David Schomer's legendary book on everything you wanted to know about espresso techniques.
Negative Product Points
If you don't have the horsepower, this book may not do you much good.
Direct from Espresso Vivace, cost $31.35 including postage via UPS. Ordered on a Thursday evening, showed up the next Monday. This book is in its third printing, Jan 1998. Schomer's book is addressed to the professional espresso business. For the home espresso fanatic, that means that the espresso machine as well as the grinder have to be up to that commercial level of quality. Pulling shots of espresso is an exceedingly ruthless process that will expose any flaw(s) in one's machinery as well as techniques. Schomer's book details it all very well and could not be any more clear. However, he is writing based upon a preference for the northern style of Italian espresso, meaning not dark roasted with an oily surface (ala southern Italian espresso). Although there maybe idiosyncracies from machine to machine, the ground work is layed out here so that no one needs to re-invent the wheel. So what is his basic criteria: the espresso should taste just like the freshly ground roasted coffee beans smell. And that is an exceedingly difficult standard to reach. Espresso is an exceedingly complex process that at first seems to only require one to flip the switch on and then off. One quickly begins to realize just how complicated making first rate espresso is. The more one knows, the more complicated it becomes. Basically, Schomer is attempting to control all the variables that he can. This implies that the espresso machine and the grinder are able to constantly deliver the same quality shot after shot, if those variables are controlled. For those with near commercial grade equipment, this book will totally vanquish all of Starbucks and the vast majority of restaurants who have commercial grade equipment, but don't have the slightest idea on how to use it or fine tune it. Or as the analogy goes: Starbucks is to real espresso, as McDonald's is to the real hamburger. This book is indispensable and will save the espresso fanatic a lot of time. This book has no competition. It is simply the Barista's Bible, without any if's, and's, or but's.
Rereading parts of Schomer's book a year later, I can only be even more impressed. There is so much detail in the book that cannot be appreciated by a greenhorn espresso pretender, like me, upon first reading. Amazing and perhaps even more startling the second time around once you have some experience underneath your belt.