Everyone’s fascination with coffee begins somewhere.
And if there is one principle I have come to recognize when it comes to specialty coffee is that there is ALWAYS more to learn.
So how do you learn more about specialty coffee?
Well, you can certainly talk to barista’s, roasters, or just about anyone in the specialty coffee industry. I find that they are always willing to impart their wisdom to an inquiring mind. Next time you grab a drink from your favourite neighbourhood cafe, ask the barista to share more about the coffee they’re using (unless it’s crazy busy then don’t be a jerk and hold up the line). But otherwise, find ways to learn more about coffee origins, brew methods, current trends, etc.
One of my favourite ways to learn is through reading. There are literally THOUSANDS of books out there on the topic of coffee…a quick Google search will tell you that. But if you want to learn more specifically about specialty coffee…where do you start?
Well, I have gone and done some of the grunt work for you, and here are my 7 BOOKS EVERY COFFE LOVER NEEDS TO READ. If you’re looking to grow in your understanding of specialty coffee, these are some of the books you should have in your collection.
This was the very first book I picked up on the topic of specialty coffee. First published in 2012, it’s a bit old now, but for someone who grew up in Vancouver BC, I often made road trips down the I-5 to cities like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco where Hanna’s book tells the stories of some of the best coffee roasters (then) and still now! A lot has changed in eight years but very much does still remain the same.
So to read a book dedicated to sharing more about the many amazing roasters in the Pacific Northwest was a no-brainer to still include it on this list. The book also includes a rich glossary of coffee terms, a a brief telling of the history of this drink we all love. I’d say if you can find one cheap it’s still definitely worth a read.
Pretty sure this is “THE BOOK” that anyone interested in learning more about specialty coffee needs to read. This second edition is updated with even more origin locations, includes gorgeous photography, and is packed full of interesting facts and stories. If you have this on your coffee table your friends and family will surely spend quite some time flipping through the pages. They might even try to steal it and take it home with them. You should let them! And then grab another copy for yourself. That way they too can learn more about specialty coffee. After all sharing is caring!
James Hoffman is the 2007 World Barista Champion, and owner of Square Mile Coffee Roasters out of the UK. He is one of the people I follow most closely in the specialty coffee community. Seriously when I first got a copy of this book I couldn’t put it down. Maybe even stop reading this blog and just go buy one on Amazon and then read the rest of the list. No seriously, go do that.
The team at Sprudge has truly created something fun & informative with this book! The New Rules of Coffee is lighthearted yet factual when it comes to sharing their thoughts on specialty coffee. In total they have created 55 “rules” when it comes to specialty coffee. Divided into four parts – Rules for Coffee around the world, Rules for coffee at home, Rules for the cafe & Rules for a new coffee future, they include amazing illustrations to back up their claims.
Some of my favourite rules are 1,11, 12, 24 (especially 28), 34, 37 & 52! You’ll have to grab the book to figure out why I chose these specific ones. This is an easy book to read, and makes a great gift. Even if you just buy it for yourself! You could call this self-care!
Sprudge is an incredible online source of information. They have amazing city guides that share where to find some of the best coffee. They are always keeping readers informed on emerging trends, or breaking news. So it was clear that eventually they would go from solely an online publication to something you can hold in the palms of your hands! I think my favourite page is their illustration for roast profile development using Monsieur Claude the cat!
This is certainly more of a “coffee-table” style book. But don’t let that stop you from grabbing a copy. It is packed full of gorgeous photography documenting all aspects of specialty coffee. Text and photography is all provided by Mark Shimahara who has dedicated his life to capturing the incredible journey of coffee from farm to cup.
Mark focuses on three key aspects (Origin, Production & Consumption). If you have ever grabbed a copy of Roast Magazine then you know their dedication to telling the story of specialty coffee. They are a name you can trust when it comes to specialty coffee and this is a great book to add to your collection.
When it comes to a book dedicated to brewing specialty coffee at home this is the one you want to have. I’ll let the reviews on pretty much every book site speak for themselves. Brian W. Jones demystifies specialty coffee’s complexities, teaches you how to buy the best beans and brewing equipment, offers in-depth primers for mastering various slow-coffee techniques (including pour over, French press and moka pot), and supplies you with dozens of recipes for invigorating coffee-based drinks and cocktails.
So if that hasn’t already convinced you to buy this I honestly don’t know what else will. The book is full of incredibly helpful images that break down the coffee brewing experience into something anyone can truly handle. I love the fact that it isn’t just a book “about” coffee but truly a book that will help you to grow in every facet from what beans to buy, favourite brewers to use, and that coffee-cocktail on a Friday after a long week at work!
I get asked all the time by friends & family “hey, we are travelling to __________, where should we grab coffee?” In as much as I love when people ask me these questions, I also tell them to stop by their local Chapters/Barnes & Noble and find a copy of Where to Drink Coffee. The best thing about this book is that it is LOADED with some of the top cafes in many of the top cities in the world!
Now the only draw back about a book about specialty coffee shops is that the moment it is printed you could say “well that’s already out-dated” since new shops are popping up all the time. And while that is true, there is no other resource that I have found that is as comprehensive and also all in one place. No google searches required here. Just open it up to the country/province/state or wherever you’re going and you’ll find what you’re looking for! And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, then shoot me an email and I’ll let you know what’s good! I promise.
The book is written by a 3-time UK champion Barista Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood. You as the reader follow a simple alphabetical journey through the 26 letters of the alphabet, each with varying amounts of corresponding insights. “A” covers things like Acidity, Aeropress, and Arabica all the way to “Z” where it highlights the coffee-growing region of Zambia.
This is a compact and well written book that again will give you the reader a great amount of insight without being overly technical. Maxwell explains the key factors that go into creating a cup of coffee. You are sure to be surprised and you’ll probably learn some fun facts to use to impress your friends! And who doesn’t want to do that?! Right!
So there you have it. I hope that this has been helpful. Let me know if you end up picking up any of these books. I’d love to know what you think.
Or did I miss any books that you think should have made this list. Leave a comment below and let me know.
Author: Tyler Hagan
My name is Tyler Hagan and I'm the chief coffee drinker & content curator over at Commonly Coffee. I grew up in Vancouver but have called Calgary home now for close to 6 years.
I've been passionate about specialty coffee for a number of years. For some people figuring out how to begin this journey can feel a bit overwhelming. I don’t want you to feel like you have to fumble your way through it. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can brew better coffee at home, I’d love to chat with you. And I hope you enjoy this blog post.