What’s Roasting #5 – Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and El Salvador Siberia

Ethiopian woman coffee farmer with basket of c...

Ethiopian coffee farmer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After aiming my recent roasting efforts towards blending, it’s time to get back to some of my favourite regions and sample some single origins. I will also post a further update in the Crop to Cup series in the near future, as we get closer to roasting and sampling.

So, in searching for a fruity African varietal, this Ethiopian Yirgacheffe came along through the good folks at Ministry Grounds, who also supplied the following roasting advice on this coffee:

Go easy on the heat early on, allowing a gentle drying period. But build some momentum up to the start of first crack. When the beans go exothermic, expect a temp rate drop and try and anticipate this. Not letting the rate rise drop too much will develop the sugars and fruit flavours fully. Don’t go near second crack!

Vista panorámica de la ciudad de Santa Ana (El...

Santa Ana (El Salvador) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the same time I stumbled across a Central American variety in the form of the El Salvador Siberia Pacamara which placed 20th in the 2012 Cup of Excellence, and certainly read well in terms of its potential out of the roaster and into the cup:

Floral with green apple, pineapple and black cherry. Lovely honeycomb and sugarcane sweetness. A balanced cup.

I am looking forward to seeing whether the El Salvador lives up to the usual crispness of varieties from the Central American region, and likewise the usual blueberry explosion of the Yirgacheffe. Tasting review to follow soon.


What’s Brewing #3 – El Salvador Finca El Capulin

Coffee in El Salvador

Coffee in El Salvador (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the What’s Roasting #3 post a couple of weeks ago, I have roasted a further batch each of the El Salvador and Colombian bean varieties in an attempt to fine tune and unlock their best characteristics. Acknowledgement must go to Neil Atwood from Ministry Grounds, my green bean supplier for some great ‘real time’ twitter advice whilst the second batch was roasting.

The remainder of this post will concentrate on the El Salvador varietal, with the Colombian coming in the future.

The reason for the second roast so soon? Probably due to my expectations being fairly high as to the likely quality and flavour profile, and whilst the results of the initial batch were good, the second certainly was an improvement (lighter roast). Also, my tasting was done (as it often is) both via the Aeropress and a one shot 160 ml latte, both of which undersold the quality a little. Neil also advised he expected the El Salvador would struggle through milk.

Anyway, on with The Whack:

What: El Salvador Finca El Capulin

  • Origin: El Salvador
  • Region: Cerro Verde
  • Altitude: 1498m
  • Processing: Fully washed, patio dried

How: Latte, Aeropress, Espresso

Dry Aroma – notes of citrus and a little spice

Milk Course – Although it fights hard to be noticed, using this blend in your morning latte definitely does not do it justice. Just not enough body to hold your attention. Definitely a good example of horses for courses.

Aeropress – Definitely better here. The notable acidity pushes forward the citrus flavours, with syrupy undertones on the finish. As usual, the flavours are foremost as the brew cools.

Espresso – Of the three tasting methods here, this is where this variety does its best work (depending on your body vs acidity preference – read further on this below). Extracting this through an espresso machine will give you the best example of the smooth, subtle flavours. The notable acidity brings through citrus type flavours, with a syrup like finish. Given the variety is quite subtle, the concentrated form of an Espresso seems to be the sweet spot.

Photo 21-07-13 8 00 49 AM

Be warned however, if you are after a punch of body, it still won’t be found here – for some this may be a negative, however I don’t see this as necessarily the case if your tastes are not crying out for this. Personally, I like it, though can see when used in a blend with a variety providing more body (which is what I plan to do), may appeal to those who find it a little wanting on its own. My favourite barista (herself Italian) who taste tested, called it as she saw it – needing more body:

…you know, like a good Italian woman, she’s got the curves…, she’s strong, she’s got a lot to offer. Not skinny and light, she’s got the body. She’s got real…

I can’t remember the rest as my mind wandered somewhere else – but you get the picture. Some will just like more body in their Espresso. And evidently their women?

Thinking more on this, I would refer you to an excellent article on A History of Acidity in Coffee, which is also featured in this months issue of BeanScene Magazine. Here it is recommended we should acknowledge and embrace the different flavour profiles in coffee, both the more recent trend towards higher acidity espresso and the more traditional full-bodied, low acid type:

Personally, I’m not against this as a style of espresso as some people may think, but it really demonstrates just one style of espresso.

Conclusion; Know This:
Upon review, the El Salvador is definitely a reminder on the merits of a wide range of tasting methods. As I outlined in a very early post on my reviewing system, the assessment of my roasting results is not based on the standard ‘cupping’ methods used to formally assess taste quality by those more expert than myself. This is a conscious decision, as taste for me will always be a result of how I brew and drink each variety on a day-to-day basis.

Despite recent trends in my coffee drinking habits, future reviews will include as many brewing varieties as I have available to me to avoid missing a method that may showcase the full potential of a particular origin. So, as far as this El Salvador lot is concerned, as an origin, it is certainly made for drinking on its own, in a shorter rather than a longer brew. I am looking forward to experimenting with this variety in some blending to achieve a greater balance between the acidity on offer whilst adding some body to the mix.

Overall Rating: 4/5

A Cold Brew Experiment


Coffee (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The tipping point. Another afternoon of weekday drudgery that could be picked up by the perfect brew.

The cafe that knows your name, your order and seemingly your every need is closed (and good luck to them having been there since 5am). Internally you would try yourself for treason if you go to another. What next? Why is this such an issue? Surely one cup of the instant stuff supplied in the office kitchen won’t kill you will it?

The answer is no but it sure almost felt like it. I have nothing against a large multinational making cheap instant coffee, it is just that in recent years I have not been able to stomach this brand. I’m not even sure why. Instant coffee is instant coffee and you may say its all bad, and I don’t necessarily disagree, however typically I am fine with most brands when that is all that’s on offer – just not the blend ending in 43.

So, I tempted fate and made a cup, consuming half. An uneasy feeling came ever me and the rest of the afternoon was spent feeling slightly ill. Rather than a little boost to my productivity, an afternoon of endless spreadsheets and a full inbox would now be dealt with on a background of vague nausea.

Thus, the tipping point. If you wish to complain then do something about it, or if you choose to do nothing, then shut up and stop complaining – oh and it’s also advisable to never make another cup of that stuff. Complaining done. The action? A task entered into Omnifocus to investigate cold brew concentrates, as a number of articles had also come through my feed reader recently about cold drip brewing and concentrates. Time to fight back!

Cold Brew Techniques

Though numerous techniques and equipment exist, I was looking for a simple way to have a cold brew concentrate made for the next day. A quick search revealed a few recipes:

The increase in recent articles on this topic such as those above, are largely due to the northern hemisphere summer, as many of the recipes focus on using the resulting brew in iced coffee mixes of varying types. However, the concentrate can be used equally well as a hot drink when mixed with boiling water.

My Method

The articles above list varying types of measures in determining the water to ground coffee ratio, which can be a little confusing when comparing articles (particularly whether the weight referred to is fluid ounces – a volume measure, or the actual dry weight). In view of this I went with the simplest recipe from the New York Times article as follows:

  • 1/3 cup coarsely ground coffee in a bowl
  • Stir in 1 and a half cups water (I used filtered)
  • Cover and let stand for 12 hours at room temperature (I refrigerated the mix)
  • Strain (I used an Aeropress) and serve
  • 1:1 with cold milk for iced coffee or the same ratio hot water (and a little more heat by microwave) for a hot coffee

As I have noted above, the exact technique I used varied a little from the original article, however the main starting point being the ratio of coffee to water. Using the Aeropress to strain and filter the resulting mix worked well as the liquid dripped through the filter over about 45 minutes or so, with the plunger only used to push through the last 10% as the amount of sediment increased on the filter paper. Any fine cloth sieve technique would work equally as well.

The Taste?

Though not perfect. For what I wanted? Absolutely spot on.

The first thing you will notice upon tasting a cold brewed coffee is the absence of acidity, irrespective of whether you are consuming it as a hot or cold drink. This particular element of the flavour profile is generated by heating ground coffee in the usual types of brewing. Some people would therefore consider this as a little bland, or “missing something” in the cup. Obviously they are correct, the acidity is the missing element.

The brew is one of the smoothest you will have tasted, and those looking for more ‘punch’, may need to play around a little with bean types, roast level and overall soaking or steeping times, which I plan to do in future brews to assess the results. The varietal used for the current brew was a light to medium roasted Central American origin from El Salvador. I have found with other brewing methods this is a subtle origin with notable acidity, and I am therefore looking to experiment with some South American origins that will provide a little more body for future cold brews.

The method I have outlined above provided 3 cups of hot coffee brewed at 1:1 ratio of water to concentrate and is certainly a technique I plan on continuing to use, because as we all know, few afternoons go by that could not be improved by a decent cup of coffee.

Do I feel smug making my ‘instant’ brew this way? Only when in the office kitchen adding hot water and I see the jar with the dreaded number on it out of the corner of my eye. It may say 43, but I give mine at least an 86–90 out of 100 and definitely think you should give it try.

What’s Roasting #3 – El Salvador Finca El Capulin

Ubicación del subcontinente centroamericano en...

Central American subcontinent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s in the roaster this week has been inspired by a tweet from @ministrygrounds, who supply the green beans used in all of my roasts:

“Beautiful new Central American coffees now available as green coffee”

So, on this advice we head to Central America for an origin from the Los Bellotos farm in El Salvador – Finca El Capulin

Fast fact on the farm (courtesy Ministry Grounds):

The farm management practice the ‘agobio’ or ‘parras’ system of coffee farming whereby the branches of the trees are bent in order to provoke new growth. This prevents the root system of the trees to be damaged (as opposed to other stumping methods) and promotes more efficient nutrient capturing. The ‘agobio’ or ‘parras’ method of coffee farming requires more space between the coffee trees and therefore this allows for less competition for nutrients amongst the trees and a less intense and more sustainable farming practice.

A second batch in the roaster today is a South American, this time of Colombian origin, Santa Rita La Chaparral Special Reserve. This varietal has been purchased with a view to doing a little blending over the coming weeks, a continuation of my exploration into this area which will be further expanded in a follow-up post to the recent Up Around the Blend earlier this month.

On the eight farms that make up this specialty Colombian coffee (courtesy Ministry Grounds):

These are “old Fashion Farms” where the coffee is handpicked, wet processed and sun dried in a “patio Quindiano” or concrete patio located in the roof of their houses.

Both batches roasted well, with the heat a little higher than usual given the cooler outdoor roasting conditions (compared to the usual ambient roasting temperature for this part of the world anyway). Both were taken half way to second crack, which produced nice, even batches, and once settled for a few days, should be great in the cup.

Something off the Vine on today’s roasting.

Tasting review to follow soon!