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. ūüėČ

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.

Review: Corvus Everyman Seasonal Espresso Blend (Denver, Colorado)

On a recent visit to Method Coffee in Dallas, they had fresh bags of this in stock, so I decided to check them out. I had not previously heard of Corvus, but the independent DFW area coffee shops that I frequent have not steered me wrong yet!

Poking around their Mission¬†page, I learned that Corvus prefers to work directly with private farms instead of relying on certifications like fair trade, organic, etc. They roast in the Nordic style, which to me basically means they roast only as much as needed to bring out the natural flavors of the coffee, as opposed to roasting until the coffee tastes like the roasting process. Heart would be another roaster I’d put in this category.

Whole bean: Creamy scent with notes of berries.

Espresso: This espresso had a lot of bright berry acidity. It reminded me a lot of the Commonwealth Ontology Espresso in flavor Рchocolate and blueberry/raspberry notes. It was very nice pulled as a straight shot if you like a bright, sweet espresso that packs a punch.

Favorite parameters: 18 g in, 35 g out, 202 degrees F, 23 second extraction

With milk: This blend seemed a little less special once milk was added since it muted the berry notes, but it made a decent latte.

Other preparations: I had a hunch that I would like this blend prepared as coffee instead of espresso, and I was right! This was excellent brewed in a Chemex: chocolaty and lively due to the blueberry flavor. Lovely depth and sweetness. It was also very good in a french press.

Summary: A tasty espresso consumed straight if you like berry notes; good with milk. Particularly good brewed as coffee!

From the roaster: Dried berry, Cacao sweetness, supple. Currently made up of coffees from Peru and Ethiopia.

Corvus Everyman Seasonal Espresso Blend

Review: Porch Culture Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural (Tyler, Texas)

Music is my mood-altering substance of choice, even moreso than coffee. It encompasses nearly every waking moment of my day… I am constantly listening to music, making music, imagining and striving for an unattainable perfection in music. The kind of music I gravitate to depends on my mood, the time of day, and what I have going on. Sometimes I want something familiar, with no surprises. Sometimes I need a shot in the arm to get me moving. Sometimes I want to hear a piece of music that demands my full attention and will not let me multitask.

When was the last time you listened to music without doing something else (like driving, or playing with your smartphone, or eating at a restaurant, or jogging)? I love having a soundtrack to my daily life, but sometimes, the music needs to take center stage and I become a supporting character to it, and not vice versa. I think this is one reason I (and I daresay others) really enjoy listening to vinyl records. Records and turntables are bulky, they’re not portable, they’re not convenient… they won’t go where you go. Don’t get me wrong – I have an iPod (my 5th gen classic is still kicking, 10 years later!!), I use my iPhone for music, I have CDs… but the inherent inconvenience of vinyl makes listening to music a special event, and that is sometimes exactly what I need, and what the music itself deserves.

Case in point: I have a gorgeous remastered limited edition Mobile Fidelity pressing of Ryan Adams’ “Love Is Hell” album. I’ve listened to it about twice since getting it last year because it is the sort of album that stops you in your tracks and DEMANDS your full attention. It is not content to be background music – especially not with the incredible sound quality. I don’t put it on unless I know I have an hour free to devote to immersing myself in the world that he creates. Next to hearing a live performance, vinyl is¬†my favorite way to listen (really listen) to music.

How does this apply to coffee? Well, I’ve found that different methods of brewing will amplify and dampen different aspects of the coffee beans, much like raising and lowering treble/bass levels. Some brewing methods result in a coffee that will slip easily into the background, and some methods will bring a richness to the fore that will make it impossible for you to focus on anything else.

I have had a lot of natural-processed Ethiopian coffee over the past few years, and I have a pretty good idea of what to expect when I see one for sale. This bag was no exception, so it really became more of a question of how to best enjoy this coffee, as opposed to “will I enjoy this coffee?”

Whole bean: Bright aromas of mixed berry (raspberry, blueberry) jam.

French press: Not my favorite; this cup had a plasticky aroma. I have come to expect this though from naturally-processed Ethiopian coffees so it wasn’t a surprise.

Chemex: Despite setting this on slightly too fine of a grind (total extraction time was 4:40), this made a smooth cup of coffee that tasted like a combination of milk chocolate and red berries. I enjoyed this very much; the french press cup was harsher tasting in comparison.

AeroPress: Smooth and fuller-bodied than the Chemex cup. I didn’t need to add any water to this. There was a slightly powdery finish to this coffee. It was perhaps a little heavier in texture than the Chemex cup, but they were both appealing in the same ways (smoothness, flavors). The AeroPress is of course a lot quicker to prepare, so that might be the way to go if you’re only making one cup and are impatient!

V60: This method created a cup that was rather muted in flavor. After the lively yet smooth and pleasant Chemex and AeroPress cups, this was not what I was expecting. If the cups were music, the V60 cup was like listening to music through crappy headphones.

Summary:¬†Stick to brewing these beans in an AeroPress (if you’re brewing a single cup) or a Chemex (if you are brewing for multiple people… or for one if you are REALLY thirsty) for the best, most balanced flavors.

From the roaster: Wild berry. Sweet pastry. Buttery.

Porch Culture Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural

Review: Klatch Golden Bean Espresso Blend (Upland, California)

TL;DR: If you love espresso, GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS ASAP!!!

I’m actually finding it a little hard to organize my thoughts on this espresso. How do you explain the beauty of a sunrise? How can you put into words what happens¬†to you¬†when you hear your musical soulmate? That’s what tasting this amazing roast from Klatch did to me.

This was the roast that prompted me to make my recent order from Klatch; I’ve already been a fan of their coffee for some time and I knew that anything worthy of the Klatch name would make me happy, but something that won top honors from the Compak Golden Bean¬†was something I definitely had to try.

Whole bean: Fresh aroma! A little floral and creamy. Very inviting scent.

Espresso: I experimented with various grind settings and dosages, and I don’t think I pulled a single bad shot. This was a surprisingly forgiving blend to work with. The overall flavor of the straight shots to me was dark chocolate with lavender – absolutely alluring! Higher temperatures (203 F) brought out a little bitterness, and I found the best result to be at 201-202 F, 18.5 g in. This blend was delicious pulled both as a ristretto and as a normale shot – it had a gorgeous refreshing finish that just made me want to drink more. The rich chocolate notes combined with the lovely floral perfume really captured my attention right from the start, all the way until the last drop. I can only imagine what this would be like pulled with higher-end equipment.

With milk: I don’t drink milk drinks very often, but this blend did make a delicious¬†latte. It had a subtle floral aroma that was so inviting. I did prefer this pulled as straight espresso, as I felt the milk muted some of the really special notes, but that could be just my personal preference speaking. I would be over the moon if I did order a milk drink and got this in the cup.

AeroPress: I was particularly curious about how this blend would fare in the AeroPress, and WOW. It was unimaginably complex. Brewing this¬†revealed a wonderfully rich cup with layers and layers of flavors. I can’t even describe them all. I drank this as a concentrate. Don’t add water to this – it’s smooth as silk and it would be a crime to dilute this.

Summary: I don’t know how long this will be available, but I am definitely ordering more. This is a really special espresso and if your tastes run to the complex and layered, you will really like this. I looked at the blend information after finishing the tasting, and this is composed of coffee from Panama and Ethiopia – two of my favorite origins. I suppose it makes perfect sense why I love this so much. Thank you for sharing this amazing espresso with us, Klatch!

From the roaster: The judges comments were: Tons of sweetness, distinct but subdued stone fruit, plum, berry and honey notes, balanced acidity and a round, creamy body.

Klatch Golden Bean Espresso

Review: Case Coffee Roasters Guatemala Bella Carmona Antigua (Ashland, Oregon)

During my recent trip to Portland, I was sorely tempted to pick up a bag of coffee from Case Coffee Roasters when I spotted it at the Barista location I visited, but I had to exercise some restraint (if you can call 6 bags of coffee in 24 hours restraint). Ultimately, I decided to wait to try this roaster, because 1) the bags I saw were just over a week old and I wanted fresher beans, and 2) Case offers free shipping within the continental US.

The Case website tells us¬†that Case is a small-batch¬†roaster (no big surprise) and that they roast on a vintage Otto Swadlo (the forerunner to Probat) from the 1950s. They have “narrowed their focus” to¬†coffee selections to their 4 favorite regions: Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, and Guatemala. However, a peek at their online store reveals they are¬†currently offering a selection from Costa Rica as well.

The following¬†part shouldn’t have surprised me, but when I got my shipping confirmation, I noticed that the confirmation came from a Mr. Tim Case. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that the company would be named after its founder, but I took it as a great sign that he is (literally) willing to put his name on the product.

Benji Walklet’s review of Case’s Kenya Gachatha AA also intrigued me when I read it. I didn’t get a bag in¬†this shipment because I wanted to give myself a bit of a break from Kenyan coffee, but I hope to try it¬†before it disappears!

Whole bean: Milk chocolate, sugary aroma, vanilla wafer, hint of blackberry.

V60: Dark chocolate flavor with a nice bite. The finish was like black tea. Light body. As the cup cooled, I tasted a bit of tart/sweet berry flavor.

AeroPress: I drank this as a concentrate. It was thick and syrupy, with a rich chocolaty flavor plus a hint of berry. Satisfying.

Chemex: A smooth cup that was like melted milk chocolate and cream (but with a lighter body). Ridiculously sweet tasting. However, it was a little bland for my taste compared to the AeroPress cup — I missed the bit of berry acidity.

French press: Rich chocolate flavor with blackberry on the finish. Medium-bodied cup. I felt this was the most interesting of the four cups.

Espresso: I experimented with pulling this coffee as a single-origin espresso, but ultimately gave up after about six doubleshots. Try as I might, the shot came out on the sour/unbalanced side no matter what I did with extraction time and temperature. I would stick to this as a coffee.

Summary: Nice sweet and chocolaty Guatemalan coffee that’s got a little something extra (blackberry) to pique your interest. The thicker the filter, the less berry flavor.

From the roaster: Blackberry, brown sugar, silky

Case Coffee Roasters Guatemala Bella Carmona Antigua

Review: Origen Coffee Roasters Tanzania Tarime (Escondido, California)

Thanks again to my friend Erin for these beans!

If you read my review of Origen’s Mexico Oaxaca¬†beans, you’ll remember I noted that this roaster seems to roast on the darker side, as the beans were pretty dark and shiny. The roast level is definitely darker than what seems to be the norm amongst popular third-wave roasters like Intelligentsia and Counter Culture.

Regarding these coffee tastings, I have gotten comments from friends to the effect of, “Wow, I don’t think I could ever pick up on all the flavors you can in coffee! It all kind of tastes the same to me!” I have¬†two¬†theories on this. First, I¬†don’t¬†think that it’s impossible to develop one’s palate if you take the time and really think about what you’re eating/drinking. I certainly am no supertaster! Second, I think at a certain point, all coffees DO taste the same if they are roasted long enough. Once the beans get to a certain level of “doneness,” the origin flavors of the beans will get eclipsed by the roasting process. It’s not dissimilar to steak, and how it’ll be much more difficult to tell what cut of meat a steak is when it is well done vs. when it is rare or medium rare. Well-done steak will taste more of the cooking process, while medium-rare steak will retain more of the meat’s characteristic flavor/texture.

Whole bean: Oily, shiny beans. Ground, there is a slight hint of stone fruit and dark chocolate.

V60: Tastes like coffee. I really only taste the roast level and no characteristics of the bean’s origin. It is not bitter or burnt tasting, but I cannot distinguish any real difference between this Tanzanian and the Mexican¬†coffee¬†beans I had earlier in the week.

AeroPress: Dark and a little spicy. Fine to drink straight with no acidity issues; nice body to this cup.

Chemex: This cup had a little sweetness in it that the others thus far did not. Smelled a bit like Nilla wafers.

French press: Smooth cup that was reminiscent of dark chocolate. Rich body.

Summary: These beans are great¬†if you enjoy a smooth, dark cup of coffee. I think the French press version was the most enjoyable overall for its smoothness and chocolate flavor, but it doesn’t match the roaster’s notes at all in my opinion.

From the roaster: Complex, bright, red berries, apricot, sweet

Origen Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review: Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi (Richardson, Texas)

This past Sunday was the first annual Dallas Coffee Day, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. What a great event! Eight fantastic Dallas-area coffee roasters gathered to celebrate their shared collective passion for craft coffee and the steady elevation of coffee culture in Dallas/Fort Worth. There was such a friendly and welcoming vibe to the whole event. I suppose it’s not surprising that a large room of caffeinated people would be in a good mood, but there really was a terrific convivial feel to the whole day.

The featured roasters were (in alphabetical order):
Ascension Coffee Roasters
Avoca Coffee Roasters
Cultivar Coffee
Eiland Coffee Roasters
Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters
Novel Coffee Roasters
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters
Tweed Coffee Roasters

I’ve been lucky enough to sample coffee from all of these roasters in some capacity (and I’ve even reviewed a number of them on the blog), EXCEPT for Eiland (same pronounciation as “island”), which is ironic since of all the roasters on this list, they are the closest to my house. Eiland (like all of the other roasters present) had small bags (8 oz) available for sale, so I bought this one after asking the helpful associate which he would recommend if I was just buying ONE bag.

Whole bean: Notes of berry and cocoa. There was a nice depth to this aroma. Ground, I smelled buttery richness. I’m already liking this.

French press: Mostly cocoa flavors with some toasty characteristics. Smooths a bit as it cools. Bold, strong flavor. As it sat, I got a rich, buttery mouthfeel in the cup.

Chemex: Yum. Smooth as silk!! This brew had less cocoa and more berry character but it was not overly fruity or tart. I was surprised at the rich mouthfeel in the cup considering the rather thick Chemex filter. Again, as the coffee cooled, I tasted and felt butter on the palate. Decadently delicious.

AeroPress: I drank this as a concentrate and felt it was pretty strong but pleasant. There was a slight tannic presence but it had a nice cocoa note and brightness of strawberry. More butter on the finish! I’m sensing a theme here.

V60: Bright, sharp scent to this cup, with a toasty, nutty flavor. Very little fruit in this cup but once again, in time I tasted a beautifully buttery finish.

Summary: Of the natural-processed Ethiopians I’ve tried thus far, this particular crop has some of the most emphasis on cocoa/chocolate flavors that I’ve encountered. Since I like berry brightness, I enjoyed the Chemex version of this most, but even that batch wouldn’t be a coffee I would classify as fruity or heavy in berry flavor. This coffee is good for people that like deep chocolaty flavors and buttery richness in their brew. Approachable, comforting, and delicious, with just a little hint of interesting character that keeps you thinking about drinking more!

From the roaster: Jam, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, buttery, medium body, strawberry-like acidity, natural (dry) process

Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi Natural Process

Review: Golden Malabar Kopi Luwak (Indonesia)

Note from Margaret: I’m thrilled to feature my dear friend Victor Rupert on the blog today! Keep reading to get his take on a coffee that few people will ever have the chance (or the stomach) to try…  
 
I received this coffee as a gift from my niece in Taiwan. It‚Äôs labeled ‚ÄúGolden Malabar Kopi Luwak.‚ÄĚ These are coffee cherries grown in Indonesia that have been swallowed and passed through the digestive tract of an Asian palm civet. While I have had “crappy” coffee before, I have never had anything like this, so I was curious to try it. At the end of this review, I‚Äôll include a link to the company’s website so that you can actually see the coffee cherries and their appearance as a waste product.
 
Normally, I despise prepared coffees like Starbucks’s powdered instant coffee, or pre-ground, or basically anything other than whole bean. This as you can see came ground and in little single-serve pour over pouches. Quite clever and cute!
 
2015-08-13 16.08.39 2015-08-13 16.12.05 2015-08-13 16.12.43 2015-08-13 16.12.54
 
The process worked well as we have a hot water pot that keeps water at 208 degrees F all the time. I had to add water, wait, add more water, wait, add a little more water…  you get the idea. The contraption did work, however.

The pouch upon opening had a wonderful berry and cherry smell. Very aromatic indeed. When I added water, the coffee foamed well and released a stronger smell still in the berry family but with hints of citrus.

 
After I let the coffee cool a little, I tried a sip. It was not as oily as my daily driver French press. It was light and happy, however. It immediately put a smile on my face. The berries and cherries were still there at the finish. Overall it’s the best ‚Äúprepared‚ÄĚ coffee that I‚Äôve tried. At $32+ per ounce it‚Äôs not for everyone, and is probably the most expensive coffee I‚Äôve yet tried. At $512 a pound it‚Äôs just a wee bit pricey.
 
–Victor C. Rupert
 
http://www.goldenmalabar.com/kopi-luwak.html

 
In his early years, Mr. Rupert wanted to be a pilot like his father. It was a difficult life, so he decided to be a musician instead. (you may laugh here). All in all, he made it pretty well! He recently retired from being Concertmaster with the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra and still maintains a large studio of fantastic students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He gets to fly for fun, as he is a private pilot.
 
Always interested in learning new things, Mr. Rupert recently started the new business Stallion and Mare ReHair after studying and training with several master bow makers. He is now a master bow rehairer and artisan in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Mr. Rupert provides a high-level specialty service that has been needed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a long time. As a performer, Mr. Rupert knows what is important in having a rehair done properly and is unequaled in quality and dedication to his craft.
 
Nearly a decade ago, Mr. Rupert made a friend that opened a Dunn Bros. coffee shop in Addison, Texas. Together, they learned how to roast beans. It was absolutely fascinating; he loved this activity and really grew to appreciate coffee and all of its intricacies.

Review: Sightglass Owl’s Howl Espresso (San Francisco, California)

Sightglass Coffee is a family-owned roaster based in San Francisco. I have known this roaster by reputation for a while, but this is the first time I’ve ever gotten a chance to try their product. I picked up this bag from B2 Coffee¬†at the same time that I picked up the Verve Guatemala Los Santos.

Whole beans: Honestly, I couldn’t smell anything. All I could smell was the paper bag the beans came in! However, once I ground the beans, they smelled like bing cherries.

I pulled these beans with a variety of parameters, but throughout, the beans displayed a bright, nutty flavor like lemon curd and cashews. Not my personal preference, but I was surprised by how well-balanced I found the shot, even though I don’t care for this flavor profile in espresso.

I tried this espresso in¬†a¬†6 oz flat white, and the espresso flavor was overwhelmed and muted,¬†even with just 4 oz or so of milk. I was surprised that the¬†Owl’s Howl didn’t stand up better in a milk drink, considering its tart, bright flavor. However, maybe I am glad for that — the idea of lemony milk is not very appealing to me! If I had ordered this flat white¬†while out and about, I would have considered it a little weak but plenty drinkable.

Brewed in the AeroPress, the Owl’s Howl was much smoother and darker tasting. I didn’t get any lemon flavor in this method; instead, I got brown sugar and a little almond, with a plasticky aftertaste.

Summary: My personal preference in espresso leans toward more chocolate/caramel flavors, but if you like fruity, nutty espresso, this is a nice blend. It lost its personality in a small amount of milk, so I don’t think it’s the best choice for people that like strong coffee flavor in their milk drinks.

From the roaster: Composed of seasonally rotating coffees, this blend displays a deep, honey-like body, with notes of ripe berry, chocolate-covered cherry, and sweet candied lemon.

Sightglass Owl’s Howl