In preparation for writing this review, I decided to read a few other book reviews. It’s been interesting hearing opinions by other people on the books they have read. I hope that this review, and future book reviews I write, can deliver the same sense of insight. I already want to buy two books I read about before I started to write this article.
Yesterday, I received my copy of Coffee: A Modern Field Guide. Written by Mat North, this book is an excellent refresher on the coffee industry from seed to cup. After a short, two-page introduction, the book starts. The first chapter focuses on the seed of the coffee. I am less familiar with the agricultural side of coffee and it was nice to read a bit of theory about the coffee seed.
In this chapter, I found that two diagrams stuck out above all the rest. One diagram showed different coffee species side-by-side. I did not know how different each coffee species looked. I’ll need to compare the beans I have in the cupboard. Another diagram showed off the different varieties of coffee and their descendants. While I will never remember the entire diagram, it is a useful reference.
The chapters in the book sequentially go from bean to cup. Following the chapter on the coffee plant, I read about growing, milling, roasting, brewing, and then, finally, tasting. I liked how each chapter was short and to-the-point. I felt that each chapter went into quite a bit of depth for such a small book but not so much as to make me lose interest in reading further.
I did learn a lot from this book. I find that I learn a lot from any coffee book I read. I learned, for instance, that there are two different types of mills. One mill, the wet mill, processes beans before the green bean is extracted. The other mill, the dry mill, processes green beans after the wet mill. These beans are packaged into sacks which are then sent away to the next stage of the production process.
I cannot forget the diagram of a coffee roaster in this book. It shows how a coffee roaster works. Alongside the diagram there are four or five boxes of text, each of which elaborate on a different part of the roasting process. I learned a lot from this one diagram alone. I did not realize that fans cooled down the beans after they enter the cooling tray. (I do know some roasters put water on their beans, but this was not covered in the book, nor is it what I would call common knowledge.)
I was somewhat disappointed when I saw the size of the parcel in which my book was delivered. I was somewhat expecting that the parcel was just a notification that the book was going to arrive. I know that does not make much sense but the package was small. But, the size of this book is not indicative of its quality or comprehension in any way.
North does a great job of exploring the journey of a coffee bean. Through the use of detailed diagrams and illustrations, he is able to add a new dynamic to the text in the book. I can still see a few of the diagrams in my mind even after I’ve put the book down. The diagrams I’ve seen in this book are among the best I have ever seen on the coffee industry.
I paid eight pounds for this book. It was worth every penny. It only took me about twenty, maybe twenty-five minutes, to read the book. This makes sense because the book is intended as a pocket guide. In the introduction, North is very forthcoming by saying that the book is not to be the be-all and end-all of all coffee books. Later, he says that he will not discuss espresso because it deserves its own book. North has done an excellent job of deciding what information is relevant for a pocket guide and what is unnecessary.
I’d recommend this book if you already have some knowledge of coffee and want to learn more. It could be useful for beginners but I feel that some of the terminology would have been beyond me when I first got started learning about speciality coffee.
You can buy this book from https://www.hasbean.co.uk/products/coffee-a-modern-field-guide.