Book Review: “I love Coffee” by Susan Zimmer

Several weeks ago an e-mail came through this site from a publishers asking for my address so they could send me a book. I was surprised, a little skeptical but gave it to them and this morning a book arrived. For free. I’ll be getting guest list for CoE next….

Anyway – I’ve had a chance to read through the book so I thought I’d write a little review (which I presume to be the reason they sent it to me…..)

The book is by Susan Zimmer whose biog is here. On the surface this books seems similar to “Coffee Cafe” by Sherri Johns that came out last year. The first part of the book being a bit about coffee and brewing in general and the bulk of the book then given over to coffee based recipes.

This book seems to be pitched at baristas, and many competing baristas are constantly on the hunt for new ideas for signature drinks so may look to books like this for inspiration. Of the two Sherri John’s is probably better as it has drinks contributed by previous champions and less of the drinks contain alcohol. However there are two drinks in here from Sammy Piccolo of Artigiano/49th Parallel Roasters (I am not entirely sure which, do please correct me if you know). Sammy also did the latte art throughout the book, and its nice to see pictures of espresso with a healthy crema – all to rare in most coffee literature!

The book has something of an old school feel to it – espressos are 45ml, you can make milk foam using your French Press as a kind of butter churn (not one I had heard before, or one I think I’d recommend!) and coffee from origin countries talked about in sweeping terms. However the photography is pretty good, and a few of the drinks are of interest – though quite a few of the recipes come from syrup suppliers so you need a well stocked cabinet of flavoured sweetness to try them all and I confess I am unlikely to lay my hands on Thai flavoured syrup very soon.

All in all an odd mix of the older style tempered by some good information likely supplied by a few wise contributors. A shame they didn’t have a little more influence. One for the completists but for most of the people reading this blog it is worth looking through the recipes to see if there is something you like and probably not for the first part.

Perhaps also worth noting that the author is donating a portion of her proceeds to CoffeeKids which is only a good thing.

7 Comments

  1. I used to “froth” milk using a french press when I had no alternative and wanted some texture in my milk. There’s a bit of an art to it — not aerating too much etc — but unfortunately it cools the milk down.

  2. Jim~ It was nice of you to review this book, but I think you were a bit harsh. I must take exception (kindly) to your inference that Susan Zimmer’s “I LOVE COFFEE” seems simliar to Sherri John’s book from last year. You will probably enjoy learning that Susan Zimmer’s self-published “Cappuccino Cocktails,” came out in 2001 and she followed that up with a revised edition titled “Cappuccino Cocktails and Espresso Martinis” in 2004 – enjoying several printings of both publications. She has sold more than 30,000 copies of her coffee recipe books since 2001. (That is a HUGE number of copies to sell; according to Publishers Weekly, which tracked 1.2 Million titles, only 25,000 titles sold more than 5,000 copies! Zimmer is in an elite group of authors.)

    I am the author of “The Art of the Business Lunch ~ Building Relationships Between 12 and 2,” (Career Press, 2006, http://www.RobinJay.com). My path crossed with Susan’s in 2004 and we have stayed in touch ever since. I enjoy her unique style and her passion for what she does. Coffee has been her life for nearly twenty years. When she wanted to sell her book, I introduced her to my agent who signed her immediately. It wasn’t long before she had a publisher who wanted to buy her work.

    Her newest book is the Andrews McMeel version, updated according to her publisher’s specs and requests. Her vast knowledge regarding the history of coffee lends more readability to her book, as opposed to a book that is just one recipe after another. Many coffee lovers have never been exposed to the stories behind the bean and it makes interesting reading. It’s always fun to know a bit about what you are making or drinking. In my book, I advocate being prepared for casual conversation. Nothing like sharing a few coffee facts to impress or entertain your clients while at a business lunch. I think it’s fun to know that more than 25 million people work in the coffee industry worldwide, or that there are significant cultural differences in how people like their coffee; Italians drink espresso with sugar, Middle Easterners drink theirs with cardamom, and so on. From the descriptions of the various beans to the different brewing techniques available, I found Susan’s newest book to be as rich as a perfect crema!

    I am a gourmet cook and I enjoy knowing what I’m working with, what I’m drinking and especially how to improve something or take it to a higher level. I don’t agree with your opinion that this book is targeted toward baristas at all. We live in an era when regular people – as opposed to people in the food industry – attend wine tasting classes. Chefs have suddenly become superstars. Iron Chef America rocks, Paula Deen and Rachel Ray top the recipe book charts and the Ace of Cakes builds cakes that spin and light up! It’s not our parent’s world anymore. There is a Starbucks on every corner (sometimes even on opposite corners of the same intersection), and I have never heard anyone in there order just “A cup of coffee, black.” I think now, more than ever before, it’s not enough to just cook or drink. We want to UNDERSTAND what we are doing, and the more we know, the better.

    Susan’s book, “I LOVE COFFEE,” is sensational. I plan on giving it as hostess gifts or holiday gifts later this year – it has such universal appeal! I was so surprised when I read your blog…and your implication that Zimmer may have copied Sherri Johns’ work. I thought you would appreciate knowing who was really first out of the gate. And finally, Jim, in appreciation for letting me rant a bit, I would love to send you a signed copy of my book. Just e-mail me and it’s yours.

  3. Thanks for the review, I have read Susans other books and found somewhat the same thing you were describing. I am always casting my net pretty wide to cull new recipes. I like Sherri Johns book in so far as the drinks are pretty coffee based. In my coffee bar/roastery the criteria for our signature drinks is pulling out the nuances of single variatals of coffee, tasteful and thoughtful additions to brew and espresso: Spices, essences-good. Syrups, bad. The mermaid can pass off a 20 oz snickerdoodlewhipchococ-chino monstrosity making coffee a flavour in the mix. Any body can add french vanilla. It is another thing altogether to have a single ristretto of first crop Ethiopian Harrar.
    For a great books on coffee and coffee forward drinks, Kenneth Davids is a demi-god. His books aptly titled: Coffee; Espresso; and Home Coffee Roasting. are great. For the repsonse above a good book for the foodie crowd “Cooking with Chocolate and Coffee” By Catherine Atkinson, Mary Banks, Christine France and Christine Mcfadden is a decent production. The coffee history section alone is worth the cover price.
    I look forward to reading more of your blogs,
    Cheers,
    Andrew Legg

  4. I apologise we had a case of a premature posting on my first response. (the problem of writing and running the coffee bar)

  5. No problem Andrew – I have removed the first one. I will respond to both new comments above when I have had a little think.

  6. I think as we all get older we enjoy the tips from the pros that have been around the block. New coffee recipes are always exciting, and will probably try them all.

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