What’s Brewing – El Salvador Miravalle CoE

El Salvador CoEPurchased in the same Ministry Grounds run-out sale of Cup of Excellence offerings as the previously reviewed Guatemalan CoE, this coffee certainly did not disappoint. You may remember the Guatemalan took a little “wearing in” before I truly discovered its magic – well this El Salvador was a more straight down the line brew.

Let’s see how it tasted.

El Salvador Miravalle CoE Lot 12 2013
– City: Santa Ana
– Region: Santa Ana
– Variety: Bourbon, Pacas, Kenya
– Processing: Washed
– Lot Size: 36 boxes
– Altitude: 1,650 metres above sea level
– Farmer: Doctor Jaime Ernesto Riera Menendez
– International jury score: 86.33

Finca Miravalle is located on the Ilamatec Mountain Range on the fertile foothills of El Salvador’s Santa Ana volcano at an average altitude of 1,650 metres above sea level. Due to it’s high altitude Miravalle’s coffee berries ripen slowly, which allows the sweetness and complexity to develop in the cup.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

Latte, V60 Pour over, Aeropress

Latte – although many would consider your CoE’s to be best appreciated “uncontaminated” by milk, this coffee was certainly very enjoyable in my morning latte[1]. The flavours were able to cut through the milk well enough to provide a good platform for the citrus notes, whilst having enough body to create a well-rounded drink.

V60 – Similar to the Guatemalan, a definite stand out method of brewing. Fantastic balance between the acidity and body, with increasing sweetness as the drink progressively cooled. When consumed as a filter, the purity of the citrus and lime flavours really shine through. Immensely enjoyable, and I often found myself brewing enough for two cups rather than my usual one with the V60 (though limiting myself to one at any given time is an effort in itself – regardless of the variety)

Aeropress – There was certainly a contrast between the V60 and Aeropress forms of brewing. At times there was quite a lolly-like taste quality similar to a toffee apple, with a thicker mouthfeel and longer finish. A great mid-afternoon boost in the office.

Conclusion; Know This
Although in my opinion not quite to the heights of the Guatemalan CoE of the last review, this coffee scored ever so slightly higher in the CoE judging (86.33 vs 85.83 for the Guatemalan). Whether or not this is indicative of my amateurish palate or not, it is pretty safe to say I enjoyed both immensely. This is best demonstrated by the fact that all bar about 100 grams of the 2 kg purchased I consumed myself, with very few beans going to family, which sounds terrible I know, but these were something special (now that I write that, so are my family – more will be shared next time!).

Although now out of stock, be sure to keep an eye out for these varieties next season, they are well worth the money.

Overall Rating: 4/5

  1. I also endeavour to try as many of the different forms of brewing I use on a daily basis with all of the coffees I roast.  ↩

Third Wave Coffee Thoughts

Dave Lieberman in the OC Weekly Blogs:

There’s one place I won’t go anymore, though, and that is the so-called third-wave coffee shops, the new generation of coffee bars with patent machines and a heavy concentration on knowing exactly which patch of steep, shady, equatorial land the coffee beans came from.

Mostly, though, I’m tired of the attitude of the people who make it.

It is fairly apparent the author takes issue with a certain “attitude”, “condescension” and “superiority” of some who work in these “third wave coffee” establishments. Should we put up with arrogance, rudeness or indifference when we are handing over our money? Absolutely not – a point which I touched on in a previous post. Here I agree with the author, however am mindful this is not limited to, nor the main feature of, any particular industry (or sector within it).

We should be very careful in placing blame at the feet of an entire sector of an industry over behaviour related to a smaller subset of it (and a subset of characteristics unrelated to the industry itself at that). I am referring to the fact that in any event, a certain proportion of the general population exhibit these very characteristics. Do they all work in “third wave coffee establishments”? No they don’t. However, a condescending attitude or the arrogance in these people (or anyone for that matter) has the potential to show through where they have a certain amount of knowledge (and often a great deal of passion) – in the case discussed here, coffee.

Is this an excuse? No.

My point is simply this, a more appropriate title for such an article would be, “Some people are rude, condescending and arrogant in our society – they work across many industries and therefore you may find some working in the coffee industry”. Not the most catchy title, and as you can see, I didn’t use it either – for obvious reasons. At times an attention grabbing title and a quick scan through an article without too much thought does not do justice to the issue at hand.

Sure, what the author writes is not fiction and does at times occur, however there are some hardworking purveyors of specialty coffee out there, who serve with humility, passion for their craft and do everything possible to make you feel at home. They are only too pleased to educate you on all things coffee and get excited when a customer shows a genuine interest in what they are doing and seeks out their knowledge. They deserve our support and respect, and I tip my hat to those very people. Lets not forget, it is they who provide us as consumers, access to features of an industry that may otherwise only be available to those within it – much to our benefit.

As for the rest, well, do as the author has done and speak with your feet, however it is not far before you will find somewhere you can feel at home. A place where the staff may cringe if you put sugar in a carefully filtered single origin, but they’ll never let on, and continue to serve you with enthusiasm and a smile.


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 Brewing #2 Ethiopian Sidamo

“Wake up and smell the blueberries”


Blueberry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second of my tasting reviews, where we will assess the outcome of last weekends roast. I’m looking forward to seeing how this African variety fares. The quote above and image to the right provide a hint of what is to come in the review below.

Traditionally I’d expect lovely sweet, fruity flavours from an Ethiopian origin, with a little more acidity than the Brazil Toffee Cerrado that came out of the roaster the week before. So let’s give it The Whack:

WhatEthiopian Sidamo Special Process Unwashed Gr 4.

  • Origin: Africa
  • Region: South central mountains of Addis Abada; Ethiopia
  • Processing: Dry processed

Supplier: Ministry Grounds.

How – Latte, Aeropress

AssessmentDry aroma: Face first into a blueberry patch. There is no other way to describe this. Begins on opening the cupboard and continues through to grinding the dose. The blueberries just keep on coming.

Milk course: The smooth blueberry tones remain, with addition to the sweetness from the milk; medium body and could probably be described as a milder brew when consumed with milk. A hint of chocolate comes through on the finish.

Aeropress: Medium acidity, smooth body, with a hit of blueberries early on whereas a little short on finish. Definitely an overarching blueberry flavour here, though probably lacks a little of the broadness of flavour and depth of sweetness in say, an Ethiopian Harrar.

Conclusion; Know This
This bean variety is great value and certainly does not disappoint. As expected, a deliciously fruity variety on a backbone of blueberry, with a hint of chocolate for good measure. Works well in a milk drink however leans towards greater things when brewed in the Aeropress, allowed to cool a little, and consumed on its own. At its best about 4–5 days after roasting.

Overall Rating: 4/5

What’s Brewing #1

My first What’s roasting post approximately one week ago promised an upcoming review of a South American origin Brazil Toffee Cerrado, from my green bean supplier Ministry Grounds Coffee. It’s now time to make good on that promise. One further note – since this is my first tasting review, please bear in mind the following is my opinion, and the taste will be influenced by my methods of roasting and brewing, as will your own.

My previous post, curiously titled The Whack, describes an outline of my taste testing and assessing system (if you could call it a system), so we can get down to the details straight away here.

The Whack

WhatBrazil Toffee Cerrado

  • Origin: Brazil
  • Region: Macaubas, Monte Carmelo, Pirapitinga in the Cerrado (Expocaccer Co-op)
  • Altitude: 900-1100 metres
  • Crop Year: 2011

My Source/Supplier: Ministry Grounds Coffee.

How – Milk based, 160ml latte; Aeropress.

Assessment – Dry aroma – hints of dark chocolate, caramel, brown sugar.
Milk course – dark chocolate and caramel undertones; flavours cut through the milk well; great for the morning latte and works very well as the base for a milk drink.
Aeropress – a definite improvement when cooler, some of the sweeter, caramelised brown sugar flavours in evidence; dare I say “toffee” flavour. Good body, with low acidity. Overall probably a little ‘flat’ when brewed by this method.

Conclusion; Know this – In my opinion this origin is fantastic value for money, as it performs solidly on its own, however I will use it in a blend soon and will write further on the outcome. Really came into its own 4-5 days after roasting. When used as a single origin, it probably works best in a milk drink, however do try in an Aeropress or similar, as when it cools there is a distinct alteration in the flavour profile.

Overall rating 4/5