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The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

Blue Bottle Craft of CoffeeThe Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes
by James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman and Tara Duggan
Photography by Clay McLachlan
Illustrations by Michelle Ott
Published by Ten Speed Press

If you haven’t had the chance to visit Blue Bottle Coffee in the Bay Area or NYC, then you may not have heard of their cafes and roasted beans. If you are so lucky to have visited one, you are corrupted and will never be the same. For the rest of us there is The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee.

Putting the craft into pour-over coffee

Great pour-over coffee starts with great beans roasted to perfection. That’s where James Freeman started, roasting beans in his stove. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee starts with James’s story of how he got from professional clarinetist performing in various bay area orchestras to coffee artisan extraordinaire. In a nutshell: vision.

James started small, first roasting small batches that he sold at local farmers markets, and later buying a coffee cart in an out-of-the-way location. But before long, the quality of the coffee started bringing the customers in to the point there were always lines of people patiently waiting. The saying, “build it and they will come,” was certainly true for Blue Bottle Coffee.

Soil, altitude and attitude

While coffee originated in Ethiopia, most is now grown in Brazil. Many of the growers who are producing the best beans for roasting are located in Africa, South America, Hawaii and Asia, and Blue Bottle sources from all these locations. The first chapter of The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee covers coffee growing, bean structure, harvesting, origins, locations, processing and the history of coffee beans. He features a couple of growers and includes some side notes on coffee blends, acidity and other factors that are not well known to the average coffee drinker.

First crack at the crack of dawn

From using a lowly kitchen stove to restored Probat industrial roasting machines, Freeman evolved into a master roaster. The crazy dream to roast coffee in his backyard with an adobe brick roaster powered by his German Shepherd (Who would power with it with a treadmill?), spurred the decision to get it right instead, from which Blue Bottle was born. He takes us through the process of roasting (listen for the crack of the beans), cupping and tweaking for flavor, which is dictated by the beans. The good roaster, like the sculptor, draws the character and flavor out of the raw bean. The chapter also includes step-by-step instructions if you want to roast at home using the same stove technique.

Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee
Drink up

The next chapter covers some of Freeman’s preferred preparation techniques, including pour-over, French press, siphon, drip and espresso. (Be ready to fork out some serious money.)

He touches on Japanese coffee brewing tools and techniques. He offers pointers, how-to’s and sage advice. Note to the home brewer: Invest in a high-quality burr grinder.

Eat, drink and be merry

The last section of the book is devoted to the food that is served at the Blue Bottle Cafés. Try the coffee shop’s recipe for making homemade granola and yogurt. Also find recipes for crunchy biscotti, sweet madeleines, chocolate pudding, and savory delights like Braised Boar’s Shoulder and Stuart Brioza’s Tuna Melt Sandwiches. Afterword, toast to it all with Nopa’s Blue Bottle Martini.

The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

A classic American success story, The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, is conversational but informative. The photography is beautiful, as is the minimalist graphic design. This well-rounded guide complements anyone’s cookbook collection, as well as makes a worthy coffee table book.

The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee is available at your local bookstore or online.