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

Credit goes to the Yelp app for helping me find the Two Guns Espresso cafe in Manhattan Beach! This coffee shop is located just minutes from LAX airport, and when I read that it is a shop founded by two New Zealanders, I hightailed it over to the shop as fast as I could. I fell in love with New Zealand on my trip to the North Island back in 2016, and the espresso culture there is truly world-class. I wish I had had the opportunity to sample more espresso than I did while I was there, but I was very taken with the coffee I had from Flight Coffee, both with the drinks I had in their “hangar” (cafe) and with the beans I brought home. Kiwis know their espresso, that’s for sure.

Two Guns has three locations sprinkled around the Los Angeles area. I was immediately charmed by their Manhattan Beach location – it was bright and modern with an eclectic vibe. I was particularly pleased that the espresso cups and saucers are this lovely shade of slate blue/grey… don’t know why I love this color so much, but it made me really happy to see something a little different than the standard white!

The espresso I had in the shop was chocolaty with a nice lively edge to it that definitely perked me up after my three-hour flight. I brought a bag home and had fun dialing the blend in for my grinder and machine.

Whole bean: The beans were a bit oily and smelled like Peet’s Major Dickason blend. It’s a bit darker of a roast than I’m used to but appropriate knowing it came from Washington.

Espresso: I liked this espresso pulled best as a normale shot. It took me a handful of shots to get the beans dialed in well; some shots came out rather harsh, one tasted like nail polish (!), but when it was good, it was pretty good – nice smoothness and a good amount of crema.

Favorite parameters: 17 grams in, 33 grams out, 200 degrees F, 29 second pour.

With milk: I don’t have any notes in my notebook about this espresso with milk, so I must not have made Shutterbug a drink with it. Oops! However, I can only imagine it’s really good with milk, as it’s the espresso used for the flat whites and such in the shops. There were a couple of shots I had during the tasting that I thought were harsh on their own but I think would stand up quite well with milk.

AeroPress: As a concentrate, this was strong and spicy. It was tasty just on its own but I preferred it with just a touch of additional water added as I felt it tasted more balanced. The coffee gives you a push out the door, instead of a punch in the face.

Summary: For straight espresso drinkers, I found this blend to be a bit finicky to get just right in the brewing, but when done right, it’s chocolaty and smooth. It’s a good “workhorse” espresso if your tastes run toward milk drinks.

From the roaster: Dark chocolate, candied pecan, hint of dried fruit

Two Guns’ beans are roasted by Dillanos Coffee Roasters (Sumner, Washington). As far as I can tell from poking around both companies’ sites, there’s no way to purchase the Two Guns Espresso Blend online, but you can get them at Two Guns’ shop locations.

Two Guns Espresso (home page)

Review conducted 18 days post-roast.

Review: Brown Coffee Co. Candy Factory (San Antonio, Texas)

I’m long overdue in checking out Brown Coffee Company, as they’re pretty well known in Texas and nationwide. Interesting name, isn’t it… I have no clue why the founder(s) chose the name Brown (perhaps it’s the last name of one of the people that started the company?), but in my head, I always think of the name choice as a slightly tongue-in-cheek choice. Imagine a home roaster serving a dinner guest coffee.

Guest: Wow, this coffee is so good! What kind of coffee is it?
Roaster: It’s brown.
Guest: Ha ha. Fine, then don’t tell me!

When I visited the website, I saw they had a particular blend called Candy Factory that changes seasonally, and it sounded delicious, so despite the high price tag ($25/12 oz), I went for it. This evidently is not a coffee they roast to order, as I placed my order on May 29 and I got a bag that was marked roasted May 24. Shipping took a bit longer than expected, so I wasn’t able to open the bag until June 6 (day 14 after roasting). This is a bit later than I’m used to, but I don’t think the coffee suffered for it.

Whole bean: Full of a really creamy, bright, fragrant scent. Wow. Lots of personality here!

V60: I made this with a 3:10 extraction time, and it was a really interesting cup. Deliciously sweet, with flavors of hibiscus and tangerine, with a lovely powdery finish.

AeroPress: Very bright, verging on sour. I was puckering my mouth drinking this. Strong like a lemon drop. Once I added a little additional water to the coffee, it tamed the flavor some, though it was still lively and bright. Who needs orange juice when you’ve got this eye-opener around?

Chemex: Super fragrant and juicy cup that tasted of orange and vanilla.

French press: This was an aberration – it was the most savory cup, almost to the point of being salty! Thick, full-bodied coffee that tasted juicy and rather plush, if that makes sense.

Summary: This coffee is expensive, but if you enjoy bright, fruit-forward, lively flavors, you’ll really love this coffee. I like it best in the pourover methods (V60 and Chemex), with the V60 winning my vote for the lovely complexity.

From the roaster: Dried fruits and boozy fruit jam.

Brown Coffee Co. Candy Factory

Review conducted 14 days post-roast.

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.