Through my research into the coffee and coffee shop industries I have learnt lots about coffee and the different ways to prepare it – I even went on a SCA Barista Skills course at Prufrock in an attempt to understand a little more about the creation of espresso based drinks. I’ve interacted with lots of passionate individuals who have demonstrated the various ways in which coffee can be prepared and how this can affect the taste of the coffee. At home I’ve ended up with a small collection of brewing equipment, mainly thanks to family and friends who have been keen to encourage the interest – particularly if it improves the cup of coffee they get when they visit. However, I haven’t spent a great deal of time trying to understand how to use these devices properly. To try and help me with this I was kindly given Craft Coffee: A Manual by Jessica Easto and Andreas Willhoff by a family member. I’ve often turned to youtube to learn about brewing methods but in an era when so much time is spent in front of computer screens, it’s nice to have a book.
Craft Coffee: A Manual is essentially an introductory guide to trying to make coffee at home, exploring the different elements that can affect how it is prepared, as well as the equipment itself. There are six broad chapters, as well as helpful troubleshooting section at the end with tips for how to try and make the best cup of coffee.
Chapter One covers brewing basis, from key points about brew ratios and extraction to how to dial in the coffee in the grinder. The idea of brew ratios was something I never really used to consider. I had a broad idea of what worked and stuck with that. The coffee bewing control chart is helpful for trying to consider how to alter to avoid over and under extraction.
Chapter two moves on to discuss different pieces of important hardware, from the filters to scales and kettles. For the different brewing methods there’s a bit of history about how the device came about and some advice about how to use it. There’s advice and information about various pieces of coffee equipment you can consider including the burr grinder, scales and gooseneck kettle.
Chapter Three turns to the coffee itself to explore the differences in beans, processing methods, through to roasting. It would be impossible in one chapter to provide a comprehensive guide to coffee, but it provides a good overview of the differernt types and origins and a little about decaffeination processes too. Chapter Four moves on to cover Buying the Coffee consideing not only where you would typically buy craft coffee but also about how to understand the usual information on the labels, and how to store it at home.
Chapter Five explores the Flavour of coffee, from acidity to aroma and how one goes about assessing flavour. If anyone has ever seen the flavour wheel for coffee, the it can easy be daunting to try and identify the flavours being produced. It even suggests to have a coffee tasting party – as the authors suggst ‘honing your coffee-tasting skills is more fun with other people’.
Chapter Six then finishes with an exploration of some of the more typical brew methods including: French Press, Aeropress, Clever Dripper, Siphon, Melitta, BeeHouse, Walküre, Kalita, Chemex, and V60. For each method there is an annotated diagram of the different parts and explanaation of how it works, a suggested brew recipe and an outlined method for how to use it. There are lots of different brew recipes you can use depending on how you like your coffee, but these seem like good starting points. I have to admit that when I started drinking specialty coffee at home I didn’t pay much attention to the amount of coffee and water I was using, or the way I prepared it either. However, I now use making coffee as part of day where I actually slow down for a few minutes and try out different brew methods and ratios to experiment a little with how coffee can taste.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book providing an overview of different aspects of coffee preparation. It provided more detail on elements of the processes I undertake on a regular basis but often don’t really think about. This book would be great for someone who is keen to make a nice cup of coffee at home to give them a good foundation of understanding of how to prepare a good cup, the different ways they may want to try, and about the different things than can affect the outcome! Another nice addition to my coffee library.