Review: Quills Coffee Ecuador La Papaya (Louisville, Kentucky)

I’m always on the lookout for new coffee roasters to try, and this one came across my radar thanks to my friend Chloé’s recommendation. Quills is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and they have 4 cafes nationwide (2 in Kentucky, and 2 in Indiana).

Fun fact – they are partnering up with Alabama-based artisan popsicle company Steel City Pops and opening a joint cafe/popsicle shop in Louisville later this year. Lucky Kentucky!! I adore these popsicles…

When I was trying to decide what coffees to purchase from the Quills website, I paused for a moment when I saw the price of this Ecuador La Papaya ($25 for 12 ounces??) but hey, life is short… Plus, I managed to make use of a coupon code for a 20% discount so that helped assuage any guilt I might have felt for the cost.

Whole bean: Can something smell pink? All I could think when I smelled these beans were various shades of pink. Pink lemonade. Magenta. It was vibrant, it was sweet, it smelled LOUD, if that makes sense. So intriguing.

V60: I ground these on the fine side and the extraction time ended up being 4:05, which is longer than I usually do for this method, but the coffee didn’t seem to suffer for it. In fact, it was delicious… very smooth, sweet aroma and flavor that was mostly of hibiscus. I loved this.

AeroPress: Drinkable straight, though it did make my eyes bug out of my head with its intensity!! It’s better with a bit of water added after brewing. Vanilla was the dominant flavor.

Chemex: Floral, subtle flavors and scents. Gorgeous in the cup! If magenta was a flavor, I tasted magenta in this coffee. A little less sweet than the V60 cup, but only just.

French press: Powdery, pleasant cup but less fruity than the other methods.

Summary: This coffee is a stunner brewed in pourover methods. I really appreciated the vibrancy of the flavors! I don’t know what it was about this coffee that made me think pink, but it was intensely, strongly, unabashedly pink. I absolutely loved it.

From the roaster: tangy pomegranate, strawberries and cream, berry jam

Quills Coffee Ecuador La Papaya

Review conducted 7 days post-roast.

Review: BeanFruit Coffee Company Ethiopia Sidama Guji (Jackson, Mississippi)

This is the second of two bags of coffee I had the pleasure of receiving from the BeanFruit Coffee Company, based in the Jackson, Mississippi area. Their Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry really knocked my socks off, and I was excited to see how this washed coffee from Ethiopia compared; I do have a soft spot for African coffees!

Whole bean: These beans had a sweet scent like clementines. Lovely!

V60: Brewed at a 3:00 minute extraction, this was a balanced and not overly sweet coffee that had a nice, bright, lively citrus tang.

AeroPress: Pure joy in this cup. As a concentrate, it was sweet, floral, and full of fruity/citrus flavor, with no bitter or unpleasant flavors whatsoever. It was like drinking the sort of sunshine you feel on a beach vacation!

Chemex: This coffee had an rich aroma reminiscent of heavy cream (though not the flavor of cream). Delicate flavor of honeysuckle with an orange-juice finish; beautifully balanced and complex. I loved this.

French Press: Slightly less sweet of a coffee than what resulted from brewing it in a Chemex; more tart, piquant flavor with a fuller-bodied texture.

Summary: Another winner from BeanFruit! If you enjoy citrus flavors in your coffee, this will definitely be your bag. These beans were especially outstanding brewed in the AeroPress and the Chemex.

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.

From the roaster: Juicy, tangerine, caramel

BeanFruit Coffee Company Ethiopia Sidama Guji

Review: BeanFruit Coffee Co. Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry (Jackson, Mississippi)

I had not heard of BeanFruit Coffee Company until very recently, but upon investigating, I discovered I was clearly behind the times, as they are a 2015 Good Food Award recipient, and they have had their coffees rated at 90+ points on both Coffee Review and The Espresso Vein. When people think of great cities for coffee in the USA, cities like Portland, Oregon come to mind… I doubt too many people think of Jackson, Mississippi! However, I’ve discovered over time that great coffee can be found where you least expect it, and I was eager to try these beans, especially once I caught a whiff of the heavenly fragrance coming from this bag.

Whole bean: Wow!! The whole and ground beans smelled bright and punchy – this is not a shy coffee bean. Sweet smell of juicy nectarine.

V60: Complex, mysterious cup. I taste the nectarine that I smelled in the whole bean form but it also has a syrupy flavor with a hint of black pepper. Loved this! Medium-bodied result with a dry finish. When doing tastings, I normally will brew the usual 12 oz and drink just as much as it takes for me to get my notes down, but for this tasting, I opted to drink all of the coffee I brewed, just because I liked it so much.

AeroPress: WOW. The concentrate blew me away. Nectarine, raspberry, and vanilla. Sweet as pie and smooth as silk.

Chemex: The fruit was muted by this method but it also amplified the vanilla flavor. The coffee also had a cream flavor to it with a hint of lemon on the finish which brightened it up and woke up my palate. So, so good. The brew smelled just like clover honey as it cooled.

French Press: Compared to the AeroPress and Chemex cups, the French Press cup was less sweet and complex; it wasn’t a bad cup by any means, but I was definitely more blown away by having it brewed in the other methods. Still, it was definitely better than a lot of other coffees I’ve had!

Summary: This coffee is a stunner. I am so impressed with the depth and range of flavors! For the sweetest result, go for it in an AeroPress (fruitier) or a Chemex (vanilla-ier). But really, I doubt it’s possible to make a bad cup with these beans. Absolutely lovely.

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. And honestly, I loved this coffee so much that BeanFruit will definitely be making a repeat customer out of me!

From the roaster: Vibrant, sweet melon, nectarine, complex

BeanFruit Coffee Company Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry

 

Review: Novo Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Guji (Denver, Colorado)

I spent a lovely 24 hours in Denver recently, and picking up some coffee was high on my priority list. I’ve tried coffee from a number of Denver-based roasters before (Huckleberry, Corvus, Commonwealth, Boxcar), so I was excited to see what I could get my hands on in person. As fate would have it though, I arrived in town on a Sunday afternoon and by the time I was able to hunt for some coffee shops, many of them were closing for the day. My first stop was to Huckleberry, but the location I visited was closed early that day for a staff-only event. 🙁 I next visited a different coffee shop (don’t remember the name), but I left because they didn’t put roast dates on the bags. Third time ended up being the charm though, because I was able to find a Novo Coffee location that was open.

Upon arriving, I was immediately greeted by the staff and a friendly barista named Josh offered to chat if I had any questions about the beans I was looking at. Well, that was probably a mistake on his part because we ended up talking non-stop for the next 20 minutes at least about coffee, music, perfect pitch, more coffee… Sorry for talking your ear off, dude. I do love how excited baristas get talking about their house roaster, though! It’s a good sign that the beans are crafted with pride. My original plan was to buy one bag of coffee at Novo and perhaps one other bag at a different shop, but Josh talked me into buying three bags. Novo, you might want to look into giving this man a raise!

All three of the bags I bought were roasted around the same time, but I opted to start with this Ethiopia Guji because Josh seemed particularly excited about it. I just had a Guji/Sidama from Chromatic Coffee recently, so I was curious about if this would taste markedly different.

Spoiler alert: Yep, it sure does!

Whole bean: The beans smelled a lot like strawberry jam, and once I ground them up, milk chocolate aromas emerged.

V60: On my first try making this, I ended up with a 2:45 extraction time, and it was not nearly enough time. The resulting brew had a smooth aroma but tasted watered down. I was so disappointed!! However, once I tightened up the grind to result in a 3:45 extraction (which is on the long side for me with the V60), the coffee tasted a lot more flavorful, with a nice sweet milk chocolate flavor and a bit of Strawberry Quik character. It really wasn’t what I would call fruity, though.

AeroPress: Fruity/berry + chocolate flavor. It was a bit acidic on the finish with a bright lemony taste. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate, though, because I enjoyed the little bit of zing that came with the acidity.

Chemex: This brew smelled GREAT but tasted like disappointment. Bland. It brewed for 4:05 but based on my experience with the V60, maybe you’d need to brew it longer to get any flavor out?

French press: This method seemed to result in the best flavor of the four methods; the brew was a little thick with a chocolaty flavor. I wished for more fruit flavor though, as I like there to be a bit more dimension in my coffee vs. just chocolate notes.

Summary: I was expecting this to be a pretty bright, lively cup based on my recent Guji experience, but I actually found it to be rather bland when brewed with my standard parameters. Perhaps it had something to do with the change in altitude? I didn’t have any coffee at the shop so I can’t say if it tasted any different there, but if you do buy this, I would recommend using a french press and perhaps try brewing it for longer than 4 minutes if that is your standard (as it is mine). It seemed to be more successful in my opinion in the immersion methods vs. the pourover ones.

From the roaster: Pineapple, milk chocolate, strawberry, cream

This coffee is not currently available online.

Novo Coffee Online Store

Review: Roseline Coffee Kenya Othaya Peaberry (Portland, Oregon)

I went back to Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas recently to see if they had any more bags of the Roseline Ethiopia Limu Gera I reviewed. They did not, but they did have this Kenyan coffee that sounded delicious. I try not to get swayed too much by roasters’ tasting notes (in fact, I try not to read them at all if I can help it) but I looooooove the flavor combination of lemon and raspberry, so it’s like this coffee knew just what to say to get me to hand over my credit card.

Whole bean: I’ll be darned. To my nose, these beans did smell like lemon pound cake and raspberry jam.

V60: A creamy and rich aroma wafted from this cup. The flavor was hard to pin down and didn’t finish sweet – it actually had a little bit of a cardboard/paper flavor. Hmm. I didn’t do anything differently than normal (I used bleached Hario filters and rinsed them thoroughly with hot water before brewing), so I don’t think the papery taste would have come from the filter.

AeroPress: The concentrate was DELICIOUS. I actually wrote that word in all caps in my review notebook as well! The flavor was complex and joyous. My mouth was so happy – there were flavors of rose, cream, lemon, and vanilla in this coffee. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate because I felt like it would be a crime.

Chemex: Lovely, lovely cup. Full bodied and full flavored. Creamy and sweet with a lingering complexity. For some reason, all I could think of when I drank this was the opening to Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. Fellow musicians will understand that a flutist comparing a coffee to this masterwork by Ravel is a pretty big deal.

French press: Bright and lemony. I wasn’t as impressed with the coffee in this method for some reason. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the balance that it had in other methods.

Summary: Compared to the Roseline Ethiopia Gera, this coffee is brighter, sunnier, and more extroverted. I really adored it brewed in an AeroPress and in the Chemex.

From the roaster: lemon curd, raspberry tart

Roseline Coffee Kenya Othaya Peaberry

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: Counter Culture Ethiopia Kochere Birhanu Zerihun Organic (Durham, North Carolina)

This coffee’s name sure is a mouthful! It thankfully is a lot easier to drink than it is to pronounce. I picked this box up in a mad rush at Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas, which has become one of my go-to places when I want to grab something great to review. I had about 3 minutes to get in and get out, so I scanned the selections, checked the date on this box, paid, and ran out of there to get to my gig. The barista was helpful, but didn’t try and engage me in a ton of small talk or anything – I think he could sense that I was a woman on a mission!

Whole bean: This definitely smelled like a blueberry-flavored baked good… Blueberry scone, perhaps. Once ground, there was also a cherry note to the beans.

French press: Sweet blueberry scent. Plenty of fruit flavor with a thick body and a lot of depth. Not a lot of acid – pretty smooth. I brewed this for my usual 4 minutes and felt that a little longer steeping time might bring out a bit more flavor.

Chemex: The aroma coming from the carafe was sooo beautiful – it smelled like blueberry syrup and vanilla ice cream. It was actually very reminiscent of the Heart Kenya Kiangoi I reviewed earlier this fall, except with blueberry instead of cranberry/pineapple. This cup was quite creamy and smooth, and the blueberry flavor got a little stronger as the cup cooled, but overall the dominant flavor was of cream. Delicious.

AeroPress: As a concentrate, this tasted like berries and leaves – there was a grassy note to this cup. I added just a little bit of water and the grass note was muted to create a nice cup, but this wasn’t my favorite preparation.

V60: Brightest cup in flavor – the most blueberry and the least body, surprisingly (I would have expected that to be the Chemex, but once again, coffee has surprises in store for me).

Summary: This is one of the best natural-processed Ethiopian coffees I’ve ever had. It doesn’t have any of the plasticky flavor/aroma that I find common among this type of coffee, and the creamy, sweet brew that resulted from the Chemex was just magical. I can’t wait to brew more. In fact, why the heck am I waiting?!

From the roaster: Juicy, raspberry, strawberry

Counter Culture Ethiopia Kochere Birhanu Zerihun Organic

Review: Case Coffee Roasters Guatemala Bella Carmona Antigua (Ashland, Oregon)

During my recent trip to Portland, I was sorely tempted to pick up a bag of coffee from Case Coffee Roasters when I spotted it at the Barista location I visited, but I had to exercise some restraint (if you can call 6 bags of coffee in 24 hours restraint). Ultimately, I decided to wait to try this roaster, because 1) the bags I saw were just over a week old and I wanted fresher beans, and 2) Case offers free shipping within the continental US.

The Case website tells us that Case is a small-batch roaster (no big surprise) and that they roast on a vintage Otto Swadlo (the forerunner to Probat) from the 1950s. They have “narrowed their focus” to coffee selections to their 4 favorite regions: Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, and Guatemala. However, a peek at their online store reveals they are currently offering a selection from Costa Rica as well.

The following part shouldn’t have surprised me, but when I got my shipping confirmation, I noticed that the confirmation came from a Mr. Tim Case. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that the company would be named after its founder, but I took it as a great sign that he is (literally) willing to put his name on the product.

Benji Walklet’s review of Case’s Kenya Gachatha AA also intrigued me when I read it. I didn’t get a bag in this shipment because I wanted to give myself a bit of a break from Kenyan coffee, but I hope to try it before it disappears!

Whole bean: Milk chocolate, sugary aroma, vanilla wafer, hint of blackberry.

V60: Dark chocolate flavor with a nice bite. The finish was like black tea. Light body. As the cup cooled, I tasted a bit of tart/sweet berry flavor.

AeroPress: I drank this as a concentrate. It was thick and syrupy, with a rich chocolaty flavor plus a hint of berry. Satisfying.

Chemex: A smooth cup that was like melted milk chocolate and cream (but with a lighter body). Ridiculously sweet tasting. However, it was a little bland for my taste compared to the AeroPress cup — I missed the bit of berry acidity.

French press: Rich chocolate flavor with blackberry on the finish. Medium-bodied cup. I felt this was the most interesting of the four cups.

Espresso: I experimented with pulling this coffee as a single-origin espresso, but ultimately gave up after about six doubleshots. Try as I might, the shot came out on the sour/unbalanced side no matter what I did with extraction time and temperature. I would stick to this as a coffee.

Summary: Nice sweet and chocolaty Guatemalan coffee that’s got a little something extra (blackberry) to pique your interest. The thicker the filter, the less berry flavor.

From the roaster: Blackberry, brown sugar, silky

Case Coffee Roasters Guatemala Bella Carmona Antigua

Review: Counter Culture Kenya Kamavindi (Durham, North Carolina)

In the 6 months thus far that this blog has been around, the coffee review with the most page views has been the Counter Culture Hologram Espresso. I figured it was high time I revisit Counter Culture’s offerings, but this time I opted to try a single-origin versus one of their blends.

Kenyan coffee has a reputation as being coffee for coffee connoisseurs. It’s not a coffee that has mass appeal, or one that people are likely to appreciate without a certain level of knowledge and experience with coffee. Obviously, there is no Billboard Top 40 chart for coffee, but if there was such a chart, it’s unlikely that any of the top sellers would have much cachet among “coffee snobs.” Music that is marketed toward a mass audience will have a wide appeal and will translate to lots of sales, but may not inspire the same kind of vocal, passionate, devoted following the way that “indie” artists might. There is a Brian Eno quote about the lackluster sales of the Velvet Underground’s debut album, saying that it only sold 30,000 copies in the first five years after its release, but “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Now, I’m not necessarily saying this coffee tastes like “Venus in Furs,” but it’s not easy listening/easy drinking compared to some other coffees!

My first experience with Kenyan coffee was this Victrola Kenya Nyeri Tambaya Peaberry, which, frankly, I really didn’t like. It was too swampy and savory and off-putting for my taste. I certainly am used to “sweeter” coffees, so tasting something that had so much funk/mushroom/seaweed in it was a shock. However, I did actually rather enjoy the Kenya Kirinyaga from thirty-thirty Coffee, and trying it made me resolved to research more Kenyans. I am not necessarily trying to make myself like Kenyan coffee because I should — I more want to expand my horizons and discover what others see in it.

I was a little surprised to find this Kenya Kamavindi sold in a box rather than a bag, but apparently Counter Culture recently started packaging their single-origin coffees this way. The bag inside the box still has a one-way valve to let air escape, but can’t be resealed; I ended up putting the remainder of the beans in an Airscape canister to keep them fresh.

Whole bean: heady, rich aroma that smelled like molasses and red wine. Ground, it smelled just like blackberry cobbler.

V60: Not too sweet – this cup had a savory, tangy character that reminded me of cherry tomatoes. The finish had some lovely meyer lemon notes.

AeroPress: Sipped as a concentrate, it tasted like straight lemon juice (but thicker-bodied). Once I added water, it added enough sweetness to make the cup pleasantly tart. The lemon-custard flavor and body lingered pleasantly on the tongue.

Chemex: Medium-bodied but surprisingly rich and sweet flavor of lemon and cream with a hint of berry. Delicious stuff! The finish tasted like brown sugar. This might be the “hit single” of the album – the most accessible track that hooks the new listener. Hey there, Sweet Jane.

French press: Raisin aromas in the cup. This particular cup was thick and not very sweet. It most reminded me of red wine (probably something like a Shiraz); complex flavors with a dry finish.

Summary: I am constantly evolving. If I revisit this coffee in a couple of years, maybe I’ll be all about cherry tomato and wine flavors! But at the moment, I like the Chemex itieration the best. I do appreciate the layers and the multi-dimensional character of this coffee. It’s a cup that reveals layers over time, for those who take the time to “peel slowly and see.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist! I’ll stop with the VU references now.)

From the roaster: Blackberry, currants, citrus fruits

Counter Culture Kenya Kamavindi

Review: Quasar Coffee Rwanda Kibuye Valley (Chicago, Illinois)

I kind of take for granted these days that pretty much all companies will have websites. It was a surprise when in the process of writing this review, I could barely find any hint of an online presence for Quasar Coffee Roasters, outside of a sparse Instagram feed and a Twitter account (both of which link to the company website, the fascinating 404 Not Found). However, I did glean that whoever runs the Twitter account (which I assume is the founder of Quasar) is a hip-hop fan.

What I do know of Quasar Coffee is that it’s a small operation based out of Chicago. They may not be big, but they are apparently good enough to get on Craft Coffee’s radar!

Whole bean: A little bit earthy and nutty. I couldn’t really put my finger on what I was smelling, but it wasn’t very strong in any case.

French press: Sweet flavors reminiscent of toffee and peach. As it cooled, I was reminded of hazelnuts and fresh cream. It almost was like I added some sort of non-dairy flavored creamer to my coffee, but without all the artificial flavors and weird chemicals.

Chemex: I did not dig this. It smells a bit like cough syrup. Tart on the finish with a medicinal taste.

AeroPress: Toasty and a little sweet with minimal fruit. This was pleasant but less interesting to me than the french press cup.

V60: The ground coffee had a vegetal scent to it that I found odd. Once it was brewed, it tasted like celery. No thank you!

Summary: I only really liked this coffee prepared one way (in the French press). It isn’t something I’d probably take the trouble to seek out again though, and it’s just as well, since I don’t think I could order any more of this coffee even if I wanted to (except perhaps through Craft Coffee).

Notes from Craft Coffee: A body resembling Darjeeling tea evokes flavors of juicy white peach and crisp Gala apple.

From the roaster: None

Quasar’s website currently goes nowhere but I’ll link to its Twitter page: Quasar Coffee Twitter