Backlist Spotlight: Craft Coffee

Our new Backlist Spotlight blog series will feature reviews of our backlist titles from current Agate interns. Follow Agate’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date on new releases and upcoming titles.

We are officially in the midst of autumn, and with the cold weather creeping in, many of us are turning to hot beverages for comfort. One such crucial beverage is coffee, a year-round drink that takes on a festive fall flair as companies like Starbucks roll out seasonal specialties (all hail the pumpkin spice latte!). With coffee shops and cafes available at practically every street corner, the sheer mass convenience can make many people forget that you can just as easily brew coffee at home. In her book Craft Coffee: A Manual, Jessica Easto sets out to make brewing the perfect cup of coffee at home more accessible to her fellow coffee enthusiasts. The book takes readers through every step of the coffee-making process, from where the beans are grown and how they are roasted, all the way to the different devices and techniques used to brew the drink. The book is even populated with helpful diagrams and charts for more visually inclined learners.  

Something to appreciate about Easto’s book is that it is very much targeted toward the average coffee-drinking enthusiast. Rather than reading like a barista’s crash course or an academic paper, Craft Coffee goes over every topic with understandable language and thorough detail. One notable topic that is missing from the book is a section on espresso, but Easto clarifies this omission early in her introduction; from her view, it is simply not feasible for the average brewer to make extraordinary espresso at home, at least not without substantial damage to their pocketbook. This goes to show that Easto is genuine in her intent to make craft coffee accessible. Rather than spending time explaining how to choose what $500 espresso maker to invest in, she chooses the more modest approach of teaching brewers how to make the most out of their French press, or specific techniques to use when making a pot of pour-over coffee. Perhaps one of the most helpful chapters is Chapter 4, where Easto talks about where and how to buy craft coffee beans, and even demystifies what the jargon on a bag of beans means. It turns out that there is a lot more to coffee beans than meets the eye. For example, the elevation at which the beans are grown has an impact on the flavor. I, for one, certainly didn’t know that beforehand!

As someone whose parents are coffee lovers, I have witnessed firsthand just how perplexing the world of craft coffee can be to an outsider. While brewing a simple pot of coffee doesn’t seem like a difficult task, brewing the perfect cup requires attention to detail and a healthy dose of patience. Craft Coffee: A Manual is written with the thoroughness and loving care that only a true coffee enthusiast could deliver. Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid coffee drinker, it’s worth looking at simply to find a newfound appreciation for the beverage. What’s more, brewing craft coffee is an endeavor that can be undertaken from the warmth and comfort of your own home, making it a great fit for society’s new norm of social distancing.  From a more philosophical view, one could say that this book seeks to impress on its readers the importance of approaching even the most mundane-seeming tasks, like making coffee, with thoughtfulness and intention. Whether your passion lies in making coffee, gardening, or knitting, mindfulness and meticulousness can pay off. Easto’s book shows that anything can be perfected, even the simple act of making a cup of coffee.

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