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: 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: Corvus Coffee Peru Satipo Finca Tasta (Denver, Colorado)

This is the second coffee I’ve tried from Corvus; the first was their Everyman Espresso, which had nice chocolate and blueberry notes. Thanks to Method Coffee in Dallas for having fresh bags in stock!

One thing I noticed last time but didn’t mention is that Corvus seems to employ unusually long bags to package their beans. Because I have multiple beans at any given time at my house, I keep the coffee in its original bag so that I don’t mix them up or forget what I am drinking. I will typically use a long-handled coffee scoop to transfer the beans from the bag to my scale for weighing and brewing. However, the height of Corvus Coffee’s bags is significantly higher than average, and my coffee scoop just isn’t long enough to reach the beans without my arm having to go halfway into the bag. It’s a minor annoyance, since I can just pour the beans out instead, but if I were able to change the length of their bags, I’d ask them to shorten them by just a few inches (or to glue the bendy-tab thingie a few inches lower so that we could cut the inches off ourselves).

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(A comparison of the length of Corvus Coffee’s bags next to bags from Chromatic Coffee and Roseline Coffee.)

Whole bean: Bright, robust scent with a creamy finish. Ground, I smelled yellow cake and cinnamon.

V60: Nice bright flavor on the front, but there was a strange cardboard flavor on the finish. However, the brew got creamier and sweeter as it cooled.

AeroPress: This was my favorite of the bunch. Thick, rich, spicy coffee that was bright but smooth on the tongue. I drank this as a concentrate (no additional water added) because I really loved the warm cinnamon flavor along with the citrusy notes.

Chemex: Dark chocolate. Overall it was a bit dry on the finish, and not very complex.

French press: This cup smelled just like a Creamsicle (orange and cream)! Creamy mouthfeel, but not very sweet. It had a taste of tart mandarin orange on the finish.

Summary: I particularly enjoyed this coffee made in an AeroPress, as I felt that method brought out the most interesting and lively flavors. The French press was a close second.

From the roaster: Creamy orange, cinnamon, buttery, ripe blood orange, almond brickle

Corvus Peru Satipo Finca Tasta

Review: Third Coast Coffee Espresso Pacifico (Austin, Texas)

I generally know exactly how much coffee is in my house at all times, and I try and plan ahead to buy beans (from local coffee shops or through mail-order) when I know I’m running low. However, sometimes life gets in the way, and I end up needing an emergency fix from my local Whole Foods. Such was the case a few weeks ago, which is how I ended up with this bag from Third Coast (10 days post roast).

Third Coast Coffee is a small-batch Austin-area roaster, and it is also a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, which is a cooperative of coffee companies dedicated to importing coffee according to the principles of direct, fair, and transparent trade. All of the coffee offered by Third Coast is fair trade and organic, with the exception of one which is in the process of getting organic certification.

Whole bean: Upon opening, I noticed the beans were a bit oily, and the roast level looked rather uneven. However, upon looking at the description of the Espresso Pacifico on the roaster’s website, I found out this was by design:

“this is our take on a classic black-and-tan; once very popular, these fell out of favor during the “dark ages” of the 70s and 80s. We choose a pair of Latin American coffees, roast one medium and one dark, and blend them for a cup with exceptional depth and just a hint of smoke.” 

Espresso: I really didn’t get what I considered to be a “great” espresso out of this bag; there were some satisfactory shots, but I don’t think this blend had the flavor I was after – it was roasted too darkly overall. At its best, this blend had loads of crema and a hint of cinnamon and milk chocolate, and it made beautiful-looking lattes, but there was a mild flavor of charcoal throughout which I really didn’t like (even “just a hint of smoke” is too much for me, I guess!), and after just a couple of days at my house, the beans developed a fishy aroma, which I REALLY didn’t like. I find that oily, dark-roasted beans turn rancid quite quickly, and since the beans were already 10 days old when I bought them, they didn’t have much of a window before they became unusable to me.

AeroPress: Sorry, but I didn’t get a chance to use this in an AeroPress before the fishy aroma hit. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say though that this coffee probably tastes like a dark roast coffee!

Cold brew: I did, however, opt to experiment with this for a batch of cold-brew coffee, and the result was excellent: rich, chocolate flavor that was extremely smooth and sweet, even without sugar. I poured myself a shot glass of this stuff (undiluted) to taste it, and it went down very, very easily. If I was in the habit of making cold brew for myself on a regular basis, I think these beans + roast level would be a great choice.

Summary: For an emergency bag of espresso beans, I think I could have done worse… much worse, in fact. However, I don’t think I’ll buy this again unless I specifically am planning to make cold-brew coffee, as I think it is particularly suited to that purpose.

From the roaster: Woodsmoke, chocolate, caramel

Third Coast Coffee Espresso Pacifico

Review: Commonwealth Coffee Panama Carmen Estate (Denver, Colorado)

I’ve had my eye on trying Commonwealth Coffee for a while, since I saw that Oak Lawn Coffee in Dallas carries their beans along with Heart Coffee (one of my favorite roasters). Commonwealth is a young company (it’s only been around for a little over two years), and when I read the “About Us” section on the company’s website, the word that kept coming into my head was “inclusive” (though it was not a word used). These guys do NOT sound like snobs, that’s for sure!

Whole bean: These smell awesome. Creamy and complex aroma.

V60: I admit, my very first impression immediately after brewing this cup was off-putting because it smelled to me like cherry cough syrup. However, that scent dissipated very quickly and there was no trace of that flavor in the cup (thank goodness)! This was a bright, deceptively smooth cup that was reminiscent of cherry limeade (but definitely weighted more toward lime than cherry). Rich, creamy finish.

AeroPress: Butterscotch sweetness and richness, plus bright lemon flavor. This was a satisfying cup that needed no additional water to dilute the concentrate – I was quite happy to drink this straight.

Chemex: This was a complex cup that had a dry finish reminiscent of a Bordeaux. Very nice!

French press: Of the four cups, I had the hardest time pinning down the flavors here. Delicious syrupy body with rich flavors of toffee, cherry, and rose. This cup really made me slow down and have to think about what it was I was drinking. Great if you’re already awake, but I don’t know that I would be able to handle this at 6:00 am on a weekday — it might be too complicated for my fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain to fully enjoy! I feel like this coffee would be a combination of the overtly chipper voice of morning-show radio DJs plus the thought-provoking content of NPR/public radio. Nothing wrong with either of these things, but I would have to be in the right mood to not be overwhelmed and/or irritated by the combination. 😉

Summary: A pleasantly complex bean that will please people that like bright flavors. I wasn’t able to pick out most of the flavors in the roaster’s notes, but I did enjoy this brewed in a French press. I’m looking forward to trying other offerings from Commonwealth in the future.

From the roaster: Peach jam, cinnamon, kaffir lime, vanilla ice cream

This coffee is not currently sold online.

Commonwealth Coffee Online Store

Review: Origen Coffee Roasters Mexico Oaxaca Sierra Mixteca Organic (Escondido, California)

The next two coffee reviews come from bags courtesy of my good friend Erin, who apparently sweet-talked the roaster into roasting this order on an off day just for me. 🙂

Origen is a San Diego-area based artisan roaster who sells coffee both online and at the North San Diego Farmer’s Market. These beans were roasted on 10/15 and I received them from Erin on 10/16 – talk about fresh! I wasn’t able to brew either bag immediately, but I did open both to take a peek. I noticed that both the Mexican and Tanzanian beans I got were roasted to what I would consider somewhere between Full City+ and Vienna roast; the beans had a slight sheen of oil on them.

(Now, if you’ve only heard of coffee roasts described as light, medium, and dark, feel free to read this helpful guide from Sweet Maria’s regarding degrees of roast levels.)

Oil on coffee beans: good or bad? It’s good if you like darker roasts (and oil does start appearing on the beans the longer they are roasted), but I find that having visible oil on the surface of the beans seems to shorten their shelf life before the beans start smelling rancid. Best to drink this sort of coffee rather quickly. I also imagine that using this sort of bean regularly will require more frequent cleaning of your coffee grinder. Generally speaking, most of the light roasts you can buy from artisan roasters won’t be shiny; they’ll look dry, actually, as the trend is to roast at lighter levels before the oil inherent in the coffee beans starts coming to the surface. However, if you are a medium-dark to dark roast fan, your beans will likely be shiny, which will be a good visual cue for you about whether the beans will be to your taste.

These days, when I meet people and they find out I’m always game to talk about coffee, I often get one of the following comments:
“Ugh, I hate Starbucks! It tastes burnt! I like light roasts.”
“Ugh, I hate these hipster coffee shops and their light roasts! Way too sour. I like dark roasts.”

You know what’s great about coffee? You can find a roast level to suit your personal taste. It’s true that Starbucks and other second-wave shops roast on the darker side, and third-wave shops typically carry beans which are roasted on the lighter side, but I also think that roasters these days are trying to roast coffee to maximize the flavor potential of the individual beans, as opposed to just roasting “light”. Mexican coffee and coffees similar to it seem to benefit from a darker roast than Ethiopian coffees, for example.

Whole beans: These beans immediately reminded me of Peet’s Coffee in their color, size, and the sheen of oil coating the beans.

V60: Tastes dark to me. I couldn’t really pick up on any flavor notes other than “coffee” but it was pleasantly smooth – not bitter or burnt tasting.

AeroPress: Toasty and deeply flavored. Tastes like coffee. Great as a concentrate – I think this would be terrific with some milk and sugar added. For comparison’s sake, here’s a cup (on the right) side by side with the OCCR Geisha I reviewed recently (on the left), which is quite a light roast. Stunning color difference!

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Chemex: In both the V60 and Chemex brews, I noticed that even adjusting my usual grind settings to the fine end of normal was not enough, as the coffee extracted a bit faster than I would have liked. These beans are darker than I typically drink, and beans get less dense the longer they are roasted so I will need to adjust my grinder accordingly. This tasted about the same as the other cups.

French press: I had expected based on past experience with Mexican coffees that the french press version would be my favorite, but honestly, I really couldn’t taste a difference between the four cups other than in body (the filtered methods were a little thinner than the press pot). All of the cups had the same flavor notes. Very consistent coffee that tastes similar no matter the brew method.

Cold brew: I had a hunch when experimenting with this coffee that it would make an excellent cold brew. Boy, was I right!! After letting the grounds steep for a full day (okay, 23 hours… I cheated a tiny bit), I ended up with 16 ounces of some of the most rich, chocolaty, nutty, delicious cold brew I’ve ever had. This brew method really showed off the chocolate notes of these beans to great effect. Shutterbug nodded vigorously when I described it as a brownie in a cup (he couldn’t talk because he was drinking the cold brew at the time).

Summary: If you enjoy the coffee from places like Peet’s but are interested in supporting a small business, give this offering from Origen a try! It’s especially nice as a cold brew, and is also a crowd-pleaser brewed hot. This would be an particularly nice coffee for those that take milk and sugar in their coffee.

From the roaster: In the cup expect rustic chocolate and molasses with hints of cinnamon and clove.

Origen Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review: Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi (Richardson, Texas)

This past Sunday was the first annual Dallas Coffee Day, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. What a great event! Eight fantastic Dallas-area coffee roasters gathered to celebrate their shared collective passion for craft coffee and the steady elevation of coffee culture in Dallas/Fort Worth. There was such a friendly and welcoming vibe to the whole event. I suppose it’s not surprising that a large room of caffeinated people would be in a good mood, but there really was a terrific convivial feel to the whole day.

The featured roasters were (in alphabetical order):
Ascension Coffee Roasters
Avoca Coffee Roasters
Cultivar Coffee
Eiland Coffee Roasters
Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters
Novel Coffee Roasters
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters
Tweed Coffee Roasters

I’ve been lucky enough to sample coffee from all of these roasters in some capacity (and I’ve even reviewed a number of them on the blog), EXCEPT for Eiland (same pronounciation as “island”), which is ironic since of all the roasters on this list, they are the closest to my house. Eiland (like all of the other roasters present) had small bags (8 oz) available for sale, so I bought this one after asking the helpful associate which he would recommend if I was just buying ONE bag.

Whole bean: Notes of berry and cocoa. There was a nice depth to this aroma. Ground, I smelled buttery richness. I’m already liking this.

French press: Mostly cocoa flavors with some toasty characteristics. Smooths a bit as it cools. Bold, strong flavor. As it sat, I got a rich, buttery mouthfeel in the cup.

Chemex: Yum. Smooth as silk!! This brew had less cocoa and more berry character but it was not overly fruity or tart. I was surprised at the rich mouthfeel in the cup considering the rather thick Chemex filter. Again, as the coffee cooled, I tasted and felt butter on the palate. Decadently delicious.

AeroPress: I drank this as a concentrate and felt it was pretty strong but pleasant. There was a slight tannic presence but it had a nice cocoa note and brightness of strawberry. More butter on the finish! I’m sensing a theme here.

V60: Bright, sharp scent to this cup, with a toasty, nutty flavor. Very little fruit in this cup but once again, in time I tasted a beautifully buttery finish.

Summary: Of the natural-processed Ethiopians I’ve tried thus far, this particular crop has some of the most emphasis on cocoa/chocolate flavors that I’ve encountered. Since I like berry brightness, I enjoyed the Chemex version of this most, but even that batch wouldn’t be a coffee I would classify as fruity or heavy in berry flavor. This coffee is good for people that like deep chocolaty flavors and buttery richness in their brew. Approachable, comforting, and delicious, with just a little hint of interesting character that keeps you thinking about drinking more!

From the roaster: Jam, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, buttery, medium body, strawberry-like acidity, natural (dry) process

Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi Natural Process