Review: Weekend Coffee Roasters Mexico Organic Altura Finca San Carlos (San Jose, California)

I was recently contacted by the nice people at Weekend Coffee Company, based out of Northern California. I like that they’re a family-owned company, and they received the “Editors Choice” award in the 2017 Metro “Best of Silicon Valley” issue. At this time, they’re an online-only business (they don’t operate a storefront/brick-and-mortar coffee shop), but they do have limited hours available for customer pickup if you’re in the Bay Area.

Their normal practice is to ship beans within two days of roasting and they do make note of the roasting dates on the bag. Comforting to know that they take freshness seriously, as should anyone who is passionate about their coffee! They have a good selection of blends and single-origins on their website.

(Side note: Is anyone else reminded of the band Weezer when you look at the font that Weekend Coffee Roasters is using? Maybe it’s a subtle way of saying “our coffee rocks”…!)

Whole bean: Smelt from the bag, I detected the scent of vanilla wafer cookies. Ground, the beans smelled like plum and almonds.

French press: Extremely smooth cup, almost to the point of dullness (not in flavor, but in acidity). Murky. Slightly grassy aroma.

Chemex: Really clean flavor and body to this cup that had a hint of gingerbread. It had a bit of what most people would interpret as “bitterness” on the finish but it smoothed out as it cooled, revealing more flavors like almond and amaretto. Would be quite nice with cream added.

AeroPress: Thick and robust brew that tasted of dark chocolate and almonds. I didn’t add any additional water than what was used for brewing.

V60: I made this at a 3:25 extraction and it produced a smoother cup than the Chemex, with a classic “coffee” aroma and flavor.

Summary: I haven’t had much experience with Mexican coffee but this is a surprisingly layered one if you choose to brew in a Chemex. I’m a black coffee drinker and my tastes run to the complex side so if you are like me, I’d say try this in a Chemex. If you like “simpler” black coffee, it’s really good in the AeroPress and Hario V60. Like most coffees I’ve had from Mexico, it’s a crowd pleasing brew that would also suit for people that add cream and sugar to their coffee. I’d personally not brew this in a French press as I think the other methods showed off the flavor of these beans better.

From the roaster: White grape, chocolate, cinnamon

Weekend Coffee Roasters Certified Organic Mexico Altura Finca San Carlos

Review conducted 7 days post-roast.

Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket.

Review: Conscious Coffees Organic Sanitas Decaf (Boulder, Colorado)

Decaf coffee is something I rarely seek out, but this bag happened to catch my eye during a recent trip to Denver. I was at Pigtrain Coffee at Denver’s Union Station and this was the freshest coffee there so it was a no-brainer, even though I usually think “what’s the point” about decaf… but I know I have at least a few readers that would appreciate more decaf tastings! This one’s for you guys.

Whole bean: Sesame, red bean. This was unexpected!

French press: This had a rather reddish hue in the cup. It tasted strongly of chocolate truffles… thick and one-dimensional in flavor but quite a pleasant dimension!

Chemex: Not bad, but it doesn’t taste like much… I had a hard time dialing in the grind for this bag and I brewed this batch for a whopping 5:40 (instead of my usual 4:00!) but even then, the coffee was on the bland side. Points for being forgiving though?

AeroPress: Fudgy, decadent, and sweet.

V60: Bland and a bit sharp on the finish. Not my favorite.

Summary: After I finished the tasting and looked closely at the tasting notes, I was shocked as nothing I smelled or tasted in the cup had anything to do with buttercream or caramel or citrus, but I did enjoy the depth of chocolate flavor in the immersion methods. I liked this decaf in a french press and in the AeroPress and it would be a good one to try, preferably complimented by a nice chocolate dessert of some sort!

From the roaster: Buttercream, caramel, light citrus

Conscious Coffees Organic Sanitas Decaf

Review conducted 10 days post-roast.

Review: Avoca Coffee Roasters Misty Valley (Fort Worth, Texas)

A recent trip to Denton gave me time to visit Shift Coffee, which has featured interesting roasters in the past like Kuma and Chocolate Fish. This particular visit, they were featuring bags from local Fort Worth roaster Avoca, so I opted for Misty Valley, which is a blend of two Ethiopian coffees (Yirgacheffe and Gedio). The only other time I’ve seen an Ethiopian blend was when I reviewed Tweed’s Staycation Blend (which I rather liked) so I was curious how this would fare.

Whole bean: Creamy, raspberry, sweet like candy. Reminded me a lot of strawberry Starburst!

French press: No fruit flavor in this cup. Quite thick; almost dark roast in character.

Chemex: Cocoa was the dominant flavor here but it was delicate and smooth, with just a hint of brightness on the finish.

AeroPress: The sweet flavor of chocolate plus raspberries.

V60: Rather harsh – I accidentally brewed this at a slightly higher temperature than normal (205 degrees F; I normally brew at 200 degrees F) because I wasn’t paying attention to my kettle. Mind that you don’t heat your water to this level.

Summary: The aroma of the whole beans promised more fruit flavor than I actually got in the cup, so I was a tad bit disappointed to not get a berry bomb, but this is a good coffee for people that enjoy a nice balanced profile to their Ethiopian coffee. It is heavy on the cocoa flavor. Try it in a Chemex (for cocoa flavor) or in an AeroPress (for chocolate-covered raspberries).

From the roaster: Floral aroma with blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and cocoa flavors; balanced with a pleasant acidity and creamy mouthfeel.

Avoca Coffee Roasters Misty Valley

Review conducted 7-9 days post-roast.

Thoughts on Ride’s “Pulsar”

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about Ride’s new single “Pulsar” since its surprise release last week. 

(Via Google) 

pul·sar <ˈpəlˌsär/>

noun: ASTRONOMY

a celestial object, thought to be a rapidly rotating neutron star, that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second.

Much like pulsars send out waves of radiation into the universe, musicians emit waves of sound into their surrounding atmosphere. There is little guarantee that their music will be heard, and of those that do hear it, there is no guarantee anyone will comprehend it, much like the people who first encountered pulsars didn’t quite realize what they were seeing. 

These days, music can live far beyond the lifespan of its creators and reach a much larger audience thanks to things like sheet music and audio/video recording, but there is something undeniably special and lucky about being alive at the exact right time and place to experience music coming into existence, much like the luck of being in the exact right situation to witness celestial events. Even if your gaze is trained in the right direction, if your mind is not open to new experiences, you may miss out on the magic being born right before your eyes. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival. Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps in Paris (and the riot that followed). Beethoven’s 9th. 

Ride has straddled the line for me between popular music and art music for some time. Simplicity is deceptively difficult, and these guys are masters at crafting a pop song that feels natural and inevitable, like it has always existed (Twisterella, Cali, Vapour Trail). But, it’s the complexity and the unexpected twists and turns of tracks like Seagull, Nowhere, Drive Blind, and more recently, Weather Diaries and Integration Tape that are what really intrigue me about this band. I wasn’t aware at first that the band had attended art school, and it was only relatively recently that I learned more about the depth and breadth of their artistic and musical knowledge. But even as a kid, I could sense that there was something different in this music that attracted me, something I responded to before I could even articulate what it was. I may not have fully understood what I was witnessing in the musical landscape back in the 1990s, but I certainly haven’t taken my eyes and ears off it since. 

My first listen of “Pulsar” was, sadly, on my iPhone speaker – I was too impatient to wait the six hours or so until I was home from work. I liked the track, but didn’t have any real thoughts about it other than “what a gorgeous fuzzy racket!!” It wasn’t until I heard it turned up loud on better equipment that I grew to love the track, and reading drummer Laurence Colbert’s comments on his Facebook page about the inspiration for the song really gave me an appreciation for its complexity. 

Like an onion, “Pulsar” is multi-layered sonically and lyrically. I already interpret it in multiple ways, and I’m sure more ideas will reveal themselves in time as my perspective grows and changes, but what a wonderful metaphor this track is for the band. In a crowded field of stars, it’s easy to miss the glowing, vibrant energy of this group. You have to know where to look and be open to hearing something new. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky ones to be living in the right time and space to witness the pulsar that is Ride, live. And while the finished product is a full band (+ Erol Alkan) effort, I think there’s something beautifully poetic about the fact that the genesis of this song came from Loz, the literal pulse and heartbeat of this group.

Transmission received, guys. And it’s a stunner. 

Ride – Pulsar (YouTube)

Review: Onyx Coffee Lab Colombia Eduardo Lizcano: Washed (Springdale, Arkansas)

Method Coffee has saved me on more than a couple of occasions when I have to be alert at a gig in downtown Dallas and I am running short on sleep. They also have an interesting rotating selection of roasters, and on my most recent visit, they were featuring beans from Onyx Coffee Lab.

Note the penultimate step in the brewing instructions. Don’t mind if I do.

I chose to put on one of my “perfect albums” (albums you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a track) —Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia by the Dandy Warhols.

Whole bean: cherry, like tart cherry pie.

V60: At a 3:15 extraction, there was an enticing aroma of red fruit (raspberry, I think) and caramelized sugar. The flavor was like a strong burst of lemon on the front, before it mellows into a more gentle flavor of hibiscus and fruit punch. This is definitely the brightest Colombian coffee I’ve ever tasted! Not flavors I’m used to for coffees from this country, for sure.

AeroPress: Same impressions as the V60 cup – intense at the front before it mellows into a fruity concoction, but somehow even more intense in this method.

Chemex: I underextracted this cup slightly (final brew time was 3:35), but the final product was much smoother than the previous cups. No one flavor stood out, but it was sweet.

French press: A richer, sweeter version of the Chemex cup. I distinctly tasted brown sugar here. I like it!

Summary: A bit of a confounding coffee with a whirlwind of tasting notes, but my favorite method was in the french press, for its comforting brown sugar sweetness and rich mouthfeel.

From the roaster: candied lemon, brown sugar, mouthwatering, tart cherry

As of press time, this coffee is no longer available on their website, but here’s a link to Onyx’s store:

Onyx Coffee Lab Online Store

Review conducted 8-9 days post-roast.

Review: La Colombe Panama Ironman VI Geisha (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Earlier this summer, I visited the District of Columbia and while there, visited a La Colombe coffee shop for the first time. I’ve reviewed La Colombe coffees before (their Nizza espresso and their single-origin Colombia San Roque), and while neither were exactly to my personal taste, both were exactly what they said they were; their tasting notes don’t lie. So, at the cafe, when I saw this bag of Panama Ironman VI Geisha, I was curious to see if the tasting notes matched up as well as it has in the past with this brand. Plus, I hadn’t had much if any craft coffee for almost two weeks prior to this so it didn’t feel like too much of a splurge to pay the premium that I did for these Geisha beans.

Whole bean: Bright, sweet, fresh aromas. It reminded me of a light, refreshing white wine, like a pinot grigio.

V60: Strong notes of grapefruit in this with a nice (but sweet) complexity.

AeroPress: I had this as a concentrate – no need to dilute with additional water if you like the tart taste of grapefruit and nectarines. This was the most tart of the four cups.

Chemex: Creamy and complex cup that tasted of nectarine and citrus, but sweeter than the AeroPress result.

French press: By far, this was my favorite method for these beans. Layers upon layers of rich flavor here — creamy vanilla and sweet floral notes with nectarine and sugar. Very enjoyable!!

Summary: I really like Panamanian geisha coffee, and this bag is no exception. Try it in a french press and experience a vibrant, multi-layered flavor bomb.

From the roaster: White peach, blood orange, apricot

This coffee is not currently available on La Colombe’s website, but here is a link to their online store:

La Colombe Coffee Roasters Store

Review conducted 10-11 days post-roast.

Review: Driftaway Coffee Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor (Brooklyn, New York)

This review will be a both a usual and an unusual review, in that Driftaway Coffee operates as a coffee subscription company with constantly rotating offerings, so while you may not be able to get these exact beans, I wanted to do a full review of the beans I did receive to give an overview of what you might be able to expect from this company.

A recurring trend these days seems to be the personalized subscription… Stitch Fix comes to mind as an example, where you get clothes selected for you each month, you give the company feedback about what you do and do not like, and they adjust their future shipments to reflect your preferences. Driftaway Coffee works like that, where you first receive a tasting kit with four overall coffee profiles (fruity, classic, balanced, bold). Then, you choose your favorite of the four, tell Driftaway what you like or don’t like about the coffee via their website or iOS app, and Driftaway will send you freshly roasted coffees personally selected to reflect your preferences. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of going into a coffee shop and blindly picking out a bag, hoping you’ll like it. In addition, since it shows up at your door at the frequency you choose, you won’t run out of freshly roasted coffee. Great for busy folks!

In my case, rather than sending me the tasting kit, Driftaway simply contacted me to ask what I would like, and based on my answers, they sent me this bag from their “Balanced” taste profile – this Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor. Shipping was very quick, and I believe the coffee was in my mailbox 4-5 days post-roast. Having my name handwritten on the bag was an unexpected but very sweet touch; it really felt like this coffee was personally roasted just for me!

Whole bean: Peanut brittle, butterscotch.

French press: Very sweet. Toffee, nutty, rich flavor and mouthfeel. There’s nothing sharp or sour or off-putting about this coffee – it feels smooth and luxurious in the mouth. Delicious! If you usually take your coffee with cream, I challenge you to try this black and see if it doesn’t convince you that good coffee doesn’t need anything added.

Chemex: Tangy flavor, with a hint of blood orange. Mild citrus taste. Very different from the French press cup!! Sweet and tart at the same time.

AeroPress: Straight up Snickers bar (for anyone that doesn’t have Snickers candy bars where they live, it’s caramel, peanut and nougat, covered in milk chocolate).

V60: Like the Chemex cup in its citrusy character but with more of a toasty finish.

Summary: I was fascinated by how this particular Colombian coffee could have such different results; the immersion methods (French press/AeroPress) created a coffee that was decadent, sweet, and rich. The pourover methods (Chemex/Hario V60) resulted in a light, citrusy brew with a balanced finish. Both flavor profiles were fantastic but I have to say this coffee done in a French press was my personal favorite of the four methods I tried, and I think if I was introducing craft coffee to someone who had not had it before (especially if it was someone who was used to putting cream and sugar in their coffee), this would be a fantastic bean to give them to show what really great coffee can be like, unadulterated.

If the idea of having the equivalent of a coffee sommelier appeals to you, check out Driftaway! I am really impressed by the sample I received — it’s one of the best coffees I’ve tasted so far this year!! — and they couldn’t be nicer people to connect with. Many thanks!

From the roaster: Toffee, turmeric, peanut

Driftaway Coffee

Review conducted 6-7 days post-roast.

Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket.

Review: Has Bean Coffee Malawi Msese Wetmill (Stafford, England)

I had a whirlwind trip earlier this summer to the north of England, and I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Manchester. As a fan of bands like the Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, the Stone Roses, and James, the city of Manchester is a place I had long wanted to visit, and it surpassed all of my expectations. I hope to return someday to explore it further!

Now, coffee wasn’t the cornerstone of my visit by any means, but I knew I couldn’t leave without bringing home something from a local roaster. However, despite the fact that Manchester is not lacking for coffee shops (I found 5 or 6 independent cafes within an easy walk of each other in the city center, not even including “chain” coffee shops), the beans that were available for sale were largely not fresh enough for my liking… most were a month or more post-roast. This bag of Has Bean Coffee was dated 13 days post roast, I believe, so I snapped it up, knowing that it was the freshest I was likely to find! Stafford is not terribly close to Manchester (around 60 miles away), but considering where I had flown from (Dallas!), yes, I considered Stafford to be “locally roasted” relative to Manchester. I picked up these beans from North Tea Power, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Whole bean: Even before I opened the bag, I had to giggle at the clever brand name. Plus, in all my years of drinking coffee, I had never tried a coffee from Malawi before! I liked this company already. Once I opened the bag, the beans smelled sugary and light.

French press: Thick, tangy, but not sour. Nice body to the brew, with a lovely smooth finish. Satisfying to drink. It gets more complex as it sits and cools, obtaining a note of tropical fruit.

Chemex: Nice spicy finish. Clean taste – not many layers to this cup, but it was pleasingly straightforward and simple. Very easy to drink, with a taste of brown sugar.

AeroPress: Similar in flavor to the French press cup. The kiwi flavor really comes out in this method.

V60: Sweetest of the four cups. Sugary and light-bodied coffee. There was a bit of a floral note on the finish.

Summary: This was a nice, complex, multi-dimensional coffee that is lovely brewed any way you can get it, but I think I liked it best in the Hario V60 for its sweetness. However, it has its merits in all four of my usual brewing methods.

From the roaster: Floral, kiwi, chocolate milk

Has Bean Coffee Malawi Msese Wetmill

Review conducted 18 days post-roast.

Review: Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu (Austin, Texas)

Cuvée Coffee is regularly featured at my local Whole Foods market, but I don’t buy it very often because the beans aren’t often on the shelf within two weeks of the roast date (which is a common situation when you buy coffee at retail outlets like markets). However, I lucked out recently when I spotted this bag of their Guatemala Hunapu, and I realized it had been a LONG time since I had reviewed any Cuvée (the last time was their Decaf Spicewood 71, back in May 2015!). So, into my basket went this bag.

Whole bean: White sugar, cherries.

V60: Strong and nutty. There was a bit of flavor like almond skin. A tad overwhelming taken black – I expected more sweetness, given the sweet aroma of the beans.

AeroPress: Very thick and smooth brew with a bit of floral character. Not very sweet.

Chemex: Much better in my view vs. the V60 cup. Something about this method took away the strong bite. Sugary and light-bodied coffee but very smooth flavor like marzipan. Bit of cherry on the finish.

French press: Best of the four in my view. Fudgy, sweet, floral, nutty. Tasted like almond butter with some complexity, and it only got better as it cooled.

Espresso: On a hunch, I tried these beans as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled four shots or so, but it produced a really promising result that convinced me that these beans would be great in this method. Even over 2 weeks post-roast, there was an outrageous amount of crema, and the espresso tasted sweet and smooth. Delicious stuff.

Summary: Taken as a coffee, I like this brewed in a French press best, with the Chemex a close second. Works arguably even better as a single-origin espresso!

From the roaster: Nutty, orange zest, dried cherry

Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu

Review conducted 12 days post-roast (coffee), 16 days post-roast (espresso).

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Sunset Blend (Dallas, Texas)

Davis Street Espresso is the home cafe for Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters here in Dallas, but though I’ve gotten pretty familiar with OCCR over the past 2 years, I hadn’t visited Davis Street Espresso until quite recently because 1) I just don’t go out for espresso much and 2) I’m not typically in the area when they’re open. However, I finally had the chance to visit and enjoyed a lovely espresso while scouting out their bean selection. As typical for me, I looked for what was the freshest, and I ended up choosing the Sunset Blend.

The packaging describes the Sunset Blend as “Our most balanced offering, the Sunset Blend is specifically blended for wonderful sweetness and body. This coffee pairs well with a wide range of foods.” I was coming off of a run of drinking rather complex and challenging coffees, so the idea of drinking something balanced and simpler really appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE complexity in my coffee, but some mornings, the last thing I want to be is confused about what I’m drinking. Not surprisingly, it is directly proportional to how much sleep I’ve had… 😉

Whole bean: Black pepper? The scent seemed to be coming more from the bag than the beans, though. Once I put the beans in a little glass bowl, however, they smelled “normal” – I couldn’t pick out anything specific.

French press: Super smooth and uncomplicated. A bit murky. Not getting a ton of flavor from this cup but it’s pleasant – it’s a cup you can drink and enjoy without having to think about it too much.

Chemex: Incredibly smooth and sweet. Delicious! Not murky at all – clear as a bell. Milk chocolate and orange flavors. This was highly enjoyable.

AeroPress: Similar to the Chemex cup but with the volume turned up. Bit more citrusy.

V60: Creamy and sweet, with a good balance of flavors.

Summary: I think the pourover methods (Chemex and V60) particularly suit this blend, but all four cups were enjoyable. There wasn’t a huge difference between any of the cups but if given the option, go with a pourover method for the cleanest and juiciest flavor.

From the roaster: Sweet milk chocolate and citrus.

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Sunset Blend

Review conducted 3-4 days post-roast.