Review: LAMILL Coffee Ethiopia Wote Konga (Alhambra, California)

A friend of mine recently told me about LAMILL Coffee and how she and her husband loved getting their coffee back when they used to live in Los Angeles. This friend has great taste in everything culinary, so I didn’t need any more convincing to check out this roaster! Little did I know that I would be in for a rollercoaster of a tasting…

I’m actually not 100% sure if the name of this coffee roaster is Lamill or LA Mill. Their website is no help, as the company stylizes their logo in all caps (LAMILL), and google results show both spellings. Whatever the spelling, there are several LAMILL locations around Southern California but the Silverlake location appears to be the best-known one.

LAMILL must be a pretty big roasting operation, as they do not roast to order, but instead fulfill orders with already-roasted beans. I placed my order from LAMILL on January 7, and the bags I received were labeled as having been roasted on January 2 and January 3, received January 11. Still pretty fresh, and definitely within my 2-week window of buying coffee, but I do prefer for my roasters to roast to order. The only other roaster I’ve found thus far who operates similarly when you order directly from their website is La Colombe.

The following review will be in two parts: I discovered I made a pretty massive and amusing user error and had to redo the tasting, to MUCH better results. Read both to fully feel my horror and embarrassment!

Now, for context, when I do a coffee tasting, I use filtered water from my Brita pitcher, which we keep in the refrigerator. The refrigerator also has food. This will prove relevant in a moment.

Whole bean: The scent was light, fragrant, and sweet, and vaguely floral. When I ground the beans, it smelled like tangerines. This smelled delicious!

Tasting #1:

V60: Well this was a shock. I tasted a strong hit of mushroom flavor, along with trash bag plastic (?). The aftertaste was a lot like cream of mushroom soup. It had a little bit of fruitiness to it when I aerated the coffee in my mouth, but I just couldn’t get past the fungi/bin liner flavors. What the heck?? How can a coffee go from smelling like tangerine to tasting like mushrooms?

I wrote an additional note a few minutes later saying that the flavor gets WORSE at it cools!!

AeroPress: This was even worse than the V60 cup. Stronger flavors in every department, which is not a good thing when the cup tastes like this. I added a LOT of water to see what happens when you dilute this concentrate and it ended up tasting like paper. It was a definite improvement.

Chemex: Barely tolerable. I felt like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice for a moment as I was holding this cup of Elizabeth Bennet in my hand… “it’s tolerable, I suppose, but not delicious enough to tempt me…” It wasn’t as bad as the other methods but every taste bud was screaming at me to stop drinking this.

French press: This tasted downright salty and savory somehow. Best of the bunch, but still… yuck. This was NOT anything I wanted to drink again. I was completely flummoxed as to how a coffee that had printed tasting notes of tangerine, honey, floral, and delicate can manage to taste like Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and Hefty bags.

I went to put the Brita pitcher back in the refrigerator and paused when I saw these:

These were sitting right next to the water pitcher. Could it be…? I poured myself a glass of water at this point and no, the water tasted completely normal (not like mushrooms!) so there’s no way it’s because we had mushrooms stored next to the Brita, right??

To be thorough, however, I decided to thoroughly clean the Brita pitcher, replace the filter, and put the mushrooms in the vegetable drawer before trying this tasting again.

Spoiler alert: IT WAS THE MUSHROOMS!!!! 

Tasting #2:

French press: Oh my God. Way better. I was shocked at how different the coffee tasted the second time through. The rich mouthfeel of the coffee was complimented by complex layers of flavor that were alternately sweet and refreshing. I finally tasted the tangerine and honey, along with a hint of spearmint on the finish. Hard to pinpoint all the flavors in this cup but there was definitely no trash bag or mushroom.

Chemex: This had a “darker” flavor than the french press cup with fewer tangy notes – the citrus/tangerine and honey flavors were muted here but the coffee was nice and smooth and very, very easy to drink.

AeroPress: Really thick and smooth coffee concentrate, and due to the spearmint flavor, it screamed toothpaste. Not really my thing, but it certainly beats mushroom soup!

V60: This cup came out a little overextracted and the spearmint flavor was quite strong, stronger than any other flavor in the cup.

Summary: This was hands-down the most dramatic tasting I’ve ever done. It certainly made me rethink my water storage practices! Keep your mushrooms away from your water, kids. Did I like this coffee? Well, I certainly liked it a lot better the second time than the first but I was so traumatized by the memory of the awful first tasting that I was really gun-shy about finishing the bag. I still have some of it around (over a month later). I think it was pretty good in the french press and the Chemex so I’ll recommend it in those methods. But I think it’s safe to say, I will NEVER forget my first experience with this roaster. LAMILL, thanks for the lesson on food storage practices… a painful but clearly necessary lesson for me!

From the roaster: Tangerine, honey, floral, delicate

LAMILL Coffee Ethiopia Wote Konga Washed Heirloom

Review conducted 12-14 days post-roast.

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