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The Coffee Nerdist: Coffee Holidaze

Have a second cup

The holidays have arrived and along with them the soothing family-inspired feelings of “What is going to get me out of here faster—using this carving knife to slice through the nearby window that’s painted shut or giving myself a gash just big enough that the ambulance will cover my escape?”  Sure, Thanksgiving’s over, but now you’ve exhausted your year-so-far small talk and don’t have the excuse of “Well, have to get back to work Monday..” Nope, you’re going to be here a long time, so you better have mad Boggle skills or a medical condition that requires sudden and lengthy trips out of the room.

It doesn’t have to be this way, coffee friends. While it may not be acceptable to leave the house for a smoke break anymore, no decent human being can object to you leaving the room to make coffee… especially if you promise to bring them back a cup.

From here to… anywhere else

Maybe you’re just bringing the coffee to be friendly, but the key ingredient remains the same- tasty coffee for you and whoever you deem worthy, but which one?.  Choosing a coffee for the holidays can be tricky. Picking a lowest-common-denominator crowd-pleaser could leave you with boring coffee, but far worse is the case where you shell out top dollar for a coffee that leads with lime, white wine, and mandarin orange only to have it pushed to the sideline with calls of “Whoa; This coffee’s too weird; I think there’s some Folgers instant back here in the cupboard.”

Compliments for complements

The easiest way to pick a coffee that will be compatible with your holidays is to find one whose flavors will complement the food it will be served with. Here’s a few tasty examples.

Morning: Step-Grandma Gloria’s lemon pound cake

The pound cake really leaves no calorie to chance, but it’s the holidays right? Reach for something like Stumptown’s Kenya Gachami Peaberry. Its citrus and berry flavors should complement the lemon in the pound cake and lead to flavor explosions and sugar/caffeine euphoria in no time.

The Main Event: Momma Claire’s cured ham, dressing, and pie

Do not mistake the large meal as anything short of a flavor showdown with each dish battling for palate supremacy. Do you go with an Indonesian coffee to compare with the buttery meat flavors? A Central/ South American coffee to compare with the baked fruit flavors in the pie? Fortunately, coffee roasters have seen this dilemma before and raced to the rescue with seasonal blends that do all the heavy lifting for you. Witness Intelligentsia’s Celebration Blend combining lemon drop and cocoa with spice and maple flavors. On the other hand, there are times when a single-farm coffee can do a beautiful job all by itself, for example, PT’s Costa Rica Finca Cerro Paldo with its sweetness, buttery caramel, and milk chocolate flavors.

Making your escape

Sure, any of these coffees will put you in the good graces of your hosts, maybe even crotchety Grandpa Jay, but how… to… get… away? It’s really about how much time you want away.  Just need a little 5 minute break? Have your coffee ground for press pot, boil your water on the stove, and brew a few cups.


Looking for enough time to forget how Uncle Mitchell just impugned your personhood, maybe 15 to 20 minutes? Time to break out your Hario hand grinder and V60 to brew slow, loud, and by-the-cup.

Hario V60 pourover how-to from tonx on Vimeo.

Critical to this entire operation is having the right coffee gear.  Gizmodo has a pretty fun coffee roundup, whether the items are for your personal cache or for others as gifts.

If you have burning coffee questions that would make interesting Nerdist Coffee fodder, please @me or add a comment below.

Image: Chase & Sanborn

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  1. Brian says:

    @BrettHanson , Thank you for the the great incite and info. sorry for not mentioning brewing method. typically a Bunn drip or french press. this is why i want a good new grinder to get a better consistence and best function for the dollars putting out. I think you deserve a cut of Baratza with your recommendation. thanks again and keep writing

  2. Brett Hanson says:

    @Brian- your grinder choice is somewhat dependent on what brewing method you’re using. Press pot can tolerate more grind size variability than say espresso, so you could use a cheaper burr grinder for press pot coffee.

    That being said, there are very few grinder manufacturers that are actually innovating in the home coffee brewing space. Most of the grinders you see on store shelves are just re-skinned cheapy burr grinder designs from years ago. The exception to this trend is Baratza who is based in the Seattle area. Their Virtuoso is mentioned in the giz article, but even their lowest end grinder has 40 grind settings and can pull off everything from press pot down to decent home espresso. If you’re buying for yourself, consider one of their refurbished models.

  3. Brian says:

    @BrettHanson , question what is a great grinder, for quality beans that is not going to make me invest more then needed. As a Daily Drinker i want something that is not bulky but very effective in grinding.

  4. I love good coffee talk in the morning

  5. Stacy says:

    Thanks, Brett!

  6. Brett Hanson says:

    @Stacy- I whole heartedly recommend any of the coffees for sale by the roasters listed above. Your friend’s preference for un-adulterated black coffee will be greatly rewarded. If you’re trying to narrow it down, think of a food that your friend enjoys and flip through the coffee descriptions until you find a match. For example, if your pal likes rice pudding with rose water, what could be better than sweet hot brown sugar and rose water flavors in a cup?

  7. Stacy says:

    I’m thinking of giving coffee as a gift to a friend for Christmas. They like black coffee; no sugar or creamer added. They also have a grinder, so I can buy whole beans. What would you recommend?