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 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: Kuma Coffee Ethiopia Reko (Seattle, Washington)

I’ve reviewed Kuma Coffee before, back when I received a bag through my former subscription with Craft Coffee. That time around, I sampled their Guatemala Finca La Folie, which unlike some Guatemalans I’ve tried in the past, was less about chocolate and more about a pleasant acidity (Riesling wine, grapes, citrus). On a recent visit to Shift Coffee in Denton, the barista pointed me toward this bag after I told him that I was looking for something that wasn’t chocolaty.

Whole bean: Red cherries, citrus, brightly floral notes.

V60: This cup smells sweet and smooth. It wakes up your mouth with the flavor of grapefruit.

AeroPress: Very bright flavors of papaya and grapefruit as a concentrate. Once I added water, it was smoother and less distinctive so I might not be inclined to add too much if I planned to brew it this way again; I like its personality.

Chemex: Sweet and tart cup which puzzled me for a few minutes because it made me think of something I couldn’t put my finger on from childhood. After a bit, I realized it tasted like flat 7-UP soda, with a bit of grapefruit. You see, I used to add fruit juice to lemon-lime soda when I was a kid, and this was very reminiscent of that (without the carbonation, of course).

French press: Not as sweet as the other cups. The thicker body with the bright flavors is really confusing to my palate. I don’t like this. Coffees that have a fairly high acidity level need filtered methods in order to bring out the bright flavors, in my opinion. This would be like having a light, crisp Vino Verde wine but with an oaky Chardonnay body – it just doesn’t match. Love the French press, but not for this particular coffee.

Summary: A nice, lightly roasted coffee that will really capture your interest brewed in a Chemex if you dig these sort of flavors.

From the roaster: Grapefruit, lavender, lemon-lime soda

This coffee is not currently available on Kuma’s online store. Here is a link to their current selections: Kuma Coffee Online Store

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:

tn_IMG_1873

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: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Panama Geisha La Milagrosa (Dallas, Texas)

Buckle your seat belts, coffee lovers — here comes another Geisha tasting! When I attended Dallas Coffee Day last Sunday, I stopped at Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters’ booth first and my eye was immediately drawn to these beautiful canisters (there were three of them). Knowing that there were to be an insane amount of people attending the event, I basically went, “I WANT THAT” and snapped up a can before I lost my chance. Perhaps I freaked out for no reason, because when I passed by the booth again on my way out three hours later, they still had two cans on the table. Ah well. Better safe than sorry!

Coincidence: I paid $36 for 8 oz of this coffee and opened it on my 36th birthday. Happy birthday to me, indeed! 🙂

I don’t often get coffees in cans, so I had some funny moments while trying to figure out how to get into the can. I took off the top lid and puzzled over the black and white sticker. I thought I was supposed to peel it off and I almost did peel it off completely, but I then realized that it was just decorating a second lid I was supposed to pry off. Oops. Haha!

inner lid open

Whole bean: Milagroso/a in Spanish means miraculous or marvelous. This sounded like a good omen to me! The beans smelled like a fascinating dichotomy of Sara Lee Pound Cake and chinese restaurant tea. There was also a vague tropical fruit note that I couldn’t quite identify. However, when I ground the beans, the fragrance got super strong with lime, green apple, and sweet floral aromas emanating from the grinder bin!

V60: At 3:15 extraction, this cup had an overwhelming complexity. As is my custom, I was listening to music while brewing and I actually had to go shut it off so I could focus on what I was tasting. Granny Smith apples. Butter. Just a little tartness on the finish, with a lovely medium body. I did not want to stop drinking this cup, which made me write, “Uh oh. I’m in BIG trouble with this coffee!” in my notes.

AeroPress: This coffee is lightly roasted, and it was evident in this cup, as the finished concentrate had the color of caramel sauce. Not the deep brown that most people think of when they think of coffee!

aeropress

This concentrate was a bit tart, with lots of personality. It smoothed out as I sipped it. Definite notes of green apple and butter. I didn’t end up adding any water to this, because it was great as it was and I didn’t want to water down the big flavors.

Chemex: Sadly, this cup for me was underwhelming. It had the lightest body (which was not unexpected since the Chemex filter is the thickest of the filters), but the flavor was pretty muted. It was close to chinese restaurant tea in flavor; the fruit was barely present. This had the least amount of personality of the four cups.

French press: Jasmine tea aroma and flavor on the front. Green grapes with a toffee-like finish (sugary, buttery). Rich mouthfeel with a hint of vanilla. Deliciously complex.

Summary: A nice birthday treat. Would I pay $72/lb for this coffee again? I liked it a lot, but I don’t think this is a coffee I would regularly purchase, no. It’s hard to justify that sort of price when there are other lovely coffees out there with similar flavor notes without such a high price tag. However, it was a very, VERY enjoyable cup, and I would certainly drink this again if offered! I think the french press version was my personal favorite, but it was awesome in a Hario V60 and AeroPress as well (if you like more Granny Smith apple flavor).

From the roaster: On the slopes surrounding Volcan Baru, this vibrant, floral, tea-like varietal displays heirloom flavors of the best African coffees although it is grown halfway around the world. This special lot comes from the Alto Jaramillo region of Boquete.

This coffee is not currently available online.

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters

Mini review: Intelligentsia Decaf Librarian’s Blend (Chicago, Illinois)

This bag of Intelligentsia was a gift for my friend Julee, but she generously offered to let me have some of the beans in order to do a review. I purposely just took a little bit (after all, I wanted her to enjoy the coffee!), so I was not able to do a full review with all four brewing methods. However, I did snag enough beans to brew the coffee three ways.

V60: Toasty aroma and flavor, with brown sugar on the finish. There was just a hint of acidity at the end – I was thinking lime since I saw it in the flavor notes. I’m not sure I would have thought lime had it not been for the suggestion, though. Very subtle.

AeroPress: Super smooth brew that tasted like toasted almonds.

French press: Bland and hollow tasting compared to the previous cups. I added a bit of salt and it helped, but I didn’t care for it in this method.

Summary: If I wanted a comfortable cup of coffee but didn’t want caffeine, this would be a decent option. I am curious about what it would taste like in a Chemex since I find that method tends to bring out brighter flavors, but generally speaking the coffee was rich and smooth, with a nutty/toasty aroma. Not bad. I didn’t find this brew to be challenging in any way – on the contrary, it was very cozy. Comfort food. Grab a shawl on a rainy day and curl up with this decaf right before bed – it won’t hurt you.

From the roaster (snagged from the Intelligentsia Coffee menu page on Yelp):

Intelligentsia Decaf Librarian’s Blend

Review: Rival Brothers Rwanda Dukunde Rawa (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Recently, I started a subscription to Craft Coffee, a company based out of Brooklyn, NY. Craft Coffee describes themselves as the Pandora of coffee, where you can tell them what you’re currently drinking and they’ll send you coffees that they think you’ll love based on your preferences. After answering their short questionnaire, it determined that I would be best pleased with their Purple Label (lightest roast), Reserve category ($$$$ – their most expensive coffee). Hahaha. Do they know me or what?

I opted to get a three-coffee sampler to start, and I received three 4-oz bags from different roasters. All the coffee in this shipment happened to be from Africa, but Craft rotates roasters and countries of origin quite regularly so every box is a surprise. So far, over two shipments, 5 of the 6 roasters have been new to me so it’s pretty great to be able to try coffee from small roasters that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

V60: Lots of vanilla in this method with a puckery bit of citrus fruit. Very interesting. I could see this mix of flavors being a Bath and Body Works product – vanilla/lime/grapefruit.

AeroPress: Lovely!! I really like this rendition. This actually smells a lot more like a delicate, mild tea than a coffee. Everything is well-balanced; the subtle richness of vanilla blends nicely with the personality of the fruit. No bitterness or overwhelming tannins. I think I would really like this as an iced coffee – light and refreshing. It has an uncommon elegance to it.

Chemex: Bright, vibrant brew. It tasted like lime juice at the forefront, but once I started slurping and aerating the coffee, I got a lot more apricot flavor. The aroma was pretty light and mild.

French press: Full-bodied and intense. I actually didn’t care for this – it tasted overwhelmingly sour and bitter at the same time. Assertive and rather rude to the palate! I felt like the coffee was a surly teenager.

Summary: My preference is to brew this coffee in an AeroPress – it felt like it had the best balance of flavors and it was the smoothest brew by far of the four methods. The V60 will give you more vanilla; the Chemex will give you more citrus. The French press will sass you.

From the roaster: Vibrant, Lime, Sweet, Vanilla

Rival Bros. Rwanda Dukunde Kawa

Review: Heart Coffee Roasters Stereo Blend (Portland, Oregon)

I will be taking a hiatus from tasting coffees for the next couple of weeks, so I wanted my last coffee (for now) to be a great one. Luckily for me, I was able to snag this bag of Heart Coffee from Oak Lawn Coffee in Dallas. Pro tip: They receive shipments from Heart on Fridays, so if you want a bag, you had best pick one up on the weekend. When I stopped in early Sunday afternoon, I got the penultimate bag in the store.

First impressions: The whole beans smelled creamy, with strawberry and milk chocolate notes. Once I ground them, the chocolate became fudgy, with a pinenut and red berry aroma.

V60: Bright, delicate, with white tea and raspberry flavors. This was a sweet cup with a light flavor. It spoke in a whisper, not a shout. If this coffee was a person, it would probably be a young woman wearing polka dots and holding a bunch of daisies. Sunny and optimistic, but not cloying.

AeroPress: Whoa. This cup shouted. There was more raspberry flavor and a more assertive personality overall. Thick and punchy, not too sweet. A bit of lime crept in and it reminded me most of a raspberry-lime gin rickey, oddly. Refreshing in its way, because it had a lot of tart/sweet on the finish.

Chemex: Compared to the V60, it was fruitier and more acidic. Brighter and drier – more treble notes. If the V60 was a moderately sweet Riesling, this was a dry Pinot Gris.

French Press: This brought out more bass notes – bittersweet cocoa dominated with a tartness throughout.

Summary: The V60 cup was really striking. It was demure and didn’t try too hard to capture your attention – you just wanted to be around its energy because it makes you feel good. Lovely balance of flavors! I didn’t taste caramel while drinking the coffee but once the coffee cooled, I definitely smelled caramel. I can’t wait to try some of Heart’s single-origin coffee if the blend is this interesting.

From the roaster: Raspberry, caramel, cocoa

Heart Stereo Blend

I will resume posting on June 11!

Review: Three Ships Konga Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (Virginia Beach, Virginia)

I received these beans as a gift from a fellow musician and coffee fanatic (hi, David!). I had never heard of this roaster, so I was super excited to give them a try. My first impression when we opened the bag was HELLO, BLUEBERRY MUFFIN! It seriously smelled like breakfast. I also smelled raisins and dates, and I could tell that this was going to be some seriously flavorful coffee. The beans were smaller than I’ve usually seen, and if coffee beans can be cute, these were!

Chemex: This made a really clean, juicy cup. I tasted a lot of berry flavor – it was like strawberry jam, which surprised me a little since I thought it would taste more like blueberries. Very bright flavors, a very light and refreshing cup. I once had a white sangria with fresh strawberries and a bit of orange – this was actually reminiscent of that, believe it or not. Absolutely delicious.

V60: Compared to the Chemex, this tasted like it had more depth – it was buttered toast with strawberry jam. Beautifully balanced between richness and fruitiness! Definitely made my mouth water.

AeroPress: The surface of the coffee had quite a visible amount of oils, and there was a lot of body in this cup compared to the first two. The flavors were rather complex; there was slightly less red fruit flavor but a pronounced citrusy note I hadn’t noticed before, like lime. I loved this!!

French press: When I was brewing this, the smell reminded me of pastries. Croissants spread with raspberry or strawberry jam… Mmmmm. In the cup, I didn’t find the flavor quite as satisfying as the smell, though. It was still pleasing, with a nice mouthfeel, but I didn’t get as much fruit flavor as the smell was promising, especially considering the berry bombs that the earlier methods provided.

I have had Ethiopian Yirgacheffes twice before – one dry-processed, and one wet-processed. This bag was a dry-processed variety, and it definitely has a strong berry character to it, along with some lime flavor and some butter. If this quality is representative of what Three Ships has to offer, count me in as a repeat customer!

Summary: Do you like strawberry pie? You’ll probably like this coffee. It’s bright and refreshing. Not really one for those who take milk and sugar – I think the dairy + the fruit flavors would taste weird. My favorite preparation method is a tie between Chemex and AeroPress, depending on if you want a cup with more high notes or more depth.

From the roaster: We taste: strawberry rhubarb, honeysuckle, and cherry limeade.
Three Ships Coffee