Essential reading: The best books for learning the art of coffee roasting

Kahwei Yoong
May 12, 2021
coffee roasting books

Whether an experienced roaster or a complete beginner, there are always new things to learn in the art of coffee roasting. The more knowledge you have of green beans, charge temperatures, rate of rise, and carbonic maceration, the better you’ll be able to control the process of roasting and the better your coffee will be.

One of the easiest and most accessible ways to learn about roasting is through reading books. Reading enables you to learn from experts, discover different approaches, and pick up tips and tricks along the way. It can also help expose the flaws in your own roasting that you may otherwise never have noticed.

Here’s a list of the best books for improving your knowledge of coffee roasting based on the recommendations of several experts in the field.

See also: Coffee Roasting Basics: A Guide To First & Second Crack

The Coffee Roaster’s Companion

World Cup Tasters Champion Daniel Horbat recommends…The Coffee Roaster’s Companion by Scott Rao

Scott Rao is a seasoned coffee consultant who has worked with many roasters from all around the world. The Coffee Roaster’s Companion is a culmination of more than two decades of roasting experience that aims to provide systematic guidance on how to achieve quality in coffee roasting.

Often dubbed “the bible of coffee roasting”, Rao’s book comprises seventeen chapters that open with topics on the most basic components of coffee roasting, from roast profiles and green coffee characteristics, to processing methods and storage techniques.

Rao also provides an overview of what happens during roasting, both physically and chemically. Readers can learn about the different effects of heat during a roast, as well as variables that influence roasting results. The aim is to help roasters better control and manage their roast process, from start to finish.

Between chapters, Rao shares the mistakes he made when he first started roasting so that readers can recognise their own mistakes and work towards rectifying them. The book also includes a chapter on the “Three Commandments of Roasting”, in which he outlines three guiding principles that will make you a better roaster.

Overall, the content strikes a good balance between technical explanations and practical advice. Covering topics from green coffee and roasting chemistry, to mastering consistency and choosing a roasting machine, The Coffee Roaster’s Companion provides a comprehensive guide to the coffee roasting process as well as actionable advice that roasters can immediately put into practice.

Modulating the Flavor Profile of Coffee: One Roaster's Manifesto

Roast master Matthew Deyn recommends…Modulating the Flavor Profile of Coffee: One Roaster’s Manifesto by Rob Hoos

Rob Hoos is a coffee roasting professional who’s been working in the industry since 2006. His experience spans a wide range of work, including flavour profile matching consultancy. Hoos wrote Modulating the Flavor Profile of Coffee to share his approach towards coffee roasting with a strong focus on flavour development.

The book provides an in-depth analysis of chemical changes that occur during roasting and how flavours can be modulated. Hoos breaks the whole roasting process down into a few individual segments and explores the different mechanisms at work. He writes about the drying phase, Maillard reaction (pre-first crack), development phase (post-first crack), drop temperature, and internal bean pressure.

In particular, he explains that controlling the duration of the Maillard reaction is useful for modulating the body of coffee while adjusting development time in relation to the degradation of organic acid helps to modulate acidity and complexity.

The author notes that drop temperature is an indicator heavily connected to the degree of caramelisation and pyrolysis during the development phase. Having too little or too much of these chemical reactions may lead to vegetal tones or highly bitter flavours with low complexity. Hoos also shares observation and results of his own experiments when controlling different segments of the roasting process.

Modulating the Flavor Profile of Coffee is a good read for roasters looking to fine-tune their roast profile and bring out desirable flavours. It offers guidance on what to experiment with and how to do it so you can achieve predictable and more consistent results.

Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality

WBC-certified judge Danilo Lodi recommends…Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality by Andrea Illy and Rinantonio Viani

Roasters looking to sharpen their coffee knowledge with a more scientific focus will find much to pore over in this impressive work edited by Rinantonio Viani and illycaffè chairman, Andrea Illy. Featuring a collection of articles from a group of coffee technology specialists, Espresso Coffee reads like a dissertation on Italy’s favourite coffee drink.

The first half of the book is dedicated to the work that takes place at origin. It explores the coffee plant and its cultivation, agronomic practices, harvesting and post-harvesting methods, and other steps to prepare green coffee for export. It paints a clear picture that helps roasters understand what happens at the beginning of the coffee supply chain before the green beans arrive at the roastery.

Further into the book is an in-depth scientific explanation of the roasting process, which includes heat and energy transfer, physical and chemical changes of the bean, and composition of aromatic compounds. Readers will learn about the mechanics of grinding and the parameters that can affect the process. The book also presents potential causes of bean deterioration, highlighting the importance of packaging to protecting roasted coffee.

The final chapters of the book expand on the percolation method (used to prepare espresso), the physical and chemical characteristics of the beverage, how we perceive the coffee-drinking experience, and the science around coffee impact on health.

All in all, Espresso Coffee is quite a technical and scientific read for casual roasters. However, interspersed throughout are interesting facts that will provide a technical understanding of coffee from harvesting to brewing.

The Artisan Roaster: The Complete Guide to Setting Up Your Own Coffee Roastery Cafe

Roaster Kahwei Yoong recommends…The Artisan Roaster: The Complete Guide to Setting Up Your Own Coffee Roastery Cafe by David Rosa

The Artisan Roaster is a comprehensive guide to running a roastery by award-winning Australian coffee roaster and consultant, David Rosa. His book is targeted at both new and experienced roasters.

The chapters are organised into three key parts: getting started, roasting coffee, and running a business. In the first part, Rosa talks about everything that you need to know about setting up a coffee roastery, from site selection and lease negotiation, to space design and the purchase of machinery. 

In the second section, the book explores a broad range of topics, including green coffee, roasting chemistry and development, roasting techniques, coffee blending, and machine maintenance. The last section addresses the day-to-day operations of a business, from handling finances to branding, and expansion (or selling) of the business. 

Within the chapters, Rosa offers pragmatic advice and tips picked up during his two decades worth of experience, in hope that other people can learn something from his mistakes. He writes in a conversational tone, which makes it a light and easy-to-read book. 

The Artisan Roaster offers a good overview of what it takes to run a coffee roasting business and provides a practical guide for aspiring cafe or roastery owners.

coffee roasting books

While there are many resources out there to expand your knowledge on coffee, at MTPak Coffee we also have our very own Education Centre that produces bite-size articles on various topics related to roasting, packaging, coffee sector trends, and more. 

We also work with specialty coffee roasters from all around the world, providing sustainable packaging services that range from concept and design to manufacturing, printing, and delivery.

For more information about our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team here.

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