In 2022, How to Make the Best Coffee at Home was released by Youtube coffee luminary James Hoffmann. This is his newest book since The World Atlas of Coffee in 2014 (incidentally the very first coffee book I ever read cover to cover).
Over the last five years or so James Hoffmann has really become the poster boy for specialty coffee. And for good reason; he won the World Barista Championship in 2007, he co-founded Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and his videos are not only insightful but well-made and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
So in this article, we want to dig into his latest offering to the world of literature; How to Make the Best Coffee at Home. The name of the book is both self-explanatory and fairly audacious. So does this book live up to its title?
How to Make the Best Coffee at Home
Instead of a formal book review, this is more like my meandering reflections on the book.
The book opens with the following words which in many ways give you the overall tone of the book:
‘A cup of coffee can be many things: a jolt of caffeine, fuel for our work, a social lubricant, a necessity, or a luxury. It can be surprising, delightful, and delicious, and it can transport you around the world. It can also be a lot of fun.’James Hoffmann
James’ tone is almost whimsical at times and clearly shows both his love of coffee and his conviction that coffee brewing should be enjoyable and rewarding.
How to Make the Best Coffee at Home is split into six sections:
This really covers the a-z of coffee brewing, everything from water hardness, to tasting notes, to V60 recipes and espresso tips. In many ways, this book feels like the accumulation of the years of thinking and experimenting that lie behind his well-crafted Youtube videos. There is a certain maturity and sense of authority in his writing that lets you know that he knows what he is talking about.
As with his earlier book, this is also simply a beautiful book. It is full of vibrant photos every few pages that make this feel more like an elegant coffee table book than a dense chapter book. I purchased and read through the kindle version of the book, however, in retrospect, I wish I had opted for the hard copy as it is the sort of book I would love to leave on our coffee table.
Overall the readability was very accessible for any reader. Certainly, he does use some technical language (I didn’t expect to come across the terms ‘rancidification’ or ‘olfactory bulb’ in the book!) However, it wasn’t dense or difficult to read.
I found it interesting to read this book having been heavily involved in the specialty coffee world for several years now. I am always intrigued to see whether there is anything new, how technical the book is, and how well it caters to different skill and experience levels.
Overall I found James’ new book a good balance that in many ways reflects the tone and vibes of his videos. It felt very different from the almost academic precision which characterizes some of Scott Rao’s books. It was easy and enjoyable to read. It probably did lean on the beginners’ side of things. Even the fact that the first chapter was basically about how to choose and buy coffee indicates this. This would be a superb book for someone just starting to get into specialty coffee, or who has merely been dipping their toes in for some years.
Certainly, there was a lot of repetition for me from other books and from Hoffmann’s videos. But this was expected as this is supposed to be an all-in-one sort of book that covers a-z.
So was it revolutionary for me? Not really. Did I enjoy it? Yea. Would I recommend it? Yes, I probably would. This is a great one-stop guide for all things coffee from specific recipes to coffee theory and understanding the various brewing parameters.
While I read it as a book starting at the beginning and working my way from chapter to chapter, it would also work well as a reference work. So if you find yourself wondering about espresso channeling then you could flick there, or to get a Siphon recipe, or to understand hard and soft water.
Who Should Buy it?
There are a few different categories of people that would benefit from purchasing this book.
The Beginning Brewer – As mentioned above, this is a superb book for someone just starting to get excited about specialty coffee. It is a great one-stop book for really everything coffee. It is accessible to the uninitiated but is written by a trusted authority in the coffee world. So if you are someone who has just brought their first burr grinder, or are starting to collect brewers then this will be an incredibly helpful book for helping you to understand the contours and principle of specialty coffee and thus of delicious coffee.
The Coffee Loving Friend – This is the sort of book that I would happily buy half a dozen to give away to friends and family. The external beauty of the book in addition to the content matter makes it a great gift for any coffee-loving person in your life.
The Coffee Kit Collector – For many dedicated veterans of the specialty coffee movement, it is not only about getting the best kit and gear, but also the best books. And if you are anything like me then you probably at least consider buying just about every new brewer and new coffee book that comes out. If that is you, the coffee gear hoarder (a term of respect), then you will not regret adding this to your collection.
How to Make the Best Coffee at Home – Takeaway
Overall I really enjoyed my time with James in this book; it was enjoyable to read, I learned a few things, and it reinfused my love for all things coffee and for constantly striving to brew better coffee. It was easy to read, beautiful to look at, and came with all the trusted advice and coffee wisdom that we have come to expect from James Hoffmann.
Five stars, highly recommended!