Review: Roseline Coffee Colombia San Jose de Inza (Portland, Oregon)

Since I had just reviewed a Colombian coffee from Cultivar, I wasn’t intending to pick up another Colombian coffee for a while, but on a recent visit to Houndstooth, this was the freshest coffee available, so I acquiesced. There are worse things in life than repeating an origin two weeks in a row!

Whole bean: cocoa powder, blackberries and raspberries.

French press: Semisweet chocolate and strawberries. It really did taste and smell like chocolate-covered strawberries!

Chemex: I brewed this a bit long (4:19) but the end result was pleasant, if sort of generic in flavor. There was very little fruit.

AeroPress: The flavor was like bittersweet chocolate, and it had a grassy finish. Once I added water, the grassy note disappeared and it morphed into milk chocolate with a really sweet, fudgy finish that tasted exactly like the Jelly Belly chocolate pudding-flavored jelly beans.

V60: Brewed on the faster end (2:35), the coffee was just “fine” – I wrote nondescript in my notes. However, at 3:30 extraction, it had a buttery flavor with just a hint of cherry cordial to it.

Summary: I think I tend to prefer my Colombian coffees in immersion methods, and this one is no exception. French press = chocolate-covered strawberries. Delightful! But if you want a thick, fudgy, sweet experience, brew this in an AeroPress, add a little water, and try not to drop your jaw too much… you might get coffee all over your lap.

From the roaster: Cacao nibs and berry preserves

Roseline Coffee Colombia San Jose de Inza

Review: Java Maestro Stainless Steel Pour Over Cone Dripper

My post regarding shopping for manual coffee brewers gets into this topic in a little more depth, but there are two basic styles of manual coffee makers: pourover and immersion. Both have their pros and cons. This dripper from Java Maestro is an attempt to combine the best of both worlds into one brewer.

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. You’re still getting my unfiltered (get it? haha) opinions.

First, before we get into testing the Java Maestro, let’s review the pros and cons of pourover vs. immersion brewing.

POUROVER

Pros:
– Easy to clean the brewer (just lift and toss the paper filter)
– “Clean” cup of coffee (no sludge)

Cons:
– Less flavor without the coffee oils (since the paper filter absorbs them)
– Must buy filters
– Need a good burr grinder and gooseneck kettle ($$$) for best result; not the easiest method for beginners

IMMERSION

Pros:
– Flavorful, rich cup of coffee (due to the presence of coffee oils)
– No filters to buy
– Grind size and kettle specs less critical (larger margin of error)

Cons:
– Fussier cleanup
– Sludge usually present at the bottom of the cup
– Glass carafe is easy to break

I love my Hario V60, and I love my Bodum Chambord french press. I use both very regularly, and I do enjoy the different results in the coffee from both brewing methods. But, occasionally (like when I wrote this review), I wish there was a middle ground between the clean, sludge-free brightness of the V60 and the rich, thick, viscous goodness of the french press. I was pretty curious to see if the Java Maestro would fit the bill!

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Initial impressions:

The Java Maestro looks a lot like the Hario V60, except that it’s made completely out of metal. I’ve already broken one ceramic V60, so the idea of a dripper made of non-breakable stainless steel is appealing. Most of the dripper is constructed of a fine mesh, so a handle on the side of the dripper (like the V60 has) is not an option – instead, the Java Maestro has a small tab-style handle on the rim. I find this tab a little short and small for my taste, but it’s a minor quibble.

Compared to my ceramic Hario, the Java Maestro feels quite light, and I was wondering about its sturdiness/durability. However, the construction seems quite sound, and the fact that it is nice and light means you can perch it over just about any mug/glass for brewing. I don’t use my Hario V60 over some of my travel mugs because I worry about the whole setup falling over from being too top-heavy, but I’d be comfortable using the Java Maestro on any of my travel, ceramic, or glass mugs.

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The unit also comes with a coffee scoop that doubles as a bag clip. I initially wasn’t all that excited about the coffee scoop; after all, I usually brew my coffee by weight, not volume. However, I know not everyone uses a scale to micromanage their morning coffee, so it was a nice touch for those that prefer to brew by volume. Plus, as it happened, the next bag of coffee I purchased after receiving this dripper did not have a bag fastener, so the clip-style handle of this coffee scoop came in handy! Universe, your timing is impeccable.

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Brewing:
For someone that is used to very specific brew parameters (water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, coffee:water at a 1:16 ratio, etc.), the instructions on the box were more vague than I am used to, but it is in keeping with its more “user-friendly” vibe. The steps are actually pretty similar to what one would use for a typical pourover setup.

  1. Rinse the dripper with hot water. On a Hario V60, this serves to wet the filter and preheat the cone. Here, it’s just to preheat the cone.
  2. Measure out 2 scoops of medium-ground coffee for every 6 oz of water.
  3. Gently tap to level out the coffee grounds.
  4. Bloom the coffee with a bit of hot water for 20 seconds.
  5. Pour the water slowly and in circles to the “level of strength you want your coffee.”

I initially started experimenting using my Hario V60 brew parameters (25 grams coffee, 400 grams water). I wasn’t sure how long of an extraction I should be aiming for (and to be honest, I’m still not sure!), but there seems to be a pretty wide range of deliciousness possible from this unit. At a 2:30 extraction, the coffee had a nice, full body that tasted like French press coffee without the objectionable sludge, and the flavor was deep, toasty, and smooth. As I tightened up the grind to 3:00, tangier, brighter, more intense flavors began to appear. I tried a few different coffees with this brew method, and all of the cups were tasty, even the cup where I accidentally had the grinder set so fine, the total brew time ended up being 6:00!! That wasn’t my favorite cup of the bunch, but it was still surprisingly drinkable.

Summary: Refreshingly hard to mess up. The Hario V60 is a lot trickier to use than this is.

Cleaning:
One of the biggest objections people have to the French press is the effort it takes to clean it. You have to dump the spent grounds, disassemble the 3-part mesh filter, clean it, the plunger, and the glass carafe with hot, soapy water, dry everything, and reassemble the whole thing before making another cup. In comparison, the cleanup for the Java Maestro is pretty easy: You dump the spent grounds by knocking the inverted cone over a trash can (remember, it’s unbreakable!), and clean off what grounds are left on the unit by giving it a quick wash with hot, soapy water. The box even says that the unit is “dishwasher friendly.” I would assume this means it’s safe for occasional cleaning in the top rack of a dishwasher, but honestly, this thing is so easy and quick to clean by hand that I wouldn’t even think to bother with the dishwasher. It’s maybe marginally more effort than tossing a paper filter, but much easier than cleaning a french press. I would just be sure to rinse this very well, because the mesh is so fine. You don’t want to be drinking soap.

Summary: Easy-peasy cleanup.

Price:

Bodum Chambord: $30
Hario V60: around $16-18, plus the cost of filters
Java Maestro: $23

Summary: Comparable to other manual brewing methods, and conceivably cheaper in the long run than methods that use filters.

Overall impression:
I like this brewer a lot! If you enjoy the rich flavor of french press coffee but dislike the grit/sludge that can come with it, the Java Maestro will fit your needs beautifully. It’s unbreakable, easy to clean, requires no filters, and makes for a rather forgiving brew method that produces a tasty cup of coffee. The only drawback is that it only brews 12 oz at a time, but the cleanup is so fast that making a second cup is not a big deal at all.

Java Maestro on Amazon

Review: Cultivar Coffee Colombia Henry Serrato (Dallas, Texas)

The last time I reviewed a coffee from Cultivar, it landed in my Best of 2015 list. I happened to be visiting Emporium Pies in McKinney, Texas one weekend and they had fresh bags of this Colombia Henry Serrato on the shelves, so I decided that the time was right to give Cultivar another go.

Whole bean: The beans smelled fragrant like nectarines and caramelized sugar. Delicious!!

French press: When the hot water hit the grounds, a slight minty scent emerged, but the end product did not taste minty. The coffee was thick, rich, and creamy in texture, and it tasted like the top of a luscious creme brulee. Wow.

Chemex: Less sweet of a cup; this brew had a markedly thinner body (no surprise) and it was a bit bright and acidic.

AeroPress: Lemony flavor and full body. Adding a bit of water smoothed out some of the lemon/acidic flavor and made for a very pleasant cup.

V60: At a 3:00 extraction, the coffee was toasty but otherwise not that remarkable.

Summary: In my notes, I starred both the French press and AeroPress brews, which means that those were my favorites, but honestly, I can’t remember how the AeroPress version tastes now because all I can remember is the sublime, sugary, creme-brulee flavor of this coffee made in a french press. Do yourself a favor and get some!

From the roaster: Toasted sugar. Figs. Soft acidity.

Cultivar Colombia Henry Serrato

Review: Novo Coffee Roasters Espresso Novo (Denver, Colorado)

For the last of my three selections from Novo Coffee, I brought home their house espresso blend that is served in their shops, Espresso Novo.

When I opened up the bag and measured out beans to pull my first shot, I noticed a green (unroasted) bean hanging out among all of its roasted brethren. A good reminder to keep an eye on your beans!

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Notice how much larger the roasted bean is compared to the unroasted bean.

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Whole bean: Smells bright and tea-like, with a fruity character. I was having a hard time putting my finger on what it was I was smelling – I knew it wasn’t a berry scent, and I wrote “mango, maybe” in my notes. Later on, it hit me – banana!

Straight shots: I was amazed at the variation of flavor that I got while adjusting the parameters. Here are my notes, verbatim (minus all the dosages, temperatures, grind settings, etc.):
1) ristretto: not bad, but very tangy like bananas
2) between normale and lungo: bland, tastes like nothing.
3) normale: rare steak??? Really meaty. Weeeeiiiiirrrrrdddd
4) normale: creamy, balanced, and smooth.
5) normale: crisp, fruity, acidic. Slight berry flavor.

Favorite parameters (#4): 18 g in, 37 g out, 200 F, 23 seconds from first drip

With milk: I totally forgot to taste this with milk (as I almost never drink milk drinks these days). Sorry!

AeroPress: The resulting brew was thick and fairly smooth at the start, with a little bracing acidity on the finish. Odd aftertaste. Overall, I was underwhelmed with the coffee brewed this way – I would stick to drinking it as espresso.

Summary: This espresso can lead to some crazy tastes (seriously, rare steak??) but it’s not bad at all once you find that little window of balanced flavor!

From the roaster: medium body, caramel, blueberry, banana

Novo Coffee Roasters Espresso Novo

Reflections: Ride, Terminal 5 (New York City), June 4, 2015

January 2016
This is not a review, as I am not a rock critic. Even if I was one, there is no way that I could be objective about this particular concert, or about this particular band. Since discovering Ride’s music in 1992, my mental image of them had developed almost exclusively through their recordings; I missed out on seeing them live in the 1990s because of the combination of my youth and of bad timing. Having never seen them in the flesh, I couldn’t properly envision the fact that this music that meant so much to me was created by real people. By 2014, Ride had become a bittersweet memory in my head; a missed opportunity; a symbol of a world that existed beyond my reach as a teenager. It’s silly in retrospect, but Ride had morphed in my head in those two decades from fact to myth, and in that time, I sort of forgot that these musicians were humans that still walked this earth.

I don’t think I need to explain the whirlwind of emotions that hit me when the banner was unfurled in Barcelona. Everyone reading this probably felt them right along with me.

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I have crossed state lines before to see other bands, but I was anticipating this sold-out concert in New York like none other before in my life. Usually, I go to concerts alone, both by circumstance and by choice. I know very few people in my “real life” that like the same kind of music as I do, and unless I know other people who are as passionate about the band as I am, I prefer to be alone as the music takes over my senses. However, for this show, I did bring my husband, both because he had never been to New York before, and because he needed to be properly introduced to the music that had become part of the fiber of my being.

The opening act (Ash) finished its set and my senses began heightening as I anticipated what was to come… it felt like all of the colors and sounds around me were intensifying. Just before Ride came on stage, I felt a strong wave of emotion – not quite sadness, but the feeling of saying goodbye to the life you currently know, because it’s clear that what is coming next will change your world as you know it. And good lord, was I right.

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It’s hard to properly describe the breathless wonder I felt at hearing the sheer power and beauty of this music in person. I was utterly overwhelmed within the first minute of Leave Them All Behind. Standing in the third row at stage right, my entire body was shaking with the waves of sound coming off that stage. Steve’s powerful bass playing resonated deep within my bones and kicked off a night where I wasn’t just enjoying the music, I became the music. I exhilarated in the incredible vocal quality of Andy’s guitar playing (especially during Polar Bear – was that an e-bow?). I had previously heard Mark sing live on a solo tour, but his voice this night was even better than I had remembered. Loz has always been one of my favorite drummers on record, but finally getting to witness his spectacular playing live sent chills up and down my spine. The first four songs in the set (LTAB, Like a Daydream, Polar Bear, Seagull) were a perfect, mesmerizing 1-2-3-4 punch. I never had a chance to catch my breath; the combined forces of all four of these artists had my heart racing like mad. I didn’t mind.

After the blistering fire of Seagull, the chords to Sennen rang out in the hall. What a beauty. It was the perfect choice for this point in the set; the sound was truly three-dimensional and surrounded the crowd in a musical embrace. For some reason, I had never imagined that I would get to hear this particular song live, so it was an extra special treat to be enveloped by the shimmering, swirling sound of Andy and Mark’s guitars.

Cool Your Boots was next, and it made me unspeakably happy to get to see and hear Loz’s artistry on display in the outro. It’s like he was simply shaking the beats out of his sleeves! By this point in the set, I was in such awe that my head was a joyful mess. If someone had asked me a question at this moment, I am pretty sure I would have been completely incoherent, with a huge, goofy smile on my face.

Being so close to the stage was an overwhelming experience. I usually opt to listen to concerts further back in a hall, for acoustical reasons. However, this was one concert I needed to see to believe, and it was almost too much to process at times, to know that I was about 25 feet from this glorious racket. I kept catching myself closing my eyes to immerse myself in the roar but then I would force them back open to see the incredible reality in front of me. For once, I didn’t want to live in my head. The world I wanted to live in was right where I was, right in front of my eyes.

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At the time I am writing this, seven months have passed since this show, so small details about the night have been lost in the ether of time, but what hasn’t been lost is how the music made me feel. I was wide-eyed with wonder. Natural Grace was a surprise – I didn’t think Ride would be including anything from Carnival of Light, so how lucky for me that they happened to choose my favorite track from that album! The opening to OX4 fooled me for a moment because the drum beat is so similar to In A Different Place, but there was no mistaking the sheer joy emanating from that stage as the band transitioned from Motorway Madness into the main part of OX4. It sounded like a plane was taking off! The amazing songs just kept on coming. Dreams Burn Down blew my hair back with its power. Paralysed was an unexpected, devastating song to hear live (in the best possible way). Obviously, Vapour Trail is a perennial crowd favorite, and I can still hear the gasps and shouts of recognition from all of the people around me. It was a sweet feeling to be swept up in the excitement, being surrounded at last by others that understood and shared my deep love for this music. In that moment, surrounded by strangers in a faraway city, a part of me finally knew what it felt like to come home.

Ride closed their set with Drive Blind, and what a closer it was! Steve’s sinuous bass line was simultaneously menacing and alluring… I was as transfixed as if I was looking into the eyes of a beautiful predator. That captivating sound, plus the seductive sway of the melody, the ferocious playing from all four men… it created a massive roar that made me want to chase it and disappear into the realm from which it came. I thought that my mind could not be blown any more than it was at that moment, but you all know I was wrong, don’t you? I should have known that these four souls would know how to take us even higher.

Side note: The security guard standing at the stage barrier was a statue for the majority of the gig; he simply stood facing the crowd with folded arms and a blank expression on his face throughout the show. However, when the noise section of Drive Blind hit, I could see the previously unflappable poker face give way to a look of complete confusion that clearly said, “What the FUCK is going on?!” My delighted, cathartic laughter in this moment probably made it look like I had lost my mind. In truth, I had! And I have never been happier for the loss.

The encore started off quietly, with a hushed, reverential, ambient-sounding passage in my favorite major key (B). I was racking my brain to figure out what this was; it didn’t sound like anything from their catalogue that I could recognize. Something new, perhaps? Another part of me was yelling at myself to stop analyzing and to just enjoy, so I did that. Then, the guitar riff started… and that unmistakable drumbeat kicked in. I stopped breathing. If there was one Beatles song I would have chosen to hear Ride cover, Tomorrow Never Knows would be the one. When Mark started to sing John Lennon’s immortal words, I felt my hands rise up involuntarily as I blinked back tears for this amazing gift. I still can’t believe that I was there to witness this in person.

By the last song (Chelsea Girl), I was on one of the most intense emotional highs I had ever experienced in my life. To me, this song is full of the exuberance of youth, and it embodies the rapturous, heart-pounding feeling of embarking on living a life of one’s choosing. In it, I can hear dreams starting to become reality. What a perfect song to end this unbelievable show. The concert had surpassed all of my expectations and I was completely stunned by what I had just witnessed. Ride had yanked my soul from my body for the duration of their performance and as I returned to earth, I suddenly realized that I was worn out from being put through the emotional wringer, my voice was hoarse, my feet were aching… and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

On the walk back to where we were staying that night in Hell’s Kitchen, I asked my husband what he thought. He enjoyed it, particularly the fourth song. Unbeknownst to him, Seagull is my favorite Ride track of all time! He may never be a fan like I am, but at least I know he’s got good taste.

The two other Ride shows I saw later in 2015 were both memorable in their own ways (memorable enough for me to write nearly 6000 words about them combined! Don’t worry. I’m NOT going to publish those), and I have no doubt that if I’m lucky enough to see another Ride concert in my lifetime, it will be a night I won’t soon forget. But no matter what’s in store in the future, this concert at Terminal 5 will forever stand out in my head as the moment where I was able to rewrite the ending to a story I had thought was finished; where I experienced the ecstasy of having a dream fulfilled; where I found out that sometimes, reality is even better than anything the imagination can come up with! What a privilege it was to be a Ride fan in 2015.

June 2016
Now that a whole year has passed since this incredible show, reading what I wrote above reminds me of a journal entry from another life. Seeing Ride live changed me forever. I don’t mean that they changed who I am as a person (I’m still my earnest, introverted, wordy, unguarded, slightly kooky self); I mean that I reached a whole new level of respect and admiration for this group that I thought I knew. It’s a testament to the creativity and strength of their recordings that Ride had managed to become my favorite band, without having witnessed their amazing presence live. As a performer myself, I know that live music has a magic to it that recordings just can’t capture, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by how my feelings for this band intensified upon experiencing them as they were meant to be experienced. What a lovely surprise it was.

A thousand thanks to Ride for creating music that resonates with so many of us across the globe, and for taking the chance on this reunion. How poetic that something invisible can be so beautiful… even though music can’t be seen, it changes the air it touches. It exists in this world but is also not part of this physical world. It’s not trapped in museums; it can be everywhere at once, in people’s ears and hearts and minds. Music travels to places that can’t be found on a map, and journeys through time in ways that a single human life will never be able to comprehend. What powerful, important work it is, to be a musician! Nietzsche was right; without music, life would be a mistake. And I know that very little has felt as right in my life as that fateful moment when I turned on the radio and heard the music of Ride for the first time.

Loz, Steve, Mark, Andy – Thank you for coming to North America so many times last year. Now, it’s my turn to come to you. Looking forward to the September UK shows. 🙂

Terminal 5 set list, courtesy of The Ride Archives (ride.band)

Leave Them All Behind
Like A Daydream
Polar Bear
Seagull
Sennen
Cool Your Boots
Black Nite Crash
Natural Grace
Twisterella
OX4
Dreams Burn Down
Time of Her Time
Chrome Waves
Paralysed
Taste
Vapour Trail
Drive Blind
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles)
Mouse Trap
Chelsea Girl

Review: Novo Coffee Roasters Rwanda Bufcafe (Denver, Colorado)

After reviewing the Novo Ethiopia Guji, I was a little apprehensive about cracking open the next bag. I didn’t hate the Guji, but it wasn’t quite what I had hoped. This bag from Rwanda promised to be pretty different, so I sliced it open and dove in.

Whole bean: The scent was earthy with notes of maple syrup, blackberry, and seaweed. Hmmmm…

French press: Smooth, a little bland but sweet with a medium body. I was starting to get concerned about this trend of “bland” that I was noticing but maybe I just didn’t steep the coffee long enough (I opted for my usual 4 minutes here).

Chemex: Though the coffee smelled syrupy sweet, the resulting brew was not quite as sweet in flavor and had a interesting bit of smokiness to it. It finished with a flavor like caramel.

AeroPress: Thick and rich cup – I didn’t add any water. It had a nice toffee flavor to it, with some brashness on the finish, but the brashness kept things interesting.

V60: Deep dark flavor of brown sugar, maple, and toffee. Simple but satisfying.

Summary: I think this coffee will please fans of flavors like toffee/caramel. Unlike the same roaster’s Ethiopia Guji, I think I liked this coffee brewed in the pourover methods best. Opt for a Chemex if you like a bit of smokiness; go with the V60 if you want just sweetness.

From the roaster: Grape, dark chocolate, almond butter

Novo Coffee Roasters Rwanda Bufcafe