Review: Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters Barking Dog Espresso Blend (Dallas, Texas)

Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters is a Dallas-area roaster that’s been on my radar for a while (since before the first Dallas Coffee Day in 2015), but I somehow had not gotten around to reviewing their beans until now. My local Whole Foods had fresh bags of this Barking Dog Espresso Blend in stock and the description sounded right up my alley for an espresso.

Whole bean: sweet chocolate aroma. Smells like a candy bar.

Espresso: I made six shots with this bag before settling on what I think was my optimum shot (which, oddly enough, was the first shot I pulled!). This espresso seems designed for normale shots; I tried it as a ristretto and all I wrote in my notes was “BLECHHH.” I’m going to guess I didn’t like that. But at a 1:2 espresso:water ratio, the shots largely came out smooth and sweet. This espresso seems to smooth out as it sits.

Favorite parameters: 16 grams in (though honestly it seemed a bit skimpy for a double basket… but it tasted better vs. when I put in more grounds), 39 grams out, 200 degrees F, 30 second shot.

With milk: Forgot to have my faithful latte tester Shutterbug try this out, but as the shots were nice and chocolaty and sweet, I can’t see how this could possibly be anything but tasty with steamed milk.

AeroPress: The concentrate was quite strong – dark chocolate flavor abounded. Once I added a bit of water, it became quite smooth but bland. So, don’t add extra water!

Summary: This espresso does live up to its packaging! It’s a good no-nonsense espresso that would serve as a nice base for building milk drinks.

From the roaster: Chocolate, caramel, sweet, mellow finish

Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters Barking Dog Espresso Blend

Review conducted 11-12 days post-roast.

Review: Conscious Coffees Organic Sanitas Decaf (Boulder, Colorado)

Decaf coffee is something I rarely seek out, but this bag happened to catch my eye during a recent trip to Denver. I was at Pigtrain Coffee at Denver’s Union Station and this was the freshest coffee there so it was a no-brainer, even though I usually think “what’s the point” about decaf… but I know I have at least a few readers that would appreciate more decaf tastings! This one’s for you guys.

Whole bean: Sesame, red bean. This was unexpected!

French press: This had a rather reddish hue in the cup. It tasted strongly of chocolate truffles… thick and one-dimensional in flavor but quite a pleasant dimension!

Chemex: Not bad, but it doesn’t taste like much… I had a hard time dialing in the grind for this bag and I brewed this batch for a whopping 5:40 (instead of my usual 4:00!) but even then, the coffee was on the bland side. Points for being forgiving though?

AeroPress: Fudgy, decadent, and sweet.

V60: Bland and a bit sharp on the finish. Not my favorite.

Summary: After I finished the tasting and looked closely at the tasting notes, I was shocked as nothing I smelled or tasted in the cup had anything to do with buttercream or caramel or citrus, but I did enjoy the depth of chocolate flavor in the immersion methods. I liked this decaf in a french press and in the AeroPress and it would be a good one to try, preferably complimented by a nice chocolate dessert of some sort!

From the roaster: Buttercream, caramel, light citrus

Conscious Coffees Organic Sanitas Decaf

Review conducted 10 days post-roast.

Review: Driftaway Coffee Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor (Brooklyn, New York)

This review will be a both a usual and an unusual review, in that Driftaway Coffee operates as a coffee subscription company with constantly rotating offerings, so while you may not be able to get these exact beans, I wanted to do a full review of the beans I did receive to give an overview of what you might be able to expect from this company.

A recurring trend these days seems to be the personalized subscription… Stitch Fix comes to mind as an example, where you get clothes selected for you each month, you give the company feedback about what you do and do not like, and they adjust their future shipments to reflect your preferences. Driftaway Coffee works like that, where you first receive a tasting kit with four overall coffee profiles (fruity, classic, balanced, bold). Then, you choose your favorite of the four, tell Driftaway what you like or don’t like about the coffee via their website or iOS app, and Driftaway will send you freshly roasted coffees personally selected to reflect your preferences. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of going into a coffee shop and blindly picking out a bag, hoping you’ll like it. In addition, since it shows up at your door at the frequency you choose, you won’t run out of freshly roasted coffee. Great for busy folks!

In my case, rather than sending me the tasting kit, Driftaway simply contacted me to ask what I would like, and based on my answers, they sent me this bag from their “Balanced” taste profile – this Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor. Shipping was very quick, and I believe the coffee was in my mailbox 4-5 days post-roast. Having my name handwritten on the bag was an unexpected but very sweet touch; it really felt like this coffee was personally roasted just for me!

Whole bean: Peanut brittle, butterscotch.

French press: Very sweet. Toffee, nutty, rich flavor and mouthfeel. There’s nothing sharp or sour or off-putting about this coffee – it feels smooth and luxurious in the mouth. Delicious! If you usually take your coffee with cream, I challenge you to try this black and see if it doesn’t convince you that good coffee doesn’t need anything added.

Chemex: Tangy flavor, with a hint of blood orange. Mild citrus taste. Very different from the French press cup!! Sweet and tart at the same time.

AeroPress: Straight up Snickers bar (for anyone that doesn’t have Snickers candy bars where they live, it’s caramel, peanut and nougat, covered in milk chocolate).

V60: Like the Chemex cup in its citrusy character but with more of a toasty finish.

Summary: I was fascinated by how this particular Colombian coffee could have such different results; the immersion methods (French press/AeroPress) created a coffee that was decadent, sweet, and rich. The pourover methods (Chemex/Hario V60) resulted in a light, citrusy brew with a balanced finish. Both flavor profiles were fantastic but I have to say this coffee done in a French press was my personal favorite of the four methods I tried, and I think if I was introducing craft coffee to someone who had not had it before (especially if it was someone who was used to putting cream and sugar in their coffee), this would be a fantastic bean to give them to show what really great coffee can be like, unadulterated.

If the idea of having the equivalent of a coffee sommelier appeals to you, check out Driftaway! I am really impressed by the sample I received — it’s one of the best coffees I’ve tasted so far this year!! — and they couldn’t be nicer people to connect with. Many thanks!

From the roaster: Toffee, turmeric, peanut

Driftaway Coffee

Review conducted 6-7 days post-roast.

Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket.

Review: BeanFruit Old Route 4 Dark Roast (Jackson, Mississippi)

Hey there, dark roast fans… this one’s for you. I am personally not a fan of dark roasts, but I know a lot of you out there are so I’m taking one for the team! I find that people that have a strong opinion about the roast level of their coffee seem to be generally in one of two camps:

Light-roasted coffee:
Fan: “Delicious! You can really taste the origin of the bean and all the subtle flavors.”
Foe: “Gross! It’s sour and tastes like drinking acid! I want my coffee to taste like coffee, damnit!”

Dark-roasted coffee:
Fan: “It’s so rich and smooth and strong! This is what coffee is supposed to taste like.”
Foe: “Ack, it’s burnt! Charred! It has no character whatsoever! Overroasted!”

Now, I do think there can be a happy medium between these two styles, but even “medium” roast coffee can be too light (meaning, “weird-tasting”) for many dark-roast drinkers, so I wondered if there was a dark roast out there that even fans of lighter roasts could still enjoy. BeanFruit is such a great coffee roaster that I figured if anyone could do this, they could.

Whole bean: Nothing stood out to me other than just a rich aroma of coffee beans. The beans were dark to my eye, but not oily, which is a definite bonus. One thing I really dislike about very dark roasts is all the surface oil and how it gets all over everything, and I feel like it makes the coffee taste rancid. No matter what roast level you like, kids, just say no to oily beans!

French press: Rich and robust cup that tasted a bit like wood and smelled of cedar chips. Smooth.

Chemex: I really wasn’t pleased with the result from this brewing method. The beans are just too darkly roasted for my taste and the coffee came out bitter to my palate. I chased the coffee with a cup of water and the water tasted amazingly sweet to me in comparison!

AeroPress: This is more like it. Consumed straight, I found this brew to be a bit strong but nicely balanced, with flavors of dark chocolate and a hint of cedar. Caramel on the finish. Quite smooth once I added a bit of additional water. As this coffee sits and cools, more chocolate notes come out.

V60: With a 2:40 extraction, this had a really clean “coffee” flavor. No distractions. Less chocolate in the taste but still quite approachable. I would gladly drink this if it was served at a dinner party.

Summary: Perhaps I did something wrong when making this coffee in my Chemex, but I don’t think that brewing method does these beans any favors (which is odd, because Chemexes are known for producing smooth cups of coffee!). However, I do think this coffee is rather nice in a V60 or in an AeroPress. I still prefer lighter roasts, but this is one dark roast I can get behind.

From the roaster: Dark chocolate, cinnamon, dried fruit, cedar

BeanFruit Coffee Company Old Route 4 Dark Roast

Review conducted 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: Blue Bottle Coffee Bella Donovan (Oakland, California)

My lovely friend Chloé recently made an order from Blue Bottle for two bags of this blend, and she graciously let me have one of them to review. When I started dipping my toe into the world of craft coffee around 5 years ago, Blue Bottle was one of the first craft roasters I tried, and Bella Donovan was one of the blends I tasted at that time (Giant Steps being the other – I’m a sucker for musical references in my coffee naming, and that one evokes John Coltrane AND the Boo Radleys). I remember thinking the Bella Donovan was fine at the time, but that was also back when I brewed almost exclusively in a french press and I still added milk to my coffee (which I don’t do any more). I was looking forward to seeing what I thought of it now!

This probably wasn’t intentional on the part of Blue Bottle, but thanks to the naming, I had Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” stuck in my head throughout the duration of this tasting, and for a few days afterward. The earworm was reflected in my tasting notes, as you’ll read shortly!

Whole bean: These beans were a medium roast, but with the barest hint of oily sheen to them. I get a little nervous these days when I see oil on the surface of beans, as it generally indicates the coffee is roasted darker than I personally like, but this was such a minuscule amount of oil that I wasn’t too worried. The beans smelled like cedar and clove.

V60: Throughout the tasting, in all brewing methods, even though I occasionally tasted notes of chocolate, the general feeling I got from this coffee is that it’s blended to taste like “coffee.” Since the Donovan track was playing on a continuous loop in my head at this point, I chose to assign treble and bass levels to each brewing method based on what I tasted. This V60 cup had some liveliness to it but was otherwise pretty generic.
Treble: 6 (out of 10)
Bass: 5

AeroPress: No additional water was needed other than what was used for brewing. Nice, fudgy flavor and consistency. Semi-sweet chocolate flavor abounded.
Treble: 4
Bass: 8

Chemex: Not too dissimilar to the V60 cup but a bit on the brighter side.
Treble: 7
Bass: 4

French press: Smoothest flavor but had the least amount of personality. Kind of murky.
Treble: 2
Bass: 7

Espresso: I was kind of underwhelmed with this coffee blend in the pourover brewing methods, but based on the nice result from the AeroPress, I had a hunch that it would make a decent espresso. I was right! The best shot I got from the bag had a lovely chocolaty flavor.

Favorite brewing parameters for this shot: 202 degrees F, 17.5 grams in, 35 grams out at a 25 second extraction.

With milk: Shutterbug tried a latte or two made with the Bella Donovan, and he approved. Not much else to say other than that, though!

Summary: I think this is a good middle-of-the-road coffee, either in drip methods or as espresso. If your tastes run to the more complex, fruity, floral, and distinctive side, you’ll likely be bored with the lack of layers, but this is a coffee that tastes largely like “coffee,” and won’t be offensive to most coffee drinkers. Blue Bottle describes the Bella Donovan as the “wool sweater of our blends – warm, comforting, familiar.” I think they hit the nail right on the head with that description. This may not be marketed as an espresso blend, but I think it shone best pulled as espresso. It also made a delicious fudgy coffee in an AeroPress.

From the roaster: red berries, milk chocolate, caramel

Blue Bottle Bella Donovan

Review conducted 13-14 days post-roast.

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. 😉

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: Patriot Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido (Lakeland, Florida)

From time to time, I get contacted by coffee companies who are interested in introducing me to their products, and I get pretty excited if it is a craft coffee company doing the talking. Such was the case when I got an email from Patriot Coffee Roasters, out of Lakeland, Florida. Take a look at their “About” page; I think you’ll clearly see the passion and dedication that is present in every word!

I had no idea what kind of coffee would be coming to my door (single-origin? blend?), as I don’t typically dictate gifts, but I was thrilled to open the box from Patriot to find this Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido. I love Ethiopian coffee, and the previous time I had tried an Idido coffee (from Novel Coffee Roasters), I was very impressed, so I couldn’t wait to crack this bag open.

Whole bean: hint of fruit in the aroma – raspberry? This almost smelled like perfume, in the best possible way. Definitely could smell hibiscus. My mouth was watering.

V60: This made a smooth cup with a hint of the perfume-like flavor I smelled in the whole bean form. Sweet but muted. This would make a great cup for newbies to Ethiopian coffee.

AeroPress: Very intense flavor, rich and satisfying. It was almost prismatic, the layers of fruit and floral flavor. Wowza.

Chemex: Delicate, like fruit tea. Sweet and fragrant. This had a whispery quality to it which I reveled in. If the AeroPress cup reminded me of Freddie Mercury’s intensity, this Chemex cup was more reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens’s hushed vocals.

French press: Richer flavor, but I felt this was unbalanced. Muddy texture and overall a less satisfying cup vs. the paper-filtered methods.

Summary: This coffee is delicious, and I rank it as the first real standout coffee I’ve had in 2017. I wouldn’t recommend it in a french press, but it makes a great cup when you use filtered methods. My personal favorite was the coffee that was made in the Chemex, because I really enjoy the subtle nuances of this origin, but it made very enjoyable cups in the Hario V60 and the AeroPress as well, depending on your tastes. Thanks to Patriot Coffee Roasters for the introduction – I’ll definitely be ordering from you guys again!

When I was writing up this review, I came across this entry on Patriot’s own blog regarding their cupping of this coffee. We agree that the french press doesn’t showcase these beans to their full potential, but they unanimously agreed that the AeroPress was the clear winner here. Potato, po-tah-to, if you ask me – it’s hard to get a bad cup of coffee with these beans!

From the roaster: stewed berries, hibiscus, nectarine, caramel sweetness, syrupy body

Patriot Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido

Review conducted at 6 days post-roast.

Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket.

Review: Cartel Coffee Lab Ethiopia Kochere (Phoenix, Arizona)

When you think of airport coffee, you probably think of Starbucks, right? Well, if you ever find yourself in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, make your way over to Terminal 4 to visit Cartel Coffee Lab’s PHX location. As is typical when I travel somewhere new, when I arrived in Phoenix, I Googled “best coffee roasters in Phoenix” and Cartel was a name I saw come up more than once. It being the holidays, family time was the priority so I didn’t have time to run around all over town to seek out roasters, but I was thrilled to see that Cartel had this airport location and I was hopeful that their beans would be fresh. Happily, they were!

When I took this bag of their Ethiopia Kochere to the register, I asked for a bag to carry the coffee in, because at that point I had my bags of Stumptown Sleigh Ride and Ritual’s Day Drinker seasonal espresso in my purse and I was running out of room. The barista asked what other beans I got and when I mentioned Ritual in particular, I got this reaction:

Nothing like meeting a complete stranger and feeling understood. #kindredspirits

Whole bean: Blackberry, butterscotch, nougat. Incredibly fragrant cofffee.

V60: The first wave of scent that hit me was of dog. Not wet dog, and it wasn’t unpleasant, but it definitely smelled like I was holding a wriggly puppy in my arms! As the coffee sat a bit, I got notes of floral stem, grass, and caramel. I did unintentionally brew this coffee a bit on the long side (3:50 extraction). This is a pretty dense bean – adjust your grinders accordingly.

AeroPress: Quite sweet and sugary! No dog here. I didn’t need to add any additional water to this cup – it had a complex, dry finish that was very enjoyable.

Chemex: Bright, dry, puckery coffee. Caramel and blackberry in this cup. Tart.

French press: Richer and sweeter flavor than the other coffee methods, but still bright in taste. Hard to pinpoint flavors in this cup. I will say though that compared to the AeroPress cup, the french press coffee tasted oddly watered down.

Espresso: Since I liked this coffee so much in the AeroPress, I opted to experiment with making it as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled a few shots, but I got a lovely flavor of lemon and lilac with a sugary aroma.

Summary: Loved these beans brewed in an AeroPress. Also makes a nice single-origin espresso if you’re into bright, floral flavor!

From the roaster: Black tea with subtle tropical fruit and floral qualities

Cartel Coffee Lab Ethiopia Kochere

Review: Blue Bottle Kenya Embu Gikirima (Oakland, California)

Technically, I purchased this coffee at the end of 2016 and wrote up notes on it very soon after purchase, but I wanted to save the review to start the new year off with a bang, and Blue Bottle seemed like a good roaster to start this blog off on the right foot in 2017! This Blue Bottle review will actually be in two parts, as I bought this varietal both in whole bean form and pre-ground (gasp!). Yes, I broke the rule of just about every coffee geek and bought pre-ground coffee, but for a very good reason, as I wanted to see for myself if Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground really could live up to the taste of freshly ground coffee. More on that later, but for now, here are my notes on the whole bean version of this Kenya Embu Gikirima!

Whole bean: Honestly, I kind of forgot to observe this coffee’s notes, as it smelled great right out of the box and I was excited to start brewing. Oops! But it was quite fragrant, like caramelized sugar and tea and all sorts of good things.

V60: This brewing method made a cup that tasted like toasted marshmallows, with a slight “pithy” flavor like lemon pith. Not a very tart cup, but it had just a little bit of citrus bitterness to it. I did brew this on the long side (3:45) so perhaps a shorter brewing time would mitigate the pith.

AeroPress: A surprisingly smooth brew!! Caramel scent and flavor dominated this mug, with a tart finish like lemon candy to keep the taste buds interested.

Chemex: Grapefruit. Very tart and dry. My mouth was puckering.

French press: Very silky mouthfeel. Rich, sweet flavor with just a hint of brightness and tartness to keep things lively.

Summary: This coffee tasted best to me in the immersion methods, with the French press being my personal favorite, as I felt it had the best balance between sweet and tart.

Check back in a few hours for more on this coffee, this time made from Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground beans (their version of pre-ground coffee).

From the roaster: Cacao nibs, tea, citrus

Blue Bottle Kenya Embu Gikirima