What’s Brewing – El Salvador Finca Suiza

What better way to spend a couple of weeks off over the Christmas break than catching up on a few tasting reviews. Obviously one key review will be the Christmas Blend referred to in a previous post, however there are also a couple of El Salvador varieties yet unwritten as of the current time. My thoughts on one of these appear below, however the other, the Finca Siberia Pacamara went a little long in the roast and ended up significantly darker than planned, so will be reviewed after I have another shot at refining the roast.

The Whack

Spanish built Santa Ana Cathedral
Spanish built Santa Ana Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What
El Salvador Finca Suiza
– City: Santa Ana
– Region: Santa Ana Volcano
– Altitude: 1,650 metres
– Variety: Bourbon
– Processing: Washed / patio dried
– Owner: Juan Francisco Menéndez

How
Latte , V60 Pour over, Aeropress

Assessment
Latte – A creamy, rich, full-bodied flavour is evident when using the Suiza as an espresso base in a milk drink. This one is on the verge of being my pick of those I have roasted so far this year for my morning latte. I highly recommend making this as a 3/4 latte with a double ristretto base.

V60 Pour over – Here there are some great citrus and fruit flavours. Though not quite as bright as some, it is certainly a worthwhile variety to run through the filter. Though an improvement is noticeable as the brew cools, it seemed to peak after a couple of minutes rather than several as I have often found with other origins. I don’t really see this as a negative, for at times I really do enjoy a solid filter offering with good body and reasonable acidity that doesn’t continue to sweeten as it progressively cools.

Aeropress – Probably not quite reaching the level of the V60, though an enjoyable brew in the Aeropress nonetheless. The sweetness was a little lacking, however I certainly cannot complain about a brew of this quality in getting me through an afternoon of spreadsheets.

Conclusion; Know This
Overall I found this particular variety to work well across the three brewing types mentioned above, with the pick being the latte. Sometimes single origins or estate coffees I find to be a bit hit and miss in a milk based drink – certainly not this one. As I indicated above, the Suiza also performed really well in both forms of filter brew, with the V60 shading the Aeropress. This is one variety I will certainly be looking to snap up again in the future.

Overall Rating : 4/5

What’s Roasting – El Salvador Duo

Today’s roast consisted of two batches, both originating in El Salvador. The first being the unusually named Finca Siberia Pacamara, explained by Ministry Grounds:

The farm’s history dates back to 1870, when Fabio Morán and Etifanio Silva decided to conquer this hostile territory, sowing coffee trees in one of the highest summits of the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range. They named the 28 hectares of land Siberia after its chaotic weather conditions, along with its difficult accessibility. One century later, Rafael Silva, brother of Luis Silva, inherited the property.

All of the coffee is shade grown under Pepeto Cedro and Cypress trees, which protect the coffee from wind and sun.

The expectation for this variety is for some nice fruit flavours, along with a sugar cane sweetness and good overall balance.

Cordillera de Apaneca mountain range in El Sal...
Cordillera de Apaneca mountain range in El Salvador. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second batch through the roaster was another from El Salvador, Finca Suiza. Again from Ministry Grounds:

Finca Suiza is located in prime specialty coffee country in the foothills of the Santa Ana volcano. The farm’s 22 hectares are planted out with a mix of Bourbon and Pacamara varieties, as well as a few old Typica trees. The coffee is grown in the shade of native trees, which also provide habitat for a variety of birds and insects.

The resulting cup for the Suiza should demonstrate floral characteristics with some maple syrup sweetness and fruity acidity.

I am looking forward to comparing the two to determine how closely the flavour profiles align if at all. Both roast batches went reasonably well with the exception of the Siberia Pacamara ending up a little darker than I would have liked, courtesy of playing trampoline volleyball (don’t ask) with my son at a critical part of the roast. The challenges of home roasting!

Serving Cup of Excellence as Espresso

When serving a Cup of Excellence[1] single origin coffee, does brewing by espresso undervalue what ultimately ends up in the cup? If we assume lighter roasted, filter brewed (V60, Chemex) methods demonstrate the subtlety and complexity of the overall flavour profile, is espresso a waste of a good single origin?

Of course the answer is no, as indicated by the enthusiasm these types of offerings routinely generate in the establishments that serve them – Strauss in Brisbane’s CBD (Web, Twitter) sparking my thoughts on this with a Cup of Excellence La Gloria, El Salvador #7 currently being served as a single origin espresso.

Should we not look to explore the many and varied ways a single origin will express itself through different brewing methods? Altering the concentration, extraction time and any other variable does nothing to alter what goes into the brew – that is, single origin (in this case Cup of Excellence) coffee and water. The output being a very rewarding drink in the cup. Will this be different to a filter brew? Absolutely. Ever so fortunate are we in having the choice in how we sample these fantastic single origins. I have lost count of the times I have been blown away by the results achieved with a particular method of brewing, when my expectations had prepared me for a completely different (read inferior) result.

Whether or not you are a fan of the higher acidity typical of a Cup of Excellence coffee, or prefer a lower acidity, full-bodied espresso, with more cafés willing to offer limited runs or seasonal changes in blends and single origins, along with real passion in how they are brewed and served, we as consumers can only be better off.

My La Gloria? A fantastic, brightly acidic cup with hints of chocolate and berry jam[2]. Followed of course by an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe courtesy of the V60 – the joys of variety and choice! My advice, get out there and try these when offered – it may only be once if it is not your cup of … well, espresso, but you won’t die wondering.


  1. Cup of Excellence is the most prestigious award given to a fine quality coffee. The level of scrutiny that Cup of Excellence coffees undergo is unmatched anywhere in the coffee industry. The prices that these winning coffees receive at auction have broken records and proven that there is a huge demand for these rare farmer identified coffees.  ↩
  2. I highly recommend you try this but make it quick – with only a limited amount available, at $4.00 a cup it is sensational value.  ↩

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

Assessment:
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