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: West Oak Coffee Milk and Honey Blend (Denton, Texas)

Every time I visit Denton, Texas, I marvel at how much it’s changed since I was doing graduate work at the University of North Texas in the early 2000s. Denton has always had a counterculture vibe, with people taking pride in their differences and individuality, but the city has grown in the last 15 years and I am now finding all sorts of cool little eateries, record shops, boutiques, and coffee bars that weren’t here back when I was a student. Makes me a bit jealous, to be honest!

West Oak Coffee Bar is located in the Square (downtown Denton), which is also home to the fantastic Recycled Books and Records (I’ve spent many a pretty penny here — their classical vinyl selection is AMAZING) and Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream¬†(Gah, I’m getting nostalgic). West Oak is one of the only places I know of in Texas that has¬†Intelligentsia coffee on rotation, and I’ve purchased several bags of their Black Cat Classic here (all very fresh). On my most recent trip, they were featuring several different origins of their own house-roasted coffee. I opted to go with this Milk and Honey Blend due to its freshness (and really, doesn’t milk + honey sound good?).

Whole bean: Sweet chocolate and blueberry aroma.

V60: Rich mouthfeel to this medium-bodied coffee. There is a chocolatier a few miles from me called Sublime Chocolate that sells a dark chocolate bar with dried blueberries. This coffee tasted just like that. What a wonderful flavor to this brew!!

AeroPress: Buttery, semi-sweet chocolate notes. This was really delicious as a concentrate – no need to add additional water.

Chemex: This coffee had a mild, smooth flavor like milk chocolate. There was just a hint of berry brightness to it that was interesting but not obvious. Tasty and approachable. I feel like this particular method would be how I would brew this for a crowd.

French press: This had a bit of a chalky mouthfeel. The overall flavor was of semi-sweet chocolate but the overall flavor profile was unbalanced and a bit harsh. Not recommended this way.

Summary: I would absolutely recommend this coffee to anyone that might be looking to dip their toe into the waters of craft coffee but isn’t sure where to start. Blends often are more approachable than single origins, and this coffee is no exception. It has a lovely chocolaty flavor to it with just enough berry/fruit flavor to pique your interest and keep you wanting to drink more, without verging into sour/off-putting flavors for the uninitiated. My personal favorite brew method for this was in the Hario V60, because it brought out the berry flavor the most, but it’s also quite good in an AeroPress and Chemex.

For added feedback, I took multiple batches of this coffee to share with colleagues at a multi-week gig. I think I brought in this coffee (brewed in a Chemex) three times during that run, and of the coffees I brought for them to taste, this one seemed to win the most hearts. Granted, since the other option was pre-ground Folgers, I think my friends were already inclined to like whatever I provided, but this really did seem to be the most crowd-pleasing of the beans!

From the roaster: Buttery, honey, velvety, balanced

West Oak Coffee Milk and Honey Blend 

Review conducted 7 days post-roast.

P. S. – I stole the photo of the coffee bag from the West Oak website. I usually take photos of the bags myself, but I must have thrown my bag away before I had a chance to take the photo – these beans went FAST. Which, really, is a good thing!

P. S. #2 – In looking at the West Oak website, I realized that this is their espresso blend!! I never got a chance to try this as an espresso because the beans disappeared so quickly, but if I have a chance to get my hands on more, I’ll do so and update this review later. Just goes to show though that you don’t need to limit yourself to just brewing espresso beans as espresso… they can be good in multiple methods.

Review: George Howell Coffee Nicaragua Las Colinas (Boston, Massachusetts)

This was the second bag I recently picked up from Astro Coffee in Detroit (the first being the Andytown Colombia). I had never heard of George Howell Coffee before, but I liked the packaging and the beans were very fresh, so I decided to take a chance.

Once I finished my tasting and I started writing up this review, I realized that I must have been living under a rock, because George Howell is no stranger to the specialty coffee world. It’s worth reading his full story on the roaster’s website, but suffice to say, you don’t get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America just for making cortados. Hats off to you, sir.

Whole bean: Cherry, black tea, bright and refreshing, with a buttery aroma once ground.

French press: Smells like roses and tastes like black tea. Ultra smooth, but kind of hollow in flavor. This doesn’t really taste like coffee at all! This has a thicker texture to it than tea but if I was blindfolded, I might be fooled. Just out of curiosity, I added a splash of milk, but this ended up bringing out different flavors than I was expecting – the milk made the coffee taste more juicy, with notes of lemon and butter.

Chemex: The rose scent and flavor were more on the forefront with this brewing method. Complex, sweet, layered cup.

AeroPress: This had a lovely light, reddish-brown caramel color to it. Much lighter in color than a typical cup of coffee – I think the last time I saw a cup this color might have been the Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Panama La Milagrosa Geisha. Rich mouthfeel but unlike the OCCR Geisha, it wasn’t super flavorful, even as a concentrate.

V60: This was the best method for these beans, in my opinion. Rose, amaretto, chocolate. Smooth and sweet. This cup was a definite winner!

Summary: Lovely floral notes abound in this coffee. This is quite a light roast and may be strange for people that are used to their coffee tasting “like coffee,” but I really enjoyed it, particularly brewed in the Hario V60 due to the rich flavors and balanced nature of the cup.

From the roaster: Passionfruit, chocolate, black tea

George Howell Coffee Nicaragua Las Colinas

Review conducted at 7 days post-roast.

Review: MauiGrown Coffee Company 100% Kona (Hawai’i)

Hawai’i is the only state in the USA that grows coffee, and Kona coffee in particular has a reputation for being both very mild in flavor and very expensive. It’s hard to get your hands on 100% Kona coffee on the mainland; finding blends is much more common. Certain roasters do offer fresh-roasted Kona beans (for instance, Peet’s Coffee has 100% Kona available on their website, roasted once a week). However, with so many varieties of coffee available at more reasonable price points, splurging on 100% Kona wasn’t really a priority for me. However, when one of my students told me she was going on vacation with her family to Hawai’i, I couldn’t resist asking her if she would mind bringing back some coffee. Happily, she obliged, and this was one of the two types of coffee she brought back for me. Thanks, K! ūüôā

Whole bean: These beans looked to be roasted to about a Full City level; nice medium roast. There was the barest hint of cherry, but overall the aroma was¬†simply a strong “coffee” scent,¬†the kind that anyone that enjoys coffee would smell and go, “ahhhh.”

French press: Simple flavor of semi-sweet chocolate. One-dimensional, but a good dimension if you enjoy chocolate!

Chemex: This method yielded a sweeter cup, that tasted more of milk chocolate. It had a rather delicate fragrance, that wasn’t as assertive as the whole beans.

AeroPress: Brewed at 175 degrees F, this cup tasted of chocolate-covered almonds. This was the smoothest cup of the four, with no additional water needed (other than what is used for brewing). I do encourage drinking this as a concentrate!

V60: Very similar to the AeroPress cup, with a hint of butter on the finish. Delicious.

Espresso: Based on how much I liked this coffee in the AeroPress, I opted to try this¬†as espresso. It had a lovely reddish-brown color, but the flavor was pedestrian. Admittedly, I didn’t do very many pulls of this bean in my espresso machine before writing this review, but I definitely enjoyed it more when brewed as drip coffee.

Summary: 100% Kona coffee is expensive and difficult to get unless you live in Hawai’i, but if your coffee tastes run to the chocolate/almond/smooth side, it might be worth getting your hands on some as a splurge! I liked this particular coffee best in the AeroPress and V60.

From the roaster: Kona coffee is grown only in the Kona district of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Most Kona coffee is the Typica variety. Not all Konas are alike. Depending on altitude, soil, nutrition, pulping, drying, and roasting, Kona coffees can vary greatly. MauiGrown Coffee Company Store has selected a Kona coffee with what we consider is a Classic Kona Taste.

This 100% Kona is not available on the MauiGrown website (as of press time), but here is a link to their online store: MauiGrown Coffee Company Store

Review: Wrecking Ball Coffee Ethiopia Classic Yirgacheffe (San Francisco, California)

This is my first experience with Wrecking Ball Coffee. I had initially¬†heard about them through this article on Sprudge, and found their approach to coffee interesting (iced cappuccinos?? I’m not big on iced drinks, but kudos to them for trying something new). Plus, I love that their house espresso blend is named “Pillow Fight“! Someday I will try that blend, but for this particular order, I wanted to go with a single-origin coffee.

Whole bean: Smells a lot like jasmine tea. Once ground, it became SUPER bright and fragrant. I was overwhelmed (in a good way).

V60: A rather flowery-smelling brew with flavors of green grape and dark chocolate.

AeroPress: The concentrate was quite strong, full of grassy/floral flavor. I added just a touch of water and it balanced the coffee for the better. The brew became a little chocolaty with a hint of lavender.

Chemex: For me, this method was the star of the show. Somehow, brewing this coffee in a Chemex made the resulting coffee completely different in character than in the other three methods. It was quite light in color and light-bodied. Ultra easy-drinking brew, with notes of caramel, shortbread, butter, and a hint of lavender. Delicate. Delicious.

French press: Intense aroma of almond and flowers. This was a flavor explosion in the mouth.

Summary: Get your hands on this coffee and brew it in a Chemex for a really superb flavor experience!

From the roaster: Floral, citrusy, clean, complex, balanced.

Wrecking Ball Coffee Ethiopia Classic Yirgacheffe

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango (Dallas, Texas)

Considering the fact that Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters is based in Dallas, I suppose it’s a bit ironic that I picked up this bag in Tyler at the same time that I got the bag of Porch Culture Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural, but hey, when fresh coffee calls, I answer!

Whole bean: Aromas of butter, kelp, and plum. The kelp note was especially surprising to me Рit was like a whiff of nori sheets, as if I was about to make sushi rolls. Once ground, the beans smelled sweeter and had a tart stone fruit character to them.

V60: I made this twice; the first extraction, at 3:00, was bitter on the front but improved slightly as it cooled. There was a lot of flavor in this coffee – vanilla, plus the butter, kelp, and plum I smelled earlier. However, it was still too bitter for my taste. The second extraction, at 2:45, was better but still did not result in a cup that I would deem sweet.

AeroPress: Not bad. A little perky/piquant of a brew. I drank this without adding water, and it was okay – I didn’t really feel like diluting this would have improved it, but the acidity was tempered when I drank it along with my breakfast.

Chemex: Big difference! At 3:50 extraction, this brew method resulted in a smooth and sweet cup of coffee that was reminiscent of Nilla wafers.

French press: Also resulted in a smooth and sweet cup, which tasted like vanilla pudding. Luscious.

Summary: I felt this coffee was the most delicious when brewed in the Chemex. It was also good in a French press, but it was just starting to push the boundaries of decadence for my taste!

From the roaster: Baked apple, vanilla

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango

(I forgot to snap a picture of the bag before I threw it away, so this MoMa mug will have to do!)