We have to admit, 2021 was the best year for books about coffee we’ve seen in a long time. (Admittedly, some of these books were published in 2020, but like Kendrick, we were busy ducking the pandemic and only picked them up this year.) Whether you’re looking to better educate yourself or shopping for that special barista in your life, these are the books that would be on our syllabus if we were teaching a graduate seminar on coffee.
Coffeeland by Augustine Sedgewick
How did a working-class man from Manchester, England create one of Central America’s largest coffee empires? The answer is a riveting story that has much to say about ongoing inequality in the coffee supply chain today. History professor Augustine Sedgewick situates the creation of the world’s largest coffee monoculture in the context of the industrial revolution, the spread of American imperialism, and the rise of Marxist revolutionaries. Coffeeland is unlike any coffee book we’ve read, but we dare say it should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to better understand the coffee industry.
The Physics of Filter Coffee by Jonathan Gagné
Canadian physicist Jonathan Gagné has written a unque and fascinating book in The Physics of Filter Coffee. Whether it’s microscope imaging analysis of coffee filters, or a scientific explanation of why your pour-over brews faster when you pour the water faster (turns out it’s something called Darcy’s Law), there’s a lot in this book that we’ve not seen anywhere else.
Nose Dive by Harold McGee
It’s hard to overstate the influence of Harold McGee’s 1984 book On Food and Cooking. The scientific approach to haute cuisine that’s so pervasive today can be seen as being shaped, at least in part, by a whole generation of chefs cutting their teeth on McGee’s seminal work. McGee’s new work Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells takes a deep dive (pun intended) into the complex and fascinating science of olfaction.
McGee starts the book with a charming anecdote about the first time he ate a grouse but doesn’t waste time digging into the nitty-gritty. Fans of McGee already know what to expect: dense chemistry made more accessible. Although the book covers everything from perfume to alcohol, coffee does get its own treatment as well.
Coffee Sensory and Cupping Handbook by Mario Roberto Fernández-Alduenda and Peter Giuliano
Official SCA Handbooks don’t come out often, but when they do, the coffee world takes notice. The series continues to set the industry standards on everything from espresso protocols to brewing parameters, which made the release of Coffee Sensory and Cupping Handbook at the 2021 SCA Expo in New Orleans significant.
Fernández-Alduenda and Giuliano set out to bridge the gap between academic sensory science and the practical concerns of the coffee industry. The book also features great charts and illustrations. File this under must-reading for any coffee cupper, roaster, or barista who wants to improve their tasting skills.