Book Review: The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting and Drinking with Recipes

Guess whhhaaaaaat?

I love reading!

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Just kidding.  Everyone knows Choose Your Own Adventure owns Goosebumps.  Hands down.

Since I’m always reading (and my friends on Facebook are always asking for great book recommendations…and Babysitter’s Club is supposedly “too juvenile and eighties” for some people), I thought I would start sharing reviews of my (more current) favorites up here on the blog.

I’m a picky book critic, so I promise to only review my favorites!  Any book that comes up on my blog will be a From Faye five-star rated read.   Here is the first:

The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes

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{Photo credit: Amazon.com}

Why I Read It

Because I suck at making coffee.  (Or used to).

I tried all the mainstream at-home brewing methods: drip, instant, french press, a cheap espresso machine.  (Pan out to footage of me clumsily spilling coffee grounds everywhere and throwing my hands in the air informercial-style). I was most recently a K-Cup devotee, primarily for the consistency factor.

My biggest problem is I am spoiled by coffee shop drinks! None of my home-brew coffee was cutting it. I would try to Google stuff like “how to make good coffee at home” and get completely overwhelmed with the conflicting information on the Internet.  I finally decided I needed to consult an expert.  I checked Amazon for best-rated books about making coffee and found The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes  The 4.5 star rating, catchy name and the gorgeous photography on the cover sold me!

About

The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee is all about today’s emerging coffee culture.  The author, James Freeman, tells his story of how he went from small-time, coffee-roasting musician to owner of one of the most famous cafes in the world.   His book covers the complex process of coffee-making, from growing methods to brewing how-to’s (including detailed information about equipment.)  The book concludes with coffee pairing recipes from his wife Caitlin (artisan pastry chef at Blue Bottle).

(Definitely watch the book trailer for all kinds of hipster coffee culture vibes.)

What I Loved

The author is a coffee purist and self-admitted perfectionist.  His dedication to the details and complexities of making coffee won my trust as a reader right off.

It was simple.  SIMPLICITY.  It’s so underrated.  I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the information, nor did I feel that it covered insignificant topics.  It thoroughly addressed all of the points that I was itching to know more about when I opened the book (like equipment and water temperatures).

The honest talk about espresso.  Finally!  He said it:  you won’t save money making espresso at home.  Coffee-shop quality espresso requires expensive equipment and a lot of practice (by which you would waste a lot of coffee and milk practicing at home.) After reading this section, I was relieved.  Understanding the precise process of making a latte sure took some of the guilt out of my $3.50 coffee shop espresso drinks!

The way Blue Bottle approaches coffee represents everything that intrigues me about San Francisco.  Craftsmanship. Innovation. Foodies.  Hipsters. Nerds That Are Somehow Really Cool.

What I Didn’t Love 

At times the book read, well, snobbishly.  (I’ll admit, it was entertaining and part of the intrigue.) Example: the heading of one section is entitled: “Pod Coffee: As Special Place in Hell.”   So, a little on the rude side…but amusing.  (Be nice to my pod coffee, okay?)

The recipes at the end. The author’s wife wrote this portion of the book (she is the pastry chef at Blue Bottle and a former owner of the artisan pastry shop Miette).  The section was appropriate, given the fact that the food pairings are part of Blue Bottle’s coffee culture.  However, I’m a one-track minded reader, so that part didn’t interest me nearly as much as the coffee.  It could have been omitted and I would not have known the difference.

The Outcome

When I got done reading this book, I actually craved black coffee.  I was compelled to get some from a local, organic coffee truck.  And it was good. So I Instagrammed it, naturally.

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Furthermore, I was also so intrigued that I made a trip into the city to visit Blue Bottle at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Oh, it was worth the trip. Pshhh…Instagram city.  (More on that later.)

Blue Bottle Coffee Caffe Mocha

And finally, the desired outcome: I made the best cup of home brewed coffee I’ve ever had! So I Instagrammed that too, naturally.

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(On the recommendation of a friend, I ended up using some good whole bean coffee and an AeroPress Coffee/Espresso Maker, which I got on Amazon for less than $30.  The coffee pictured here contains steamed/frothed milk from the stovetop. The author does not mention the Aeropress device in his book, and I imagine he would disapprove of it.  However, I wanted training wheels, so I opted to start with an Aeropress.  WAY EASY.  AND AWESOME.  Get thee one.  I also bought this proper Hario Coffee Mill hand grinder for my beans). 

I am so glad I read this book.  With a better understanding of what coffee is and what makes it taste good, I have very high hopes of finally cutting out that sugary, two-a-week coffee shop habit that I’ve been trying to kick for like, a decade.

The real question is, am I a hipster yet?  

The answer, of course, is no, because I don’t drive a Subaru wagon. But given my reading habits and my new coffee grinding thing, I think it is possible that I could some day attain to status of Nerd Who is Somehow Really Cool.  And that is about all one can ask from a coffee book.