So maybe that whole Cyber Monday thing was just a gimmick to get you online, but the bald facts remain: the holidays are upon us, the shopping season is short this year, and you’ve got coffee hounds on your list that have high hopes (and high expectations) for what they’ll find under the Christmas tree this year. (I’ll save the Holiday tree / Saturnalia / Feast of Lights / Winter Solstice debates for other folk… at Bloggle it’s Christmas. So there.)

Every year I get lots of emails (for a given value of lots) packed with questions from harried shoppers — Which brewer should I buy? Which coffee? Got any ideas for stocking stuffers? — and every year I answer as honestly and completely as I can, ’cause you never know, they might be buying something for me. (Hasn’t happened yet.)

And thus, the Best of Coffee 2005 is born. This is a compendium of coffee products I’ve tried this year, and liked. Everything on this list has seen a fair amount of hands-on scrutiny, some have seen lengthy reviews, and all have my personal thumbs-up.

The List

Best Auto-drip Coffee Brewer

Long-time readers of these pages know that I’ve been a fan of the Bunn line of home auto-drip coffee brewers since way back. coverSo it will likely turn their heads that my choice isn’t a Bunn, but the Zojirushi Fresh Brew.

Sure… the Bunn’s always-on system and reservoir is still about as easy and convenient to use as ever (and one remains on the kitchen counter even now… herself uses it for the first pot of the day, every day) but all else being equal, the Zojirushi makes a better cup of coffee. Especially when the Zoji is paired with a SwissGold permanent cone filter.

Best Coffee Press

I’ve got not one pick, but two, for this classical (and classy) method of brewing coffee. For its spiffy refinement to the process of brewing with a cafetiere, I pick the Bonjour Maximus coffee press. A turn of the Bonjour’s knob closes the business end of its plunger, separating coffee grounds from brewed coffee, thereby eliminating most of the danger of bitter, over-extracted coffee. Nice.

While Bonjour may have refined the process, Frieling has refined the brewer itself… Frieling French Pressthe Frieling 6-Cup French Press is something of a work of art. Its mirror-polished stainless finish has the heft and feel of old-world hotel silver; its brewing mechanism is exceptionally sturdy and smooth in operation, and its dual-wall construction brews and keeps your coffee hot, but not so long as to confuse you into thinking this is a thermos. (Remember, too much heat for too long in a press leads you down the path to overextracted coffee.) The Frieling press is a pleasure to use.

Best Vacuum Pot

No contention here… the Bodum Electric Santos is the hands-down winner in the category. The only question is, what size? Oh, and what color?!

The eSantos’ electronics really do make it easierThe Bodum eSantos to use than a more traditional glass vacuum pot, and its durable polycarbonate construction is much safer to use that a glass pot. The nylon filter captures nearly all the coffee fines, leaving you with a clean, flavorful cup. Like all vacuum pots, there’s the mess factor to consider — it’s not as easy to clean as, say, a drip-brewer with a paper filter — but for cup quality, it’s really, really difficult to top a vacuum brewer.

Next time: Grinders and Gear…

More: coffee | coffee+brewer | review | brewing

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