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

Review: Summer Moon Organic Sweet Hearth (Austin, Texas)

My dear friend Julee brought me this bag from a recent trip to Austin, knowing I would be intrigued by the workings of this roaster. Summer Moon Wood-Fired Coffee Roasters is a company that does everything old-school. They built their brick hearth by hand, one brick at a time. They use no electricity or modern technology in the roasting process; just a wood fire (oak) and a hand-turned roasting drum. They know the coffee’s done when the coffee tells them it’s done, via sight, smell, and sound.

This coffee was labeled as a medium roast on the bag. When I opened it up, I raised an eyebrow because I felt that the contents of the bag had bypassed “medium” and were beginning to venture into what I would consider a medium-dark stage, due to the sheen of oil on the beans. There are no official standards for “light” or “medium,” so every roaster is free to define it as they wish, but it was a bit past what I would consider to be a medium roast. I would be afraid to see what a dark roast from this roaster looks like.

From left to right: a light roast from Joe’s Coffee, a medium roast from Stumptown, and a “medium” roast from Summer Moon. Note the deeper color and oily sheen to Summer Moon’s medium vs. Stumptown’s.

IMG_1124

Whole beans: Smoky. Nutty. No trace of any origin characteristics to my nose. The bag says the beans come from Honduras but I would never have known that from the smell – to me, it just smells like dark-roasted coffee.

V60: Notes of toffee with a medium-bodied finish.

AeroPress: Consumed via the traditional brewing method as a coffee concentrate, it was smooth and had a nice fullness to the body. This would be a good canvas for adding milk/sugar and flavorings.

Chemex: Strong note of roasted peanuts. Light body (the filter likely caught most of the natural oils). Reminds me of a PayDay bar but not as sweet.

French press: Fullest in body, with a smooth finish and a smoky taste.

Espresso: I tried pulling this coffee as an espresso shot at a couple of different temperatures to see what would happen. Luckily, I got the right grind size right off the bat but the flavors ranged from bitter (at 201 degrees) to just okay (at 199). I didn’t see too much potential in this as a straight espresso, as it was rather one-dimensional for my taste, but I’m pretty sure with a bit more experimentation I could get a smooth, “comfort food” espresso shot out of it that would work fine in a milk drink.

Summary: This coffee was definitely roasted on the dark side of medium. It “tastes like coffee,” and would be pleasing to anyone looking for a smooth, uncomplicated brew that is not acidic.

From the roaster: Traces of almond and sweet brown sugar finish.

Summer Moon Sweet Hearth

Mini review: Intelligentsia Decaf Librarian’s Blend (Chicago, Illinois)

This bag of Intelligentsia was a gift for my friend Julee, but she generously offered to let me have some of the beans in order to do a review. I purposely just took a little bit (after all, I wanted her to enjoy the coffee!), so I was not able to do a full review with all four brewing methods. However, I did snag enough beans to brew the coffee three ways.

V60: Toasty aroma and flavor, with brown sugar on the finish. There was just a hint of acidity at the end – I was thinking lime since I saw it in the flavor notes. I’m not sure I would have thought lime had it not been for the suggestion, though. Very subtle.

AeroPress: Super smooth brew that tasted like toasted almonds.

French press: Bland and hollow tasting compared to the previous cups. I added a bit of salt and it helped, but I didn’t care for it in this method.

Summary: If I wanted a comfortable cup of coffee but didn’t want caffeine, this would be a decent option. I am curious about what it would taste like in a Chemex since I find that method tends to bring out brighter flavors, but generally speaking the coffee was rich and smooth, with a nutty/toasty aroma. Not bad. I didn’t find this brew to be challenging in any way – on the contrary, it was very cozy. Comfort food. Grab a shawl on a rainy day and curl up with this decaf right before bed – it won’t hurt you.

From the roaster (snagged from the Intelligentsia Coffee menu page on Yelp):

Intelligentsia Decaf Librarian’s Blend

Follow-up Review: Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso (Chicago, Illinois)

I hope you all enjoyed reading my friend David Cooper’s excellent guest post on Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Classic Espresso back in April. This espresso blend is a celebrity as far as espresso blends go, and for some reason I didn’t buy a bag of this for myself on that trip (oh yeah, now I remember why – I spent $27 on this bag of Intelligentsia’s Burundi Bwayi!). Reading David’s review made me want to experiment with this blend myself, so when I saw fresh bags at West Oak Coffee Bar in Denton, TX, I jumped at the chance.

My previous experience with Black Cat has been limited to a visit to one of Intelligentsia’s cafes in Chicago. On that trip, I had a doppio espresso and a latte to compare and contrast what I thought of it vs. the offerings at Metropolis Coffee. My impression of Intelligentsia’s espresso that day was that it tasted a bit one-dimensional; more akin to comfort food vs. the rather more complex and challenging Metropolis Redline blend. Both blends were a little bright for my taste, but both cafes served well-pulled shots with plenty of crema.

Whole beans: These smell AWESOME. I loved the buttery richness and the sweet toffee-like fragrance coming from the bag.

When I am experimenting with a new bag of espresso, I adjust the following parameters: temperature, grind size, dose (amount of beans in the portafilter), extraction time/volume. Here’s my log for Black Cat:

IMG_1108

(FYI – all of the 2-I, 2-K, 2-M codes refer to the grind setting on my Baratza Vario.)

As you can see, I played around with the parameters for 8 doubleshots. I may continue to play, but thus far the shot that I thought was the best was #7, at 200 degrees F, 19 gram dose, 27 sec extraction (which, probably not coincidentally, is quite close to Intelligentsia’s suggested parameters). It still only got a “hey! not bad!” comment from me, but that was definitely better than “lemon” or “WINCE.” This espresso is quite bright, verging on sour to my palate, even in its “best” rendition. I don’t think this blend can reach the sweetness of my current favorites (Stumptown or Vivace) no matter how I change the dose or temperature. #7 tasted much like the shots of Black Cat that I’ve had out at cafes, by baristas that presumably know how to work with this blend and get the best flavor out of it. Not bad, but it’s not the general flavor I personally prefer in an espresso.

However, does this mean I hate this coffee? No, and let me elaborate! I also opted to try this blend in the AeroPress and WHAT A DIFFERENCE. All those rich, toffee/caramel/buttery aromas from the whole beans definitely took center stage when I brewed this in the AeroPress. No sour/lemon notes here; my mouth was shocked by how much this tasted like english toffee + chocolate with just a little bit of cherry flavor on the finish. The AeroPress extraction made this coffee taste how it smells. If I could find a way to get THIS flavor in my espresso shots, I would be a very happy camper. Perhaps I don’t have a good enough grinder/machine combo at home to do it, but even the shots of Black Cat that I’ve had at coffee shops have been overly bright for my taste.

Summary: I have a hard time getting along with this espresso blend with my espresso equipment. However, it tastes terrific in an AeroPress!

From the roaster: This syrupy and sweet espresso blend has been the staple of our lineup since the very beginning. It is a product of intensive lot selection and close, direct work with the farmers who produce its components. The Black Cat Classic Espresso’s hallmark is its supreme balance and wonderful sweetness.

Dark chocolate. Ripe cherry. Brown sugar.

Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso