Restocking – a trip to Bookbinders

Although I’ve posted an image to Instagram from yesterday’s visit to the Bookbinders store on Brisbane’s Northside, readers of the blog and my social media following are not one and the same, so I thought I’d share a couple of things in a brief post.

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It was my second visit to the actual store itself — such a wonderful, calming space amid the chaos of rainy Friday afternoon traffic. The Bookbinders team do a fantastic job, stocking great products and provide outstanding customer service. It was great to hear business is strong, with foot traffic continuing to increase at the store itself.

It is definitely worth a visit if you have yet to do so, and of course if you already have, you don’t need me to encourage you to return — I’m sure that is inevitable.

Though it wasn’t a big haul by any stretch, the few key items on my list were ticked off.

Coffee drinking and roasting logs

I’ve written in a recent post about my thoughts and plans for recording my coffee roasting data, and the main reason for the visit was to pick up the new 33 Roasts log from the 33 Books series.

My only concern (immediately alleviated upon closer inspection) was whether the log contained units in degrees celsius as well as Fahrenheit (being a US publication). All good to go here, with units in celsius appearing on the R hand axis of the roast graph. Key details from each of my roasts will end up in a spreadsheet, and the entire notebook contents scanned, indexed and saved for safe keeping and easy search (perhaps a post for another day).

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A few drops of coffee in the ink is a nice touch

My coffee drinking habits? Well why not 33 Log those as well? When out, I use a modified version of this Day One / Launch Center Pro template (also available as Workflow app action if that is your preference) to rate the beverages cafes serve me, however when at home I’d like to record a little more often in relation to drinking what I’ve roasted myself. The 33 Cups of Coffee log seems like a good way to go here.

Upon completion, these will also be scanned, and I’m thinking perhaps the 4 and 5 star rated cups are worthy of indexing for future reference. I’ll give that one a little more thought.

 

Writing

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Though 40 pages less, a considerable reduction in paper weight from the Life Symphony to the Monokaki

One of the most pleasing aspects of visiting the store was seeing the healthy stock of Monokaki notebooks, which still remain my all-time favourite. Previous posts about those? Yes — here and here if you are interested. Having passed my 50% rule (that is, of usage in my current notebook before searching for another), it wasn’t a hard choice as to what I’d pick up next.

The masuya paper contained therein is a perfect mash-up of Tomoe River-like weight with a little more tooth to the nib. Just the way I like it. In order to share my fondness, some of that very paper will also be going out in handwritten correspondence from the Yuga Letter Pad I picked up as well.

Signing off

Given this was never intended to be a lengthy post, in closing, I think we are very lucky to have the Bookbinders team not only based in Brisbane, but having a brick and mortar presence as well. They are wonderful people with a passion for the industry — something well worth supporting as a consumer.

Happy writing, roasting and drinking.

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Santa Clara

It’s a great time to sample some superb Guatemalan coffee in Brisbane at the moment, and I have also been in on the act by roasting some myself. Cup Coffee have a Santa Clara showcase of sorts, currently offering washed, honey and fully natural processed versions for sale, many of which have also found their way into a cup or two at Strauss Café & Bar in the CBD.

On a recent order of green beans from Ministry Grounds, I picked up some of the fully washed Santa Clara to roast and brew at home.

Coffee

  • Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
    Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala Santa Clara

  • City: Antigua
  • Altitude: 1600–1830m above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully Washed and patio dried
  • Owner: Zelaya family

The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the 4th generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara. The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows one of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

While tracking down some information for this post, I also came across a brief interview with the owner of the Santa Clara Farm, Ricardo Zelaya, conducted when he visited Melbourne in 2013. He talks about managing the farm, plans for the future, and how he drinks his coffee. You can find it on the Market Lane Coffee blog.

Brew Methods

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso (+ Kalita Wave at Strauss Café & Bar)

Impressions

As I mentioned earlier, this shade grown coffee is processed by both wet and dry methods, and if you can, it is a worthwhile endeavour to sample both.

As I have now begun roasting each coffee more specifically for espresso and filter based consumption, this and most future posts will discuss my impressions from this perspective (that is, two separate roast batches with different roast profiles). In the past, I have written on the basis of a single roast profile for all types of drinks.

As a morning latte or flat white, the Santa Clara performed really well in milk. It created a creamy, smooth drink, with a good chocolatey base, and some of the fruity flavours peeking through as well. A very, very enjoyable way to start the day. As espresso, also very enjoyable, a bright cup, with a pleasant level of acidity, medium body and a lovely creamy mouthfeel.

The filter roast performed equally well in the Aeropress and V60 Pourover, the V60 resulting in a more delicate, refined brew as expected. Both demonstrated a fresh, bright cup, again the acidity was pleasant, with enough body to make a great “winter warming” brew consumed sitting in the sun on a cool winter afternoon. This perhaps clouded my judgement of the Aeropress (consumed at my office desk), given sitting in the backyard sunshine carries an obvious environmental advantage! Again, nice fruity flavours with chocolate and citrus in both forms of brewing.

Finally, a brief mention of my thoughts on the variety of processing options on offer at Strauss Café & Bar, which were all sampled through the Kalita Wave. My pick would be the natural process, which seemed to enhance the stone fruit flavours a little more, and at times was reminiscent of a juicy grape. Not the most elegant of descriptions probably, however hopefully you get my drift. That is all I have to say on this point – remember, I do not do café reviews.

Final Thoughts

Loved it.

Probably one of the more enjoyable coffees I have roasted and brewed this year. I must admit, the cool weather of late has made it a little easier to control my roasts (given they are done outside), and with a little experimentation, I feel these have been improving over time as well. I’ll be disappointed when the last of the Santa Clara goes through the grinder, however there may be something even more enjoyable up ahead. After all, isn’t that the basis for the journey?

Rating: 4.5/5

What’s Brewing – Guatemala Finca la Maravilla CoE

Although now out of stock at Ministry Grounds, I was pleased to get my hands on one of the last remaining bags of this particular coffee. Although I had sampled similar Cup of Excellence offerings at various brew bars around town, I had yet to roast my own CoE. In retrospect, though not a conscious decision, I suspect the slightly higher green price made me a little hesitant to throw it in my home roaster.

Perhaps this suspicion was warranted, as it was not until the second roast batch a couple of weeks after the first did I feel I did the coffee justice. The evolution of my roasting to a lighter roast with more gentle heat increment seemed to better suit the flavour profile of this bean in the cup. Variations in roast batches aside, in the end things turned out pretty well – let’s see how it tasted.

IMG_1821What
Guatemala La Maravilla CoE Lot 17 2013
– City / Region: La Libertad, Huehuetenango
– Altitude: 1,650–1,800 metres above sea level
– Variety: Bourbon, Caturra
– Processing: Fully Washed and dried on patio
– Farmer: Mauricio Rosales Vasquez
– Farm size: 24.68 hectares
– Cup of Excellence score: 85.83
– Lot size: 42 cartons

The harvest season at La Maravilla is from January to April. For quality control purposes they monitor traceability from handpicking right through until final delivery, and cup individual day lots. The coffee is processed by traditional wet mill and is sun-dried on patios,and then stored in a wood warehouse.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds Coffee

How
Latte, V60 Pour over, Aeropress

Assessment
Latte – When combined with milk, the resulting drink was a creamy, buttery, medium bodied, malt apple concoction. Probably not the most refined description, however those were the words jotted down in my Field Notes tasting record at the time. Overall, quite an enjoyable milk based drink first thing in the morning. Due to slight daily variations in my espresso based brewing, some days I end up with all of these flavours standing proudly – other days not so, and therefore was little hit and miss for me (my technique variation the culprit here I’m sure).

V60 – Probably the pick of the bunch as far as the brew methods I experimented with. I note many recent What’s Brewing posts lack an espresso tasting component. As mentioned in another post which seems like an eternity ago, I consume these coffees as espresso somewhat less than I used to, preferring longer form brewing methods a little more these days. Back to the V60 and how this Guatemalan fares through the filter.

There was something about this CoE that became apparent with repeated brews through the V60. To my fairly varied yet still amateur palate, the complexities of the flavour profile took a little while to become apparent to me. To explain a little, from the very first cup this was a very, very enjoyable coffee, however not the instantaneous – oh boy! moment that often occurs with great tasting brews. My initial thoughts were that I was missing something – and couldn’t quite describe to myself what I was really tasting. Until one day sitting drinking yet another cup, it was suddenly – there it is.

A feature of my still developing coffee palate? Just a better day? A better roast? A better brew technique? I certainly have no idea which one is responsible – perhaps all of the above. Whatever the key factor was, it certainly had me thinking – I still have a lot to learn about this coffee roasting and brewing game.

For some reason the subtleties suddenly became more obvious, with a bright citrus acidity, cherry and apple flavours combining to form almost a wine like flavour, with a hint of bergamot as the brew cooled. Similar flavours, though infinitely more refined than the dump and bash of the Aeropress (see below). The flavours just seemed to compliment each other much better, and although more subtle, with a little thought were probably more apparent all along than I had realised (characteristics of a Cup of Excellence perhaps, though more likely related to my position a very small way along a considerable learning curve).

Aeropress – Given this is my mid-afternoon office brew, I prefer not to be fiddling about too much and prefer to get in and out of the communal kitchen as efficiently as possible.

As a result, I had shied away from the inverted brew method (fearing disasters and incurring the wrath of those perhaps annoyed by a coffee snob in their midst), until learning the following method in a Brew Class at the Cup Coffee Roastery in December last year. The entire process is mess free and pretty quick, at 1:15 total time:

  • 12–14g coffee (slightly finer grind than usual); 200g water
  • Aeropress inverted
  • Shot of chilled water, then hot to fill chamber (swirling as fill)^
  • Add rinsed filter paper and cap
  • gently squeeze out air
  • flip Aeropress onto cup
  • 30 second press time
  • enjoy the brew after minimal clean-up

^ As I am limited to the “always boiling” hot water urn rather than a kettle, the shot of chilled, filtered water cools the overall brew a little and avoids dumping boiling water directly onto the ground coffee.

The result is a refreshing bright cup, with a hint of apple, along with a citrus orange acidity, and also seems a little herby. Somewhere in there was also a hint of cherry jam (hey! – that’s what my notes said). A bright clean finish made for a very enjoyable brew.

Conclusion; Know This
Despite my initial roast batch not reaching the heights of the second go around with this coffee, as you may have gathered, this has perhaps been one of my favourite varieties so far. Its one thing to taste a coffee and note down a few flavours and tastes that show through, however entirely another to suddenly sense how they all fit together. Eloquent is not a word I would use in describing how well I have written about this particular coffee above, however have given it my best shot.

In summary, let’s just say it was like one of those albums that upon first listen you think is OK, then by the fourth or fifth run though it becomes one of your all time favourites. Whilst there are many more varieties yet to sample, and this may not end up as one of my all time favourites, it is certainly up there in the mix.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

What’s Brewing – Keeper’s Blend

Keeper's BlendAlthough we are now well and truly into January and the new year, to complete things from 2013, its time to write the about how my Keeper’s (Christmas) Blend fared in the cup. As I mentioned in a previous post, this blend was given to family members, and for the first time, some friends and work colleagues also, which is another reason this review is being written now – to allow time for some feedback from those who sampled the offering.

As an aside, given he provided inspiration for the naming of the blend, it was nice to see Aussie wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s form continue at such a high level throughout the Ashes series (particularly as the original roast was undertaken after only two tests). In retrospect, the only thing better than this blend was the Ashes result itself!

Thankfully, the feedback I did receive about the blend was overwhelmingly positive, however to allow for the politeness of those who sampled, it would be best to have a stab at objectively assessing the blend myself.

What – Keeper’s Blend (Christmas Blend)

50% Rwanda Nyarusiza Washed Buf Cafe

  • City: Between Butare and Cyangugu
  • Region: Nyamagabe district, Southern Province
  • Washing Station: Nyarusiza
  • Altitude: 1,935 metres above sea level
  • Variety: 100% Red Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully washed and sun-dried on African raised beds
  • Owner: Epiphanie Mukashyaka

50% Kenya Karimikui AB

  • Origin: Kenya
  • Altitude: 1700 – 1800mtrs
  • Crop Year: 2013
  • Varietal: SL 28 SL 34

(Information courtesy Ministry Grounds)

How
Latte; Hario V60 Pour over (Hot and Cold Brews); Aeropress; Espresso

Assessment
Latte / Milk course – Originally roasted with filter brewing (sans milk) in mind, I was quite pleased with how well suited the blend was to espresso based milk drinks. A nice buttery mouthfeel was accompanied by enough acidity to cut through the milk and allow the stone fruit and citrus flavours to emerge. Some chocolate undertones also came through when consumed in this form.

V60 – Notwithstanding the above comments, this is where the blend really shined. It seemed the combination of the more robust sweetness of the Nyarusiza and the brighter citrus acidity of the Karimikui was a winner, maintaining an even level of sweetness from immediately post brew right through the cooling process. When brewed over ice it really was something special.

Aeropress – Thankfully, this brewing method was utilised the least, for reasons entirely unrelated to taste. My Aeropress is at the office, meaning most of my enjoyment of the blend occurred during a relaxing holiday period. On returning to work and running the blend through the Aeropress, I was certainly not disappointed. Though not quite as bright as the V60, a similar sweetness profile was evident, with the chocolate undercurrent balancing things out nicely. If I could no longer have an afternoon nap, then this was the next best thing.

Espresso – With an acidity that was like a slap across the face, as an espresso the blend is likely to have benefitted from a little more body, however was immensely enjoyable none the less. The smooth buttery mouthfeel gave this one a bright, lasting (if not intense) finish.

Conclusion; Know This
In view of the fact this blend was distributed to friends and family, I was very pleased to find it worked very well across all forms of brewing. I’d have to say that of all the blends I have created (read, tinkered around with), this one has probably been the pick of the bunch so far.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

What’s Roasting #6 – Panama Carmen Estate

IMG_1334Recently I’ve been clearing out some remaining green beans left over from blending experiments, and along with roasting the usual decaf batch for my wife’s consumption, finished the last of my store from Panama’s Carmen Estate.

Details on the particular processing method described by Ministry Grounds:

This is a Honey processed lot, which means that fully ripe cherry is picked, sorted & pulped the same as a fully washed coffee, however after pulping the mucilage is left untouched on the bean and is sent to dry with the mucilage on. “Honey” coffees are sun-dried and normally on raised beds to allow greater airflow during drying as the mucilage left on the bean provides the opportunity for spoiling. The result is a more full-bodied, sweeter coffee, with less acidity.

Most coffees I have tasted from Panama generally do not disappoint, so I am expecting the same from this batch. From what I understand this has a lot to do with the very unique microclimate and rich volcanic soils enjoyed by the coffee producing estates in this country.

Here’s hoping for enough body to punch through the milk in my morning latte, and I’m also looking forward to a few sweet V60 and Aeropress long brews. A nice light roast should do it.

Tasting review to follow soon.