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 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 Brewing – Panama Carmen Estate

English: View of the Rio Caldera from the home...

English: View of the Rio Caldera from the homemade bridge near Volcan Baru national park, Boquete. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I am hesitant to call something a good all-rounder, this is probably the most apt description for this variety from Panama’s Carmen Estate. This tag often carries with it the connotation of being solid without ever reaching any great heights. I don’t think that is probably a fair description of this crop, however is something I keep coming back to in trying to describe it for this review.

As I mentioned in my previous Coffee post, the expectation for this “honey” processed lot was for a fairly full-bodied brew with reasonably low to medium acidity. A little on the Carmen Estate from Ministry Grounds:

Carmen Estate is situated in the Paso Ancho Valley, which is located in the Chiriqui province, close to the border with Costa Rica in western Panama. Paso Ancho Valley lies on the western slopes of the Baru Volcano. The Baru is an inactive volcano located between the Boquete and Volcan-Candela areas. At 3,500 meters above sea level, the Baru is the highest point in Panama. The Baru Volcano has provided very rich, deep and fertile soils to the Paso Ancho Valley micro region. This coupled with regular rainfall and appropriate altitude are a key factor in the outstanding quality portrayed by the coffee produced in this micro region.

Expectations aside, how did it actually taste?

The Whack

What
– Panama Carmen Estate
– Altitude: 1250–1500mtrs
– Crop Year: 2013
– Varietal: Catuai Caturra Typica
– Processing: Washed

How
Latte; Hario V60 Pourover; Aeropress

Assessment
Milk course – When brewed with milk, there is enough body to carry the drink, and a nice creamy finish, however the low acidity and overly subtle fruit flavours result in a fairly middle of the road experience overall.

V60 – Hints of stone fruit sweetness in this form of brewing; really came to life after most of the heat had come out of the brew. A fairly long, subtle finish. I suspect this would make a great cold brew.

Aeropress – Performed pretty well in this method. Noticeably low acidity, with undertones of the fruitiness seen in the V60 above. Both the V60 and Aeropress would be my preferred methods of consumption with this particular varietal.

Conclusion; Know this
Overall, a solid performer across most forms of brewing. A couple of points to note however. Firstly, the sweetness of the brew increased significantly as it cooled, and perhaps would be well suited to a cold brew. In addition, it would probably work quite well in a blend, providing some body in the middle and creaminess to the finish. I’m of the opinion it just needs a little more fruitiness to drive the overall flavour profile.

Rating 3.5/5

Wait…there’s more
Thankfully, brewing the Carmen Estate overlapped with another batch of roasting which included this Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a variety I have always found brings a lot of fruit to the cup.

Hence, a blend was created with 40% Carmen Estate, 40% Yirgacheffe, and 20% Indonesian Blue Batak. The Yirgacheffe added a great burst of fruitiness, with blueberry and lemon/lime flavours, whereas the Blue Batak provided a hint of spice, which together, improved the milk based drink significantly and really packed more sweetness into the V60 and Aeropress.

So to conclude, the Carmen Estate is certainly an enjoyable drink as a single origin, however is at its best when part of a blend with varietals that will provide a little more acidity and add to the overall flavour profile.

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.