Best Coffee Roasting Book: Scott Rao’s The Coffee Roaster’s Companion

There’s no need to rub it in guys, I already know I’m super late with this review. But where I lack haste, I’ll try and make up for with sheer honesty. For instance, I had zero experience with proper coffee roasting machines until just a couple months ago. And few things can be as humbling as tying to teach yourself how to roast good coffee. So when I finally got a fluid bed, my only question was, ‘what book will literally hold my hand in my search for the perfect roast’?

Rao wasn’t my first option, never even heard of the guy. Instead, I bought a couple of other famous choices that are honestly wouldn’t improve your roasting whether personally or commercially. Turns out roasting is quite the tricky business; a complex skill that few have mastered.

Learning to roast is more trial and error than art, especially if you’re just starting out with your own home coffee roaster. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about a certain coffee legend and his revolutionary book.

Bought it, read it, re-read it and I only have five words to describe it – Influential work of roasting genius. Here’s my review of Scott Rao’s magnum opus, The Coffee Roaster’s Companion.

Your personal roasting companion

Looking at the book, it’s easy to be misled by the super slim profile. But judging this particular piece by its cover would be a big mistake. This compact book puts together over 20 years coffee roasting experience with content dense enough to engage and intrigue even the most seasoned barista. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but laud Rao’s ability to use a style that is more than approachable enough for greenhorns and hobbyists like me.

Apart from being incredibly influential, the book strikes a nice balance between practical roasting advice and technical theory. The book’s structure is unusual with very short sentences; but each is densely packed with information like a generous shot of espresso.

The first several chapters touch on everything to do with green coffee including the growing, chemistry, processing and storage – all which can affect the final roast. The roasting chapters follow later and give background knowledge with the golden principles of roasting. The author uses a concise, simple yet comprehensible writing style with an abundance of trusted references.

I’ll be the first to admit, writing about roasting chemistry seems like an impossible task. So kudos to Scott for doing such an impressive job by cutting right to the chase and presenting the crucial details in a real and accessible manner.

Some of the practical information covered in The Coffee Roaster’s Companion include extremely helpful topics like roast development, rate of rise (RoR), cracking, and much more. One thing you definitely learn here is that if you don’t like math, the roasting might be the wrong profession for you.

Scott Rao’s word to the Wise

Fact; no one really likes reading through the technical theory segment because it’s detailed, intricate, and has enough math to put you to sleep. Like most people, you’ll probably rush right to the practical roasting advice and how to chapter for instant gratification. But even the author advises against this in a few words to the wise.

Scott Rao says that like a film, The Coffee Roaster’s Companion is a coherent whole with roasting being the climax. All the other chapters play a vital role building the foundation and paving the way to create the perfect roast. As such, readers who cherry pick through specific parts will definitely end up missing the big picture and misapplying some recommendations. Long story short, putting a puzzle together is always easier if you saw the complete image first.

Final word

Before I conclude, it’s worth noting that not everyone will agree with what The Coffee Roaster’s Companion stands for. See, coffee roasting has been presented as an art or personal expression of the roaster s opposed to an exact science.

What I mean is, your idea of an espresso might not be another person’s cup of tea so to speak (no pun intended). Still, the author is cautious and open to discussion.

I’d advice anyone interested in roasting their own coffee to at least check out The Coffee Roaster’s Companion. And even if you don’t agree with everything Scott has to say, you’ll find your own skills and opinions sharpened by his careful thinking. Besides, having 20 years of coffee roasting experience on your fingertips wouldn’t hurt, right?

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