My husband and I went to Colombia earlier this year and took a coffee tasting class. I was expecting it to cover a variety of types of beans, roasts, etc., but in fact everything we tasted came from the same bag of roasted beans. The difference was all in how the coffee was made.
First we tried three samples of coffee all brewed the same way but at slightly different temperatures. Then we tried coffee brewed through paper filters next to coffee brewed through metal filters. We tried coffee made from bottled water next to coffee made from tap water. We tried coffee prepared identically except for the size of the grind.
I was floored with how seemingly tiny changes in just one aspect of the coffee making experience could make such a huge difference. And I was inspired to find some of the latest and greatest books about coffee to update my previous article Cool Beans: 7 Books About Coffee to Help You Get Your Buzz On.
The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing — Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed by James Hoffman
This book tries to do a lot — and does so relatively successfully. Here you’ll read about the general and regional history of coffee, how colonialism has affected coffee production, and the complicated truths behind the label “fair trade.” With maps of coffee growing regions around the world, charts explaining differences within regions, and inset boxes for added detail, this book includes a wealth of information on how coffee is grown throughout the world.
Coffee Dictionary: An A To Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood
A great resource to keep around, The Coffee Dictionary does just what it sets out to do — provide an exceptional reference book. There are upwards of 275 entries, covering everything from sourcing to growing and harvesting, from roasting and grinding to brewing. This book is written by a true expert and it shows: Colonna-Dashwood is a three-time UK Barista Champion and three-time world finalist.
The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich by Ndongo Sylla
As I mentioned above, the Fair Trade movement is complicated, to put it mildly and politely. The reality is that the actions and rhetoric behind this movement do not often line up. The way the system is currently set up, those who need fair trade practices most often end up with less profit and more hoops to jump through, while the wealthiest companies are able to get even higher profits and a larger piece of the pie. Sylla is a former employee of Fairtrade International and pulls no punches in detailing how that fair trade coffee you’re buying is likely anything but.
The Coffee Book: Barista tips * recipes * beans from around the world by Anette Moldvaer
For the coffee lover who’d like to become a coffee expert, this is a great choice. Learn about the top recommended coffee brewing equipment, get step-by-step tutorials on how to do everything from roasting beans to preparing an espresso shot, and check out more than 100 coffee drink recipes.
A Good African Story: How a Small Company Built a Global Coffee Brand by Andrew Rugasira
It’s not all doom and gloom in the world of coffee consumption. Case in point, Good African Coffee, the first African-owned coffee brand sold widely in UK supermarkets. The company works with 14,000+ African farmers and has created more than a dozen savings and credit coops for the farming communities they source from. Rugasira has written a clear, inspiring, and comprehensive outline of exactly how they did the impossible: built a successful coffee company without exploiting people.
The New Rules of Coffee: A Modern Guide for Everyone by Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen
There’s no question that the “rules” around coffee preparation and enjoyment have changed over the years. In this attempt to bring the world up to date, Michelman and Carlsen cover topics such as storing coffee beans, coffee café etiquette, and how to get the most from your next trip to the coffee shop. It’s split up into three handy sections: At Home, At the Café, and Around the World.
Life is Espresso by Katsu Tanaka
This book is admittedly very difficult to find but if you can get your hands on it, get your hands on it! Tanaka was one of the first people to become internationally famous as a coffee expert. This book is full of moody, gorgeous pictures and advice you won’t find elsewhere. Equal parts history book, coffee table book, and instruction manual, it accomplishes a lot in its glossy pages.
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi
Though coffee is only a single section in this much larger work, that section is worth your purchase if you truly want to understand where coffee comes from and how it gets to you. You’ll spend a good amount of time reading about the birth of coffee in Ethiopia, then tracing the path of its eventual popularity into South and Central America, then the rest of the world. This book offers a unique spin on an important aspect of understanding your daily cup of joe.
Brew: Better Coffee At Home by Brian W. Jones
This is the perfect book for those who have the singular goal of brewing the best possible cup of coffee at home. This is a very easy to follow, approachable yet comprehensive guide to all things making coffee. You’ll learn pour over, French Press, moka pot, and other methods, plus get unique recipes for coffee drinks and coffee cocktails.
Coffee Gives Me Superpowers: An Illustrated Book about the Most Awesome Beverage on Earth by Ryoko Iwata
If you’re looking for books about coffee that are fun and adorable to read, then you need look no further than this illustrated book. Ryoko Iwata runs a website aptly named I Love Coffee, where she writes about all things coffee. This short but beautiful book brings together some of the most interesting aspects of her website.
If you’re ready for some fiction books about coffee after you get done mastering the history, politics, and craft of coffee, check out this list of 10 Delicious Coffee Shop Romances.