The Piglet

Piglet Community Pick: The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

By • February 11, 2013 • 22 Comments

Read up on some of 2012's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.   

Today: Fiveandspice brews and bakes her way through The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee.

The one worry I had as I ordered my copy of The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee was that I would find it to be what a coffee book could so easily be these days: an esoteric, even judgmental, treatise on coffee roasting and brewing, interesting only to those who obsess over finding ingredients you’ve never tasted and discussing obscure Swedish punk-rock you’ve never heard of. Happily, it was nothing of the sort. At times, admittedly, the book seems like a parody of itself. James Freeman’s prose ranges from dramatic (“roasters choose to animate their terrible feelings of anxiety, dread, and responsibility and face the daunting task of roasting coffee”) to philosophical (“the act of ontological transformation initiated by drinking coffee”), but what saves it from being ridiculous, and in fact makes it charming, is that it’s obviously 100% earnest as well as informative. Freeman describes growing, processing, and roasting coffee in terms more often found in suspense novels because that is how exciting and awe-inspiring he finds it. Who can blame him, then, for wanting to share this enthusiasm and love with others? I quickly found myself as intrigued by the natural history of a coffee bean and the people who grow them as I’ve ever been by any story.

But the proof is in the pudding. Or coffee cup. There was a great deal of muttering and quiet cursing as I followed Freeman’s pour-over instructions, weighing out my beans and taking simmering water’s temperature at 6am. “This should definitely be left to baristas,” I thought as I watchfully kept the height of the water at the appropriate level in the filter. But when I finally tasted my cup of coffee, all muttering stopped. It was exponentially better than the coffee we normally brew in the morning. As promised, it was a whole different beverage. I’ve repeated the process almost every morning since, and I’ve had similar success with the French press method from the book.

I spent even more time with the recipe portion of Blue Bottle, charmingly grouped into categories like “with your morning coffee” and “perfect for dunking.” The sunny photos and Caitlin Freeman’s simple, chatty descriptions of why she loves each recipe easily convinced me that I wished to try every last one. Pixie Tangerine Chiffon Cake? Strawberry Buckle with Lemon-Pistachio Streusel? Yes please! Every recipe I tried was a hit. The Rosemary Shortbread was buttery and crumbly, the Saffron Snickerdoodles caramel-y and fragrant, the waffles fluffy and rich. The Catalan Eggs, poached eggs with braised greens and tomato sauce, earned a spot in my favorite breakfasts patheon.  

All that said, the real review is this: I bought this book as a Christmas gift for the coffee drinkers and bakers in my life. They were all thrilled.

Have you cooked from this book? Tell us what you think in the comments! 

Lucky you. We have much more where this came from: 

    

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Tags: piglet community picks, cookbooks, blue bottle, fiveandspice

Comments (22)

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over 1 year ago EmilyC

Great review -- I loved the part about how you were quietly cursing their instructions at 6 am! And those Catalan Eggs sound awesome.

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Haha, thanks Em. My husband thought it was pretty hilarious to watch me...and not help at all! :)

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over 1 year ago Carolyn Z

I also made the rosemary shortbread. We ate about one-third of the batch and then froze the rest for when we want yummy cookies. Made the Strawberry Buckle, but with ripe pears, orange zest, and almonds. The cake did cave in as she said it might. Cake for breakfast was wonderful. Now if I can just get to one of their locations and taste the incredible coffee. Everyone raves. I enjoyed reading the entire book on the Kindle.

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Great idea to freeze some of the cookies for later.

Mcs

over 1 year ago mcs3000

Enjoyed this review. I can vouch for those shortbread cookies. Buy them there + made the recipe in the book. Love those cookies and anything BB

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Lucky you! :)

Birthday_2012

over 1 year ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

great review, want the book and wish I had the cup of coffee you described right now ... evocative writing!

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you!

P1020611

over 1 year ago mariaraynal

Really nice review... am tempted to buy the book, especially now that I realize our at-home brew is no doubt hopelessly inadequate. And then you mentioned rosemary shortbread. And, really, who wouldn't be taken in by a coffee table book about coffee!

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Exactly! It's so meta, hehe. I really enjoyed the book. It may not be an absolute must-own, but it's awfully fun to have and get to know so much more about coffee, as well as have a good line up of potential nibbles to go with that excellent coffee.

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

p.s. LOVED your review last week, but never managed to pull my brain together enough to comment. :)

P1020611

over 1 year ago mariaraynal

Thank you, Emily!

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over 1 year ago jwiz

you must be from minnesota. So earnest;)

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Minnesotans, notoriously into earnestness.

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over 1 year ago nightkitchen

Those baked goods sound so good! Really the only time I want sweets is with a good cup of coffee. Will have to check the book out.

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I agree totally. A cup of coffee really does go so perfectly with just a little something sweet.

Dsc00859_2

over 1 year ago creamtea

Oh 5&S, you've created a need. Great review!!

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Uh oh. ;)

Gator_cake

over 1 year ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Great review! I wish I had a stack of Rosemary Shortbread or Saffron Snickerdoodles to go with my coffee every day!

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I wish I did too! Sadly, that only happens now and then, but those are very, very good days.

Beaune_02_april_08_063

over 1 year ago enbe

So that's where my secret santa treats came from! Delish!

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Yup. :)