted, high quality, single-origin Arabica coffee beans, Vega is grown by women farmers between 1,200-1,800 meters above sea level in Nicaragua. You can feel good knowing that each flavorful cup is made from beans cultivated in a manner that respects the earth and the farmers. Ethically driven, Vega Coffee empowers women-owned farming cooperatives with the tools and training to roast their own beans so they can earn more income (four times more, to be exact) for their coffee and lifelong skills! Each bag is signed by the farmer who grew, harvested, roasted and packaged the beans.
Vega also prides themselves on shipping immediately post-roast, so that the coffee reaches customers in the US direct from their roastery in Nicaragua within 5 days of roast, sometimes sooner.
Our samples: a light roast and a medium roast, were both flavorful and rich, with low acidity. The light roast features notes of butterscotch and vanilla bean, with cinnamon on the finish. The perfect brew for an early morning run, or for after dinner, paired with creme brulee or cheesecake!
Only $15 a month, Vega has a customizable gift subscription to allow for as little, or a much coffee as you’d like, and in your perfect bean profile-light, medium, or dark.
Use coupon code CRAVELOCAL and receive 50% off your next purchase of Vega Farmer Roast!
Committed to keeping the integrity of farm-to-cup, Royal Cup’s artisan coffee producer H.C. Valentine sources beans harvested from the world’s best growing regions and farms. Their small batch coffees are carefully handled throughout the entire journey from roast to brew by experts in every phase of the process. This keen attention to detail and obvious commitment to creating distinct blends is noticeable in each delicious cup.
The H.C. Valentine Signature Blend (a Certified Rainforest Alliance coffee) delights the senses with notes of black cherry, raisins and chocolate. We found this dark coffee to have just the right hint of sweetness to balance out the full body robustness. Our introduction to the Royal 150 Blend (hint of apricot, chocolate, and caramel) was equally lovely. This coffee delivers a mellower full-bodied blend that demands a second cup.
If you like to enjoy a variety of quality coffees and enjoy a good surprise, the Moustache Coffee Club delivers weekly, bi-weekly or monthly 12-ounce bags of hand-selected roasts to enjoy. Moustache Coffee Club’s selections are roasted and shipped on the same day. In fact, they are so fresh they have a “Start Drinking On date” to ensure you do not brew your coffee too soon after the roast.
The first bag we received was Kayu Peaberry, a blend from Murang’a, Kenya featuring notes of boysenberry and passionfruit. The aroma straight from the bag was so enticing, it was a challenge to wait the suggested three days for the start drinking date to arrive. But the wait was well worth it, the aroma and taste were equally rich (brewed with a French Press.) Ultimately, no matter what brew method you use, freshness counts, and The Moustache Club certainly delivers! (photo, Moustache Coffee Club)
New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company – $9+
New Mexico Piñon Coffee is more than just coffee, it’s a lifestyle! Offering over 50 flavors of coffee and a variety of “Piñon Gear” for avid fans, this family-owned and operated coffee company hand-roasts small batches with custom flavoring that delight the senses and sensibilities.
The flavor lineup for New Mexico Piñon Coffee include: Almond, Apple Empanada, Chocolate Coffee Cake, Cinnamon, Coconut Almond Delight, Dulce de Leche, French Vanilla, Mexican Hot Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice. A little something for everyone and every holiday occasion, making it a great conversation coffee at gatherings and a fun gift for the holidays. We sampled the Traditional Piñon (medium roast with a nutty flavor) and Biscochito (flavored with notes of cinnamon and anise) and found both to be enjoyable, smooth coffees that would pair well with holiday brunches or desserts. Their 12 oz bags start at just $9.
Relatively new on the coffee scene, artisan coffee brewer, Devocion, makes a big impression with its Farm to Cup in 10 days commitment. This ultra-fresh standard is noteworthy in contrast to the industry norm of six months. Beans are sourced in Columbia, dry milled in Bogota, and shipped via FedEx to the USA for roasting allowing the company to deliver a remarkably fresh brew.
As Devocion suggests handling their coffees with time-honored traditions like pour-over or French Press, we used a Moka Pot for the first brew of the Devocion Botica de Café Red Barrel variety. In return, we enjoyed a fresh medium-bodied cup of bliss accented with notes of berry (pomegranate, blackberry, and raspberry) and a trace of lemongrass. This is a coffee to be savored on its own, or paired with a fine holiday meal. Their 12 oz bags start at $18. (photo, Devocion)
Best Coffee Brew Methods, Grinders, and Accessories
Presse by Bobble – $29
For fans of the French press brewing process, check out presse by bobble, a one-cup-at-a-time coffee brewer that lets you brew, press, and go for the perfect cup of coffee every time. The company’s mission is to reduce the outrageous waste caused by disposable beverages and inefficient beverage systems. Combining manual immersion brewing with reverse flow filtration for gourmet coffee-in just three minutes-you’ll never need another paper filter or pod again.
Unlike French press, the unique perforated stainless steel filter separates grounds from finished coffee, preventing unhealthy over-brewing or bitterness commonly associated with steep-style brewing. The two-piece stainless steel design also creates triple-wall insulation to keep coffee hot for hours. Our team tested two of the presse units, and found it was rapidly becoming our go-to brew on mornings when we had to hit the ground running. Check them out on Amazon for $29.99.
iCoffee Opus Single Serve Brewer – $175
If K-cups keep you hopping in the morning, check out the single serve brewer from iCoffee. Compatible with ALL K-type cups, this item can also make tea, cider, hot cocoa, or provide hot water for oatmeal and soup. iCoffee is the first single serve brewer to use their patented SpinBrew™ Technology to produce a dramatically smoother, less bitter, more mild tasting coffee. The iCoffee ® Opus Single Serve Brewer 2.0 is available at Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, and retailers nationwide.
ROK Hand Grinder from Whole Latte Love – $249
Recently off their wildly successful Indiegogo campaign, ROK once again gives coffee enthusiasts a better way to experience a great cup of coffee with their die cast aluminum hand grinder. Weighing in at nearly three pounds, the ROK grinder boasts engineering grade components and steel burrs for years of performance. Set the size and strength of your grounds by rotating the numbered wheel at the base, operated by a hand crank. Although the ROK grinder is sturdy and elegant enough to mount on a kitchen counter, you can rest easy knowing that no winter storm or camping trip shall ever leave you without freshly ground coffee. Available at Whole Latte Love for $249.
Handmade Mugs, Sifted USA – $30+
Located in Greenville, South Carolina, Sifted USA curates local makers to create a unique shopping experience spotlighting their favorite home and entertaining products. One local maker, Box Sparrow, a ceramics studio out of Texas, creates coffee and wine mugs out of clay, featuring simple, elegant glazes and textural designs.
Our two favorites: a white and blue etched mug with an aqua interior, and a wide-mouthed cream mug with amber hobnails. Both are dishwasher and microwave safe. $40 and $35 on their website. For more unique finds from this particular artist, visit AbbiePreston.com.
Sweeten your next coffee break with a caramel from McCrea’s. Indulgent, soft, and creamy, it will melt in your mouth, or in that hot cup of coffee. Recently selected by Martha Stewart as an American Made finalist, McCrea’s is known for its flagship product, Hawaiian black lava sea salt caramel, however their Café Noir is just perfect for the coffee lover in your house. Made with local, real-food ingredients and packaging is not only beautiful, but recyclable. Additional flavor favorites were Single Malt Scotch, Ginger Fusion, and Dark Chocolate.
Want a natural way to sweeten your coffee that offers an energy boost rather than a sugar crash? Honey Sticks are the perfect coffee brightener, delivering a smooth sweet note.
The perfect stocking stuffer for coffee lovers, Bee Local Honey Sticks are filled with American Wildflower honey sourced from local Portland hives. Bee Local honey is always raw, and never cooked or pasteurized, to help preserve health benefits and taste.
Organic Coffee Facial, Behind the Sangria – $10
Still craving that caffeine fix? Try one of these skin-friendly at-home spa treatments, like a spiked coffee facial, from Behind the Sangria. Their chemical-free, 100% organic skincare products are handcrafted, fair trade, and cruelty-free. Each product is inspired by classic cocktails-from the Old Fashioned Salt Scrub to the Appletini Facial Toner-and truly allow your best skin to shine through.
Made from organic cocoa, espresso, powdered milk, and Indian clay, Behind the Sangria’s coffee facial comes in a 4 oz pouch, ready to be mixed with honey, coconut milk, or oil, depending on your skin type. $10 on their website.
Spicy Chai Coffee Face/Body Scrub, California Scrub Co.- $24
Using locally sourced, recycled coffee grounds, California Scrub Co‘s Spicy Chai scrub combines antioxidant-rich coffee with spiced essential oils like cinnamon, vanilla, and clove, and cold-pressed almond and jojoba oils for an aromatherapy experience that’s sure to wake up your senses!
Their Venice-made scrubs promote healthy skin cell regeneration, anti-aging/anti-wrinkle, skin imperfections such as cellulite, dermatitis, stretch marks, scarring and acne. The perfect gift for any coffee-lover this holiday season. Each 8 oz. jar retails for $24 and contains only 100% natural ingredients.
No matter what your method of caffeination, check out one or more of these great local brands for a coffee lover’s gift that’s sure to please even the pickiest of palates.