Tag Archives: bodum

Gifts for Grads

This list can be for both high school or college graduates; things that they will need in a future dorm or apartment, especially good for cooking for one person. My brother also mentioned these would all make good gifts for someone going into the military. After they graduate from boot camp, they move into barracks that have small kitchen setups with nothing in them!
Electric Water Kettle – A great item for heating water safely in a small space. Good for making ramen noodles or tea/cocoa/coffee.
My favorite, the Bodum cordless
electric kettle. Comes in 2 sizes!
Ways to Make Coffee – Read my Coffee Maker Basics blog to learn more about what type of coffee brewing system works best for your graduate!
Aeropress – This little guy is consistently hailed as making the best cup of coffee using regular coffee grounds. A lot of people used it at my last office with the grounds the office provided to make a slightly stronger cup. Brews right into the mug by adding hot water, and the filters come in packs of 350 so they last a really long time!
French Press – There are other brands, but Bodum is the most well-known. They make a variety of presses, from the classic glass, to stainless steel, thermal, and travel. Can also be used to brew hot tea, but you cannot brew both in the same vessel as the coffee taste will remain in the mesh filter. These can also be utilized to make cold press coffee.
Bodum glass French press
Single Cup Brewer – The most popular single cup brewer is Keurig, but there are many other brands by the usual suspects. Make coffee one mug at a time, sometimes taking special pods and other times allowing you to use your own coffee grounds, or both!
Keurig single-cup brew system
Electric Espresso – These can get tricky because the inexpensive ones usually don’t produce an authentic cup of espresso. Luckily, most American coffee drinkers don’t know the difference, so base your purchase off of whether you’re buying for a connoisseur or not! Nespresso makes the smallest footprint models at a lower price than larger household models that produce as good a cup, but it’s still a tad spendy, so this might be more for the college grad and a cheaper one for your high school grad!
Nespresso electric espresso machine
Travel Mug – Most coffee shops take a few cents off the price of your drink if you bring your own cup. Or just to bring their homemade coffee to class with them. Either way, save them some cash and keep their coffee warm!
Contigo travel mugs have become one of the
most popular brands – easy to sip from and seal tight!
Inexpensive Dinnerware and Flatware – A couple of plates, bowls, forks and spoons will be very helpful to have in a dorm room. I recommend cheap and plastic or melamine! Walmart, Target, dollar stores, etc. to find these for low prices.
Plastic dinnerware!
For someone graduating college, getting them their first real set of dinnerware would be a great next step. Read my ceramic dinnerware blog for ideas on what brands to consider!
Small pot and frypan – If this is going to be their first time cooking, I would recommend something really inexpensive and nonstick. Nonstick for at least the frypan – it’s a little harder to burn/stick things in a pot than a frypan based on what is normally cooked in both.
A small frypan and a small saucepan are all you need!
Shopping for someone who knows their way around the kitchen a little? Consider Cuisinart or Calphalon’s less expensive lines. Feel free to check my Buying Cookware blog for more in-depth information on how to choose what’s best for your cook!
For someone graduating college, it might be time for their first nice set of cookware! Consider the Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro as a very solid set that will last them forever.
Round it out with a set of cooking utensils. Cheap plastic ones from the dollar store should work well for our college-bound and military group; maybe spend a little more on some nicer ones for our college grads.
Plastic cooking utensils
Don’t overlook the importance of a can opener!
Microwave – An essential tool for the single person!
Microwave Cooking Acoutrements – Nordic Ware is made in America and they produce the best microwave-safe dishes and cooking items! Your will have a hard time NOT finding something useful for dorm/single-person microwave cooking, and I find their products in every type of store as they are a very popular brand name.
Nordic Ware microwave egg cooker
Electric Countertop Grill – These may or may not be allowed in dorms. Another essential cooking tool for the single person! Can make grilled sandwiches or use as a small grill to cook meat, fish and veggies.
Cuisinart Griddler
Soda Stream – Not a necessity, but a fun gift that will save them a little money.
Soda Stream home soda maker

Ode to Pepper Grinders (& Salt, Too!)

I love fresh ground pepper! I put it on EVERYTHING! Which actually probably makes me a poor reviewer because I just leave all of my grinders set on “coarse” and rarely test out the other options. But I have used quite a few and can offer some insight and tips for maintenance, of course! First and foremost, the proper terminology is “mill” not “grinder” but I will mostly refer to them as grinders since that’s what everybody calls them.

Peugeot mill in various sizes

Buying a Pepper or Salt Mill

Can’t I just buy one grinder and do everything in one? 

The simple answer is yes, but there are always technicalities that lead you to lean more towards no. 🙂 A lot of inexpensive grinders will have a ceramic grinding mechanism which is safe for anything. However, you can’t really “clean” any type of mill entirely, so if you want to grind multiple things, you will probably get residuals of other things you’ve used the grinder for.

The more important thing to consider is with metal mechanisms. Salt is highly corrosive so the metal in these grinders is usually an 18/10 stainless steel that’s been chemically treated, versus a pepper mill just having a hardened steel to make it stronger for the peppercorns.

The next thing you need to consider is if you want the mill to have multiple grind settings. A lot of basic, inexpensive grinders will not come with options. The majority with settings will have three: coarse, medium, and fine. Sometimes you can find a mill with just two settings, but that’s it! Peugeot, a French manufacturer, boasts “infinite” grind settings because you can stop the selector anywhere you want (on other models the selection you make “clicks” into place).

Trudeau Graviti mill

Other features you can find are upside-down grinders that store with the “top” side down to reduce the mess they can leave on your counter or table. You can also buy battery-operated grinders that work with the push of a button. Trudeau makes one of the most inexpensive and best-rated electric grinders I’ve seen, the Graviti mill. It actually works just by turning it upside down – you don’t have to push a button! Peugeot pushes the bar further by selling one that also lights up while it’s grinding for you. Hey – you’ve got to be able to see when you’re dining by candlelight! 😛

Picking a Brand

Metal Mechanism Brands*
*Most brands that make steel pepper mills produce their salt mills with either ceramic or nylon.

Peugeot made the first pepper mill in 1841 and are still made in France today. While the guarantee on their manual grinders is only 5 years, the mechanism itself is guaranteed for life under normal use. Their most popular mills come in the same style in a plethora of sizes for you to choose from. To avoid the hassle that can sometimes come with filling your grinder, they offer some models with magnetic tops that just latch right on to the mill without any fuss. They also produce electric mills and even a classic-looking box mill. I mentioned already that they boast “infinite” grind settings, but in my personal experience, I did not notice huge differences other than coarse/medium/fine.

Peugeot’s salt mills are an 18/10 stainless steel that’s been treated to prevent corrosion.

William Bounds mills

William Bounds is my favorite brand and made in the USA! They have been in business since 1963 and have a patented mill mechanism that evenly crushes instead of grinds.Since it’s not grinding the mill components together, they can guarantee it will work for life. This is where their slogan “We’ve got a CRUSH on pepper” comes from!

William Bounds’ salt mills are made with a ceramic crushing mechanism.

Vic Firth is a tad newer to the game, but also made in the USA. This is a company that is famous for making drumsticks and drum equipment – Vic Firth was a tympanist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and happens to love cooking. Mario Batalli‘s pepper mills are Vic Firth brand with Mario’s signature green and orange colors, as well as his signature on the side.

Vic Firth salt mills are made with a nylon grinding mechanism.

Vic Firth mills

Non-Metal Mill Brands

Most inexpensive pepper and salt mills you find are nylon or ceramic grinders.

Chef’n PepperBall

Chef’n makes some pretty cool grinders, although I have to say they are very hit and miss with their salt and pepper grinders. I’m a huge Chef’n lover, but I got a lot of these returned in various models, from a simple table grinder to their more unique ergonomic styles. But when they work, they work forever, so just make sure you buy from a store that will not hassle you if you need to return it. It does look like they’ve updated the designs slightly so they might be even sturdier now.

They make some amazing ergonomic models, so if you have arthritis issues, think about the repetitive wrist movements you have to make to grind your pepper. My first pepper grinder use was a friend’s Chef’n pepper ball and I thought it was the coolest thing ever – you just squeeze! They also make some 2-in-1 options that let you grind both salt and pepper in one unit.

These models all utilize a metal rasp, but they do make ceramic grinders, too.

Kuhn Rikon has a couple of ceramic models, their vase grinder being the most popular. As I mentioned, they make theirs in lots of fun colors so you can color-code your spices. They make an ergonomic lever-model for those with arthritis pain.

Kuhn Rikon vase grinders

OXO‘s ceramic grinders are only a few years old, but they look great, feel very sturdy, and I’m a huge fan of OXO so I would think should be good!

**Buying tip – Williams Sonoma has a pepper grinding area where you can actually test out the grinders before purchasing. I’m not sure if this is available at all locations, but it’s really fun!**

How To Use & Maintain Your Mill

Basic mills have a body, a piece at the top (the “lid”) that turns to activate the grinding mechanism inside, and a little ball on top that screws on to the mechanism to keep the lid in place. If you have coarseness settings, there is usually a circular piece just below the lid that you can turn and hear clicking into place at the next setting. Usually there is some sort of marking to indicate fine (smaller mark) to coarse (larger mark). Left to right = fine to coarse.

To fill the grinder, you unscrew the ball on the top, remove the lid and fill the base. There will usually be something in the way to indicate the “fill line”. You always want to fill to BELOW this piece of the mill. Not even, and definitely not above. You need to leave room for the mechanism to turn. This was the most common problem when people tried to say their mill was broken – I would open it up, dump out a few peppercorns, and VOILA! It would work.

Kuhn Rikon is “upside-down”

As I mentioned before, you can find mills that work “upside-down” to keep the mess off of your counter or table. These fool a lot of people, so read the instructions first! Yes, even with something as simple as a pepper grinder, you should always read the instructions!! The Kuhn Rikon vase grinder is a great example of this and I sold them for a couple of years before I actually used one. People returned them all the time for not working but they would always return them empty so none of us working realized what the issue was – improper use! Someone finally brought it in with peppercorns and asked us what they were doing wrong and we realized they were the “upside-down” style!

There are special grinders you can buy for wet salt. You can only grind pink berry peppercorns within a pepper mix as long as there’s not a lot of pink berries mixed in. Otherwise, put them in a ceramic or spice grinder, or use a mortar & pestle to grind them up. Putting either of these two items into a regular salt or pepper grinder will ruin your grinder.

Grinding Spices

Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder

As I mentioned above, you can use most grinders for spices, just be careful of anything that could corrode a pepper mill. You should be able to find many inexpensive ceramic mills for spices. The Kuhn Rikon vase grinders are great and you can get it in all sorts of different colors to help differentiate between your spices!

Some people use inexpensive coffee grinders to grind their spices. You can read more about that on my “Coffee Grinder” blog, where I also mention the alternative of the Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder. For a few extra bucks, get something larger that grinds spices better and you can also clean out between spices.

Grinding Herbs

Microplane recently came out with an actual herb mill to grind your fresh herbs! I would love to test this out. There are a few gadgets you can find to chop herbs with, as well, but that’s for another blog!

Grinding Nuts

William Bounds Nut Twister nutmeg grinder

As already mentioned, Cuisinart has a great electric spice and nut grinder. Many of the manufacturers listed make several special nutmeg grinder models since that is a very popular spice. Peugeot and William Bounds probably have the most variety of other specific grinders (chocolate, cinnamon, chilies, etc.), as well.

Electric Water Kettles

I entitled this blog post “Electric Water Kettles” for a very specific reason. I do not ever want any of you associating the word “tea” with an electric kettle because you CANNOT put tea in the kettle! It is only for water. This should make sense if you are used to making tea the old-fashioned way; boil water in a kettle on the stove, pour it into a teapot, and then steep your tea in it. A teapot is usually made of ceramic or porcelain, and I would hope that it goes without saying that a teapot cannot go on your stove top to boil water in.

Fine T Machine

There is, however, an electric device you can both brew and steep tea in if you really want to, but it’s a tad on the spendy side. It’s called the Fine T Machine and it has several settings for a variety of tea types and works extremely well (I used one heavily at one point, even producing multiple batches for a tea tasting), so worth every penny! I also just discovered that Breville has come out with a nifty looking machine they call the One-Touch Tea Maker. I’d love to hear your reviews if you’ve used this since they are usually a good brand name.

Bodum electric kettle is the best!!

As for your basic electric water kettle, hands-down the longest-lasting brand I’ve ever seen in action is the Bodum. These very rarely ever got returned (actually, we could hardly keep them on the shelves because we sold so many!), and the stores we worked in owned these and used them extremely heavily and they were all some of the original models, still perfectly functioning many years later. They’ve since improved the design a tad by making the power switch stronger and the connection to the base more durable and simpler to latch.

I know the thought of using plastic alarms a lot of folks, particularly with boiling water. First of all, Bodum products are BPA-free. Secondly, as I explain in my BPA blog, the temperature needs to be extremely hot or else whatever going in needs to be highly acidic for there to be any leaching. Boiling point is not nearly what sanitize mode is in your dishwasher! And lastly, all electric kettles have plastic on the lid, handle and base. If they are glass, there could also be “metal” handles or lids which are usually a thin metallic film painted over plastic that will eventually start peeling off.

Chef’s Choice glass kettle

If you prefer the glass (especially because they do look a little more elegant than Bodum’s modern design), my next pick will always be Chef’s Choice. Another solid brand name, the kettles always seem to last a lot longer than other selections. Now that I just wrote all of that, of course Bodum has come out with a model that is mostly glass, similar to other glass electric kettle models (I swear, click the link, it says “new” over the image! :P) I used to like the Capresso, but as I mentioned in the coffee maker blog, they’ve outsourced to China and the quality of the brand is diminishing a little. I’d say it’s hit or miss if you buy one.

Chef’s Choice stainless kettle

Chef’s Choice also makes a couple of stainless steel models that I would also highly recommend. The great thing about all of these kettles nowadays is that they are “cordless”– they detach from the base so you can walk around and pour without a cord getting in your way!  They also mostly all have auto shut-off, which is just fabulous.  You can find some electric kettles that have temperature settings, as well.

I’m sure Proctor-Silex and Delonghi are solid enough machines, and of course Breville has a good brand reputation. Share your thoughts with us if you’ve had experience with an electric kettle you love or dislike!

Breville One Touch tea machine

Coffee Maker Basics

I originally started this blog out saying that I don’t recommend any one brand over another because (this part didn’t change) they aren’t built to last so you’re going to have to plan on buying a new one every five years (give or take a few). I originally stated that you should spend around $30 on a Mr. Coffee, Sunbeam, Proctor-Silex, or Delonghi. These guys are really starting to step up their game (price-wise, at least!) and it’s kind of hard to find a cheaper coffee maker! I still don’t trust that any one of these is better than another, and it’s such an inexpensive item that manufacturers kind of realize at this point most people won’t bother to return them, so they just keep churning out new models telling you it’s better than the last one so you’ll buy a new not-so-great one.

I used to have several favorites back when I first started working in housewares, but drip coffee makers have really gone down in quality over the years and it’s become increasingly difficult to find one not made in China. I could be wrong, but the only manufacturer I can still find that is made in the USA is Bunn, which of course are the restaurant industry’s standard machine. They do make home models and I hear great things, so those are probably the only gourmet machines worth that kind of money.

Cuisinart Brew Central – Top Pick!

If you have a good old machine, keep it until it dies! There’s no reason to replace a machine that works with the poor quality of drip machines these days. The old Krups machines were great and always highly rated; they started outsourcing almost a decade ago and we got almost every single coffee maker and electric kettle we sold returned to us–to the point that we stopped selling all Krups products completely.

Cuisinart is generally a good price range and their appliances are usually good. Every now and then they’ll miss with something, but otherwise a solid brand name and if you fill out the warranty card (I recommend doing this with all of your appliances!!), they at least console with a three-year guarantee. In the world of small electrics, one year is standard. The one I specifically link to above, the Brew Central*, is their best-selling model and the only one they’ve kept manufacturing. (They continue to put out other new models, but this one is the tried-and-true!) You will actually see this model used as a prop in tons of TV shows and movies, interestingly enough!

My old Capresso  

Capresso used to be a really great gourmet brand, but they started outsourcing a few years back and the quality eventually started to decline*. I think they are better now, but not for the money they cost! Breville is generally a good appliance maker, but unfortunately I don’t have much experience with them. I’ve only really heard good things about their small electrics, however they haven’t been on the market long enough for folks to say they’ve had their machine for a number of years to prove their staying power as of yet.

The one thing that people have the biggest issues with is that their drip machine “leaks water”. The issue is in the name—drip machines drip! Obviously if it’s pouring water out of the water tank you have a concern, but for the most part your machine is going to leak a little.

Thermal carafes are always going to be a pain to pour out of because of the way they have to design the lids to seal the carafe. No matter how much money you spend, a thermal carafe is always going to be an annoyance. A great trick with these guys is to, even if you’re preparing the night before, rinse the carafe with hot/warm water then seal the lid. This will trap heat in the carafe, causing your coffee to stay warmer even longer!

You want to be extremely careful with grind and brew machines. In that respect I would lean towards spending a tad more on a Capresso like this one (or something similar) that has the grinder in a completely separate compartment than the water tank. (Capresso actually makes both so be careful!) You are always going to run the risk of your grounds getting moist from the steam the machine produces, but if they are in separate compartments, that risk is minimalized. We will discuss coffee grinders in a separate blog, don’t worry!

Now, on to some of the less simple ways to prepare your coffee…(that being said, I’m skipping over the really basic stuff, but let me know if you want to know more about those methods, too! These are just the more common ones requested.)

Moccamaster by Technivorm

The one drip machine that actually stands out and will produce a quality cup of coffee (so say the coffee connoisseurs of the world, anyway!) is the Moccamaster by Technivorm. This is because the Moccamaster makes coffee more like a French press, which is supposed to be the ideal method to brewing the perfect cup of java. This machine’s heating element actually gets the water up to 212°F, which is the ideal water temperature for brewing. It is guaranteed to be this hot because if it doesn’t reach this temperature, the mechanism will not force the water upward into the machine to brew. Science! The water drips out showerhead-style and you can actually “stop” the brewing and let it steep for a little bit in the filter cone area if you want to be more hands-on with your coffee.

The Moccamaster is not usually even rated against other drip machines because it’s not programmable and requires a lot more effort than regular coffee makers, something the majority of consumers don’t care to do! You can’t even put water in the machine overnight to be ready in the morning because it will slowly leak out of the bottom throughout the night. Technivorm actually didn’t want to make a thermal carafe, either (for the reasons I listed above), but since people demand them, the one they created is probably the best experience I’ve personally had utilizing a thermal carafe from a drip machine. It’s the reason why it’s shaped the way it is, but it pours pretty darn well! To me, that proves even further that they put a lot of care into their product.

These have actually been around forever (made in Sweden, all Swedish parts except the heating mechanism, which is German), just not as popular in the United States until recent years. I met a woman who told me a fabulous story about how her granddaughter once said, “Grandma, your no-name coffee maker makes the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!” and how she just laughed because little did she know the cost of her no-name machine! But amazingly enough, she’d already had it for over 20 years!

Toddy cold brew system

If you need to have less-acidic coffee, you would want to consider a cold brew system like the Toddy. This method requires you to prepare the coffee up to 24 hours in advance by letting the grounds sit and steep with cold water and a filter. What you get afterwards is a very strong coffee concentrate that needs to be diluted with water or milk in a 1-3 ratio (1 part coffee, 2 parts water or milk). This is also the ideal way to make iced coffee because what people often do is dump hot coffee on ice cubes, which affects the taste of the coffee in a negative way. You can actually utilize a French press the same way as the Toddy and just let it steep overnight versus a few minutes.

Bodum Chambord French Press

Ok, so I’ve mentioned French press a few times now. Like I said, true coffee aficionados say this is the best method to produce a superior cup. This is because you let the grounds steep for several minutes and you utilize boiling hot water, which is ideal. How does it work? You put coarse grounds in the carafe, pour the hot water over the grounds, and let it steep for 3-4 minutes. Most people have the lid on while it’s steeping to keep the heat in, but keep the plunger, which is attached, up with the lid. When ready, you press the plunger down, keeping the grounds in the carafe, but allowing you to pour the coffee out. You can steep the coffee as long as you like, and the longer you do the stronger it becomes. You can use a French press to make loose leaf tea, too, but you cannot use the same carafe for both as the coffee taste will remain in the mechanisms. You can now buy all sorts of varieties of French presses, but I would steer clear of the travel mugs unless you are a very fast drinker. The coffee just keep steeping until you finish drinking it, so it can start to get bitter! Bodum is probably the most well-known French press manufacturer.

A stovetop espresso maker would be another way to make a stronger cup of coffee than a drip machine. These originated in Italy, with Bialetti being the most famous brand name. These work like mini percolators. You put water in the base to just below the “fill line” which is a little screw and nut. You place the filter in this base piece and fill it with more finely ground coffee—do NOT pack it in like an electric espresso machine (tamping would be the proper term)!! With a stovetop espresso you want the grounds to be loose so the water can perk up through them. Put the stove burner on a low heat and let it perk for a few minutes. That’s it!

A family of sizes! Bialetti original stovetop espresso maker

As you can see you’ve got a lot of options to make yourself a cup of coffee. For now, electric espresso makers are a whole other ballpark that we will discuss in a separate blog. Let me know if there’s a brewing method you’re curious about!

Electric Espresso Machines
Coffee Grinders

*Jura Capresso, the heavy-duty electric espresso machines, are still proudly manufactured in Switzerland and are of the highest quality! As I mention in they Electric Espresso Machines blog, this is my top-rated dream machine!!

**Favorite story about selling one of these: An older couple is shopping for a new coffee maker and the wife already has this one written down as one that was rated highly in a magazine. I show it off, show them the other brands and choices, but repeatedly tell her that, “Yes, this is a really good one!” The wife keeps asking me, “What else does it do?” so I have gone over every single specific detail after a certain point. The husband finally steps in and saves me by saying, “What else do you want it to do? Make you toast, too?” and tells me they’ll take it.  🙂