One of the most enjoyable things in life is when two passions begin to overlap. And for me, that is coffee and books. I love coffee in just about any shape, method, or form. And I love reading everything from novels to history to geeky coffee books.
The idea of sitting down with a cup of joe in a comfy seat in front of the fire with a good book is my idea of living the dream. And maybe it is your idea too. If you haven’t tried it, then you are in for a treat!
And if you are a coffee lover, which is a fair assumption if you have taken the time to read this, then there is something particularly enjoyable about coffee books. The more you know of the third wave or specialty coffee movement, the more you will understand that it is a complex world, spanning from indigenous coffee farmers to cutting edge brewing techniques to a somewhat chequered history.
There is just about a whole language that the dedicated coffee lover will have to learn, from tasting notes to processing terms to brewing methods. So if you love coffee, investing in some decent coffee books is one of the best ways to develop your skills and passion. A nice bonus is that books about coffee tend to be very aesthetically pleasing, making excellent coffee table books.
Here are a few of my recommendations for coffee books that have really shaped the way I think and talk about coffee.
Best Coffee Books
The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing – Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed
The World Atlas of Coffee was actually the first book about coffee that I read through in full, so it is somewhat sentimental to me. And the fact that I read it from cover to cover is probably a testimony in itself both to how readable and engaging it is. If you love coffee and have made it your thing, then chances are that you have already stumbled across James Hoffman and his excellent coffee videos on YouTube. James Hoffman was the 2007 World Barista Champion and since then has been a leading figure in the specialty coffee movement and operates the Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London.
The best way that I can describe this book is that it is a compendium of coffee. It is a one-stop shop for anything and everything coffee. The book is split into three parts; Part 1: Introduction to Coffee, Part 2: From Bean to Cup, and Part 3: Coffee Origins. Part one deals with the fascinating but sometimes overlooked process of where coffee comes from and the growing and harvesting process. Part 2 deals with what will most appeal to many homebrewers; how to make coffee. It goes through roasting, storing, tasting, grinding, and brewing coffee with a stack of handy tips and individual sections for different brewing methods.
Part three is the biggest section of the book and goes into the different countries where coffee is grown. In each country, it deals with the history of coffee growing, taste profile, and the various growing regions. This is fascinating, and I have found that I constantly refer to it whenever I try new single-origin beans.
The World Atlas of Coffee is a fairly large book that is easy to read and filled with stunning full-color photographs. It looks great, reads great, and especially is a great reference tool to those constantly trying new beans from different countries. This is the second edition which is slightly enlarged and updated from the original.
I highly recommend it and trust Hoffmann implicitly when it comes to coffee.
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes
James Freeman, Caitlin, Freeman, and Tara Duggan
Another well-known name in the coffee world is that of Blue Bottle Coffee. Started by James Freeman in the early 2000s as a small roaster and coffee cart, Blue Bottle Coffee has become synonymous with excellent coffee and the third wave coffee movement. This coffee book is again a favorite of mine and was a joy to read.
The book itself is divided into four sections; Grow, Roast, Eat and Drink. As with many of the coffee books on this list, the book covers everything from how coffee is grown, to how to drink it and best brewing practices. In the brewing part, there are dedicated sections on how to brew Pour Over, French Press, Nel Drip, Siphon, Turkish, and Espresso. The final section is somewhat rare in a coffee book and is a synopsis of some of the best foods to eat with coffee with recipes included, which is quite cool. James Freeman’s wife writes it.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about coffee. Again, it is a good starting point if you are playing with a new brewing method and a great reference tool to have on the shelf. What I personally enjoyed about reading it was hearing the history of Blue Bottle Coffee and James Freeman’s quite incredible journey with coffee. Many parts of the book read as a story, and again there are plenty of photographs and diagrams. This book is an excellent place to start for those who are relatively new to the coffee world.
Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home
This somewhat quirky coffee book is basically what it claims to be, a manual for home coffee brewing. Jessica Easto interestingly is a writer rather than a coffee professional, but her husband has worked for years for Halfwit Coffee in Chicago. The upside of this is that Jessica understands words and how to write. She has quite a casual, quirky writing style that is fun, and the book is filled with photos and diagrams, which made it an absolute pleasure to read.
The book has six chapters covering brewing basics, coffee gear, growing coffee, buying coffee, flavors of coffee, and how-to guides for different brewing methods. This is one of the books on this list that is easiest to read cover to cover without getting bogged down in technical language or tedious sections. It is nice to read and is intended for the home brewer rather than the coffee professional.
The final chapter has individual guides for a range of brewing methods, including French Press, Aeropress, Clever Dripper, Siphon, Melitta, Beehopuse, Walkure, Kalita Wave, Chemex, and V60. This is one of my go-to recommendations for those looking for a single book that is readable and just about covers everything. I find that I do just keep coming back to how I like the cover and feel of this book.
Also, for what it is worth, this book about coffee was named a top food and drink book when it was released in 2017 by Food Network, Sprudge, and Booklist.
Everything But Espresso: Professional Coffee Brewing Methods
If you have read many of our other articles, you might have picked up that Scott Rao is my go-to guy when it comes to just about anything coffee. He is not a particularly creative writer. The coffee books he releases almost read like textbooks, but he understands coffee deeply and writes out of a lifetime of experience in the coffee industry. And so I find that I keep coming back to him. My rule of thumb is that if he has written it, then it is worth reading. If you are a coffee geek (wear the title with pride!), then Scott Rao is for you.
Everything But Espresso is, just as the title suggests, a book about just about every brewing method, with the exception of espresso. It is an incredibly technical book that delves into the science of coffee brewing (extraction, TDS, grinding theory, etc.), water chemistry, and exceptionally helpful brewing guides. I can honestly say that Rao has probably taught me more about the technical side of coffee than anyone else.
I regularly go back to his brewing guides in this book and have incorporated many of his tips into my brewing. In particular, his section on understanding grind beds for Pour Over is exceptionally helpful. Whenever I see that a specialty cafe sells coffee gear, I look for Rao’s coffee books, and if they are there, I trust the cafe. I can’t recommend this resource enough, but as noted, if you are looking for a light Sunday evening read, then this is not for you. This is a book for the home brewer or coffee professional serious about understanding coffee and brewing technique.
The Professional Barista’s Handbook: An Expert Guide to Preparing, Espresso, Coffee, and Tea
This somewhat daunting-sounding coffee book is the sister volume to Everything but Espresso. It is one of the few books on this list that, as the name suggests, really is intended for the coffee professional. This isn’t a long book but is packed to the brim with photos, diagrams, and a stack of information about just about everything you need to know about brewing coffee in a cafe setting.
Especially if you seek to brew excellent espresso in a commercial setting, this is a must-read worth its weight in gold and covers just about everything you will need to know. This makes it a great training tool for cafes, and I can’t help but think that if more baristas read this book, there would be a heck of a lot less bad coffee being sold. If you work in the coffee industry, buy this book, end of discussion.
The book covers espresso preparation extensively and extraction theory, milk, barista systems, drip coffee, French press, water chemistry, and tea.
It is also worth noting that Scott Rao also has a book on Coffee Roasting that is again essential reading if you are a coffee roaster. Rao has traveled worldwide doing courses on coffee roasting practices, so his wisdom is worth heeding.
Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability And Survival
Brewing Justice is a little bit different from many of the other books on this list and hones in on the global coffee industry and the issue of Fair Trade. Fair Trade tends to be a term that is regularly thrown around but seldom fully understood by coffee enthusiasts. You might have noticed that the beans you regularly brew with have a little Fair Trade sticker or don’t, but what does that little mean, and how much as coffee consumers should we care?
The author Daniel Jaffee is a sociologist from Michigan State University, and this book is the result of two years of rigorous interviews, observation, and surveys. The book takes in the global industry but mainly focuses on indigenous coffee farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico. The book considers the tension between those who use Fair Trade as a means to accomplish social justice and those who see it in more economic terms. The central four chapters of the book compare the living conditions of 25 coffee farmers who sell to conventional markets and 26 households that sell to the Fair Trade market.
His basic answer is that Fair Trade does make a difference but perhaps less than we might expect. The book finishes with an overall consideration of Fair Trade and the recommendations for breathing new life and inspiration into the system. This book reads well, has been carefully researched, and sheds light on a vital ethical issue that is integrally tied to your morning cup of joe.
The New Rules of Coffee: A Modern Guide for Everyone
Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen
If you are at all invested in the coffee world, then chances are you have stumbled across Sprudge, which is probably the world’s most popular coffee publication and associated website. Well, The New Rules of Coffee is the brainchild of the two individuals who co-founded Sprudge. And so, to put it mildly, they know a thing or two about coffee.
This is a fantastic introduction to the world of specialty coffee. It is nice and short (at 160 pages), making it very accessible and filled with colorful diagrams and artwork. It is a relatively light read which additionally makes it a great potential gift.
The book itself is divided into four sections; Rules for Coffee Around the World, Rules for Coffee at Home, Rules for the Cafe, and Rules for a New Coffee Future. As the name suggests, this book is intended for everyone and doesn’t require any prior knowledge or understanding of the jargon. If you are looking for a short read that will get you clued up on coffee, then this book is the one for you. It covers everything from where coffee comes from, how it is grown, how to brew coffee, and tips for commercial settings and the future of the global coffee industry.
It’s a great book and probably one of the best coffee books on this list if you are looking to give it as a gift.
God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee
This book has deservedly made a name for itself in the specialty coffee industry since it was released in 2008. It reads like a story rather than a textbook and is the narrative of a journalist who literally travels the globe in her quest to understand coffee. Weissman travels all over the world with big names in the specialty coffee movement as guides; Peter Guiliano from Counter Culture, Geoff Watts from Intelligentsia, and Duane Sorenson from Stumptown.
This coffee book reads in many ways like a novel and gives a real insight into the journey of the humble coffee bean from the farms in Panama or Ethiopia to a cafe in the States. As it were, this book pulls back the curtain from the specialty coffee scene in the States and allows you a glimpse into this complex world.
As a journalist, Weissman knows how to write and use words, and so this is a thoroughly engaging read which will give you a deeper appreciation into the backstory of your morning brew.
Coffee: A Global History
As the name suggests, this little gem is all about the rich and fascinating history of coffee. So if you are looking for quick tips for brewing better coffee, then this is not for you. Instead, this short book is packed with information about where coffee comes from, how the coffee industry began and morphed with the ages, and the place of coffee in the world today.
Jonathan Morris is a professional historian and so has done his research thoroughly. This book is a fascinating read which shows how coffee has shifted from the staple of the elite to the drink of the masses.
I don’t think I have read a book this information dense and yet still incredibly readable possibly ever. A great little book that I recommend highly.James Hoffman
As Hoffman notes, although it is dense, it is also eminently readable and a worthwhile investment to better understand the world and development of coffee production and consumption. A great read, especially for the history-minded folk out there.
This is the sort of book you could sit with in front of your new fire pit bowl and read the night away.
Well, we hope this article has been a helpful guide to some of the best coffee books. Reading up on the world of coffee is one of the best ways to deepen your passion and enthusiasm for everything coffee. Whether you want to hone your brewing skills, expand your knowledge, or understand the global industry, there are coffee books for you.
Even if you are not naturally a reader, I would highly recommend giving one a shot. Coffee books are fascinating to read and filled with stunning photos and diagrams, which are enjoyable even just to flick through.