Review: Two Guns Beach Blend (Manhattan Beach, California)

I picked up this bag from the Two Guns Espresso location in Manhattan Beach at the same time that I got a bag of the Two Guns Espresso Blend. Both of these bags are roasted by Dillanos Coffee Roasters in Washington. I don’t think it’s possible to buy Two Guns-branded beans online, but you can pick them up at their 3 locations around Southern California.

This bag, labeled Beach, states that the coffee is a certified fair-trade light roast from Guatemala, washed process. I can’t tell if it’s a single-origin or a blend, but I figure it is at least from multiple farms since most coffee companies would give further details if it was a single-origin coffee.

Whole bean: cocoa aroma with notes of juicy citrus.

V60: Very strong flavors of lemon pith and dark chocolate. I found this cup, brewed at a 3:05 extraction, to be acerbic and brash.

AeroPress: Much better! Smooth chocolate flavor with a hint of rose.

Chemex: Less harsh flavor than the V60 but still not my favorite brewing method for this coffee. It was on the quite bitter side of bittersweet chocolate.

French press: This was the smoothest cup with the most depth of flavor. Milk chocolate, vanilla, and a hint of orange all mingled to create a really sweet, delicious brew.

Summary: Definitely, DEFINITELY brew this coffee in an immersion method – AeroPress is good but French press is preferred. This blend (?) comes out rather harsh in a pourover method.

From the roaster: Light citrus aroma, cocoa and dried mango

You can purchase this coffee from Two Guns locations. For more info on the roaster, check out Dillanos Coffee Roasters.

Review conducted 14 days post-roast.

Review: Avoca Coffee Roasters Misty Valley (Fort Worth, Texas)

A recent trip to Denton gave me time to visit Shift Coffee, which has featured interesting roasters in the past like Kuma and Chocolate Fish. This particular visit, they were featuring bags from local Fort Worth roaster Avoca, so I opted for Misty Valley, which is a blend of two Ethiopian coffees (Yirgacheffe and Gedio). The only other time I’ve seen an Ethiopian blend was when I reviewed Tweed’s Staycation Blend (which I rather liked) so I was curious how this would fare.

Whole bean: Creamy, raspberry, sweet like candy. Reminded me a lot of strawberry Starburst!

French press: No fruit flavor in this cup. Quite thick; almost dark roast in character.

Chemex: Cocoa was the dominant flavor here but it was delicate and smooth, with just a hint of brightness on the finish.

AeroPress: The sweet flavor of chocolate plus raspberries.

V60: Rather harsh – I accidentally brewed this at a slightly higher temperature than normal (205 degrees F; I normally brew at 200 degrees F) because I wasn’t paying attention to my kettle. Mind that you don’t heat your water to this level.

Summary: The aroma of the whole beans promised more fruit flavor than I actually got in the cup, so I was a tad bit disappointed to not get a berry bomb, but this is a good coffee for people that enjoy a nice balanced profile to their Ethiopian coffee. It is heavy on the cocoa flavor. Try it in a Chemex (for cocoa flavor) or in an AeroPress (for chocolate-covered raspberries).

From the roaster: Floral aroma with blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and cocoa flavors; balanced with a pleasant acidity and creamy mouthfeel.

Avoca Coffee Roasters Misty Valley

Review conducted 7-9 days post-roast.

Mini review: Slightly Coffee Roasters Guatemala Chochajau (Eugene, Oregon)

When Slightly Coffee’s head roaster, Joe (yes, that really is his name! How appropriate, right?), sent me the sample of his excellent Ethiopia Torea Village, he also included a small bag of this Guatemala Chochajau. It was a bit too small of a quantity for me to do a full battery of tests in my usual brewing methods (Hario V60, AeroPress, Chemex, French press) so I opted to skip the Chemex and to just try the coffee in the other three methods.

Whole bean: There was just the barest hint of oil on these lovely medium-roast beans. The beans smelled nutty with a hint of cocoa. I was reminded of Nutella.

French press: Tangy, rich, delicious cup that had a great balance of tangerine complexity and milk chocolate sweetness.

AeroPress: A really sweet, thick, fudgy cup of coffee. Decadent!

V60: A much more mild cup than the other methods. Clean, light-bodied brew that tasted of semi-sweet chocolate with walnut on the finish.

Summary: This is a really pleasing Guatemalan coffee that should appeal to just about everybody! The rich sweetness of nutty chocolate with the hint of complexity and brightness from the tangerine really tastes great straight out of the French press. However, if citrus isn’t really your thing (but chocolate and nuts are), try this coffee in one of the other brewing methods.

From the roaster: Flowers and spice, everything nice

Slightly Coffee Roasters Guatemala Chochajau

Review conducted 4 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: Stumptown Coffee Roasters Sleigh Ride (Portland, Oregon)

I almost never buy “holiday blends,” but this bag was a nice surprise at a Whole Foods location in Phoenix during the Christmas holidays. Impressively, it was only 4 days off roast when I bought it! That’s exceptionally fresh coffee for retail, especially considering that the nearest Stumptown roasting facility is in Los Angeles. I had to laugh a little when I saw the name of this blend, because for a freelance orchestral musician, there’s just about no other piece that evokes December and holiday craziness better than Leroy Anderson’s classic. Shaq conducting the Boston Pops in this piece is traditional viewing for me every year – I dare you to not grin while watching.

Whole bean: Scent of bittersweet chocolate and a hint of orange filled the room when I opened this bag.

V60: Light-bodied cup that tasted of chocolate but with a pleasant bite to the finish (not overly sweet). I wrote in my notes, “really good with vanilla ice cream.” Take that as you will. 😉

AeroPress: Hint of black cherry along with chocolate. Overall flavor is a bit edgy, not very sweet.

Chemex: Sesame seeds?? This cup smelled like tahini paste. Weirdly savory and confounding flavor – what a left turn from the whole bean and the other methods. And yes, my Chemex was clean…

French press: Smooth scent and flavor of dark chocolate with a bit of powdery brightness on the finish. This was my favorite method for these beans.

Summary: For a blend, I was surprised at the flavor variation produced by the different methods. I think brewing it in a French press produces the best cup, as I like the comforting richness and fuller body of this method (it reminds me a little bit of hot cocoa!), and it seems to feel right for wintertime. However, if you like a “cleaner” cup, try it in a V60. And have a nice dessert with it!

From the roaster: Sleigh Ride will bring warmth and joy to your holidays. This cup will take you on a journey with rich notes of chocolate and cherry accented by a touch of marzipan and baking spice to evoke aromas that remind us of holiday celebrations.

I undoubtedly got this bag of Sleigh Ride at the tail end of its availability (right before Christmas), and it’s not on the Stumptown website. However, here’s a link to their current coffees for sale. I can personally vouch for their Hair Bender!

Stumptown Coffee Online Store

Review: Novel Coffee Roasters Guatemala Chimaltenango (Dallas, Texas)

I’ve only had Novel Coffee once before (their Ethiopia Idido) but enjoyed it very much, so when I visited Trio Craft Coffee recently and saw fresh bags of this Guatemala Chimaltenango on their shelves, I snapped one up faster than you can say “chemex.”

Whole bean: Bright, lively aroma. HONEY. Really, really strong scent of raw honey. Hint of apple as well, but the overwhelming character of this was honey.

V60: Considering the sweet scent of the beans, this was a surprisingly savory coffee. Hints of cocoa and kelp. Smooth but not very sweet in the cup. 3:30 extraction.

AeroPress: As a concentrate, this had a rich body with the flavor of red apple peels and lemon. Upon adding a bit of water, the lemon flavor dissipated and it became a more generic “coffee” flavor.

Chemex: 4:00 extraction. Very similar to the V60 cup; delicate brew with a hint of kelp. Not very sweet.

French press: Medium-bodied with apple flavor and a hint of kelp.

Summary: This wasn’t a bad coffee, but to me, it was a case of unmet expectations. Since the beans smelled SO sweet and honey-esque, I was expecting something rather different in the cup than I got. Granted, I think most coffees smell different ground vs. brewed, but when you smell raw honey and get kelp? Yeah, not exactly what I was after.

From the roaster: Lively apple, nougat, amber honey

Novel Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review: Klatch Colombia Huila Agustino Forest (Upland, California)

Klatch ranks among my favorite coffee roasters, but I don’t order from them very often because there are just so many roasters I want to try. However, once news broke of their “Overall Champion” award in the Golden Bean Roaster Competition for their Golden Bean Espresso Competition Blend, I knew I had to at least order some of that (that review is forthcoming!), so I threw in this additional bag just because I could.

Whole bean: The aroma was a little creamy, like nougat. After I ground the beans, they opened up to reveal tangerine and cocoa. Ambrosial.

V60: Great depth to this cup. The predominant flavor was of cocoa powder, and it was a little buttery with a nice bit of citrus acidity on the finish to keep it interesting to the palate.

AeroPress: Thick and syrupy as a concentrate. I drank it straight because the dark chocolate + plum flavors in the cup were really gorgeous. It definitely leaned more to the plummy side vs. the chocolate side.

Chemex: Crowd-pleasing cup. I would be comfortable serving this to just about anyone. Notes of cocoa and toffee, not too thick or thin in body.

French press: Slightly syrupy, with a nice medium body. Dark chocolate with a tangerine finish. A slightly more intense version of the V60 cup, which was good in this case.

Summary: There’s something so subtle but lovely about a great cup of Colombian coffee. It isn’t as flashy and colorful as a natural-processed Ethiopian, but it’s not as brooding and dark in character as some Papua New Guinea coffees… it strikes a terrific balance. The french press cup was my personal favorite, but I wouldn’t turn down any of these cups.

From the roaster: This coffee offers a consistent tangerine and lemon-lime acidity. It also provides a well balanced combination of bright red apples with sweet amaretto body, giving a memorable and refreshing finish.

Klatch Colombia Huila Agustino Forest

Review: Flat Track Coffee Roasters Guatemala La Libertad (Austin, Texas)

When I travel, I make a special effort to seek out microroasters. On my recent trip to Austin to see Ride perform at the Fun Fun Fun Festival, I didn’t think that I would have time to visit any Austin-area coffee shops, but to my delight, I spotted this sign on the festival grounds:

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As I stated on my Instagram account, if anyone wants to lure me someplace, this is an effective way to do it.

The coffee tent at the festival was serving up coffee from Heart Roasters and Flat Track, a Austin-area operation. I initially was going to have a cup of coffee from Heart, but it turned out they were only pulling espresso-based drinks with Heart, and I really didn’t feel like a straight shot or a milk drink, so I went with drip from Flat Track (I believe it was an Ethiopian). I also bought a bag of this Guatemalan and they happily told me that I was the first person to buy a bag. Score!

Whole bean: Light scent, a little bit like vanilla wafers and nougat.

French press: Pleasantly tangy. Smells like graham crackers and has a bit of mango and orange flavor. I said out loud, “oh, that’s GOOD.” Yes, I was talking to myself in my kitchen.

Chemex: The scent was like roses and cream. Stunning! There was a bit of lemon on the finish. Less tangy/thick than the press pot version with a drier finish. Nice for those that prefer lighter-bodied cups of coffee.

AeroPress: The concentrate had a lemony bite that was perky but not bitter, and it had a great chocolaty finish. Adding just a bit of water made the finish more powdery.

V60: Clean cocoa flavors in this rather light-bodied cup.

Summary: Having now looked at Flat Track’s tasting notes, I really didn’t pick up on the same things, did I? Nevertheless, this is a very pleasant coffee to drink. My vote would be for brewing it either in a Chemex or a french press.

From the roaster: Sugary lemon, lime, and raisin flavors with a smooth mouthfeel.

Flat Track 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

Review: Tweed Staycation Ethiopian Blend (Dallas, Texas)

On my most recent visit to Houndstooth Coffee, the baristas used me as a guinea pig and had me try an interesting concoction that was espresso + tonic water + lemon ice cubes + a sprig of rosemary. It was quite sweet and I told them it tasted like liquefied lemon LifeSavers, which they seemed pleased about. The espresso didn’t make its presence known until the latter half of the drink, but when it did, it added a nice complexity to this cold beverage. If that sounds up your alley, visit the Dallas location soon – I didn’t catch the name of this drink but they’re rolling it out shortly (it’ll probably be on the menu by the time I publish this)!

The Tweed Staycation blend is made up of Ethiopian heirloom coffee beans; the bag listed the proportions as 70% Yirgz, 30% Ardi. On the website, they get into a bit more detail; 70% of the blend will be either Kochere or Yirgacheffe, washed, while 30% will be Kilenso Moccanissa or Sidama, natural-processed. The current Yirgz/Ardi blend probably just reflects what is “in season” now and what Tweed was able to procure from their producers.

Whole bean: These beans smell like blueberries and raspberries. Sweet and mild. On a blueberry scale of 1-10, 1 being “no scent” and 10 being “Violet Beauregarde,” this bag rated about a 5.

French press: Flavors of blueberry and melon rind with a piquant aftertaste. I brewed this for my usual 4 minutes but I was missing a certain depth in this cup; it was a bit bland, which is odd for an Ethiopian coffee! However, I tried brewing it again for 5 minutes the next day and it brought out a mesmerizing honeysuckle aroma and flavor.

Chemex: Berry bomb! Deliciously sweet with a bit of citrus zing. This had a very thin body (which could be expected thanks to the thick Chemex filter), and could be super-refreshing as an iced coffee.

AeroPress: The concentrate was too strong to drink straight, but adding just a bit of water brought out muted berry and rich cocoa flavors. Very sweet and satisfying.

V60: This particular cup wasn’t to my taste, as it mostly tasted of lemon and lemon pith. It was a bit bitter, even at only a 2:40 extraction time.

I didn’t know going into this tasting how the coffee was processed; it wasn’t until I looked up the website in order to write this review that I found out it was 70/30 washed/natural. Based on the blueberry aroma I detected from the whole beans, my assumption was that it was mostly natural-processed beans, so my expectation was that I would get much more berry flavor than I did (which makes sense if that was only 30% of the batch).

Summary: This is a nice blend of the two predominant processing styles of Ethiopian coffee, and I think it features the best of both worlds. Natural-processed Ethiopians have strong berry flavor but can come off tasting a bit like plastic. Washed Ethiopians are cleaner in finish but can go too far in citrus and floral flavor for some. This blend had no plastic in it, and strikes a lovely balance that brings out blueberries, raspberries, a little cocoa (in the AeroPress), a little refreshing zing of lemon on the finish (in the Chemex), and sweet floral notes (in the French press).

From the roaster: Berry, melon, lemon zest

Tweed Coffee Online Store

Review: Publik Coffee Roasters El Salvador Calera Blanco (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Thanks again to my friend Alison for sending me this bag!

Publik Coffee Roasters took their name from the Dutch word for community, with the idea that coffee is something that brings people together. This bag did not have any tasting notes on it, so I went into this with no preconceived notions about what flavors and aromas I would smell (I would later get the info from the company’s website).

Whole beans: Delicate, shy aroma. Not very fragrant. Once ground, however, it definitely asserted itself. I smelled raisin, nectarine, and a whole lot of dark chocolate.

V60: As I was brewing this cup and the water was saturating the grounds, the kitchen started smelling like I was baking brownies. Once I tasted the cup, my immediate thought was, “this tastes almost exactly like chocolate milk.” Keep in mind, I hadn’t added ANYTHING to the coffee other than hot water. It wasn’t a very full-bodied cup, but the flavor was very intensely chocolaty. I couldn’t really taste anything other than chocolate… the fruit flavors I detected in the ground beans were not coming forth.

Just for kicks, I added a splash of whole milk. SO CHOCOLATY. I’m sorry I don’t have more descriptive words for this – what synonyms can there be for chocolate? I felt like I was drinking a glass of Nestle Quik (but less sweet).

AeroPress: Not a bad cup, but I didn’t detect anything particularly distinctive about this coffee brewed this way. It tasted like coffee. Smooth, but pretty one-dimensional. I didn’t even taste chocolate.

Chemex: Light, milk-chocolate flavor with just a hint of raisin.

French press: The most full-bodied of the bunch (not surprisingly), it tasted more like dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, with a really creamy flavor. As it cooled, slight notes of nectarine and caramel started coming forth in the cup.

Summary: Here’s another coffee that will please chocolate fans. The V60 makes the coffee so sweet, you’d swear it was chocolate milk (especially if you actually add milk). The french press makes a richer, more complex chocolaty brew.

From the roaster: Aromas of cherry, cocoa powder, and nougat give way to flavors of dark chocolate and soft caramel in the cup. As it cools, the cup anchors in a juicy peach acidity and clover honey sweetness.

Publik El Salvador Calera Blanco