Review: Anthology Coffee El Salvador El Gobiado-Carmen Orange Bourbon (Detroit, Michigan)

This is the second bag I ordered from Anthology Coffee recently. Both were Bourbons, but this second bag, from El Salvador (a region known for its Bourbon varietals), could hardly be more different from the first bag I got from Burundi.

Whole bean: fresh, light scent with a hint of thai basil. Ground, it smelled nutty, sweet, rich, and a little complex (no herbs, though).

V60: Right out of the brewer, there was a plasticky scent and the flavor was a bit metallic, but that dissipated after the coffee sat for a few minutes. This particular cup, at a 3:00 extraction, was not very complex but it was pleasant to drink. Medium-bodied coffee with a hint of acidity on the finish.

AeroPress: This had the most intense flavor of the four brewing methods I tried. I had to add just a touch of water after brewing, as it was a little too strong for me to drink without dilution. Good robust flavor of nuts and chocolate, though.

Chemex: Almond.

French press: This was a milk chocolate bomb, with a hint of almond milk flavor as well. Smooth as silk.

Summary: This is definitely an example of a coffee bean smelling differently than it tastes (seriously, where did the thai basil go?). Fans of chocolate and nut flavors in their coffee will enjoy this. I thought it was perfectly drinkable in all methods, but it was best in a french press because of the additional body the brewing method provided.

From the roaster: No tasting notes provided

Anthology Coffee only offers two coffee varietals at a time on its website, and as of the date I’m publishing this, this El Salvadorian coffee is no longer available, but here’s a link to their online store:

Anthology Coffee Home Page

Review conducted 14 days post-roast.

Review: Quills Coffee Ecuador La Papaya (Louisville, Kentucky)

I’m always on the lookout for new coffee roasters to try, and this one came across my radar thanks to my friend Chloé’s recommendation. Quills is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and they have 4 cafes nationwide (2 in Kentucky, and 2 in Indiana).

Fun fact – they are partnering up with Alabama-based artisan popsicle company Steel City Pops and opening a joint cafe/popsicle shop in Louisville later this year. Lucky Kentucky!! I adore these popsicles…

When I was trying to decide what coffees to purchase from the Quills website, I paused for a moment when I saw the price of this Ecuador La Papaya ($25 for 12 ounces??) but hey, life is short… Plus, I managed to make use of a coupon code for a 20% discount so that helped assuage any guilt I might have felt for the cost.

Whole bean: Can something smell pink? All I could think when I smelled these beans were various shades of pink. Pink lemonade. Magenta. It was vibrant, it was sweet, it smelled LOUD, if that makes sense. So intriguing.

V60: I ground these on the fine side and the extraction time ended up being 4:05, which is longer than I usually do for this method, but the coffee didn’t seem to suffer for it. In fact, it was delicious… very smooth, sweet aroma and flavor that was mostly of hibiscus. I loved this.

AeroPress: Drinkable straight, though it did make my eyes bug out of my head with its intensity!! It’s better with a bit of water added after brewing. Vanilla was the dominant flavor.

Chemex: Floral, subtle flavors and scents. Gorgeous in the cup! If magenta was a flavor, I tasted magenta in this coffee. A little less sweet than the V60 cup, but only just.

French press: Powdery, pleasant cup but less fruity than the other methods.

Summary: This coffee is a stunner brewed in pourover methods. I really appreciated the vibrancy of the flavors! I don’t know what it was about this coffee that made me think pink, but it was intensely, strongly, unabashedly pink. I absolutely loved it.

From the roaster: tangy pomegranate, strawberries and cream, berry jam

Quills Coffee Ecuador La Papaya

Review conducted 7 days post-roast.

Review: Anthology Coffee Burundi Nyangwe Bourbon (Detroit, Michigan)

On my recent trip to Michigan (where I picked up bags from Astro Coffee of Andytown and George Howell beans), I had hoped to find beans from a local Michigan roaster. Sadly, I arrived in Detroit just slightly too late to pick up any coffee from Anthology Coffee’s location… on Saturdays, their shop closes at 4 pm, and I arrived at the store at 4:03 pm. This pretty much sums up my reaction:

Happily though, the magic of the US Postal Service allowed me to get my hands on beans from this Michigan roaster anyway. This was the first of two bags that I ordered.

First off: what are bourbon beans? Don’t get excited, there’s no bourbon in these beans, nor are they aged in bourbon barrels. Rather, Bourbon refers to a particular family of coffee bean. Most people know that there are two main kinds of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta. Within the Arabica category, there are categories such as (but not limited to) Geisha, Typica, and Bourbon. The name Bourbon has to do with this varietal’s cultivation on the island of Bourbon (now known as Réunion) in the Indian Ocean, rather than from any use of the spirit. Sorry, Maker’s Mark fans!

Whole bean: Very bright aroma, that smelled like a vaguely floral perfume. This does not smell like a typical coffee, that’s for sure!

French press: Smooth mouthfeel gave way to a bright flavor full of green grape, white wine, and vanilla. There was also a hint of paper towel/pulp aroma in this cup, which was perplexing to me as a french press uses no paper filters. Weird!

Chemex: Even though I know Bourbon coffees have nothing to do with bourbon the alcoholic spirit, this particular brewing method did produce a coffee that tasted downright boozy to me. It was rather astringent in character. Not my favorite.

AeroPress: Smooth and easy to drink without any additional water added, with an aroma and flavor of spearmint.

V60: This cup had the darkest depth of flavor of the four methods. Toast and vanilla. Very easy to drink, if a bit simpler in character than the others.

Summary: I enjoyed the complexity of flavors best from the coffee brewed in the french press, though the papery taste was distracting. The V60 cup was less complex but pleasant to drink.

From the roaster: No tasting notes provided

Anthology Coffee Burundi Nyangwe Bourbon

Review conducted 4 days post-roast.

Review: Blue Bottle Coffee Bella Donovan (Oakland, California)

My lovely friend Chloé recently made an order from Blue Bottle for two bags of this blend, and she graciously let me have one of them to review. When I started dipping my toe into the world of craft coffee around 5 years ago, Blue Bottle was one of the first craft roasters I tried, and Bella Donovan was one of the blends I tasted at that time (Giant Steps being the other – I’m a sucker for musical references in my coffee naming, and that one evokes John Coltrane AND the Boo Radleys). I remember thinking the Bella Donovan was fine at the time, but that was also back when I brewed almost exclusively in a french press and I still added milk to my coffee (which I don’t do any more). I was looking forward to seeing what I thought of it now!

This probably wasn’t intentional on the part of Blue Bottle, but thanks to the naming, I had Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” stuck in my head throughout the duration of this tasting, and for a few days afterward. The earworm was reflected in my tasting notes, as you’ll read shortly!

Whole bean: These beans were a medium roast, but with the barest hint of oily sheen to them. I get a little nervous these days when I see oil on the surface of beans, as it generally indicates the coffee is roasted darker than I personally like, but this was such a minuscule amount of oil that I wasn’t too worried. The beans smelled like cedar and clove.

V60: Throughout the tasting, in all brewing methods, even though I occasionally tasted notes of chocolate, the general feeling I got from this coffee is that it’s blended to taste like “coffee.” Since the Donovan track was playing on a continuous loop in my head at this point, I chose to assign treble and bass levels to each brewing method based on what I tasted. This V60 cup had some liveliness to it but was otherwise pretty generic.
Treble: 6 (out of 10)
Bass: 5

AeroPress: No additional water was needed other than what was used for brewing. Nice, fudgy flavor and consistency. Semi-sweet chocolate flavor abounded.
Treble: 4
Bass: 8

Chemex: Not too dissimilar to the V60 cup but a bit on the brighter side.
Treble: 7
Bass: 4

French press: Smoothest flavor but had the least amount of personality. Kind of murky.
Treble: 2
Bass: 7

Espresso: I was kind of underwhelmed with this coffee blend in the pourover brewing methods, but based on the nice result from the AeroPress, I had a hunch that it would make a decent espresso. I was right! The best shot I got from the bag had a lovely chocolaty flavor.

Favorite brewing parameters for this shot: 202 degrees F, 17.5 grams in, 35 grams out at a 25 second extraction.

With milk: Shutterbug tried a latte or two made with the Bella Donovan, and he approved. Not much else to say other than that, though!

Summary: I think this is a good middle-of-the-road coffee, either in drip methods or as espresso. If your tastes run to the more complex, fruity, floral, and distinctive side, you’ll likely be bored with the lack of layers, but this is a coffee that tastes largely like “coffee,” and won’t be offensive to most coffee drinkers. Blue Bottle describes the Bella Donovan as the “wool sweater of our blends – warm, comforting, familiar.” I think they hit the nail right on the head with that description. This may not be marketed as an espresso blend, but I think it shone best pulled as espresso. It also made a delicious fudgy coffee in an AeroPress.

From the roaster: red berries, milk chocolate, caramel

Blue Bottle Bella Donovan

Review conducted 13-14 days post-roast.

Review: Pinewood Roasters Ethiopia Beriti (McGregor, Texas)

Coffee makes a great gift, and I am lucky to be on the receiving end of it from time to time. My lovely friend Jennifer picked this bag up for me from The Foundry while on a work trip to Tyler, Texas. She asked me if I had tried this roaster before, and when I told her I hadn’t, she positively beamed and said how glad she was to find a coffee I hadn’t tried yet! I’m glad I could make her as happy as she made me in that moment. 😉

Sorry about the stain on the bag in the picture; this bag was in the direct path of a bit of espresso slinging in my kitchen!

Whole bean: These are heirloom beans, so they’re smaller and denser than most. Be sure to adjust your grinders accordingly if you’re grinding heirloom varieties – they require a coarser grind than “normal” coffee beans in order to hit the same extraction rate in pourover methods. These beans had a mild berry aroma to them along with a whiff of plastic (which I find common with natural-processed Ethiopian beans). Once ground, the plastic scent was overtaken by intense berry notes.

V60: Floral and thin. Very light cup with character. The bright, flowery notes were okay hot, but I think this might be even better over ice; it seems like it would be quite refreshing.

AeroPress: I couldn’t drink this straight out of the AeroPress – it was too strong for that. Once I added some water though, it smoothed out, though there seemed to be a hint of cleaning product to its aroma. I couldn’t quite place it! (And yes, I am sure it wasn’t soap residue or something like that.)

Chemex: Now we’re talking. This coffee had a honey-like mouthfeel with a lovely aroma of clover honey to the brew. It was not particularly fruity or sweet, but it was pleasant.

French press: This was my favorite method for these beans. I tasted caramel, butter, and berries. Lovely richness that lingered on the palate with a balanced aftertaste.

Summary: I typically expect natural-processed Ethiopian coffees to scream fruit (raspberries, blueberries), and maybe a bit of chocolate. This one didn’t quite fit the stereotype, which was a nice surprise. The french press method yielded the tastiest and most complex coffee for my taste, but it was also good in a Chemex for those that prefer milder and more straightforward coffee.

From the roaster: Blueberry cobbler, floral, viscous

This particular coffee is not available online from Pinewood’s website, but I’ve included a link to their online store.

Pinewood Roasters Online Store

Review conducted 18 days post-roast.