Serious Eats: Drinks
4 Great Coffee Books for Beginners and Coffee Geeks
Looking for a new book to read? Here are 4 great titles to quench your curiosity about coffee. [Photo: Liz Clayton]
Some days, it's just not enough to drink coffee, is it? After you've consumed your daily maximum, do you muse: if only there was a way to continue to think about, learn about, dream about coffee... But there is! We hereby offer a quick list of great coffee books to get you started.
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee
Say what you will about the cult of Blue Bottle, this growing empire of specialty roastery-cafes is well on its way to subtle, stylish world domination. The Oakland, CA-born roaster recently announced plans to expand into Tokyo, as well as a friendly takeover of two Los Angeles coffee companies, Handsome Coffee Roasters and Tonx. As such, it's safe to tap Blue Bottle as one of the most significant players in the current style of fancier coffee and sophisticated preparation, and this book, like everything the company touches, is tasteful and approachable.
From brewing guides to well-photographed coffee journeys to in-house Blue Bottle recipes for sweet stuffs that go perfectly with coffee, this book by James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Duggan works as well in the kitchen as it does on the coffee table, inspiring interest and enthusiasm for the new frontiers of coffee along with basic education. An easy, lovely gift for someone that's just on the precipice of falling truly in love with coffee and all its possibilities.
Left Coast Roast
Publishing a guidebook in the internet-smartphone-Google-glasses age is a tall order: how to provide something lasting and contextual? Hanna Neuschwander has managed to do just that, by focusing on some of the country's most influential coffee-loving regions in this guide that's more than a guide. From the history of coffee's shift from Peet's to the micro-roaster-boom of the Pacific Northwest to a useful beginner's glossary to charming illustrations, Neuschwander goes well out of her way to place her recommendations and cafe descriptions in a genuine, thoughtful context. There's no understanding why anyone in New York would pay $10 for a licorice latte without first understanding how small, happening west coast roasters (and then bigger ones) laid the groundwork for a style of quality preparation that's becoming standard, rather than exceptional, among the food and drink savvy.
Coffee Life in Japan
As Neuschwander's Left Coast Roast gives a look backwards to where specialty coffee's come from, Merry White's cultural exploration of Japan's precise, adoring treatment of the coffee world may offer us a glimpse of what's to come. For someone looking to study coffee in its (necesssary!) social context, White goes well beyond brewing and into an engaging academic study of coffee's role in a nation whose respect for tradition, craft and presentation goes well beyond what we on American soil have come close to realizing. It's a sensitive, reverent look into the ways coffee and cafes function in Japanese society, from public/social/private-within-public space to taste and preparation mastery. A wonderful book for someone going further on their journey of coffee learning, or for that academic or Japanophile you want to convince you're right about great coffee.
Everything But Espresso
It's easy to find a book or website with digestible brewing guides (and even cartoons) for seemingly every possible way to make coffee nowadays, but there's no more comprehensive look at brewing science and technique than through the lens of Scott Rao. In Everything but Espresso, the basics of how brewing works when it works—and why it doesn't when it fails—are laid out in easy to understand ways that will without a doubt deepen your appreciation of coffee. For the geeky, experimentally inclined drinker to the plateau-dwelling home brewer who wants to raise their game to a cafe-caliber level, Everything But Espresso is the road map there.