Book review: Everything but Espresso

While at the SCAA I was delighted to catch up briefly with Scott Rao, and gratefully receive a copy of his new book.  While Scott and I have disagreed online from time to time, it has been more about discussion and debate of ideas than any kind of personal conflict.

I was extremely excited when I heard about what he was planning for the new book, and I was in no way disappointed.  If you want a one word review, so you don’t have to go any further, then I’d probably say: essential.

At the book’s core are simple ideas that I was already very much in agreement with:  even extraction of coffee, consistent technique and a high quality of extraction.

That didn’t mean that there weren’t new techniques or ideas for me.  As a result of the book I’ve been using agitation in the bloom, as well as at the end of pourover extractions, and have found that has it yielded improvements and good cup to cup consistency.

People will likely criticise the book because parts of chapters are critical of some current techniques, and I think that would be valid if Scott wasn’t offering alternatives to the methods he critiques.

With single cup brewing the devil really is in the detail.  Every 0.1g of coffee matters, every gram of water matters.  Understanding your technique, understanding the extraction of coffee, understanding the relationship of yield, strength and dose all matter.  It is no surprise that Scott is a big proponent of the ExtractMojo, but then I think everyone who has one and uses it properly becomes a huge fan.

I’m not going to detail here the exact suggestions made for brewing things like syphons, V60/Chemex or Clever coffee dripper because I think, if you are serious about wanting to brew coffee properly, that you should buy the book.  I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t adopted all of the techniques suggested, but I look forward to exploring more why I prefer my current technique rather than just close the door on them.  Nor do I think that these techniques have perfected coffee making – we’re always going to improve and explore the way we make coffee.  That said, this book will get you a long way along that road of exploration very quickly.

I can’t think of a comparable book to this, certainly not one I own or one available in English.  I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and opinions on it.  I think it is excellent and give it an absolute recommendation.

Links:

Scott Rao – Everything But Espresso
The Professional Barista’s Handbook (review)

11 Comments

  1. I agree, this book is essential. I like how Scott guides the reader through concepts and thoughts that could easily be misunderstood, especially in the grinding chapter and the difference between body and flavor. His graphic understanding is also very satisfying, at last explaining what was for me at the tip of the tounge but now I can explain with more confidence and with a better choice of words.

    In so many ways, this is an important book for baristas so that they can educate the customer with a deeper and more holistic approach.

    He also offers several suggestions for routines to enhance the quality of beverages, as well as constant maintenance for cafés, which is very helpful for anyone thinking about starting it’s own café.

    Essential. Yes!

  2. I’m gonna pick this one up for shure, as home-brewing is one of my biggest passions. I got a wonderful tip-top faema, mazzer, fresh quality beans and everything I could ask for at work, but spending the extra time with me hand-grinded, v60’d or aeropressed coffee at home is often even more rewarding on so many levels.

    As for comparisons, I agree there are none out there. I belive the Tim WendelBook is coming in english at wbc (?), which is a great GREAT book, but more for the home enthusiast than the coffee proffesional/home SUPERenthusiast. So they fill each their needs, which is great. Tim’s book is also useful for the proffesional that struggles to communicate some of the basics to customers though, as its extremely well formulated. Sometimes I miss having answers to the simplest of ‘why’s, and I guess both these books can answer these questions in different ways, which is good! Knowledge is power ;)

  3. I have to say – I am really looking forward to the Wendelbook in English!

  4. Since we acquired the refractometer and MoJoToGo at Comet a few weeks ago, we’ve noticed that there is a lot of inconsistency, from coffee to coffee, and especially from barista to barista. EBE is an absolute must read for anyone that takes coffee seriously, and the refractometer is an essential part of any respectable coffee shop. I respect Scott Rao a great deal, and I enjoy his writing because it’s concise and straight-forward; there is a lot of information packed into what is a pretty short book. I also can’t say enough about The Professional Barista’s Handbook. Both of his books are essential and refreshing reads, not unlike your own writing, James.

  5. A fine book made better through the steady use of science and fact to underpin theory. Timely.

  6. I keep running to the mailbox every day hoping to find this book inside…

  7. I actually highlighted this title in the latest edition of Fresh Cup magazine as one to purchase! I’m glad to have your opinion on it as well. Those who are critical of new or different techniques are being closed minded. The specialty coffee industry is really quite young, and to think that we already know all of the tricks of the trade is akin to those in 1900 who said everything had already been invented. It is blatant ignorance to believe that we can not improve the coffee experience! Thanks again for the recommendation, I will certainly be purchasing this book.

  8. Just read EBE from cover to cover. Very essential. It has just become required reading for all our new trainees, as it is concise, easy to follow, yet has enough science and depth to keep you from skimming. It also helped me with some frustrating issues I was having with my syphon. I think his, “It’s not magic” approach is very refreshing indeed.

Submit a comment