Brew Master

Blue Bottle's new book makes artisanal coffee fascinating

Geek speak is nigh impossible to write well.

Technical food writing (cough, Modernist Cuisine) often reads like a trigonometry textbook. All that talk of milligrams and ratios can suck the pleasure from cooking, leaving the reader with less of an appetite than when he or she opened the book.

Which is why The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee (Ten Speed Press; $25), which came out yesterday, is such a joy. James Freeman and co-writer Tara Duggan have brought Freeman's affable, wry humor to every paragraph.

From his description of the coffee-selection process to his (extremely) specific guide to tamping espresso in a filter basket, the Oakland roaster conveys his passion for precision without sounding dogmatic or–even worse–dull.

After reading the chapter on making coffee with a pour-over filter, the need to purchase a Hario kettle and a $130 burr grinder for our morning cup seems like a pleasant duty, as if we had been reminded to visit a favorite aunt.

And those of us who've made hundreds of trips to Blue Bottle's cafés will relish finding recipes to make Caitlin Freeman's treats, such as the Sesame-Absinthe Cigars (see the recipe), at home.

As soon as we buy a gram scale, of course.