NEW PAGE (8/26/20)!!!
Current coffees: See “Living Food Board”
Topic of Interest: Coffee’s Natural Sweetness
I find that once your palate is able to pick up on distinct flavors of specialty coffees it becomes easier to avoid adding sweeteners and/or milk to your cup. The following are some articles on coffees natural sweetness.
ON THIS PAGE (AND FUTURE BLOG POSTS I’LL BE SHARING MY SPECIALTY COFFEE EXPERIENCES.
Current Coffee Set-up:
Bean storage: Airscape larger size containers
Grinder: Baratza Encore
Kettle: Bonavita 1.0L electric kettle
Scale: Escali basic scale
Brewers: Hario V60 with natural filters, Bodum french press, and mason jars for cold brew.
Ratio: 1:13, I like my coffee strong!
Mug: 20oz travel mug sans lid.
Coffee Subscription: Trade Coffee
BELOW ARE “SAMPLE” POSTS FROM A SHORT LIVED COFFEE BLOG OF MINE FROM 2015-16.
“My 5 Final Coffees of 2016 + General Updates”
Before sharing my thoughts on the five final coffees that I tried for the first time this year I’d like to note I have yet to decide on a posting schedule for this blog. Being that my posts represent a chronicle or diary of my specialty coffee experiences my posting frequency will be heavily effected by both my feeling that I’ve had enough experiences to compile into a blog post and by my work schedule and family life. Lastly, because the aromas and flavors that one perceives in a specialty coffee are based on more parameters that most others artisanal beverages. While I’ll be calling them reviews, my thoughts on each coffee are solely based on my experiences with brewing them with the parameters that I’ve come to prefer over time (1:12 brewing ratio using filtered tap water).
On to the reviews and updates…
Where I’ve been buying my coffees from: As noted in my previous post the two sites that I’d be ordering from were Seattle Coffee Gear and Go Coffee Go. However, upon ordering and receiving Intelligentsia’s Celebration Blend from Seattle Coffee Gear and it having a roast date which was just over 2 weeks prior I decided to keep Go Coffee Go as my primary ordering website and start ordering any additional coffees directly from their roasters in order to ensure that I receive freshly roasted beans.
My Final 5 Coffees of 2016:
Personal photos coming soon…
Coffee #1: Intelligentsia Coffee’s Celebration Blend
Roaster’s Description: We built this year’s Celebration Blend with two vibrant East African coffees and one of this year’s best Latin American offerings. The result is reminiscent of a cup of hot cider – fresh crisp apple, along with red grapefruit, and sweet kiwi. More info.
My experiences with this coffee: As noted above I received this holiday blend with a roast date that was just over 2 weeks prior. Therefore, I was not able to fully experience the roaster’s intensions for this blend. Due to the characteristics listed in its cupping notes being ones that are typically derived from a coffee’s acidity I brewed this coffee with my Hario V60 ceramic cone. It’s aroma and flavor both had bright citric acidity and at times had distinct notes of grapefruit and apple. While I did a perceive moderate sweetness in the finish it came off more as honey followed by a hint of toastiness which reminded me of bread crust rather than sweet kiwi. So while the beans weren’t as fresh as I would have liked I was still able to enjoy this blend and having had multiple memorable experiences with Intelligentsia coffees in the recent past I’m looking forward to trying their 2017 seasonal blends.
Coffee #2: Olympia Coffee’s Holiday Blend
Roaster’s Description: It’s hard to imagine a more versatile and table-pleasing holiday coffee than this smooth, round, and exhilarating blend. Aficionados will also find it worth seeking out for its complex expression of the classic Bourbon style. This blend consists of coffee from an heirloom Bourbon varietal grown in El Salvador and a Kenya composed entirely of the celebrated SL 34 and SL 28 varieties, which produce the finest Kenyan coffees. The El Salvador Bourbon was produced by Ricardo Ariz on his El Aguila farm from trees descended from the first Bourbon stock introduced into the region; the SL 34 and 28 were produced by Kenya’s Kagumoini Cooperative. The result is a smoothly exuberant Bourbon extravaganza. Happiest of Holidays from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.! Cupping Notes: Flavors of melted chocolate, plum, and candied citrus.
My experiences with this coffee: After enjoying two single origin coffees from Olympia there was no question whether I’d try there Holiday Blend. Though its cupping notes definitely sweetened the deal. When fresher this blend’s aroma and flavor had welcoming a note of sweet cocoa (almost milk chocolate) and a hint of plum upfront which were following my a burst of citric acidity which at first was a bit sharp, but sweetened as the coffee cooled. Then as the beans edged closer to the 2 weeks post roasting mark the chocolate notes mellowed which caused the grapefruit acidity to play a bigger role in the aroma and initial taste. So while I prefer coffees with bold chocolate notes and less acidity during the Fall and Winter I was impressed by how balanced this blend remained from start to finish.
Coffee #3 Ritual Coffee’s Hacienda Carmona, Guatemala
Roaster’s Description: In Antigua, Guatemala octogenarian Maria Zelaya grows Bourbon and Typica trees on her 110 hectare Farm Hacienda Carmona at elevations between 1580 and 1890 meters above sea level. Maria is fiercely dedicated to producing quality coffee and has built a beautiful beneficio. She processes the coffee and a traditional washed manner: depulping the skin of the coffee cherry off before subjecting it to a 24-Hour fermentation process to deteriorate any remaining sugar off of the seed, and finally, sun-drying the coffee on patios. This year’s election is incredibly sweet with flavors of mission fig, peach, and chocolate covered cherries. More info.
My experiences with this coffee: While many of the Guatemalan coffees that I’ve tried have had their cocoa and or chocolate notes upfront this coffee had them primarily in the finish. As a result each sip presented two experiences. The first being bright acidity with notes of citrus, fresh mission figs, and a bit of honey sweetness. This was then juxtaposed by the warming semi-sweet chocolate that I was looking for upon reading the cupping notes prior to ordering this coffee. In order to bring more balance to coffees of this sort in the future I will use water that is a bit cooler so that the acidity will not take away from the balance of the overall drinking experience.
Roaster’s Description: A classic fruit forward naturally processed Ethiopian with strawberry, raspberry and hints of blueberries, with a creamy body and excellent sweetness…We’ve been on the hunt for a nice naturally processed Ethiopian coffee for a while now and are thrilled with this coffee from the Work Co-Op from the district of Gedeb in the south of Ethiopia. The coffee is from a group of family farms which are part of the Co-Op, which is in turn part of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. This larger Co-op supports sustainable coffee production for its more than 45,000 members. More info.
My experiences with this coffee: Over time I’ve developed a love for naturally processed Ethiopian coffees. While many of them taste similar despite differences in origin (Yirgacheffe, Sidama, etc) and roaster, I’ve greatly enjoyed everyone that I’ve tried and this one was no exception. Bursting with blueberry and strawberry aromatics and flavors this coffee was a joy to drink. When ground a setting finer than I usually grind for pourovers, the berry notes took on some added sweetness and took on a jam-like intensity. With this being the second naturally processed Ethiopian coffee that I’ve tried from Pablo’s Coffee I can confidently recommend their naturally processed coffees to all those who enjoy fruit forward single origin coffees.
Coffee #5: Pablo’s Coffee’s Guatemala Huehuetenango La Encenedas
Rich velvety dark chocolate tones define this fine Guatemalan coffee, along with a slightly tart cherry and lime zest finish, which balance the cup and leave the palate wanting more. This coffee is grown by 11 family owned farms located within the municipality of San Pedro Necta in the department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Through the careful attention of Luis Pedro, whose family has over 100 years agricultural experience, the farmers have improved drying and processing protocols. Their attention to detail really shines in the roaster, resulting in consistently chocolate tones, clean citrus acidities, with no under ripe artifacts or astringent flavors. Recommended Brew Method: French Press
My experiences with this coffee: Having become accustom to light to medium coffees I at first was taken aback when I saw that this coffee was roasted a bit darker. However, after reading the description on the bag the roaster’s intentions for this coffee made complete sense. As recommended I brewed this coffee in my French press and true to its cupping notes this coffee had a full body and was packed with cocoa and chocolate in both the aroma and taste; though I did not pick up on any distinct cherry or lime zest acidity. Of note, I would recommend drinking this coffee as fresh as possible as once the beans approached the 2-week post roasting mark I picked up some stale coffee notes in the finish.
Blending Coffees: Because I was the juggling 3 single origin coffees and had 2 more ordered from a roaster that I had yet to try I decided to blend 2 coffees at a time, brewing the blend in my French press. I first blended both Pablo’s coffees using 45g of Guatemala and 15g of Ethiopia. While enjoyable, I think doing an even split would work better. Next, I blended the remainder of my Ritual Coffee beans with some of the Ethiopian from Pablo’s using a ratio of roughly 2:1 Ritual to Pablo’s. This was blend was the winner, the peach and mission fig notes of the Ritual combined really well with the natural processed berry notes of the Pablo’s. So much so that once the coffee cooled down and the blend’s nuances became more apparent, I was taken aback by how complex and unique its flavors were.
First Coffees of 2017: Columbia El Horno and Ethiopia Kochere from ReAnimator Coffee Roasters (Philadelphia, PA).
10/16/15 – The start of a new passion
Over this past Summer I began moving away from major chain coffee shop coffees (cough..cough Starbucks aka “Charbucks” to some coffee geeks) and started visiting local specialty coffee roasters; the first of which is located right in my neighborhood. Buunni Coffee is a relatively small roaster of Etheopean and other African coffees, each of which is sold at various roast levels. Their Washington Heights cafe is always busy and the staff are just as passionate about brewing high quality coffee as their customers are about drinking it. After trying the majority of their coffees I was inspired to venture out of Washington Heights and try coffees from as many different roasters as possible and boy have I had a great start to my coffee adventure.
I should note that I’ve always loved the flavor of coffee and never been one to add more than a touch of skim milk and 1 tsp of sugar or packet of Splenda to my cup. But it took until 2015 for me to take hold of the opportunity to utilize my palate, which I’ve spent years developing, to begin to fully experience the wide range of flavors that specialty coffees have to offer. 10/19/15 – Sunday in Philly – My First Macchiato
Yesterday my wife and I took a day trip to Philadelphia to meet up with some of my fellow Brew Tubers club members. Since I knew we’d be arriving there before we’d be ready to drink any beer, I took the opportunity to do a Google search for local coffee roasters and found three that I’d try to visit. Though we only made it to two of them, I enjoyed my experience at both of them
As shown in the above picture we first went to Elixr Coffee Roasters (207 S. Sydenham St Philadelphia, PA 19102) and I ordered a pour over of their single origin Konga (Etheopia, Yirgacheffe) and a double shot of Bee Keeper, their house espresso. The Konga was bright and fruity with low to moderate acidity and had a light body. While I’ve found many Ethiopian coffees to be quite blueberry and blackberry forward in terms of their fruit flavor character, this one’s fruitiness came off as more semi-ripe melon, apricot, and strawberry, which as times was akin to a diluted fruit punch. With its low to moderate acidity this coffee didn’t have the acidic pop that I’m become used to in the finish of other fruit forward coffees. Therefore, I’m looking forward to brewing it in a french press in order to give it the body that I think it needs to make it more enjoyable on chilly Autumn mornings.
While enjoying my mug of pour over I slowly sipped my Bee Keeper espresso. I must admit that I’m quite new to drinking straight espresso and was therefore glad to be given a small glass of club soda to cleanse my palate between sips. Though it was on the bitter side for me, I enjoyed Bee Keeper’s rich body and flavor profile of cocoa, caramel, and black tea…To better explain my final thoughts I’ll give some background. This past Friday I went to the Starbucks in my neighborhood to pick up some of their Via instant coffee and ended up ordering my first ever straight dopio espresso. Without putting any milk or sugar in it I walked out of the shop and upon taking my first sip I was taken aback by the bitterness of the espresso. In order to save this first experience I went back inside, stirred in some milk and sugar, and was subsequently quite surprised at the transformation of my experience. In other words, I loved the resulting flavors and made sure to sip my small afternoon pick-me-up as slowly as possible…So while I enjoyed pushing myself to drink the Bee Keeper espresso straight, I’m hoping to try it again sometime as a macchiato.
After eating lunch, meeting up with some of my fellow Brew Tubers for a couple pints, and walking around the Penn Square area, my wife and I decided to grab a warm drink at La Colombe Torrefaction’s Dilworth Plaza café (1414 South Penn Square Philadelphia, PA 19102). After looking over the menu I decided to try their workshop series macchiato. Sadly I did not ask which of their workshop series coffees they were using for the macchiato. However, after admiring the star design made by the barista I took my first sip I was blown after by the fruity acidity of the espresso and knew I’d enjoy sipping it while my wife enjoyed her hot chocolate. We enjoyed our drinks so much that we both ordered a second round. As I finished my second macchiato I remarked to my wife that the acidity was beginning to overwhelm and dry out my palate. Therefore, in the future I’ll probably sample both espressos on the menu to switch up the flavor profiles and or drink some water in between “rounds”.
10/24/15 – Changing of the Roasters
Before I discuss specific coffees I’d like to discuss my current routine for trying out new coffees (blend and single origin) at home… A) Currently I am the sole caffeinated coffee drinker at home, and therefore despite my 20oz travel mug which I use 5-6 days a week for my coffee, it’s been taking me a bit longer than in the past to finish off a pound of beans. B) Due to my tendency to go all out when exploring a hobby that relates to my creative nature I’ve recently started buying two coffees at a time so I can alternate as I so desire. While this may prove to be at times a losing battle in terms of coffee freshness, I plan on continuing doing so as long as time and finances allow. C) Lastly I should note that I store my beans in Vacu Vin Coffee Saver tinted air tight containers that I store in a kitchen cabinet in order to maintain freshness as best as I can.
On to the title of this journal entry… After 10 days (minus 2 where I didn’t drink them) of alternating between Three Africans and Bella Donovan, two of Blue Bottle’s year round blends I brewed my first pour over cup of Elixr’s Kenya Kiambu this morning. While sipping from my travel mug during my morning commute via subway (NYC), I was surprised to not pick up on any particular fruit flavors beyond the general moderate to high acidity and balanced sweetness that African coffees are known for. However, once I got to work and was sitting in my office eating breakfast, I removed the lid of my travel mug and was surprised to pick up a prominent mandarin orange flavor. Next, while Elixr’s cupping notes describe this coffee’s underlying sweetness as cocoa nib and clove, I perceived it as bakers chocolate with a touch of added sweetness and some earthy undertones. In terms of body, despite the coffee’s acidity creaping up towards the high end of medium and my brewing it via my Hario V60 pourover cone, this coffee’s body was definitely medium and smooth…I’ll have to drink more of it and brew it via French press to form my final opinion on it, but from this first cup/mug I can definitely give Elixr’s Kenya Kiambu a thumbs up.
For those who are interested click here to check a discussion about people’s go to coffee regions on the ‘coffee’ subreddit.
11/9/15 – Changing of the Roasters – Stumptown
After finishing two great African coffees from Elixr Coffee Roasters it was time to return to my NYC coffee adventures and check out another local roaster’s café. Though they’re not based in NYC, I was excited to check out Stumptown Coffee Roaster’s West 8th Street location. On Thursday, 11/5 I took the A train to West 4th St. and walked a few blocks to the café. Having been to their smaller Ace Hotel location, I was quite impressed by the size and décor of this location. Converted into a café from a bookshop, the wood laden walls and furniture made it immediately clear that a lot of effort was put into creating a homey atmosphere for coffee lovers.
After choosing two coffees to try at home I made my way up the line of customers and ordered a pour over of their newest Ethiopian coffee (Ethiopia Kochere) and a macchiato. After a brief conversation, the barista who was taking my order gave me a card which I can bring back to get hole punched and eventually get a free 12oz bag of coffee and said the macchiato was on the house. As if my experience couldn’t get any better, the barista who brewed my chemex pour over did not take any short cuts. She used a timer to time the brewing process, a scale to weigh the beans and water, a hot plate to keep the water at the ideal temperature, and a glass stir stick to stir the coffee grounds during their initial bloom. As a budding coffee geek, her attention to detail only enhanced my experience and gave me a new level of respect for Stumptown.
The two coffees that I purchased to brew at home were Ethiopia Mordecofe and Guatemala Bella Vista. So far I’ve brewed them both with my Hario V60 pour over cone. Both of them were true to their cupping notes and packed a bunch with great body and flavors. I’m definitely excited to try more Guatemalan coffees in the coming months, but I’ll definitely make sure to always have an Ethiopian or Kenyan available to brew at home. In other words, I’ve come to prefer the flavor profile of coffees from those countries and want to keep exploring how various factors effect the differences in each coffee’s character (body, aroma, taste).
11/27/15 – Madman visits Irving Farm only to return to Stumptown
Since my last Coffee Journal entry I’ve had some palate please coffee experiences and as I sip my Friday morning coffee (emergency Starbucks Via – Italian Roast in my office at work) I’m writing this entry…On 11/12 (and again on 11/23) I had a dentist appointment on the lower east side of Manhattan and upon a friend’s recommendation checked out Madman Espresso (319 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003). Madman serves coffees from Caffe Vita both as pour over and espresso. When I first went there on the 12th I enjoyed a pour over of their Theo blend, which was quite straight forward tasting with hints of chocolate and an herbaceous quality woven into an otherwise generic darker roast coffee character. What saved my first visit was the macchiato that I got along with the Theo pour over. The espresso flavors were rich, chocolaty, and finished with a hint of fruity acidity and were blended quite well with just the right amount of steamed milk. Also, the barista was quite welcoming and open to chatting about specialty coffee and the rotation of single origin and blend coffees that come through this Madman location. Before leaving to head to work I ordered a second macchiato to go because I wanted to continue savoring my experience for just a bit longer…When I went back for my second visit I was happy to be told that the pour over coffee of the day was single origin Kenya AA and I quickly ordered it. Being that I’ve slowly become familiar with Kenyan coffees I was pleased to taste and smell notes of berries, candied citrus, and toffee. Before leaving I ordered a macchiato to go and for some reason it didn’t taste the same as the first two that I had in that it was nuttier and not as bold tasting. Next I go there I’ll have to ask if they also rotate which coffees they use for their espresso-based drinks.
On Sunday, 11/15 I went with my wife to check out yet another NY coffee roaster named Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. The upper west side location that we visit was quite busy which took away from my preferred quiet coffee drinking atmosphere, but I was able to grab seats and then get online to order my usual pourover and macchiato. For my pour over I chose El Molino, El Salvodor, which although it wasn’t as bold as some of the Ethiopian coffees that I’ve had, lived up to its cupping notes with flavors of dried Apricot and molasses along with a hint of almond in the finish. The macchiato was good, but not exceptional in that it didn’t have any flavors that made it unique…I’d like to visit either Irving Farm again at a time when this or one of their other locations isn’t as busy in order to get the full/quiet coffee shop experience I’ve come to enjoy.
Lastly on Thursday 11/19 I once again went to Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ West 8th Street location to buy some beans and have my usual pour over and macchiato…Instead of going for an African coffee I decided to try Marvin Robles, Costa Rica , a barista’s recommendation. True to its cupping notes it had a great aftertaste of rainier cherries. Since Stumptown always has a large variety of single origin coffees in stock I’ll definitely be continuing my efforts to venture out of my African coffee comfort zone and try coffees from Latin American countries such as Costa Rica and Guatemala.
Current coffees: Stumptown Ethiopia Duromina and my friend Merlin’s whisky barrel-aged coffee.