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: Novo Coffee Roasters Espresso Novo (Denver, Colorado)

For the last of my three selections from Novo Coffee, I brought home their house espresso blend that is served in their shops, Espresso Novo.

When I opened up the bag and measured out beans to pull my first shot, I noticed a green (unroasted) bean hanging out among all of its roasted brethren. A good reminder to keep an eye on your beans!

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Notice how much larger the roasted bean is compared to the unroasted bean.

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Whole bean: Smells bright and tea-like, with a fruity character. I was having a hard time putting my finger on what it was I was smelling – I knew it wasn’t a berry scent, and I wrote “mango, maybe” in my notes. Later on, it hit me – banana!

Straight shots: I was amazed at the variation of flavor that I got while adjusting the parameters. Here are my notes, verbatim (minus all the dosages, temperatures, grind settings, etc.):
1) ristretto: not bad, but very tangy like bananas
2) between normale and lungo: bland, tastes like nothing.
3) normale: rare steak??? Really meaty. Weeeeiiiiirrrrrdddd
4) normale: creamy, balanced, and smooth.
5) normale: crisp, fruity, acidic. Slight berry flavor.

Favorite parameters (#4): 18 g in, 37 g out, 200 F, 23 seconds from first drip

With milk: I totally forgot to taste this with milk (as I almost never drink milk drinks these days). Sorry!

AeroPress: The resulting brew was thick and fairly smooth at the start, with a little bracing acidity on the finish. Odd aftertaste. Overall, I was underwhelmed with the coffee brewed this way – I would stick to drinking it as espresso.

Summary: This espresso can lead to some crazy tastes (seriously, rare steak??) but it’s not bad at all once you find that little window of balanced flavor!

From the roaster: medium body, caramel, blueberry, banana

Novo Coffee Roasters Espresso Novo

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: Evocation Micro-Coffee Roasters Peru Cajamarca (Amarillo, Texas)

Shutterbug and I had the pleasure of checking out Evocation’s shop while visiting Amarillo for a wedding. It was hard to find; the shop is located in an industrial-looking area and there are no discernible signs from the road to indicate that there is a pretty special little coffee shop in the vicinity, but we found it anyway (thanks, Yelp and Google Maps!).

I enjoyed chemistry class while in high school, so I was pretty tickled that this was how their coffee was served:

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The in-house pourover coffee that day was Evocation’s Colombia Las Colinas. The barista told me of the tasting notes, but honestly I don’t remember what they were; I just remember tasting this incredibly sweet and fragrant brew that brought the JAMC’s “Just Like Honey” to mind. It was seriously THAT sweet. There were also notes of dark chocolate present in the cup.

Compounding this pleasurable experience was the scent wafting through the shop of sweetness and bread. I thought it was french toast or brioche, but Shutterbug informed me later that they were making waffles (somehow, I didn’t notice this!). The one bean they had available in bags was this Peruvian Cajamarca, and I had pretty high hopes for it based on how much I enjoyed the Colombian coffee I tried in the shop.

Whole bean: Bright aroma of green grapes, cocoa powder, and vanilla with a creaminess about it. Once ground, the aroma became an unimaginably rich and earthy chocolate truffle plus notes of plum and port wine.

V60: Given the promise of the ground beans, this cup was a disappointment. I tried this twice; the first attempt (3:15 extraction time) smelled like warm clean hair or clothes… it didn’t smell like soap or detergent, but it smelled like burying your face into warm laundry just taken from the dryer. The taste was slightly bitter. The second attempt (2:50 extraction time) was smoother but still had weirdly bitter notes plus a chemical smell that bothered me. I was pretty sad about this! It’s possible my technique or something else was off here but maybe this is just not a good brewing method for this particular coffee.

AeroPress: MUCH better. Dark chocolate flavor and smooth mouthfeel throughout. There was a hint of caramel and stone fruit (plum?) on the finish that was really nice. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate because it was lovely just as it was.

Chemex: Less chocolate flavor and more plum in this cup. Pretty good! Sweet and perky.

French press: This cup was the showstopper of the bunch. Both plum and chocolate flavors mingled in this cup along with the flavor of marshmallow fluff. This cup was ridiculously sweet; almost to the point of being too much for me to drink without laughing. Okay, I did giggle a little, but only because it was unbelievable how sweet this black coffee turned out! What a delight.

Summary: Try this in a french press if you’re ready to be bowled over with sweetness. The Colombia Las Colinas from this same roaster is also a winner. I’ve got my eye on you, Evocation! It’ll be sooner rather than later when we meet again.

From the roaster: Toffee, chocolate, plum

Evocation Peru Cajamarca

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: Klatch Golden Bean Espresso Blend (Upland, California)

TL;DR: If you love espresso, GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS ASAP!!!

I’m actually finding it a little hard to organize my thoughts on this espresso. How do you explain the beauty of a sunrise? How can you put into words what happens to you when you hear your musical soulmate? That’s what tasting this amazing roast from Klatch did to me.

This was the roast that prompted me to make my recent order from Klatch; I’ve already been a fan of their coffee for some time and I knew that anything worthy of the Klatch name would make me happy, but something that won top honors from the Compak Golden Bean was something I definitely had to try.

Whole bean: Fresh aroma! A little floral and creamy. Very inviting scent.

Espresso: I experimented with various grind settings and dosages, and I don’t think I pulled a single bad shot. This was a surprisingly forgiving blend to work with. The overall flavor of the straight shots to me was dark chocolate with lavender – absolutely alluring! Higher temperatures (203 F) brought out a little bitterness, and I found the best result to be at 201-202 F, 18.5 g in. This blend was delicious pulled both as a ristretto and as a normale shot – it had a gorgeous refreshing finish that just made me want to drink more. The rich chocolate notes combined with the lovely floral perfume really captured my attention right from the start, all the way until the last drop. I can only imagine what this would be like pulled with higher-end equipment.

With milk: I don’t drink milk drinks very often, but this blend did make a delicious latte. It had a subtle floral aroma that was so inviting. I did prefer this pulled as straight espresso, as I felt the milk muted some of the really special notes, but that could be just my personal preference speaking. I would be over the moon if I did order a milk drink and got this in the cup.

AeroPress: I was particularly curious about how this blend would fare in the AeroPress, and WOW. It was unimaginably complex. Brewing this revealed a wonderfully rich cup with layers and layers of flavors. I can’t even describe them all. I drank this as a concentrate. Don’t add water to this – it’s smooth as silk and it would be a crime to dilute this.

Summary: I don’t know how long this will be available, but I am definitely ordering more. This is a really special espresso and if your tastes run to the complex and layered, you will really like this. I looked at the blend information after finishing the tasting, and this is composed of coffee from Panama and Ethiopia – two of my favorite origins. I suppose it makes perfect sense why I love this so much. Thank you for sharing this amazing espresso with us, Klatch!

From the roaster: The judges comments were: Tons of sweetness, distinct but subdued stone fruit, plum, berry and honey notes, balanced acidity and a round, creamy body.

Klatch Golden Bean Espresso

Review: Ascension Brazil Rainha Farms (Dallas, Texas)

Sometimes, when I talk to people about the flavors in coffee, they get confused and think that I drink flavored coffees… you know, stuff like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Peppermint Mochas, Red Velvet Frappuccinos. I admit that I enjoyed some vanilla lattes in my youth, but I haven’t had a “flavored” coffee in quite some time. You won’t find any flavored syrups in my house! What I’m referring to are the different flavor characteristics inherent in the different bean varietals, grown in various parts of the world. This post on single-origin coffees gets into this topic in more detail.

I’ve been drinking a lot of African and Central American coffee lately, and I’ve been awash in flavors of berry, citrus, flowers, honey… lots of bright, interesting tastes. But you know how sometimes all you want is something simple and comforting? I love being challenged musically as much as the next musician, and I find complexity to be irresistible… but sometimes you just want uncomplicated pop or stadium rock. Sometimes, after months of listening to Joy Division, John Adams, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sufjan Stevens, Shostakovich, of Montreal, Steve Reich, and Radiohead, nothing else will do except for some Journey, preferably while driving with the windows down and singing along at the top of your lungs.

(I can’t believe I just admitted this.)

(And for anyone out there making fun of me right now, would you be comfortable with me opening up your iTunes collection and letting me see EVERYTHING you have in it? I am guessing I’m not the only one with musical guilty pleasures out there!)

Brazilian drip coffee is not something I seek out on a regular basis, because to me it’s like a coffee version of stadium-rock; big, crowd-pleasing flavor that has mass appeal. I generally prefer more complex, layered coffees. But, for those days where you don’t want to be pushed or stretched, it’s comfort food in a cup. I stopped at Ascension Coffee’s Dallas location the other day for lunch, and this bag was among the freshest coffee (at 3 days old), so I opted to give it a try.

Whole bean: Creamy, malty, milk chocolate aromas.

V60: At a 2:50 extraction, this cup was a bit bitter and it “smelled like coffee.” In my book, because I typically look for layers of flavor, it struck me as a bit boring. However, drinking it was like a throwback to a different, less complicated time. Adding a splash of cream took away the bitterness and made this cup taste like Nestle Quik. Hello, childhood!

AeroPress: Rich, nutty flavor that had a fair bit of acidic bite to keep things awake. Just for fun, I added a glug of heavy cream and a bit of sugar. This cup became a chocolate milkshake. Holy cannoli, it was rich.

Chemex: Light-bodied but smoother in flavor overall than the V60 and AeroPress cups. This was pretty easy to drink black. 

French press:  As I expected, this cup was smooth, full-bodied, and the richest in nut/chocolate flavor. Comforting. It enveloped me like a fleece blanket. Uncomplicated and soothing.

Espresso: Out of curiosity, I chose to pull this as a single-origin espresso. I actually think I liked it the best in this preparation! Though I didn’t experiment much, the shots that my Silvano produced were complex, a little brash in their acidity, but sweet. Very drinkable!

Summary: Get this if you like chocolate milkshakes, or if you want a coffee that will hold you and tell you everything will be all right. It’s not a coffee that will make you question things, or that will push you out of your comfort zone. Rather, it is mac and cheese. It is Journey’s “Faithfully.” It is a hug from an old friend.

From the roaster: Brazil nuts, toffee

Ascension Coffee Roastery Online Store

Review: Chromatic Coffee Gamut Espresso (San Jose, California)

I have a new favorite espresso blend!!!

With a name like Chromatic, this is clearly an espresso blend after my own heart. This coffee company has been on my list of must-try roasters for some time now. I was very much hoping to get my hands on a bag of Chromatic Coffee during my recent trip to San Jose, but when I found out that their flat rate shipping is only $2.00, I decided that I could wait since the shipping is so affordable. Props to Chromatic for getting the beans to me in just two days (roasted on a Tuesday, received on Thursday!).

A nice touch: My coffee came packaged with a piece of Werther’s Original butterscotch candy. Thus far, Chromatic and Red Bird are the only roasters that I’ve ordered from who send candy (Red Bird sends hard candy during the summer months and chocolate in the winter). Not necessary, but a welcome treat. 🙂

Typically, I start pulling espresso shots around 6-7 days post-roast, but I broke into this bag 4 days post-roast because I couldn’t wait. I actually hadn’t pulled any espresso shots at home for a few weeks prior to this, so I figured I would need some practice to dust off my skills.

Whole beans: Mmm. Creamy fragrance that was mild but full of promise.

The first pass choked the machine due to too fine of a grind, so I adjusted the settings on my Vario. The second pass was still a bit slow (ristretto territory) but I started making noises in the kitchen of shock and delight. This espresso had a luxurious texture and a complex but eminently comforting flavor of chocolate and caramel with just a hint of red cherry. I was astounded at how good it was! I continued adjusting the grind and extraction time/volume to play with getting more/less fruit and more/less chocolate in the shot. All were tasty.

After six shots (and yes, I drank them ALL) I made a latte for Shutterbug to test how well this espresso stood up in milk. He added about 1/2 tsp of sugar before I had a chance to taste the drink. When I did have a sip of his drink, my jaw dropped because it tasted like I had put the best butterscotch sauce in the world into the cup. I have never had a latte that tasted as much like dessert as this one.

The next day, I made myself a latte (no sugar). Blissful. Obviously not as sweet as the sweetened version from the previous day, but the same butterscotch flavor notes were there. Very, VERY easy to drink!

I continued to experiment with temperature and extraction rate. My personal favorite was a ristretto shot pulled at 18.5 g in a double basket, 201 degrees F, 15 gram output. This espresso was equally enjoyable straight and in milk. Straight, it was smooth yet complex with beautiful layers of caramel and nougat flavor that lingered for a long time on the palate. In milk, it simply screams butterscotch.

I kept putting off trying this in the AeroPress because I loved it pulled as espresso SO MUCH, but I felt I needed to see how it fared without the 9 bars of pressure. It had a sweet, rich, smooth chocolate flavor. No particular fruity or floral notes. There was an earthiness to the aroma while I was brewing the cup, but it dissipated pretty quickly. Overall, it was less interesting in the AeroPress vs. as an espresso shot (which is to be expected, really) but it makes a really enjoyable cup in the AeroPress, especially for someone that doesn’t like bright flavors in their coffee. This would be something I would be comfortable serving to a dark roast drinker; it had delicious toasty flavors with a nice depth.

Obviously, my home is not a cafe and there’s really no such a thing as a “house” espresso around here, but if I was running a cafe, THIS would be my choice. For the first time in 6+ months and innumerable espressos and coffees, Shutterbug actually asked me to order more of a particular coffee. In fact, it was more like he implored me! I was quite happy to oblige.

Summary: Get your hands on this. Now. But leave some for me!

From the roaster: Chocolate, butterscotch, creamy

Chromatic Coffee Gamut Espresso

Review: Kuma Coffee Guatemala Finca La Folie (Seattle, Washington)

Whenever I come across a roaster whom I’m not familiar with, I like looking at the “About” section of their website to get an idea of what makes them tick. Kuma Coffee’s story is interesting to me, as the founder is the son of American missionaries that moved to Kenya when he was a child. During that time in Kenya, he got to know and love African coffee. After moving back to the United States and working as a barista in Seattle for a number of years, he decided to start roasting as a hobby, which morphed into the business it is today.

I suppose it’s too bad I couldn’t try a Kenyan coffee from this roaster, since it sounds like that’s where the journey all started. Maybe next time!

Whole bean: Light tea-like fragrance with orange peel. Once ground, it smelled like cocoa powder with some citrus notes.

French press: This had a delicate aroma that was very inviting – it gently cajoles you into taking a sip! Cream/butter texture with a nice sweetness. It had a bit of orange flavor that wasn’t tart at all. The aftertaste was much like a refreshing white wine.

Chemex: The coffee mostly smelled like tea and the paper filter it passed through. I first wrote down “cardboard,” but realized after a few seconds that it was more “paper bag.” This was even considering I had rinsed the filter thoroughly. I have heard that bleached filters impart less of a papery taste than unbleached filters (which is what I currently use), so the next time I need to get filters, I’ll buy a pack of bleached ones to see if this claim is true. I haven’t been bothered by a “papery” taste in the past but in the last week or so, I’ve started noticing this more, so perhaps I’m getting sensitive to the odor/taste.

Back to the coffee! The brew made my mouth pucker, like I was eating tart grapes. The sweetness was definitely less pronounced in this cup vs. the french press cup.

AeroPress: I brewed this as a concentrate and then added water to cut the tart intensity a bit. Once I did that, sweet citrus flavors emerged. This cup rivals the french press cup in body, even through the AeroPress filter. It was slightly less flavorful though, probably due to the lower extraction time. The bags of Craft Coffee that I get come in 4 oz sizes, which leaves me JUST enough to do one round of tastings. If I had more of these beans, I would try this in the inverted method to let the beans steep longer.

V60: Light body with a dry finish. Less fruit and sweetness in this cup vs. the other methods.

Summary: Like other Guatemalan coffees I’ve had in the past, this was a light and citrusy cup. The French press method imparted the most flavor and body to this coffee, which I liked. I would also be curious about how this coffee would do in the inverted method in the AeroPress, as I think it would result in the best of both worlds – a nice clean, sludge-free cup with bright, interesting flavors.

From the roaster: Blood orange, pomelo, chocolate, green grape

Kuma Coffee Guatemala Finca La Folie

Review: Klatch Coffee Panama Elida Honey (Upland, California)

I have been looking forward to trying Klatch Coffee ever since I started reading up on specialty coffee roasters. Klatch is a name I saw mentioned repeatedly, along with Intelligentsia, Verve, Counter Culture, Madcap, and Stumptown (especially in an espresso context). The Klatch Belle Espresso review will be happening in a few days, but I couldn’t wait to open up my fresh bag of the Panama Elida Honey (roasted March 9, arrived at my house March 11). I’ve had “name-brand” expensive coffees before that hadn’t lived up to the hype (in my opinion), so I was prepared for just about anything. At $22/12 oz., my wallet would certainly prefer that I didn’t like this coffee.

Spoiler alert: Sorry, wallet.

First impressions: The whole beans smelled absolutely delicious. It was like a chocolate bar with dried currants. Ground, I got hit with spicy notes (like cinnamon/cloves) and rum cake.

V60: Very smooth flavor; mouthwatering and juicy. Delicate at the start, but as the coffee cooled slightly, it really opened up. It tasted like butterscotch and a hint of dark chocolate with tangerine on the finish. Absolutely stunning. In fact, I was going to make the coffee a second way to compare and contrast, but I was so taken with this cup that I just sat there and savored the entire 12 oz or so that I made. There was such a nice balance and a deceptive simplicity to it – if this cup was music, it reminded me most of Maurice Ravel.

The very last drop in the cup smelled exactly like honey. Gorgeous.

AeroPress: Thick, creamy, with a lemon and graham-cracker flavor. I liked it, but after the perfectly balanced magic of the V60, it almost struck me as bland. I think I was missing the brighter notes.

Chemex: Very bright and lively with lots of lemony flavor. Comparatively astringent. This was unbalanced to my taste but great for those that like a cup with a lot of citrus.

French press: Sweet, heavy, and smooth. Not a lot of fruit flavor; much more like bittersweet cocoa.

Summary: For me, V60 all the way. No question. However, it’s also really good in an AeroPress and french press. Worth every penny!!

From the roaster: This coffee offers pure flavors of light rum, hints of dried fruit, tones of orange-citrus, chocolate and honey along with a very clean, sweet finish.

Klatch Coffee Roasters