Review: 1818 Farms Celebration Blend (Mooresville, Alabama)

I would classify myself as an inquisitive coffee drinker. Coffee has become a rather serious hobby of mine, and all of my delicious “research” has given me a huge level of appreciation for the work that goes into bringing millions of people around the world their daily cup. I like being pushed and stretched and challenged by the coffee I drink most days – it’s exciting to me to encounter unexpected surprises in my mugs. But, not everyone wants this from coffee! Lots of people out there want a coffee that they can count on, that will be consistently delicious, and that will be a bright spot in an otherwise challenging, stressful, and unpredictable day. For these folk, I definitely recommend that you check out blends. Good blends combine the attributes of multiple origins to ideally give you the best of all worlds in a cup, and good roasters/blenders know how to make that flavor consistent from year to year, even with all the changes that can happen to coffee crops.

I was contacted through this blog by the lovely folks at 1818 Farms about reviewing their private label coffee. 1818 Farms is not a coffee roaster; they appear to be much more than that. Their motto/tagline is “Life the way it used to be,” and as I read up on them on their website, they’re not kidding. For a city girl like me, it’s hard to imagine a place like 1818 Farms, where “residents” refer to sheep and goats and hens and pigs! Read more about them here. 

Note: For consistency and objectivity, I make it a rule to only buy from roasters that put roast dates on the bags, and I taste coffee within two weeks of roasting. 1818 Farms doesn’t have roast dates on the bags, so I don’t know when these beans were roasted. Based on the bloom and behavior of the beans while brewing, I’m going to guess they were around 12-18 days old when I got them – not completely stale, but not at peak freshness.

Whole beans: Chocolate ice cream. I could definitely get behind this! Once ground, the beans smelled like dark chocolate and marshmallows. Quite sweet.

AeroPress: Nice blend of flavors! Rich taste and texture without tasting burnt. Smooth enough to go down easy but not boring. There’s no need to add water to this concentrate assuming you like a nice strong coffee. To me, this cup tastes like the best possible version of an old-fashioned cup of coffee. I can’t tell from drinking it what the bean origins are or how it was brewed, but I really don’t care. If I was traveling and staying in a bed-and-breakfast and was served this coffee, I’d be pretty thrilled. It tastes comforting yet invigorating.

Chemex: Slightly brighter brew. Since I had tasted the deeper, richer flavors that these beans were capable of, I was a tiny bit let down by this method because I really think it benefits from the thinner filter, but it was a perfectly pleasant cup of coffee.

French Press: Thick, fudgy brew, with just a hint of bitterness at the end. Not quite as smoothly flavored as the AeroPress or Chemex cups, but I bet this would be awesome with a touch of half-and-half.

V60: This ended up being the last brew method I tried (about a week after receipt), and for some reason, while brewing, the odor of rubber/car tires made itself present. Strange! Thankfully, the coffee itself didn’t taste like rubber, but it was a bit bitter, even with just a 2:40 extraction. I don’t know if the beans were too old at this point, or if it was the brewing method, but I’d plan to stick with a different brew method.

Summary: I think this blend’s goal was to be a humble, uncomplicated, good coffee that would be rich and satisfying, and it succeeds quite well! It evokes a simpler time, before the coffee industry got so complex and scientific. If you’re looking for old-fashioned coffee, but better, give this a try, particularly if you have an AeroPress. This is also an excellent coffee if you choose to add cream and/or sugar.

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.

From the roaster: Frolick like a lamb throughout the day with the help of our Medium Roast Blend.

1818 Farms Online Store

Review: Caffe Vita East Timor Hatuhei (Seattle, Washington)

On my recent trip to New York City, I told myself that I needed to limit my coffee purchasing to just two bags of coffee, and they needed to both be roasters which were new to me. Birch Coffee’s Emma Espresso was the first, and this bag from Caffe Vita is the other. Now, I’ve actually had Caffe Vita before, so I feel like I am cheating just a tiny bit from my resolve. I had a cup from a storefront across the street from Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon, and I had another cup at a corner cafe on a different trip to Portland. Both cups struck me as being on the darker side than I usually drink, and darker than I typically get from ubiquitous roasters like Heart and Stumptown. Is this bad? Not necessarily. I decided it warranted further investigation.

Whole bean: The bag itself, once opened, has a pretty strong smell of plastic (perhaps it’s something to do with the inner coating?). However, the beans were rather fruity, like peaches and cherries.

V60: Toasty and milk chocolaty flavors at the start, but on the finish, this brew tasted like nail polish smells. Terribly astringent. I don’t know what it was about this, but it tasted like chemicals and rubbing alcohol. Not my favorite! Surprisingly though, when I came back to this cup after it had cooled down, it smelled JUST like french vanilla ice cream.

AeroPress: Slightly burnt tasting when consumed straight; I had to add water. Once the water was added, it was a pleasant, if slightly generic tasting coffee.

Chemex: Same notes as the V60 method, but even more objectionable. Something about the pourover method must just bring out notes in this coffee that overpower the cup and make it smell/taste strange.

French press: This was the best method for this coffee, in my opinion. The coffee had a nice deep toasty flavor that was accented by a slight hint of nectarine.

Summary: Coffee from this region of the world is not my personal favorite and I don’t drink much of it, so take my opinion for what it’s worth ($0.02?), but I think this particular bean is best suited to being brewed in a french press. Back when I used to drink Sumatran coffee more regularly, the french press was my favorite brewing method for that bean, and I do think it coaxes out the best flavors for beans similar to it. This coffee is fruitier than most Sumatrans, but it shares many of the same characteristics in the cup.

From the roaster: Maplewood, toffee, marionberry, black tea

Caffe Vita East Timor Hatuhei

Review: BeanFruit Coffee Company Ethiopia Sidama Guji (Jackson, Mississippi)

This is the second of two bags of coffee I had the pleasure of receiving from the BeanFruit Coffee Company, based in the Jackson, Mississippi area. Their Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry really knocked my socks off, and I was excited to see how this washed coffee from Ethiopia compared; I do have a soft spot for African coffees!

Whole bean: These beans had a sweet scent like clementines. Lovely!

V60: Brewed at a 3:00 minute extraction, this was a balanced and not overly sweet coffee that had a nice, bright, lively citrus tang.

AeroPress: Pure joy in this cup. As a concentrate, it was sweet, floral, and full of fruity/citrus flavor, with no bitter or unpleasant flavors whatsoever. It was like drinking the sort of sunshine you feel on a beach vacation!

Chemex: This coffee had an rich aroma reminiscent of heavy cream (though not the flavor of cream). Delicate flavor of honeysuckle with an orange-juice finish; beautifully balanced and complex. I loved this.

French Press: Slightly less sweet of a coffee than what resulted from brewing it in a Chemex; more tart, piquant flavor with a fuller-bodied texture.

Summary: Another winner from BeanFruit! If you enjoy citrus flavors in your coffee, this will definitely be your bag. These beans were especially outstanding brewed in the AeroPress and the Chemex.

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.

From the roaster: Juicy, tangerine, caramel

BeanFruit Coffee Company Ethiopia Sidama Guji

Review: BeanFruit Coffee Co. Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry (Jackson, Mississippi)

I had not heard of BeanFruit Coffee Company until very recently, but upon investigating, I discovered I was clearly behind the times, as they are a 2015 Good Food Award recipient, and they have had their coffees rated at 90+ points on both Coffee Review and The Espresso Vein. When people think of great cities for coffee in the USA, cities like Portland, Oregon come to mind… I doubt too many people think of Jackson, Mississippi! However, I’ve discovered over time that great coffee can be found where you least expect it, and I was eager to try these beans, especially once I caught a whiff of the heavenly fragrance coming from this bag.

Whole bean: Wow!! The whole and ground beans smelled bright and punchy – this is not a shy coffee bean. Sweet smell of juicy nectarine.

V60: Complex, mysterious cup. I taste the nectarine that I smelled in the whole bean form but it also has a syrupy flavor with a hint of black pepper. Loved this! Medium-bodied result with a dry finish. When doing tastings, I normally will brew the usual 12 oz and drink just as much as it takes for me to get my notes down, but for this tasting, I opted to drink all of the coffee I brewed, just because I liked it so much.

AeroPress: WOW. The concentrate blew me away. Nectarine, raspberry, and vanilla. Sweet as pie and smooth as silk.

Chemex: The fruit was muted by this method but it also amplified the vanilla flavor. The coffee also had a cream flavor to it with a hint of lemon on the finish which brightened it up and woke up my palate. So, so good. The brew smelled just like clover honey as it cooled.

French Press: Compared to the AeroPress and Chemex cups, the French Press cup was less sweet and complex; it wasn’t a bad cup by any means, but I was definitely more blown away by having it brewed in the other methods. Still, it was definitely better than a lot of other coffees I’ve had!

Summary: This coffee is a stunner. I am so impressed with the depth and range of flavors! For the sweetest result, go for it in an AeroPress (fruitier) or a Chemex (vanilla-ier). But really, I doubt it’s possible to make a bad cup with these beans. Absolutely lovely.

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. And honestly, I loved this coffee so much that BeanFruit will definitely be making a repeat customer out of me!

From the roaster: Vibrant, sweet melon, nectarine, complex

BeanFruit Coffee Company Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry

 

Review: Birch Coffee Emma’s Espresso (Long Island City, New York)

The end of June saw me taking a very short trip (24 hours) to New York City for a concert (Stone Roses at Madison Square Garden). While there, I naturally had to pick up some coffee! I was limited to what I could find within walking distance of Midtown, but luckily for me, there were plenty of options. I snagged this bag of Birch Espresso at one of their shop locations.

As sometimes happens, when I went to the checkout, I had the following exchange with the barista.

Barista: Do you need your beans ground?
Me (slightly horrified): Oh, definitely not! Doesn’t that hurt to have to even offer??
Barista:
yes_agreement

Grind your beans right before brewing, kids.

Whole bean: aromas of milk chocolate and red fruit (bing cherry, raspberry).

Espresso: It took me some time to get a handle on this espresso. The faster pours got me buttery and red wine flavors, but as I tightened up the grind, it revealed chocolaty flavors. It was particularly good as a ristretto shot.

Favorite parameters: 17g in, 19g out, 201 degrees F, 30 sec pull. Syrupy texture and milk chocolate flavor with a cheery, bright finish. Very nice!

With milk: I have stopped drinking milk and things like lattes altogether so I’ll be depending on Shutterbug’s opinion for this category. His comments: “Very good! It’s… milky.” I think that’s actually a compliment, in that the espresso + milk doesn’t taste weird to him. That definitely happens sometimes in this house…

AeroPress: This tasted much like the espresso when brewed as a concentrate. However, once I added a bit of water, it toned down the brightness and made for a rich, flavorful, multi-dimensional coffee that kept me sipping. I actually ended up using my last beans from this bag in this method and was sorry when they were gone; I would have enjoyed having this again!

Summary: A good multitasking espresso bean, whether you’re drinking it straight or with milk. Particularly tasty when pulled ristretto.

Birch Coffee Emma’s Espresso