The Craft and Science of Coffee by Britta Folmer

Cover image credit: Amazon.com

This is really several books in one, covering a wide range of topics in and aspects of the coffee value chain. Each section has been written by different authors/experts, some sections with several different authors (there are 60 listed contributors to the book!). This gives it a feeling of more of a compendium than a single, cohesive work done by one author.

“For this book, we have carefully sought out coffee leaders to represent their areas of expertise, in an effort to bring to the surface the very best thinking on these topics.” (Pg. XXI)

The goal of the book is to create new value in coffee by strengthening the ties between craft and science. In order for this to happen, the book needs to be widely read and understood and that’s where this review comes in; I hope that I can convince you to purchase a copy—I have no vested interest to do so, but as a coffee trainer and professional, I share the stated goal and want to support their efforts.

“[W]e hope to stimulate cross-learning and silo-hopping explorations among the scientists and craftspeople, provoke curiosity, and answer questions.” (Pg. XXV)

The chapters are laid out in a logical order that follows the bean from seed to cup. There are twenty chapters in total that cover topics from production to post harvesting procedures, all three aspects of sustainability (each with its own chapter), cupping and grading (for sourcing), trading, decaffeination, roasting, grinding, freshness, brewing, water quality, crema gets its own chapter, sensory evaluation (for production), coffee consumerism, and finally coffee’s impacts on one’s health. As you can see, it’s quite a thorough coverage of the coffee value chain.

One of the very few complaints I have with the book—and it’s a complaint I have in general with the specialty coffee industry— is that it focuses too much on New World coffee i.e., Latin America. It’s not that other producing countries are not mentioned at all in the book—they are—it’s that Latin America gets a lot of attention. This could be small things like referring to coffee leaf rust by its Spanish name roya, or berry borer beetles by their Spanish name; broca. This can be confusing for readers who’s coffee experience lies further east.

Diving deeper into the book; I was very happy with the chapters on roasting. I started my career in coffee as a roaster and therefore that aspect is quite near-and-dear to me. Those chapters on roasting (there are two: The Roast—Creating the Beans’ Signature and The Chemistry of Roasting—Decoding Flavor Formation) are two of my most-annotated chapters of the book and I feel like they provide a lot of good information that will help improve my roasting abilities.

I have heard someone mention that this book is meant to be the new Espresso Coffee: The Science Of Quality. Time will tell if that’s true but for now I think it’s a solid addition to the bookshelf of the serious coffee professional. It goes deep on many aspects of coffee from the field to the cafe and I think the many authors have achieved their goal of keeping the content accessible to nonspecialists and specialists alike.


Michael C. Wright

Michael is an American expat living in Singapore where he writes about many things coffee-related. A roaster by trade, Michael is also a licensed Q Grader and an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST).

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