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: Weekend Coffee Roasters Mexico Organic Altura Finca San Carlos (San Jose, California)

I was recently contacted by the nice people at Weekend Coffee Company, based out of Northern California. I like that they’re a family-owned company, and they received the “Editors Choice” award in the 2017 Metro “Best of Silicon Valley” issue. At this time, they’re an online-only business (they don’t operate a storefront/brick-and-mortar coffee shop), but they do have limited hours available for customer pickup if you’re in the Bay Area.

Their normal practice is to ship beans within two days of roasting and they do make note of the roasting dates on the bag. Comforting to know that they take freshness seriously, as should anyone who is passionate about their coffee! They have a good selection of blends and single-origins on their website.

(Side note: Is anyone else reminded of the band Weezer when you look at the font that Weekend Coffee Roasters is using? Maybe it’s a subtle way of saying “our coffee rocks”…!)

Whole bean: Smelt from the bag, I detected the scent of vanilla wafer cookies. Ground, the beans smelled like plum and almonds.

French press: Extremely smooth cup, almost to the point of dullness (not in flavor, but in acidity). Murky. Slightly grassy aroma.

Chemex: Really clean flavor and body to this cup that had a hint of gingerbread. It had a bit of what most people would interpret as “bitterness” on the finish but it smoothed out as it cooled, revealing more flavors like almond and amaretto. Would be quite nice with cream added.

AeroPress: Thick and robust brew that tasted of dark chocolate and almonds. I didn’t add any additional water than what was used for brewing.

V60: I made this at a 3:25 extraction and it produced a smoother cup than the Chemex, with a classic “coffee” aroma and flavor.

Summary: I haven’t had much experience with Mexican coffee but this is a surprisingly layered one if you choose to brew in a Chemex. I’m a black coffee drinker and my tastes run to the complex side so if you are like me, I’d say try this in a Chemex. If you like “simpler” black coffee, it’s really good in the AeroPress and Hario V60. Like most coffees I’ve had from Mexico, it’s a crowd pleasing brew that would also suit for people that add cream and sugar to their coffee. I’d personally not brew this in a French press as I think the other methods showed off the flavor of these beans better.

From the roaster: White grape, chocolate, cinnamon

Weekend Coffee Roasters Certified Organic Mexico Altura Finca San Carlos

Review conducted 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: 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: Brown Coffee Co. Cottonwood Espresso (San Antonio, Texas)

I ordered this bag of the Brown Cottonwood Espresso at the same time that I ordered their Candy Factory. The Candy Factory was roasted May 24, but the Cottonwood must have been roasted to order because it was roasted May 30 (I ordered May 29). There was a bit of delay in the shipping, but it was fine in this case since the beans showed up in plenty of time and I did this tasting on about day 10, which is right around where I like to be for espresso testing.

Whole bean: I forgot to write anything down for this… sorry! I don’t think anything stood out particularly, which is good. The beans must have looked and smelled fine.

Espresso: I had a hard time personally with this espresso, as I was hoping to get a balanced shot with sweetness and smoothness. Frustratingly, I never quite got what it was I was looking for, though I did get some interesting flavors… chocolate, spicy chiles, lemon. No matter how much I varied the temperature (and I tried shots from 197-206 degrees F), the shots all came out awfully bright for my taste.

With milk: I don’t drink milk anymore so Shutterbug has become my tester in this regard. He liked the latte I made him using the Cottonwood espresso, saying that there was a good amount of coffee flavor to it, so perhaps this is an espresso that is designed to be consumed with milk vs. straight.

AeroPress: Now THIS I really liked. The brew that resulted from this method was deliciously rich like chocolate and marshmallow, yet not boring. It tasted a lot like Nutella and s’mores. I wish I could have gotten this flavor in a straight espresso shot!

Summary: Good with milk, but I found this particular blend to be too bright as straight espresso. It does make a decadent cup in the AeroPress, though. I think this is worth investigating how it brews as coffee!

From the roaster: Cottonwood Espresso. Rich, sweet, deep and fruited with chocolate rasberry (sic) notes that explode in the mouth with succulent crema. It gives your palate what it’s looking for: a classic expression of espresso in the American style. At its best, Cottonwood represents the very best of the world’s major coffee growing regions (12oz/340g bag).

Brown Coffee Co. Cottonwood Espresso

Review conducted 10 days post-roast.

Review: Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend (Berkeley, California)

Back in the days before I made my own coffee, I was fond of visiting Peet’s Coffee locations to get my fix. For those who don’t know, Alfred Peet was the man that trained the founders of Starbucks how to roast beans. Starbucks coffee is generally a bit too darkly roasted for my taste, even back in the days when I liked dark-roasted coffee, but Peet’s seemed better balanced to me than Starbucks. When I started making my own coffee at home, I started out with a Peet’s subscription, getting it shipped from California, because I had warm fuzzy feelings toward the company and my days back in the Golden State. However, as my tastes evolved and I learned more about the third wave of coffee, I gradually stopped buying Peet’s in favor of smaller roasters that roasted their beans more lightly.

I haven’t bought a bag of Peet’s in quite a long time, but I happened to be at the grocery store and noticed that they had bags of their Major Dickason’s blend roasted only 15 days prior. That’s an almost unheard-of level of freshness for grocery-store beans, so I decided it would be an interesting experiment to put this second-wave bag of coffee through the same tests I do all the other coffees I bring into my home these days.

The first thing I noticed when I opened this bag was how incredibly oily the beans were. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I get a bit nervous when I see oily beans. Green (unroasted) coffee beans have coffee oils inside them, but the beans themselves stay quite dry through roasting until they reach a certain level, at which point the oils start coming to the surface. I would classify that level as medium-dark. Why do coffee beans get oily? I think it’s an indicator of the roasting level, similarly to how a piece of meat dries out the longer that it’s cooked. If a steak, for instance, is cooked to medium-well or well done, the juices inside the meat have largely left it and the meat itself is much tougher than the same steak would be if cooked medium-rare.

From a practical matter, I prefer my coffee beans to not be oily. I find that coffee beans that have visible oil on the surface tend to go rancid more quickly than beans that do not have the sheen of oil. Besides, part of the pleasure of drinking coffee (especially in a french press or other unfiltered method) is tasting the rich oils in the cup. I want the oils to be in my cup, and only in my cup. When I measured and ground these Peet’s beans, they left an oil slick in the little measuring bowl I use for dosing, and they left quite an oily residue in my grinder. On the bright side, there wasn’t a static problem when I opened the grinder drawer, but on the down side, that means the entire interior of my grinder (hopper, burrs, bin) was coated with oil. I was a bit grossed out by this and endeavored to clean my grinder immediately after this tasting was done.

Whole bean: Very oily. Strong, brash, acrid smelling. Not rancid in normal terms but if I’m smelling roasted coffee and smell what I smelled from this bag, it’s the first word that comes to mind. Not a good fragrance.

French press: Pleasantly thick mouthfeel and chocolaty flavor, with a bitter edge on the finish that tasted like almond skin.

Chemex: This method made the smoothest cup of the four methods I tried, with a vanilla and almond flavor. It was a bit bland but inoffensive overall.

AeroPress: Drinkable but had a sharp bite of acidity. Quite brash. I would need to temper this with milk.

V60: Similar to the cup from the Chemex but also smelled a bit like dog. A clean dog, but still dog.

Just out of curiosity, I made a french press of this for Shutterbug. He added milk and sugar, as he normally does, and then he took his first sip. I wish I had a picture, or a recording, but this pretty much sums it up:

I haven’t seen him react this violently to a coffee, perhaps ever. He really hated it! It happened to be on his birthday as well, so I felt extra bad. Lesson learned though, I’ve made him into more of a coffee snob than I thought. Yay?

Summary: Like FunDip, Squeeze-Its, and Hi-C Fruit Punch, Peet’s Coffee is something I have fond memories of from my youth, but trying it again in the present day makes me realize I just can’t stomach it anymore. My tastes have changed to the point where it’s just not enjoyable for me. With that said, if you are a dark-roast coffee fan, it certainly is that, and it is pretty widely available. I’m just the wrong demographic for this coffee now! The Chemex would probably be my vote for a brewing method for these beans, as it created the smoothest cup, but I’m not likely to buy these beans again anytime soon.

From the roaster: Rich, smooth, and complex, with a very full body and multi-layered character.

Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend 

Review conducted 20 days post-roast.

Review: Anthology Coffee El Salvador El Gobiado-Carmen Orange Bourbon (Detroit, Michigan)

This is the second bag I ordered from Anthology Coffee recently. Both were Bourbons, but this second bag, from El Salvador (a region known for its Bourbon varietals), could hardly be more different from the first bag I got from Burundi.

Whole bean: fresh, light scent with a hint of thai basil. Ground, it smelled nutty, sweet, rich, and a little complex (no herbs, though).

V60: Right out of the brewer, there was a plasticky scent and the flavor was a bit metallic, but that dissipated after the coffee sat for a few minutes. This particular cup, at a 3:00 extraction, was not very complex but it was pleasant to drink. Medium-bodied coffee with a hint of acidity on the finish.

AeroPress: This had the most intense flavor of the four brewing methods I tried. I had to add just a touch of water after brewing, as it was a little too strong for me to drink without dilution. Good robust flavor of nuts and chocolate, though.

Chemex: Almond.

French press: This was a milk chocolate bomb, with a hint of almond milk flavor as well. Smooth as silk.

Summary: This is definitely an example of a coffee bean smelling differently than it tastes (seriously, where did the thai basil go?). Fans of chocolate and nut flavors in their coffee will enjoy this. I thought it was perfectly drinkable in all methods, but it was best in a french press because of the additional body the brewing method provided.

From the roaster: No tasting notes provided

Anthology Coffee only offers two coffee varietals at a time on its website, and as of the date I’m publishing this, this El Salvadorian coffee is no longer available, but here’s a link to their online store:

Anthology Coffee Home Page

Review conducted 14 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: Cultivar Coffee Guatemala Diamante (Dallas, Texas)

Ahhh, Cultivar. Over the past couple of years (since I’ve started this blog), I’ve gotten to know quite a few Dallas-Fort Worth area roasters, and Cultivar is consistently one of my very favorites. I don’t drink coffee from them as often as you’d think, since I’m constantly buying coffee from various places around the country (and world!), but they have yet to disappoint. In fact, the very first bag I had from this roaster landed in my Best of 2015 list for its gorgeous plum, chocolate, and spicy sweetness, and the next bag was very memorable as well for its notes of nectarine and creme brulee. I couldn’t wait to crack open this bag of their Guatemala Diamante!

Whole bean: Fresh and clean aroma. Pear, sweet chocolate, cashew.

V60: At an extraction time of 2:20, the coffee had a pleasant, powdery finish. Chocolaty flavor with a hint of nuttiness.

AeroPress. Marzipan. This was awesome!! I enjoyed this as a concentrate – no need to dilute this with water. If I had more of this coffee, I think it would be worth exploring pulling it as a single-origin espresso. Perhaps next time…

Chemex: Bit tangy of a result – I had a hard time pinpointing specific flavors, but it was definitely brighter in the cup than any other method.

French press: This made a really rich, oily cup of coffee, but it didn’t taste “dark” or over-roasted. In fact, compared to the V60 and AeroPress cups, I felt it was a bit lacking in flavor.

Summary: I like Guatemalan coffee for its sweet, nutty characteristics, and getting a cup that tasted like marzipan was pretty freaking delicious. Definitely try this brewed in an AeroPress! It was also very nice, if a little less distinctive, brewed in the V60.

From the roaster: Pear, hazelnut, chocolate

Cultivar Coffee Guatemala Diamante

Review conducted 6 days post-roast.

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: Andytown Coffee Roasters Colombia Las Planadas (San Francisco, California)

A quick trip recently to Michigan found me seeking out local shops/roasters in the Detroit area. I had about 10 minutes to decide where I was going, and luckily for me, I found a terrific little shop called Astro in the Corktown area of Detroit. I saw several shelves of roasters, notably Heart and Kuma, but I was more interested in trying roasters I hadn’t yet tried before, so I was happy to grab a bag from George Howell Coffee and this bag from Andytown.

I first heard about Andytown via reviews from the excellent blog The Coffee Concierge. Andytown is a San Francisco-area company that bakes, serves coffee, and roasts beans all from their 600-square-foot space. Their “About” page is warm and charming, and certainly makes me want to visit the next time I’m in that area!

I also enjoyed this, printed on the bag behind the information card:

It brought to mind “I Like Birds,” by Eels. 🙂

Whole bean: Smells sweet like honey! Super fragrant.

French press: The dominant flavor was of chocolate/cocoa powder. It was less sweet than the aroma of the beans promised, but it had a lovely citrusy tang on the finish, like tangerine. Really tasty.

Chemex: Easy drinking cup that tastes like cocoa powder but it’s missing the tangerine element of the press pot cup. Not bad, but I felt this cup had less personality.

AeroPress: The citrus flavor was the most present in this cup, with a nice thick texture and bright flavors.

V60: Bittersweet chocolate flavor that had a bite to it, but it smoothed out as it cooled.

Summary: I liked this coffee in the French press best, as I felt it brought out the best balance between the chocolaty depth and the citrusy brightness. I was a tiny bit disappointed that the coffee smelled sweeter in bean form than it actually ended up in the cup, but it’s nothing a drop of honey wouldn’t cure if you swing that way!

From the roaster: Lightly floral, full-bodied, honey sweet

Andytown Coffee Roasters Colombia Las Planadas

Review conducted 6 days post-roast.