Review: Intelligentsia Ethiopia Tikur Anbessa (Chicago, Illinois)

I’m pretty sure that Intelligentsia needs no introduction around here. I tried a V60 pourover cup of this coffee at Vero’s Coffee Bar and was struck by the flowery, peachy flavors. Naturally, I had to bring a bag home!

Whole bean: Creamy, earthy scent that smelled a bit like pinenuts with a hint of butterscotch.

V60: I had to make this cup twice because my usual grind setting was much too fine for these beans and caused the brewing to take longer than it should. Even at the coarser setting, my total brew time was 3:25, which is longer than I usually do (2:45-3:15).

Because I had picked up so much coffee on my California trip, I wasn’t able to open this bag until it was 12 days old. At the shop, the cup’s dominant scent and flavor was floral and fruity. However, at 12 days old, the pourover I made at home tasted much more like dark chocolate and butterscotch with some subtle floral notes on the finish. I was surprised at the change in flavor.

AeroPress: Dark chocolate aroma with a nice adicity on the finish. I drank this as a concentrate only because I wasn’t thinking and I emptied the kettle before the coffee in the AeroPress was done brewing, but I didn’t need to add water. Rich, strong brew with a liveliness to it.

Chemex: Here’s another instance where my grind was too fine for this bean. I did automatically adjust the grind a bit coarser than usual, but it wasn’t enough, because at the 4:00 mark the filter was still full of water that had yet to flow through the grounds. I was reluctant to start again and waste 44 grams of coffee beans, so I just took the filter out and drank the coffee that had brewed up to that point. This method produced a bit of a sour coffee, but that was my fault because it was likely underextracted. Tangy and bright but unbalanced.

French press: This produced a cup rich in dark chocolate notes with a tangerine finish. Smooth overall with a perky aftertaste! Nice balance.

I think this coffee is pretty delicious, but I was surprised at just how much the flavor changed between when the coffee was 3 days old (in the shop) vs. 12 days old (at home). In this case, I liked both but the increase in chocolate flavor and the decrease in fruit/floral flavor was very interesting.

To equate the flavors to music, the floral/fruity flavors seem like treble notes and the dark chocolate seems like bass notes, and I suppose it would make sense that the bass notes carry further over time…?

The generally accepted coffee dogma is that fresher is better. However, this bag had me questioning that assumption. I liked the three-day old coffee, and I liked the twelve-day old coffee, but for different reasons. The coffee seems like it was evolving as it aged.

Summary: Delicious coffee. If you prefer brighter, floral notes, drink this coffee as soon after roasting as possible. The chocolate/butterscotch flavors seem to come out in time, particularly in the V60 and french press.

From the roaster: Distinct citrus blossom aromas precipitate flavors of white peach and honeydew melon and a resonant dark chocolate finish.

Intelligentsia Ethiopia Tikur Anbessa

3 Replies to “Review: Intelligentsia Ethiopia Tikur Anbessa (Chicago, Illinois)”

  1. Denise Omernick says: Reply

    I had been drinking Intelligentsia Coffee, (buying beans), for over 10 yrs. I have stopped, with great sadness, because I cannot get fresh beans-only stale!
    If you don’t mind me asking; Assuming you did not get stale beans, which location did you buy from??

    Thanks!

    1. I don’t mind the question at all! I got the Ethiopia Tikur Anbessa beans from Vero’s Coffee Bar in San Jose, California. I think they were less than 4-5 days old when I purchased them! Where do you normally shop for coffee? I typically only get coffee directly from roasters (online or brick-and-mortar), or from reputable cafes that care about this sort of thing and only stocks coffee that is fresh. Any more than 2 weeks post-roast and I will usually pass.

      Intelligentsia’s shipping is a bit pricey, but they do roast to order so you can always order online to get their freshest possible beans!

      1. Denise Omernick says: Reply

        I was buying online & also from one of their shops in Chgo.

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