Review: Onyx Coffee Lab Colombia Eduardo Lizcano: Washed (Springdale, Arkansas)

Method Coffee has saved me on more than a couple of occasions when I have to be alert at a gig in downtown Dallas and I am running short on sleep. They also have an interesting rotating selection of roasters, and on my most recent visit, they were featuring beans from Onyx Coffee Lab.

Note the penultimate step in the brewing instructions. Don’t mind if I do.

I chose to put on one of my “perfect albums” (albums you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a track) —Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia by the Dandy Warhols.

Whole bean: cherry, like tart cherry pie.

V60: At a 3:15 extraction, there was an enticing aroma of red fruit (raspberry, I think) and caramelized sugar. The flavor was like a strong burst of lemon on the front, before it mellows into a more gentle flavor of hibiscus and fruit punch. This is definitely the brightest Colombian coffee I’ve ever tasted! Not flavors I’m used to for coffees from this country, for sure.

AeroPress: Same impressions as the V60 cup – intense at the front before it mellows into a fruity concoction, but somehow even more intense in this method.

Chemex: I underextracted this cup slightly (final brew time was 3:35), but the final product was much smoother than the previous cups. No one flavor stood out, but it was sweet.

French press: A richer, sweeter version of the Chemex cup. I distinctly tasted brown sugar here. I like it!

Summary: A bit of a confounding coffee with a whirlwind of tasting notes, but my favorite method was in the french press, for its comforting brown sugar sweetness and rich mouthfeel.

From the roaster: candied lemon, brown sugar, mouthwatering, tart cherry

As of press time, this coffee is no longer available on their website, but here’s a link to Onyx’s store:

Onyx Coffee Lab Online Store

Review conducted 8-9 days post-roast.

Review: Has Bean Coffee Malawi Msese Wetmill (Stafford, England)

I had a whirlwind trip earlier this summer to the north of England, and I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Manchester. As a fan of bands like the Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, the Stone Roses, and James, the city of Manchester is a place I had long wanted to visit, and it surpassed all of my expectations. I hope to return someday to explore it further!

Now, coffee wasn’t the cornerstone of my visit by any means, but I knew I couldn’t leave without bringing home something from a local roaster. However, despite the fact that Manchester is not lacking for coffee shops (I found 5 or 6 independent cafes within an easy walk of each other in the city center, not even including “chain” coffee shops), the beans that were available for sale were largely not fresh enough for my liking… most were a month or more post-roast. This bag of Has Bean Coffee was dated 13 days post roast, I believe, so I snapped it up, knowing that it was the freshest I was likely to find! Stafford is not terribly close to Manchester (around 60 miles away), but considering where I had flown from (Dallas!), yes, I considered Stafford to be “locally roasted” relative to Manchester. I picked up these beans from North Tea Power, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Whole bean: Even before I opened the bag, I had to giggle at the clever brand name. Plus, in all my years of drinking coffee, I had never tried a coffee from Malawi before! I liked this company already. Once I opened the bag, the beans smelled sugary and light.

French press: Thick, tangy, but not sour. Nice body to the brew, with a lovely smooth finish. Satisfying to drink. It gets more complex as it sits and cools, obtaining a note of tropical fruit.

Chemex: Nice spicy finish. Clean taste – not many layers to this cup, but it was pleasingly straightforward and simple. Very easy to drink, with a taste of brown sugar.

AeroPress: Similar in flavor to the French press cup. The kiwi flavor really comes out in this method.

V60: Sweetest of the four cups. Sugary and light-bodied coffee. There was a bit of a floral note on the finish.

Summary: This was a nice, complex, multi-dimensional coffee that is lovely brewed any way you can get it, but I think I liked it best in the Hario V60 for its sweetness. However, it has its merits in all four of my usual brewing methods.

From the roaster: Floral, kiwi, chocolate milk

Has Bean Coffee Malawi Msese Wetmill

Review conducted 18 days post-roast.

Review: Roseline Coffee Colombia El Ventilador (Portland, Oregon)

I ordered this bag at the same time I ordered the Roseline Ecuador Rosa Encarnacion, and I knew that as bright and divisive as the Rosa Encarnacion was, this Colombian coffee was likely to be completely different. I tend to gravitate toward Colombian coffees when I want something tasty and interesting but not too outside the box. I am used to tasting citrus and honey flavors in my Colombians, so I hoped this roast would fit the bill.

Whole bean: Sugar. Butter cookie. Marzipan. Delicious tangy scent like clover honey. Wow!

French press: This was sweet and rich with an undeniable note of citrus (tangelo).

Chemex: All I wrote in my notes here was the word “bright.” I had a little difficulty with the grind size and had to make this coffee twice (I guessed too coarse of a grind). I’m going to guess that this was not my favorite brew method.

AeroPress: Really thick and tangy brew that tasted strongly of both citrus and honey. I tried adding water but it immediately became bland, even with just a touch of it. Stick to drinking this as a concentrate.

V60: With an extraction time of 3:30, this had the least amount of citrus flavor, which is good if you’re not into that. It spoke mostly of brown sugar and had a pleasant bitterness to the finish, which would go extremely well with a sweet treat.

Summary: If you like citrus and honey, this is the coffee for you. It was lively and delicious with varying levels of those two flavors depending on the brew method.

From the roaster: Panela, butter cookie, and citrus

I am behind on posting reviews, so again, this coffee is no longer available on the Roseline website, but here’s a link to their online store: Roseline Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review conducted at 4-6 days post-roast.

Review: Klatch Coffee Panama Altieri Washed Geisha (Rancho Cucamonga, California)

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of Klatch. I don’t order from them very often, simply because there are so many great roasters out there to try, but I’ve never had a cup of Klatch Coffee that I didn’t like. Some of their roasts have been among my favorite cups of coffee EVER.

I recently got an email alert that Klatch was offering a sale on Geisha coffee, and it took me approximately 0.02 seconds to click the link to start browsing! The price of this coffee has been reduced from $39.95 to $29.95 for 8 ounces… it’s still expensive, clearly, but I thought it would be worth a try. Klatch has clear notes about roast dates for coffees this special – this Panama Geisha is only roasted on Mondays, and I have a feeling it won’t be offered for very much longer. I ordered this coffee the week of May 1, and at the time they were also offering a Panama Altieri Natural Geisha, but that’s no longer on the site. Jump on this ASAP if you want to try it.

Whole bean: Mild nutty fragrance that smelled like macadamia nuts and cashews, with a subtle note of tropical fruit. Papaya?

V60: This had a really mild but pleasant aroma, like just catching the barest whiff of perfume. Whispers of caramel and melon. This cup brewed for 2:30, and I think it could have used a finer grind for a bit more extraction, because the final brew tasted a bit bland and watered down to my palate. Not bad, but I was hoping for more flavor, especially for this expensive of a coffee!

AeroPress: Now HERE is the flavor I was wanting. Don’t you dare dilute this with any additional water! This brew was sugary, with notes of nectarine, and it tasted terrifically vibrant and alive.

Chemex: This method produced a coffee that was even more mild than the V60 cup. It had a hint of floral aroma, and it was sweet, but rather bland and plain. I don’t think I particularly care for this coffee in filtered pourover methods. With that said, I served this brew on a couple of occasions to Shutterbug (who usually drinks coffee with milk and sugar added) and he was able to enjoy this coffee with just a bit of sugar added (no milk). It is quite smooth.

Yes, I probably committed some kind of crime letting someone add sugar to a Geisha coffee, but everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?

French press: Smooth, sweet, with lovely body and a delicious tangy finish. It reminded me a bit of nougat and brown sugar with a touch of tangerine. This was my second favorite method after the AeroPress.

Summary: $60/lb + shipping is quite the splurge for coffee, and I don’t think too many of my readers would be crazy enough to do this, but if this coffee sounds appealing to you, I’d encourage you to act now before it’s gone. I loved this coffee in the AeroPress, as it really brought out exciting flavors, but other methods produce smoother, more balanced cups. You won’t get a bad cup of coffee with this stuff. Is it worth the cost? I’d say for an occasional treat, yes.

From the roaster: “It offers a sweet fusion of melon, floral and raspberry aromatics. An enchanting sense of sweet floral aromatics. The flavors in the cup bring out notes of cantaloupe, peach, sugar cane, marshmallow, and a beautiful finish of floral nectar.”

Klatch Panama Altieri Washed Geisha

Review conducted at 4 days post-roast.

Review: Flight Coffee Kenya Rutuma (Wellington, New Zealand)

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the North Island of New Zealand. What a heartbreakingly beautiful country (and I know I didn’t even come close to seeing even 10% of its beauty!). About half of my trip was spent in the capital city of Wellington. Wellington is an incredible city – it reminded me of all the best aspects of San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Denver, along with a openness and friendliness that is uniquely Kiwi. This city is particularly known for its motion picture industry (Peter Jackson, of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fame, has his Weta Workshop based here), its food scene, and its craft coffee scene. New Zealand’s craft coffee scene is comparatively young in the world, and unlike many other places, is centered around espresso and espresso-based drinks. I won’t get into the debate regarding whether it was the Kiwis or the Aussies who can lay claim to inventing the flat white, but rest assured that New Zealanders really know how to make an exceptional one. It’s actually rather difficult to find pourover coffee in New Zealand (compared to, say, Portland, Oregon), but you can find excellent espresso just about everywhere, from airports to food trucks to all kinds of restaurants.

Flight Coffee was a frequent name on “best coffee in Wellington”/”best flat white in Wellington” lists, and there was no way that I could leave New Zealand without doing some flat white research. When I visited Flight Coffee’s cafe (also known as the Hangar), I couldn’t resist ordering their Flight of the Flat White (three flat whites all made with a different espresso) and the barista asked, “Are you sure you can handle drinking three of these?” I accepted the challenge… and I would say I drank about 2 1/4 of the 3 drinks. Pretty good effort from me, I think, especially considering that I hadn’t had any coffee in two weeks prior to this day!

From left to right: Flat whites made with Flight Coffee’s Bomber blend (their house espresso), Ethiopia Gutiti (my favorite of these three – tasted like raspberry vanilla cake!), and Colombia La Reforma. I don’t typically go for single-origin espresso with milk drinks but this may make me change my tune.

I wanted to pick up some of the Bomber blend to experiment with at home, but none of the beans available were quite in my freshness window. These Kenyan beans, however, were only 3 days post-roast, and I figured it would be nice to try these as pourover back at home.

Whole bean: Buttery aroma. The beans were quite light in color, and tasted much like red fruit, particularly cherries; tart and sweet.

V60: This cup practically glowed in my mouth. The flavor was like brown sugar and cherry pie filling. It was a lovely balance of tart and sweet tastes.

AeroPress: Nice bright tartness on the front that mellowed to a rich sweetness of berries and stone fruit (cherries, plum).

Chemex: Powdery texture on the finish. Not overly fruity, but sweet and light.

French press: A lot was going on in this cup… it was impossible to pinpoint any one flavor note that stood out, but it was a complex brew that kept me drinking until the very last drop was gone. I tasted pretty much everything that I had tasted in my other cups, though!

Summary: I didn’t get to do quite as much coffee research in New Zealand as I would have liked, but I can easily believe that Flight Coffee is among the very best roasters in the country. They’ve made me want to experiment more with single-origin espressos, and though NZ isn’t known for drip/pourover coffee, I really enjoyed this Kenya Rutuma in the V60 and AeroPress. If my travels ever take me back to Wellington, I’ll definitely be stopping in again.

From the roaster: Red currant, blackberry, and green apple.

Flight Coffee Kenya Rutuma

And, as a little bonus, here is a pic of Wellington at sunrise! My view on my first morning there, from the Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout.

Review: James Coffee Company Night Owl Espresso Blend (San Diego, California)

I’ve considered getting a hand grinder for making coffee when I travel, but I have yet to do so because for me, part of the excitement of traveling is trying things I can’t get at home. In the case of coffee, this means trying local coffee shops and seeing what roasters they carry. On my recent trip to the San Diego area, Shutterbug and I found ourselves in Escondido on a Sunday morning and hopped on Yelp to find a coffee place that was open. One particular place, called Culture Craft Coffee and Espresso, caught our eye. Interestingly, we discovered it is located inside of a Lexus auto dealership! Yelpers gave us very detailed instructions on how to find the place, for which we were grateful (what floor to park on, what floor to take the elevator to, etc.).

Once we were in, we were helped by a friendly man who seemed very happy to talk coffee with me once he saw me eyeing the bags of James Coffee Co. beans that were out on the counter. I ordered an Americano to go, as we had someplace to be shortly. What I wasn’t prepared for was the explosively sweet, comforting flavor that filled my mouth when I took my first (and second, and fourteenth!) sips from the cup. Oh my goodness. The cup was filled with the aroma and flavor of caramel and brown sugar. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn someone snuck a bit of toffee into my cup. I don’t typically drink Americanos, but it definitely was the best Americano I’ve ever had!

After arriving home the next day, I called the coffee shop to ask what beans they had used in that magical Americano, and the person on the other end told me it was the Night Owl Blend from James Coffee Company. He didn’t seem fazed at all when I said I had the best Americano of my life at their shop – made me wonder if it’s something they hear a lot? 😉 In any case, I made an order from James as soon as I was able.

Whole bean: Rich, chocolaty, toasty aroma.

Espresso: I wasn’t quite able to replicate the brown-sugary flavor I had at the shop, but my equipment (Baratza Vario grinder + Quick Mill Silvano machine) created some delicious shots that were heavy on the chocolate, and were very tasty in their own right.

Favorite parameters: 17 g in, 32 g out, 203 degrees F, 24 second pull. I wrote in my notes, VERY CHOCOLATY!

With milk: This got a thumbs-up from Shutterbug. Chocolaty espresso + steamed milk = can’t go wrong.

AeroPress: Smooth result in the cup. The flavor was not particularly distinctive or interesting, but it was pleasant.

French Press: Just for fun, I tried this in a press pot. Like the AeroPress, it was smooth, but rather bland brewed this way compared to how it tastes as espresso.

Summary: This is a pretty terrific espresso if you enjoy chocolate/caramel/toffee flavors. It’s great straight or in a latte! I think these beans shine best when brewed as espresso; it’s perfectly pleasant though brewed in an AeroPress. This would be a great bean to use if you don’t own an espresso machine but would like to make a coffeehouse-style drink at home.

From the roaster: Organic blend of rich heavy bodied coffee with dark notes of hazelnut and maple syrup.

James Coffee Company Night Owl Espresso

Review: Madcap Coffee Roasters Ecuador Pepe Azul (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

I’ve been wanting to try Madcap Coffee for a long time. I’ve seen their name mentioned in multiple “best of” lists over the years, I like their logo, and I like the fact that they’re based in Michigan (as I have fond memories of my time in that state for graduate school). All of the coffees on their website sounded great, but I chose this particular varietal because of the following description. The whole thing is worth reading, but I am copying and pasting this bit for your reading pleasure:

While the process places a heavy emphasis on quality, the real secret in producing such vibrant and unique coffee, according to Pepe Menor, is that the coffee is alive. The coffee experiences the passion of the family as every single seed is individually touched at at least one stage in the process. Each night the coffee listens to classic rock on vinyl (particularly Jimi Hendrix) as it is blasted from the system of their bamboo home located in the center of farm. 

Did you catch that? Each night the coffee listens to classic rock on vinyl. Are these guys after my heart or what?! If reincarnation exists, I don’t think I’d mind coming back as a coffee plant on this farm (at least until harvest time).

For any coffee farmers out there: Please raise a crop of coffee plants on shoegaze records. I would buy the heck out of that.

Whole bean: Subtle, delicate fragrance like white sugar.

French press: Flavors of plum, violets, and sugar. This was a tangy and interesting brew that kept me sipping because I was trying to decipher all the layers. I’m not sure I ever pinpointed all the flavors! Complex and delicious.

Chemex: Raisin and brown sugar.

AeroPress: Brewed straight as a concentrate, the coffee was too intense for my taste. It had floral notes combined with flavors of chocolate syrup and grapefruit. Once I added a bit of water, it helped make the coffee less aggressive and made it sweeter. Still complex, but not harsh.

V60: Brewed at a 3:15 extraction time, this was the sweetest and smoothest of the four cups. It was the most approachable brew but it was still layered and interesting.

Summary: This coffee was worth the wait. Believe the hype, people — I’m pretty impressed with Madcap so far, and I look forward to trying other offerings from them in the future. The French press and V60 were my favorite methods for this coffee, but I found myself returning again and again to the French press because I felt it brought out the most dimension. Did I taste Jimi Hendrix in the cup? Perhaps not exactly, but I certainly tasted something exceptional.

From the roaster: Floral, spice, tangerine, juicy, complex.

Madcap Coffee Ecuador Pepe Azul

Review: Novo Coffee Roasters Rwanda Bufcafe (Denver, Colorado)

After reviewing the Novo Ethiopia Guji, I was a little apprehensive about cracking open the next bag. I didn’t hate the Guji, but it wasn’t quite what I had hoped. This bag from Rwanda promised to be pretty different, so I sliced it open and dove in.

Whole bean: The scent was earthy with notes of maple syrup, blackberry, and seaweed. Hmmmm…

French press: Smooth, a little bland but sweet with a medium body. I was starting to get concerned about this trend of “bland” that I was noticing but maybe I just didn’t steep the coffee long enough (I opted for my usual 4 minutes here).

Chemex: Though the coffee smelled syrupy sweet, the resulting brew was not quite as sweet in flavor and had a interesting bit of smokiness to it. It finished with a flavor like caramel.

AeroPress: Thick and rich cup – I didn’t add any water. It had a nice toffee flavor to it, with some brashness on the finish, but the brashness kept things interesting.

V60: Deep dark flavor of brown sugar, maple, and toffee. Simple but satisfying.

Summary: I think this coffee will please fans of flavors like toffee/caramel. Unlike the same roaster’s Ethiopia Guji, I think I liked this coffee brewed in the pourover methods best. Opt for a Chemex if you like a bit of smokiness; go with the V60 if you want just sweetness.

From the roaster: Grape, dark chocolate, almond butter

Novo Coffee Roasters Rwanda Bufcafe

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: Boxcar Coffee Roasters Burundi Rugoma Lot 5 (Boulder, Colorado)

This bag comes to me courtesy of my awesome friend Ebonee. Thanks, homeslice. 🙂

Boxcar was founded in Boulder, Colorado and now has a second cafe location in Denver. Since they are located at such high elevation, water has a lower boiling temperature, and Boxcar has developed an intriguing brewing technique they call the Boilermakr to brew coffee effectively and deliciously given the peculiar needs of their environment. There is more information and a picture of the Boilermakr contraption here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Whole bean: A bit nutty, with an aroma of rich warm spice and raisins.

V60: Sour orange dominated this cup with a nice medium body. There was a hint of spearmint on the finish.

AeroPress: I drank this coffee as a concentrate, and it had a lovely mix of orange peel and cinnamon. Once I added a bit of water, the brew smoothed out and tasted more like a generic black tea.

Chemex: This coffee reminded me quite strongly of visiting England and having English breakfast tea + milk (though I added no milk at all). This cup also had just a hint of orange to it, which was a pleasant fruity note at the end of a rich, comforting cup.

French press: Everything was strong and outspoken. More sour orange!

Summary: I’m not sure why a coffee grown in Burundi and roasted in Colorado would make me think of the English countryside and the hustle and bustle of London, but there you go… coffee is one way to travel the world and visit unexpected places.

From the roaster: Orange, clove, black tea, brown sugar.

Boxcar Coffee Roasters Burundi Rugoma Lot 5