Review: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters Nebula Nectar Espresso Blend (San Diego, California)

Here’s a roaster I was pretty excited to check out (again). I had received a couple of bags of Bird Rock Coffee from my sister as a birthday present a few years back (pre-blog), and I remembered the coffee being delicious, so when I had the chance to visit San Diego recently, I made sure to stop and get a bag of beans from Bird Rock. In fact, it was the first stop I made after landing at the airport. Don’t judge me too hard, it was only 2.2 miles from the terminal!

Whole bean: Sweet, syrupy scent. I wrote “melon??” in my notes – I was thinking honeydew but it was hard to pinpoint. Once I ground the beans, it smelled pretty strongly of graham crackers.

Espresso: I feel like I didn’t get quite as much time to experiment with these espresso beans as I would have liked, simply because I had a lot of coffees to try. But, the espresso I pulled with these beans definitely lived up to the notes on the bag in that it was very, very complex. Ristretto shots came out with notes of s’mores, graham crackers, honey, and cantaloupe. Normale shots (how I ended up preferring this espresso) came out with loads of complexity and notes of mango. For anyone that’s had the Asian candy Hi-Chew, one particular shot tasted just like the mango flavored Hi-Chew.

Favorite parameters: I don’t feel like I really discovered all the secrets of these beans, but for anyone wanting mango Hi-Chew espresso: 199 degrees F, 18 g in, 29 g out.

AeroPress: Smooth, round flavors. Not quite chocolate – more like flat Coca-Cola, which actually was a bit more pleasant than it sounds. Floral scent.

With milk: I think I made one latte with these beans for Shutterbug, and he wasn’t super enthused. It was drinkable, but I imagine this particular espresso shines best when consumed without dairy. Adding milk to something that tastes like cola/s’mores/melon/mango all rolled into one? Yeah, that sounds odd to me too.

Summary: Very complex, multi-layered espresso that should be consumed straight or as an Americano. I would be interested in trying this bean again sometime as I don’t feel like I unlocked all of its potential, but I sure had fun trying!

From the roaster: Maple, honeydew, rose, root beer

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters Limited Edition Nebula Nectar Espresso Blend

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: Temple Costa Rica Las Lajas Golden Honey (Sacramento, California)

Temple Coffee Roasters, based out of Sacramento, CA, is an award-winning roaster who has racked up accolades, including multiple 90+ point coffee ratings as rated by Coffee Review. I picked up this bag from Vero’s Coffee Bar on my recent work trip to San Jose without tasting it first; I opted instead to sample their house espresso while there (which happened to be Intelligentsia Black Cat Analog. No bags of that available for sale, unfortunately).

Whole beans: Cherry and honey aromas. Sweet.

V60: Aroma was crazy sweet – it smelled like floral honey. The taste was a bit less sweet; there were some tannins present. The cup overall was very fragrant – almost like perfume. It sweetened as it cooled.

AeroPress: Faint scent of dog! What?! It faded after a minute or so but I was wondering if I somehow did something wrong in the brewing process. After the dog smell went away, I smelled graham cracker and light floral notes. I couldn’t bring myself to drink much of this cup.

Chemex: Sweet scents of honey, graham crackers, and flowers. Pretty similar to the V60 cup.

French press: More perfumey and less sweet. The dog smell hit me again at the start, so I’m wondering if that’s just something that happens with the immersion methods?

This coffee broke my heart a little bit. To clarify about the dog scent, it wasn’t wet dog, and it wasn’t even really an unpleasant smell. The smell took me back to two years ago, when I was cuddling my dog, Penny, for the last time before we put her to sleep. I buried my face in her neck as I said goodbye, and for whatever reason, this coffee brewed in the AeroPress smelled exactly like that moment. I’m crying as I type this – I certainly wasn’t expecting to have such an emotional reaction to a coffee, but somehow, this coffee brought back that day so vividly that I am glad that no one was around while I did this tasting. Was this a bad cup of coffee? No, not at all, really, but I just can’t emotionally handle this one in an immersion method. This marks the first time a coffee has ever made me sob uncontrollably!

Summary: My heart can’t take drinking this coffee again, but if I were to do so, I’d stick with the V60 or Chemex for brewing.

From the roaster: Rainier cherry, lilac, sweet wine

This coffee is not currently available online.

Temple Coffee Online Store

Review: Coffee del Rey Guatemala Huehuetenango (Plano, Texas)

Coffee del Rey is a VERY local roaster to me, located less than 10 miles from my house. It is a company that operates on a similar business model to TOMS. For every pound of coffee sold, they provide a pack of non-GMO heritage fruit/vegetable seeds in partnership with training from other organizations to start community gardens in developing countries, to help the people there grow their own food for consumption and as a way to support themselves.

I admire Coffee del Rey’s drive to make the world a better place, but honestly, the main reason I like buying from them is because I like their coffee! I have personally purchased probably about 15 pounds of coffee from this company so far. Most of that has been their Ethiopia Harrar, a natural-processed bean that smells like blueberries. I’ve also enjoyed their Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (citrusy and floral) and their Bolivia Organic (butterscotch and toast). This Guatemala Huehuetenango is new to me.

Upon opening the bag, I sniffed the whole beans (3 days post roast), and they had a subtle scent like cherry and almond. Nothing overwhelming, but pleasant. Once I ground up the beans and started brewing, it was very clear that these beans were extremely fresh because they started degassing like crazy. I should have taken a video… the grounds bubbled up and moved violently up and down like lava. (IT’S ALIVE!!)

V60: This took me 3 tries to get the extraction rate right because my normal grind setting wouldn’t cut it for some reason. I had to go much finer than usual on my Baratza Virtuoso (usually 14, for this: 9). The eventual result smelled like liquefied rose petals with a bit of toffee on the finish as it cooled. Kind of shocking!

Aeropress: Oooh. This still smelled and tasted like roses, but there was a definite note of toasted marshmallow here. Very sweet. Rich and not bitter. I ended up drinking the whole cup!

Chemex: I took a deep breath of the aroma from the Chemex before I poured a cup, and it had a warm glow that for some reason reminded me of matches… the way that matches smell when they are lit? Not like smoke, exactly, just the glow. The taste was a bit bitter right off the bat, but I let it cool for about one minute and the bitterness dissipated. It was sweet, with a scent of graham crackers and toasted marshmallow. As I let it cool, there was bit of milk chocolate in the finish. I enjoyed it as is, but just for fun, I did put a little bit of chocolate syrup in the coffee (no milk). S’mores, intensified!!!

French press: Syrupy body but not that flavorful. Kind of sour. Perhaps I needed to steep it longer than 4 minutes, or change the grind size, but I wasn’t as impressed with this method.

Summary: The finer the grind, the more this coffee smells like roses. But in a relatively coarse method like a Chemex, you can get s’mores. Both the Aeropress and the Chemex made delicious cups but I probably would go for this in a Chemex most often.

Coffee del Rey typically roasts on Tuesdays, but they have also started roasting other days of the week as needed. If you have something specific you want to try, I would recommend contacting them so that you can buy it as freshly as possible. I enjoy trying new things though, so I usually just go in and ask what’s freshest that day.

From the roaster: This Guatemala has subtle nuanced flavors of a syrupy, carmelly cocoa with hints of tobacco and lemony citrus. The lingering finish is pleasant and light.

Coffee del Rey Guatemala Huehuetenango

Edited to add: After I published this review, I got a tip to try these beans as a single-origin espresso. CHOCOLATE BOMB!!! If you like chocolaty espressos (and I do), this makes a delicious shot.

Review: Pergamino Cafe, Finca Loma Verde (Medellin, Colombia)

These beans were an unexpected and very welcome gift from a student and her family! Colombian coffee beans are some of the most common and well-known coffee beans out there (Juan Valdez, anyone?), but I am pretty certain that I have never had Colombian coffee of this freshness level and quality before. I was fascinated to learn that despite coffee being such an important crop in Colombia, Colombians don’t even rank in the top 50 for coffee consumed per capita. The “third wave” of coffee that’s been so popular in the USA for the last decade or so has only just started in Colombia, and Pergamino Cafe appears to be at the forefront there, selling their own locally roasted beans as well as ones from other regions. Click here for more info on Pergamino Cafe…

The beans smelled delicious right off the bat. They were definitely unique compared to any other coffee I had experienced before, in that the whole beans had notes of red wine and pinenuts. Once I ground the beans, I smelled Teddy Grahams along with the other scents.

French press: Overwhelming flavor of pinenut and hazelnut. Very earthy, thick brew with just a bit of acidity to liven things up.

Aeropress: Smoother, but not as much personality as the FP version. No fruit or acidity, just nutty flavor.

V60: This cup was thin compared to the others, probably because the filter caught most of the coffee oils. It was very slightly bitter at the start, but as it cooled, it rounded out and smelled “like coffee” — I didn’t smell nuts, or chocolate, or anything other than true, honest-to-goodness coffee aroma. Just lovely simplicity in a cup.

Summary: If you like your coffee honest and uncomplicated, Colombian coffee certainly fits the bill! Would go great with milk. Naturally sweet so it really wouldn’t need much (if any) sugar in my opinion!

From the roaster: This coffee is characterized by its sweetness and smoothness. It has notes of chocolate and caramel and its acid tones are reminiscent of yellow fruits.

Pergamino Cafe

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