Book review: Everything but Espresso

May 31st, 2010

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.


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

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