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12 gift ideas for coffee lovers (other a than Starbucks gift card)

Real coffee lovers usually prefer a well-crafted espresso or homemade latte over Starbucks. Save your money on a wasted gift card, and, instead elevate your coffee-lovers' caffeine ritual.
Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor on
Reviewed by Emery Wright
OXO Brew GroundsLifter French Press review | best french press coffee maker

The coffee-lover community is real. Whether you or someone you know is a member of the unofficial fanbase, you know that coffee has a hold over morning routines, commutes, afternoon pick-me-ups, and even catch-up sessions. That said, a good ole cup of joe is more than a caffeine fix, but is often a symbol for community itself. 

So, give the coffee lover in your life a gift that curates community in their very kitchen -- don't just settle for a basic gift card or holiday-themed mug. Top-of-the-line coffee machines, temperature-controlled to-go cups, and even handheld espresso makers are the perfect way to add a personal touch to your gift (and someone's beverage) this holiday season. 

Since holiday shopping can be overwhelming, I rounded up the best smart coffee gifts so you can browse as you sip your morning brew. As a coffee fanatic myself, I've tested several of the following products and added some that made my personal wishlist to help you find something your coffee connoisseur is guaranteed to love. 

Newly discovering you've got the acquired, sophisticated buds for a good espresso often means you know good espresso when you have it, but don't necessarily know where to look, or how to press the perfect shot. Investing in the right espresso machine can be an inexpensive trial-and-error experience, but the compact Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Machine can save you the counter space and the hassle. As my first espresso machine, the Nespresso Essenza Mini served me well all four years of college. 

At 4.3 x 12.8 inches, and weighing in at 5 pounds, including the water tank, the mini machine packs a lot of punch and is easy to use. By popping in one of Nespresso's renowned capsules and pressing one of two buttons for either a 1.35 or 5 oz espresso, you can enjoy a warm, rich espresso in 25 seconds. The machine even comes with a complementary starter set of Nespresso capsules, so you can test which ones are your favorite before ordering more on Amazon or via Nespresso's website. 

If you've been converted to loving espresso over drip coffee, welcome. If you're deterred from investing in capsule-based espresso machines, the Gaggia Classic Pro is the solution. Equipped with a 58 mm portafilter, the Gaggia Pro brews ground coffee into milky, rich espresso. If you do want to invest in pods, however, the machine features a pressurized basket for ESE pods. 

While some advanced, non-pod-based espresso machines can be complicated, the Gaggia comes with simple controls that makes it navigable and easy to brew. Focusing on flavor over a complex design, the Gaggia Pro's stainless steel finish and side-facing steam wand allow for the machine to look like a modern addition to your kitchen appliances instead of an out-of-place gadget. Speaking of the steam wand, you can even release your inner barista by creating microfoam art on top of your lattes, cappuccinos, and more. 

As with any advanced espresso machine, don't be discouraged if there's a learning curve (even though the machine is an entry level piece). The portafilter may require a series of adjustments before you can finally get that perfect pour. 

Part of the appeal of going out for coffee is the luxury that goes into your $6 latte. The Breville bambino packs that barista-level flavor into a five pound machine without sacrificing quality. The $499 price tag may sound hefty, but with a fast heat-up time, low pressure pre-infusion, and an attached microfoam milk frothing wand, you've not only saved yourself time, but also Starbucks money. 

Aside from looking like a professional, sleek addition to your kitchen counter, the Bambino is not only a space and time saver, but a waste saver, too. Using only 19 grams of ground coffee, there's no need to worry about wasting multiple pods a day to fuel your coffee fix. The fast start up time also means it's wasting less of your day and electricity as you don't have to leave the Bambino plugged in overnight to power up. 

I will say, however, that there can be a bit of a learning curve if this is your first non-capsule coffee maker. Sealing the portafilter can be tricky at first, but be sure to take advantage of the leveling tool that comes with the machine, so that no coffee spills out. The automatic frothing settings, however, are fairly easy and don't require as much guess work. 

I've been a long time Nespresso-capsule lover because I don't discriminate when it comes to coffee. I enjoy a latte, black coffee, espresso, you name it. The Nespresso pods offer that variety with the push of a button, so I can spend what little time I have in the morning sipping my cuppa joe rather than going through a production to make it and clean my machine. 

If you're like me, I can't recommend the Nespresso VertuoPlus enough. Coming with a complementary assortment of Vertuo capsules, it's easy to start experimenting with which single-serving best fills your cup (in more ways than one) right away. In just 15 seconds, you get a fresh, hot cup of coffee, and given the 40 ounce water tank, there's a good five coffee mug refill lead on the tank itself. 

The Nespresso VertuoPlus is what the name suggests and a bit bigger in size compared to some of the others that made this list, but with a modern finish, I promise the machine adds a refined rather than cluttered finish to your space– no matter how limited. 

Traveling can already disrupt your routine and wallet enough. Keeping your morning coffee routine constant can make all the difference -- and this compact portable espresso maker looks like the perfect tool. I've even added the maker to my wishlist for when I visit my non-coffee drinking family over the holidays. 

The Wacaco Portable Nanopresso gives you that one perfect shot of espresso wherever you go using only ground coffee, hot water, and the machine itself -- no miscellaneous chargers necessary. As it comes, the maker works best with ground coffee, but you can also buy a nespresso-pod adapter so you can travel even lighter if you already have the original Nespresso pods. 

The Nanopresso also comes with a case that protects your maker during travel, but is soft enough to easily stow away. When it comes to cleaning, that's simple as well. The portafilter easily separates to make for a swift and seamless clean up after enjoying your morning brew. 

Nothing truly beats the smell of freshly ground coffee beans. Sure, it's convenient to buy a pre-ground bag, but you could spice things up this season by creating a custom blend. The Kaffe Electric Coffee Grinder makes releasing the richest coffee aroma and taste both possible and easy. 

The Kaffe grinder has a transparent lid, allowing you to control the grounds' coarseness and additive spice distribution with the press of a button instead of manually turning a handle. Along with simplicity, the grinder also promises efficiency and power with a 3.5 ounce capacity and a 150 watt motor. Clean up is also made simple as the machine comes with a cleaning brush and is dishwasher safe. 

Over the past few years, cold brew has evolved from a niche drink of choice to one of the most popular pick ups from fast-coffee chains. With the Toddy cold brew system you can stop wasting plastic Starbucks cups and your time waiting in the drive-thru and make your own. 

The Toddy cold brew system promises fresh cold brew in three easy steps: Filling, steeping, and filtering. Here's how it works: By filling the brewing container with your ground coffee of choice, steeping for 12-24 hours, and filtering into the glass container, you'll have 1.1 liters of cold brew that'll stay fresh for 2 weeks. 

Customers who have already purchased the Toddy are pleased with the machine's efficiency and rich flavor, cutting the acidity many cold brew coffees can carry. So, whether you're new to cold brew or looking to customize your own, the Toddy offers a solid service. 

Before you look at the price and think, "Really, for a milk frother?", I promise, it's worth it. Breville's BMF600XL cafe milk frother really does make your coffee look -- and most importantly -- taste like it came from a Parisian coffee shop. 

Breville's frother makes mundane milk silky, smooth, and thick for every latte, cappuccino, or even hot chocolate. Coming with one latte dic and another dic for cappuccinos, you can quickly replace the discs inside the frothing jug to customize your foam-level. And to adjust the temperature, simply turn the dial on the jug's face. The machine will even turn itself off when it's reached the desired temperature. 

Perfect for hot cocoa season, you can even pour your hot chocolate powder in with some milk, turn the dial, and let the Breville create the creamiest homemade cocoa. Owning this product myself, I can say with confidence that the Breville frother is one of my favorite kitchen investments that lets me harness my inner Barista. 

Ever wish you had a wand to transform your coffee with milk into a foamy latte? I think I found one -- or something very close to it! The handheld Aerolatte milk frother converts a simple cuppa into the frothy beverage of your dreams without even plugging it in. The battery powered foaming wand is equipped with a whisk attachment that, when submerged in your drink, takes about 30 seconds to a minute to effectively enrich your drink. 

Weighing only three ounces and measuring eight inches long, the Aerolatte is easy to transport on the go. You can pack it away and bring pretty much anywhere you think your latte needs a little help. 

The Aerolatte frother can also serve as an overall whisking tool. I know people who use this handheld device as a blender for their hot chocolate, powdered greens, pre workout mix, and even custard. 

ember mug 2
Christina Darby/ZDNET

Coffee gone cold is just not the same as cold brew. If you're like me, you've wasted one too many hot cups of joe because your coffee has gotten too cold as you've gotten too busy. My new favorite fix to keep my morning fix hot: The Ember Mug2

The Ember Mug2 and coaster charger looks like any other ceramic set you have stashed away in your kitchen cabinet, except it's temperature controlled. By downloading the app, you can keep your coffee warm for up to 90 minutes without placing it on the charging coaster, and up to all day if you sip and charge. 

While the mug has a 145°F limit, I find it the perfect temperature for casual sipping as it doesn't burn your tongue or have an acidic lukewarm linger. The app makes the temperature easy to control and customize. Overall, if you know a slow sipper who enjoys caffeinating all day long, this is the gift for them.

Need the perfect accessory to keep your homemade coffee from one of the above machines warm on your daily commute? Good news, Ember extended their temperature controlled technology to  a transportable mug. 

The Ember Travel Mug 2 keeps your drink hot for up to three hours, so even if you have a long commute, at least you have some liquid comfort to keep you sane. And if you're driving, there's no need to whip out your phone to control the temperature. With Ember's second edition travel mug, you can control the temperature through the mug's touch display by tapping a + or - symbol. 

Like the original ceramic mug, the travel edition also ranges from 120°F - 145°F. 

For those that want to keep their coffee warm in a more budget-friendly way, meet the Krgmnhr Coffee Warmer. Perfect for sitting on your desk, this warming coaster doubles as a coffee heater and stain-preventer as you work without looking too bulky or hard to transport. 

With three temperature settings, you can adjust your coffee to be anywhere from 105°F - 176°F. If you have to step away, as you most likely will, you can leave worry-free as the warmer automatically shuts off after four hours. 

Stainless steel, ceramic, and glassware cups are all compatible with the hot-plate coaster, so marry your mug with a heated coaster to keep you warm all holiday season and beyond. 

The best coffee tech deals during the holidays

Below are the four coffee lover accessory deals I found happening right now. 

How did we choose these coffee lovers gift ideas?

As a coffee fanatic myself, I wanted to create a guide full of items I would personally add or have already acquired. For some items, I went off of personal experience, and others, the word of mouth from my fellow coffee fiends. 

What is the best espresso machine?

There are lots of great espresso machines out there, so ultimately it comes down to which espresso machine is best for you. 

For beginners who want to experiment with a Barista-like machine and the portafilter, I'd recommend the Gaggia Classic Pro. If you're more of a coffee pod person, though, the Nespresso Essenza Mini won't disappoint. 

if you're looking to upgrade your current espresso routine, the Breville Bambino Plus is a solid advanced espresso machine. 

What's a good coffee frother?

If you're looking to splurge and have the foamiest, creamiest in-house latte or hot chocolate possible, look to the Breville cafe milk frother. For a handheld frothing option, the Aerolatte milk frother is also a solid option. 

Where do I get Nespresso pods?

You can order Nespresso Pods from either Nespresso's website or from Amazon. 

What are the best gifts by category this holiday season?

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