Mastering the difference between a cappuccino and latte is one thing, but if you really want to get into coffee there’s a lot to learn…
The world of coffee is as simple or complex as you want it to be.
For some, it begins and ends with a well-made brew, for others it’s a field of study - endlessly fascinating, often leading to a deeper appreciation of the drink.
If you’re determined to get well-versed in all things coffee - we suggest doing it gradually and bit by bit. There’s no master resource. No singular coffee bible. No one course that encompasses everything.
We know how easy it is to get lost in the weeds so below we’ve listed some topics to explore, accompanied by resources to read, documentaries to watch, apps to download, and hands-on courses to attend.
Start Learning More About Coffee By Exploring These 9 Topics
- Coffee varieties and origins
- Coffee brewing methods
- Barista skills
- Coffee equipment and gadgets
- Coffee culture and history
- Coffee farming and processing
- Sustainability in coffee
- Coffee roasting
- Coffee pairing
Don’t worry about finding one single ‘perfect’ or ‘best’ place to start learning - pick an area that interests you and go from there.
Note: this list is not exhaustive; there’s always more to learn about coffee and (unsurprisingly) topics overlap.
Coffee varieties and origins
Bourbon, Bernadina, Caturra, Catimor…this is a deep rabbit hole of a topic. Get stuck in by learning about different coffee varieties (or ‘varietals’) and the regions they’re grown.
Start here: A short introduction to coffee varieties — (the World Coffee Research has a more in-depth catalog on coffee varieties - intended for coffee producers but worth a read).
Tell me more: Get experimental and sign up to a Discovery Subscription — coffee delivered straight to your door from a variety of origins. Get a sense of what’s out there and what different coffees taste like.
Go further: Attend a ‘cupping’ class — learn to distinguish the varietal character of different coffees. You could take notes in a coffee journal.
Coffee brewing methods
If you’d like to understand the intricate differences between pour-over and drip-brew, french-press and espresso-making, the best kind of education is always going to be practical and hands-on.
Start here: Home Brew Course — a brewing workshop, taught by senior baristas and roasters. Learn how to make great coffee at home with simple equipment while discovering the most accessible home brewing methods. Relaxed, informed and crammed full of coffee-knowledge. 90% practical.
Tell me more: A good collection of brew guides can be found by visiting brewmethods.com
Go further: It might be time to invest in different bits of kit. Experiment with methods at home. You might even end up making your own water.
Maybe you’ve never made an espresso before. Or you make them obsessively. Either way, attending the right kind of barista course will teach you a lot.
Start here: Basic Barista Course — a hands-on introduction to the workings of a professional espresso machine and grinder. Learn how to make the perfect latte and cappuccino. Ask all coffee your questions to the senior baristas or roasters who teach the course.
Tell me more: Intermediate Barista Course — for the enthusiast looking to get more experience and a deeper knowledge of coffee. Flavour profile recognition. In-depth analysis of espresso extraction. How to create recipes. Plus lots more.
Go further: Advanced Latte Art Course — You might be able to pull the perfect espresso shot, but how good is your latte art? If you want to get better, you’re going to want to come to this class (aimed at the skilled professional barista or home enthusiast).
Coffee equipment and gadgets
Milk frothers, grinders, filters, decanters, siphon brewers, tampers - there’s no end to gear in the coffee world. Get familiar with the key tools behind the brews and be tempted by all those unnecessary-but-necessary coffee bits.
Start here: Watch James Hoffaman’s, A Beginners Guide To Coffee Grinders
Tell me more: Read this - Want to Improve Coffee? Get a Scale
Go further: Before buying everything, read this Reddit thread: ‘What coffee gear did you buy thinking you’d use it a ton, but it’s just gathering dust’
Coffee culture and history
There’s loads of compelling knowledge to pick up in this area. Like Ethiopian coffee ceremonies that last several hours. Or learning about the colonial roots of coffee production.
Start here: Listen to A History of Coffee Podcast - a brilliant podcast series by historian Jonathan Morris and documentary maker James Harper, charting the origins of coffee. There’s a book version too.
Tell me more: Subscribe to Standart - a great independent coffee magazine that touches on different parts of global coffee culture, inclusive to a broad selection of coffee topics.
Go further: Go on a coffee-pilgrimage. No seriously. Why not plan your next trip to a coffee country? Or take a virtual one.
Coffee farming and processing
If the farming side of things interests you, look into the economics and science behind growing coffee, the painstaking farming practices, techniques for removing the layers on the coffee cherry surrounding the bean, fermentation, diseases, pests, and (much) more.
Start here: Read Tim Wedelboe’s interview about starting a coffee farm in Colombia.
Tell me more: Watch this 9 minute documentary on How Coffee is Grown in Tanzania.
Go further: Download this very comprehensive, 900 page PDF - Coffee: Growing, Processing, Sustainable Production (topics covered include ‘Biotechnologies Applied to Coffee’ and ‘Shade Management’)
Sustainability in coffee
Sustainability touches and ties into everything - from how coffee is made to how it’s consumed.
Start here: Read about The Environmental Impact of Coffee Production
Tell me more: Learn about Coffee Logs - an eco-friendly solution to spent coffee grounds.
Go further: Consider taking a specialised course, like the Specialty Coffee Association’s Coffee Sustainability Program
Roasting is a topic that’s important to us at 200 Degrees. In this field, you can dig into subjects like ‘degassing’ and gain knowledge on how the roasting process works in professional roast houses.
Start here: Read this Roasting Q&A with our Head Roaster, Mike Steel.
Tell me more: Read The Coffee Roaster’s Companion by Scott Rao
Go further: This is what to do if you fancy roasting coffee at home.
A comprehensive coffee education might require donuts being brought into the equation…
Start here: Read this article from the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science.
Tell me more: Sit at home with snacks and coffees to discover what goes well with what (kindly share your findings with us).
Go further: If you can find one, take yourself on a dedicated pairing course (they appear in event calendars every now and again).
5 Ideas For Anyone Who Wants to Learn More About Coffee
A list of accessible places to learn more about coffee.
Learn by doing: attend a coffee workshop
Whether you know nothing or something about coffee, 200 Degrees run courses for everyone. In total, we have 6 Barista Schools around the UK. They are the perfect environment to ask our senior baristas and roasters as many questions as you want, while getting hands-on with top-range equipment. Find out more here. (You’ll also be taking home a free bag of 200 Degrees coffee and a voucher for 10% off any kit or machinery in-store).
Get involved in a coffee forum
If your friends are not interested in chatting about anaerobic fermentation, join the ‘r/Coffee’ community on Reddit. Brewing with discussions, it’s a good place to ask your questions, air your coffee-grievances, debate the snobbery surrounding decaf, and generally just geek out with like-minded internet strangers.
Subscribe to a Youtube channel
James Hoffman produces a ton of coffee content; his Youtube channel has plenty of informative videos on everything from explanations about grind size, to rating different pieces of equipment.
Read these books
If you’re after a book suited for leisurely reading, try The New Rules of Coffee. If you’re interested in pouring over the sciencey stuff, go for The Craft and Science of Coffee.
Follow these Instagram accounts
Learn as you scroll; optimise your feed with some hard coffee knowledge:
Download this app
For anyone trying to get their head around things like brewing measurements and coffee to water ratios, our Quality Assurance manager Alex Spampinato recommends an app called Filtru.