Review: Novo Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Guji (Denver, Colorado)

I spent a lovely 24 hours in Denver recently, and picking¬†up some coffee was high on my priority list. I’ve tried coffee from a number of Denver-based roasters before (Huckleberry, Corvus, Commonwealth, Boxcar), so I was excited to see what I could get my hands on in person. As fate would have it though, I arrived in town on a Sunday afternoon and by the time I was able to hunt for some coffee shops, many of them were closing for the day. My first stop was to Huckleberry, but the location I visited was closed early that day for a staff-only event. ūüôĀ I next visited a different coffee shop (don’t remember the name), but I left because they didn’t put roast dates on the bags. Third time ended up being the charm though, because I was able to find a Novo Coffee location that was open.

Upon arriving, I was immediately greeted by the staff and a friendly barista named Josh offered to chat if I had any questions about the beans I was looking at. Well, that was probably a mistake on his part because we ended up talking non-stop for the next 20 minutes at least about coffee, music, perfect pitch, more coffee… Sorry for talking your ear off, dude. I do love how excited baristas get talking about their house roaster, though! It’s a good sign that the beans are crafted with pride. My original plan was to buy one bag of coffee at Novo and perhaps one other bag at a different shop, but Josh talked me into buying three bags. Novo, you might want to look into giving this man a raise!

All three of the bags I bought were roasted around the same time, but I opted to start with this Ethiopia Guji because Josh seemed particularly excited about it. I just had a Guji/Sidama from Chromatic Coffee recently, so I was curious about if this would taste markedly different.

Spoiler alert: Yep, it sure does!

Whole bean: The beans smelled a lot like strawberry jam, and once I ground them up, milk chocolate aromas emerged.

V60: On my first try making this, I ended up with a 2:45 extraction time, and it was not nearly enough time. The resulting brew had a smooth aroma but tasted watered down. I was so disappointed!! However, once I tightened up the grind to result in a 3:45 extraction (which is on the long side for me with the V60), the coffee tasted a lot more flavorful, with a nice sweet milk chocolate flavor and a bit of Strawberry¬†Quik¬†character. It really wasn’t what I would call fruity, though.

AeroPress: Fruity/berry + chocolate flavor. It was a bit acidic on the finish with a bright lemony taste. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate, though, because I enjoyed the little bit of zing that came with the acidity.

Chemex: This brew smelled GREAT but tasted like disappointment. Bland. It brewed for 4:05 but based on my experience with the V60, maybe you’d need to brew it longer to get any flavor out?

French press: This method seemed to result in the best flavor of the four methods; the brew was a little thick with a chocolaty flavor. I wished for more fruit flavor though, as I like there to be a bit more dimension in my coffee vs. just chocolate notes.

Summary: I was expecting this to be a pretty bright, lively cup based on my recent Guji experience, but I actually found it to be rather bland when brewed with my standard parameters. Perhaps it had something to do with the change in altitude? I didn’t have any coffee at the shop so I can’t say if it tasted any different there, but if you do buy this, I would recommend using a french press and perhaps try brewing it for longer than 4 minutes if that is your standard (as it is mine). It seemed to be more successful in my opinion in the immersion methods vs. the pourover ones.

From the roaster: Pineapple, milk chocolate, strawberry, cream

This coffee is not currently available online.

Novo Coffee Online Store

Review: Zojirushi 16-oz Stainless Steel Mug

This Zojirushi travel mug is the second travel mug that I received at Christmastime (the first being the Contigo AutoSeal). I don’t actually travel with coffee a lot, as I prefer to drink it at home out of ceramic, but I wanted a travel mug for its insulation capabilities and for those times when I’m running late. I couldn’t decide between the Contigo and the Zojirushi, but Santa decided to be generous and I received¬†both. Thanks, dude!

I road-tested the Contigo first, and it’s pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. It does come with an instruction sheet, but it’s almost not necessary as there’s really not much to know outside of the typical legalese (Screw the lid on fully, don’t put this metal mug in the microwave, etc.). The reverse side of this instruction sheet has¬†instructions on how to clean the mug¬†(also quite easy and self-explanatory).

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In contrast, THIS is the instruction sheet for the Zojirushi. To be fair, the reverse side of this is in French, so you only need to read one side. But still…..!

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TL;DR, right?? Well, I took one for the team and read all of this so that you all don’t have to.

Notable things:
– If you use this for tea, they recommend NOT leaving a tea bag in the mug and closing the lid – brew the tea separately and then fill the mug afterward.
– Use of ice cubes in this mug may cause a drop in internal pressure and make the lid cover gasket come off. (Just reattach it, no harm done.)
– The manufacturers do not recommend drinking out of this mug while driving, as it may cause burns or accidents. I also have another reason I don’t recommend drinking out of this mug, which I’ll get into later.
– Do not remove the sticker on the bottom of the unit as it may lead to rust or holes. (??? I can’t think of another time I have ever seen an instruction to leave a sticker ON a metal canister.)
– Highlighted in the instructions with a squiggly line: “Consume beverages within the same day to prevent from spoiling.” (Um. Yeah. Ew.)
– Do not fill with carbonated beverages.
– Do not fill with salty liquids like soup as the salt may cause rust.
– When consuming dairy products and fruit juice (if left in the mug for long periods): “contents may spoil and produce gas that may cause the Lid Set to burst, causing injuries.” Worth observing if you add milk to your coffee.

All these rules and regulations were making my head spin, but I reminded myself that all I really wanted this mug for was to transport/store hot (black) coffee and maybe ice water on occasion. Zojirushi mugs have a reputation for excellent temperature retention, so that’s what I looked into next. I brewed a full 34-oz French press of coffee, drank some (mmmm), and put about 12 oz into the Zojirushi. Here are my temperature readings:

9:20 am – 178 F
9:50 am – 174
10:20 am – 170
10:50 am – 168
11:20 am – 165

Contrast that with the Contigo going from 177 F to 158 F in 30 minutes. The Zojirushi clearly wins on being able to keep hot coffee hot! At this point, I had to leave for work, so I left the coffee at home and when I came back, around 9:30 pm, I took off the lid and THE COFFEE WAS STILL STEAMING, 12 hours later. Wow. Granted, I wouldn’t have called the coffee “hot,” maybe more like “warm enough,” but that’s still quite a feat!

I also tried storing ice water in this mug on a hot sunny day. I didn’t have the time to take the water’s temperature all day, but I will say that ice cubes were still audible in the canister after 9+ hours. Impressive.

Now, I had mentioned earlier that I don’t recommend drinking directly out of this mug. Here’s why: the design includes a push-button tab which latches the lid shut (good!) but the tab protrudes and pushes into my the area right underneath my lip while I’m drinking (not so good… and my lips are not small, either!).

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(I really don’t care to model the discomfort. Trust me though, it’s not an ideal drinking position!)

In addition, this Zojirushi mug is quite slim in diameter, and there is a lot of wiggle room around it in my car’s cupholders, so I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable using it in the car, even if it didn’t stab me in the face.

So, would I recommend this travel mug? Yes, with caveats. If you just need a way to get your coffee from point A to point B and you don’t plan to drink it en route, AND you plan to pour it into a mug when you get to your destination, you’d be hard pressed to find another mug that keeps your coffee hotter longer than this one. Plus, from a purely shallow perspective, I love the champagne gold color. However, it’s kind of a pain to clean (you’ll need a bottle brush), and it’s not suitable for drinking coffee on the go, in my opinion.

These days, I will fill up my Contigo mug if I do need to drink coffee in the car, and I’ll use the Zojirushi at home if I’m making a large batch of coffee and I want to keep some hot¬†for Shutterbug (or for me, for later!).

Summary: Good mug if you treat it like a Thermos as opposed to a typical travel mug.

Zojirushi SM-KHE48NL Stainless Steel Mug, 16-Ounce, Champagne Gold on Amazon