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My Top Five Coffee or Espresso Book Choices
My Top Five Coffee or Espresso Book Choices
Posted January 12, 2003 4:20pm
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I got an interesting email today from someone, who amongst other things, asked me what my top five book choices would be for someone wanting to get into the "God Shot" thing.

I had a tough time answering it: mainly because my top five most influencial books aren't all about espresso, but all five had a direct and indirect impact on my thoughts about the science and artistry of what espresso is about.

I thought about it then replied. Here's basically what I said:

My top five books would probably cross boundaries outside of espresso, mainly because they give you the core knowledge and appreciation about why this bean is so sought after, and why a guy like me would dedicate literally thousands of hours of unpaid labour "of love" to coffee and espresso in writing about it, building shrines (read: websites) to it, and so on.

But I'll give it a stab:

All About Coffee, 2nd Edition by William Ukers. $90
The book I cherish more than any other would probably be this one. It's out of print officially, but the SCAA ( has done a reprint by photographing a mint original donated by Don Schoenholt to the organization. It isn't cheap: about $100, but Sweet Marias (linked above) sells it for $90. This book was the be all, end all of coffee knowledge in 1935 when it was published, and in many ways continues to be that way today. It's often refered to as the "bible" of the world of coffee, and I believe it.

Espresso Coffee: The Chemistry of Quality, Andrea Illy (ed), about $30 or $40.
It absolutely sucks that Amazon can't seem to stock this book any longer - it's by far the best comprehensive, scientific analysis of modern day espresso.  I had to read this book at least five times to 'get it' but it has taught me more about the core of what constitutes the perfect coffee beverage than anything else.

Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques, David Schomer, $28
Schomer's book doesn't have the breadth or scientific backing that the Illy book has, and it does have a definite West Coast espresso slant, but it is chok full of theories, explanations, and walk throughs on how to do it like the highest-rated pros in the Seatle Espresso scene. A must read.

Uncommon Grounds, Mark Pendergrast, $13.30
This book taught me more about the history, politics, and development of coffee (in the good times and bad) than any other book, save for the Ukers book. Very US centric and very "drip coffee, ground coffee, roasted coffee" focused, it nevertheless provides you with a sound understanding of the development of the business (and enjoyment or lack thereof) of coffee in the USA.

The Great Coffee Book, Timothy Castle and Joan Nielsen, $11
This is one of my most recent books on coffee, but Tim Castle "gets it" in a big way and his talk in the book, while boastful, will boost your coffee and espresso ability just through the confidence the book exudes. After reading this too-short book, I had an irrisistable urge to roast coffee and brew espresso.

Beyond the Top Five

I have other books that I cherish and regard as a big help to my coffee and espresso education, beyond my top five. It would be unfair not to list them as well:

Home Coffee Roasting, Ken Davids; Espresso, Ken Davids; Espresso: Culture and Cuisine, Karl Petzke, Coffee Basics, By Kevin Knox; and Coffee Makers: 300 Years of Design, Edward Bramah.

I love books!

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