On most SE sites, product recommendations are off-topic, as they tend to become obsolete quickly (see this blog post). Do we want questions asking for the recommendation of goods/products here?

Do we want to completely rule recommendations off-topic, or should we allow certain kinds?

  • 1
    Obsolete quickly, but also very-very primarily opinion-based.
    – Möoz
    Jan 29, 2015 at 22:31
  • J. Musser was actually way too fast to select the correct answer. A policy must gain a certain amount of traction.
    – qedk
    Feb 4, 2015 at 14:54
  • @Mooz, meta is opinion-based questions. And very, very.
    – qedk
    Feb 4, 2015 at 14:54
  • @there, I accepted the one that was most upvoted by the community here.
    – J. Musser
    Apr 7, 2015 at 21:37

6 Answers 6


One inherent problem of product recommendations is that they are very attractive to spammers. With just a little effort it's hard to differentiate between spam and a well-meant and thoroughly researched recommendation.

Additionally they can be highly subjective and to top it all off, they have to meet certain requirements to be reasonably answered.

This all leads me to the conclusion, that product recommendations should be off-topic for this site. One can always ask for personal opinions in chat :)

  • One can't if one doesn't or can't use chat. Feb 9, 2015 at 21:54

I think they're unavoidable for a topic such as this. Gear is, like it or not, an essential part of making and enjoying great coffee and there's a lot of it available.

Asking for an honest product recommendation doesn't make for a bad question; asking in a manner that invites dozens of answers due to a lack of scope and constraint makes for a bad question. There are only a limited number of double-walled glass presses in a 2 cup size, and I'd be quite put off if I came to a site all about coffee and couldn't ask which one was also likely to hold up in a dishwasher.

Questions that don't limit the potential number of answers that could be received are by nature too broad, and you have a close reason for those available to you. I'd wait, see if these actually become a problem, and enjoy giving thorough answers to the more interesting ones while you do. It's fine to have a zero-tolerance spam policy as many of our other sites have adopted, and an inclination to burn link-only or astroturf-like answers as you see them.

But don't stop yourself from recommending a brand if you're happy with that brand. I love Breville's products and I recommended one of their grinders to someone earlier today, in the course of writing a thorough answer. And if spammers start writing comprehensive, thorough answers that receive up-votes then we can basically say mission accomplished.

Software Recommendations does a pretty good job of getting this right, and I'm sure that you could too. But, please, don't solve problems that you don't yet have - these types of questions are quite common in this topic, make sure you're doing yourselves a favor before shutting them down and you can't do that based on less than 100 questions so far in a private beta.


This was my concern with an answer I gave a few minutes ago. I wanted to make the asker aware of a product, but didn't want to get shut down for anything that looked like spamming. I chose to provide a link to the manufacturer's "features" page, which lacked any way to buy the product. Another question had an excellent answer that provided links to purchase the equipment the asker would need to do what they were asking about (backflushing their espresso machine).

Product recommendations can be made from an honest place, but (as has been said) whether a particular post is inappropriate is very subjective. If product recommendations are off-topic, where is the line?


Product recommendations should be on-topic if they are answer to a specific question. Product recommendations are not on topic when they are the answer to a non-specific or primarily opinion based question.

"What home roaster takes up the least space, uses the least electricity and produces the least amount of smoke?" - On-Topic Product Recommendation. Products that do not answer the question are easy flagged as spam or downvoted as bad answers.

"What shop in Portlandia makes the best espresso?" - Off-topic Product Recommendation. The answers are inherently opinion based because the question itself is bad and can't be salvaged.


Giving specific recommendations (eg. brand names) should be avoided. Not only is it hard to distinguish legitimate recommendations from product promotions and other spam, but these sorts of things are inherently opinion based (which is generally discouraged on SE sits).

General recommendations (eg. recommending a french press to achieve a certain kind of flavor), is a different matter, of course and may be necessary.


I think it is a shame that sharing knowledge of good coffee types/roasts is likely to be off topic here but I think that the subjective nature and potential for spam is something that could degrade the quality of this site (in particular the latter). I don't know what the overseers think about this as it would be a shame to not capture and share recommendations with the rest of the community. In the early days of SO some of the most useful pages which are now off topic were good book recommendations and so forth which then became wikis. So is it possible that a wiki of recommended coffee beans/roasts is permissable, I don't know.

The problem with chat rooms is I don't know how permanent the postings are and how searchable it is. It could still work though.

  • I don't believe chat rooms should be taken into consideration, because many folks won't use them. Feb 9, 2015 at 21:56
  • @ChrisinAK that's true, it's unfortunate there isn't a method to collate the answers but this type of question just isn't what SO/SE is about
    – EdChum
    Feb 9, 2015 at 21:58
  • I don't necessarily agree with that. Sometimes a specific product is, in fact, the answer to a question. I understand the slippery slope however as well. With many companies actually employing social media and other specialists, its a horrible area. Feb 9, 2015 at 22:05
  • @ChrisinAK you could say a product is the best based on objective measurable criteria but taste with respect to coffee is subjective, a piece of equipment could be the best but I don't see how you could get recommended coffee or shops to ever be on topic here even if it won an award
    – EdChum
    Feb 9, 2015 at 22:09
  • I completely agree. Thus the debate. What home roaster will fit in a small space, use the least electricity and produces the least amount of smoke? Product. What shop in Portlandia makes the best espresso? No answer. I think people should be able to come here for the former, but once you allow the former, the latter will try to invade. Feb 9, 2015 at 22:15

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