Our celebration of the holiday season continues here on Sprudge. First, we brought you our annual Sprudge Holiday Gift Guide, a curated selection of gift-giving ideas for the coffee lover in your life. Now we’re bringing you something a little more personal—a Founders Guide, created exclusively for Sprudge by co-founders Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen. This guide reflects how we make coffee at home, and the products we’re really loving as coffee drinkers during the holidays. Happy slurping!
The first item on my Christmas gift list is a simple Hario brewing scale. Coming in at just around $40 it’s a blush less expensive than the more advanced Acaia Pearl recommended in the Sprudge Holiday Gift Guide. It’s the perfect gift for someone in your life that wants to up their coffee game without diving too deep. It’s also just a simple, dependable piece of equipment. It turns on, it has a timer, and it weighs coffee/pour-over/my smoothie ingredients. — ZC
Another time-tested piece of equipment coming in at under $150 ($130 on Amazon last time I checked) for someone in your life that might still—gasp—grind their beans at the grocery store or use a—clutches pearls—blade grinder. The Baratza family of grinders range from the entry-level like the Encore to the pro-sumer level like the Baratza Forte W. We think the Encore is a great little grinder for those who maybe make a big pot in the morning and a little pick me up in the afternoon. —ZC
Coffee subscriptions are nothing new, of course, and the market has gone through several phases: from fresh-faced new concept to same-y clutteredness to today’s stratified milieu, in which a couple of the best, most interesting services are able to rise to the top. Over in our Staff Guide, we recommended Yes Plz Weekly, a subscription service from Los Angeles that delivers a very accessible filter coffee and an alt-weekly style zine to your door each week. (I’ve written a couple of things for the zine.) This year I’ve also fallen deep in love with another subscription, this time from Europe, called Kaffe Box—a monthly rotating selection of roasters with a focus on Scandinavia.
Yes, the light roast Scandivanian coffee craze feels very Twenty-Teens, and yes, I agree, a lot of American roasters who tried to imitate it over the last decade wound up with a lot of undrinkable, ghastly product. But in the right hands, a lighter roast profile can, I assure you, yield a cup with expressive, fruity, tea-like notes, which isn’t what I want to drink every single time I have a coffee, but can be delightful from time to time when done well. This shouldn’t be a controversial opinion. Different styles of roasting are fine. Don’t yuck my yum.
Over the last year, I’ve got to try Kaffe Box offerings from some really interesting Nordic micro-roasters, whose stuff I cannot otherwise regularly enjoy here in America. Being able to drink through a bag of Jacu, or Langora, or Morgon Coffee Roasters is interesting and fun. Kaffe Box’s packaging always shows up clean and crisp; the bags are never damaged by the journey, and the coffee is always rippingly fresh, impressive for having been shipped from literally the other side of the world. This is my special treat coffee and I love it. JM
I use this kettle every morning and not a day goes by that I don’t admire it. Fellow released this in 2016 and since then have released different versions that have spouts better suited for tea, plug-in kinds for those that don’t wanna use their stovetop, and all manners of colors and finishes. But the shiny copper stovetop kettle is my favorite. Get it for around $100 on Amazon. ZC
I’ve never met an automated tea brewer that I didn’t like. The Breville Smart Tea Maker has been a staple in my kitchen for over six years. You see, what I do is, I take big chunks of ginger, I cram it in the tea-hole, and then I set it to brew for ten minutes at a boil. By the time I’ve forgotten, I started this spicy tisane the dang thing is beeping at me telling me my perfectly steeped ginger brew is ready to glug. On days that I’m not gobbling root, I’m making delicate oolongs steeped at precisely one minute at just the right temperature. This is a tea toy for tea lovers and I’m living for it. ZC
I love a good, weird subscription and I love good, weird tea. We talked a bunch about the Kunming, China-based brand White 2 Tea here on Sprudge during Tea Week 2019, and in the months since I’ve come to really appreciate the monthly delivery of White 2 Tea’s tea club offerings.
Each and every month is totally different: sometimes it’s an entire fresh (or “sheng”) pu ‘er tea cake ready to be drunk; other times it’ll be a handful of little oolong parcels, or 50 grams of nice green tea, or a little pressed brick of cooked (or “shou”) pu’erh to be picked at and enjoyed over the course of a month. Each month’s club comes with a little note written by the mysterious White 2 Tea brain trust, which includes info on the tea and recommended steeping instructions. The club feels fun and seasonal, and like I’m getting a really good value for my money (it’s $29.99 a month), and you can commune with fellow tea nerds on Instagram because trust me, they all follow White 2 Tea and will be sharing images of their club arrivals.
Tea is good, this we know. The White 2 Tea club is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it throughout the year. JM
The colorful reusables from KeepCup have been a perfect stocking stuffer for years and in 2019 they’ve introduced a whole new line of stainless steel cups. Available in six different colors and finishes, the stainless steel cups are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. For Star Wars fans in your galaxy, the folks at KeepCup have adorable R2D2, Chewbacca, Stormtrooper, and Darth Vader themed cups. ZC
I spent a lot of time this year thinking about clothes, for reasons both work–related and personal, but along the way I’ve been surprised to see how much overlap there is with the world of coffee. Earlier this year we brought you a story about coffee and sneakers, but it turns out there’s a whole world of coffee + contemporary streetwear fashion collaboration, most especially in the realm of promotional mugs. Brands like Supreme, Patta, A Bathing Ape, Kith, Palace, Only NY, Aimé Leon Dore, Human Made, Stussy, and many more are producing fashion-forward, eye-catching mugs that look great both at home or in a nice cafe. It seems like pretty much every good brand has a mug, or has done one in the past; a lot of times these are in-store-only pick-ups, which rewards checking out physical retail locations wherever you might be.
If your favorite local cafe is run by sneakerheads, or someone on your list has recently used the term “drop” as a clothing-related transitive verb in casual conversation, these mugs make a truly delightful holiday gift. — JM
A Meaningful Donation
There are so many great charities worth donating to this year. One in particular we’re fond of is @getchusomegear, a Durham, NC based organization whose mission is “hookin’ up marginalized baristas w/free coffee stuff.” The org, created by Chris McAuley, works with baristas just getting started in the industry or looking for a leg up to access equipment and information. Both companies and individual donors are welcome to contribute to the project—you can reach out by emailing [email protected] and get involved this holiday season. JM + ZC
Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen are the co-founders at Sprudge Media Network, and the authors of The New Rules of Coffee: A Modern Guide for Everyone out now on Ten Speed Press.