Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Sunset Blend (Dallas, Texas)

Davis Street Espresso is the home cafe for Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters here in Dallas, but though I’ve gotten pretty familiar with OCCR over the past 2 years, I hadn’t visited Davis Street Espresso until quite recently because 1) I just don’t go out for espresso much and 2) I’m not typically in the area when they’re open. However, I finally had the chance to visit and enjoyed a lovely espresso while scouting out their bean selection. As typical for me, I looked for what was the freshest, and I ended up choosing the Sunset Blend.

The packaging describes the Sunset Blend as “Our most balanced offering, the Sunset Blend is specifically blended for wonderful sweetness and body. This coffee pairs well with a wide range of foods.” I was coming off of a run of drinking rather complex and challenging coffees, so the idea of drinking something balanced and simpler really appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE complexity in my coffee, but some mornings, the last thing I want to be is confused about what I’m drinking. Not surprisingly, it is directly proportional to how much sleep I’ve had… 😉

Whole bean: Black pepper? The scent seemed to be coming more from the bag than the beans, though. Once I put the beans in a little glass bowl, however, they smelled “normal” – I couldn’t pick out anything specific.

French press: Super smooth and uncomplicated. A bit murky. Not getting a ton of flavor from this cup but it’s pleasant – it’s a cup you can drink and enjoy without having to think about it too much.

Chemex: Incredibly smooth and sweet. Delicious! Not murky at all – clear as a bell. Milk chocolate and orange flavors. This was highly enjoyable.

AeroPress: Similar to the Chemex cup but with the volume turned up. Bit more citrusy.

V60: Creamy and sweet, with a good balance of flavors.

Summary: I think the pourover methods (Chemex and V60) particularly suit this blend, but all four cups were enjoyable. There wasn’t a huge difference between any of the cups but if given the option, go with a pourover method for the cleanest and juiciest flavor.

From the roaster: Sweet milk chocolate and citrus.

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Sunset Blend

Review conducted 3-4 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: Ritual Coffee Roasters Day Drinker Seasonal Espresso (San Francisco, California)

I had my first experience with Ritual Coffee Roasters while visiting Cognoscenti Coffee in the Los Angeles area, and I was really impressed with the quality of the beans and the flavor that I received in that cup (chocolate, plum, spice). However, I have yet to order online directly from Ritual because 1) their coffee is on the pricey side and 2) their shipping is also on the pricey side. I’m not averse to paying a premium for great-quality beans, but with so many great roasters out there (many of whom offer free or significantly lower shipping costs), ordering from Ritual had fallen lower on the priority list. No roasters local to me carry Ritual, but while in Scottsdale, Arizona, I happened to walk into Maverick Coffee and they were carrying Ritual’s Day Drinker seasonal espresso. When I asked about buying beans, they kindly broke open a 5 lb bag of this stuff and put it into an unmarked 12 oz bag for me. We had a nice chat about brewing methods and tasting notes. I think the staff was kidding, but thanks for the job offer…! 😉

Here’s the espresso I was served in their shop. It took me a little longer than I would have liked to get the photo taken, so you can see that the crema on the espresso is starting to dissipate. Still tasted lovely, like milk chocolate and oranges with a slightly spicy bite to it. I couldn’t wait to experiment more with it at home, as I had a hunch that there would be even more flavors awaiting me. I was right.

Whole bean: Fresh and sweet. I was reminded of the smell of clean laundry. Dryer sheets. Sunshine. Odd but pleasant scent for a coffee!

Espresso: Lots of brightness to this blend at lower temperatures – I got a lot of orange pith in the cup until I cranked my machine up to 204 degrees Fahrenheit. Once I did that, the flavor in the cup smoothed out but still remained wonderfully complex. Sweet, chocolaty, floral, with that same note of laundered freshness that filled up my nose when I smelled the whole beans. I’ve rarely experienced an espresso like this – it reminded me quite a bit actually of Klatch Coffee’s Golden Bean Espresso that was a winner in my “best of 2015” list. This isn’t a normal espresso – I’m actually pretty impressed that Maverick was pulling this as their espresso that day since it isn’t what I would consider to be a “workhorse” sort of espresso. It’s quite special!

Favorite parameters for this blend: 204 degrees F, 17 grams in, 32 grams out, 26 second extraction.

With milk: I don’t typically have espresso with milk anyway, but I was especially averse to adding milk to this espresso. Something this complex needs to be enjoyed on its own! But, I did make a couple of lattes for Shutterbug with this stuff. His comment was that it didn’t taste like coffee. Good flavor, but definitely not a “normal” latte.

AeroPress: This was a surprise. I had expected this cup to taste like a muted version of the espresso, but the main flavor I got in the cup was of toasted marshmallow. The finish was of sweet orange, but the overall taste took me to a campfire. Not what I expected at all but hugely enjoyable!

Summary: Lots of surprises in this cup for adventurous palates. If you’re used to nutty, dark, moody espresso, this brew will be perplexing to you, but don’t knock it ’til you try it! I don’t think this is an espresso you can quaff mindlessly – it’ll make you think. And I sure enjoy thinking. 🙂

From the roaster: Rum-soaked pears, candied ginger, star anise, chocolate covered oranges

(Damn, I need to up my game in the tasting department!! I can definitely see the pear and candied ginger now that they mention it.)

Ritual Coffee Roasters Day Drinker Seasonal Espresso

 

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Kossa Geshe (Dallas, Texas)

I bought this bag from a Central Market location on the spur of the moment, on the eve of having a friend over for a coffee cupping. I always like throwing in a natural-process Ethiopian into a coffee cupping for its pronounced berry sweetness, and this bag sure didn’t disappoint.

(When writing up this review, I realized that I had never snapped a photo of the bag, and it’s now long gone, so I opted to insert a photo that I took outside of a cafe in Oxford, England instead. I think it fits.)

Whole bean: Berry sweetness galore.

French press: Smooth, thick-bodied brew with a strawberry flavor. I was wishing for a bit more flavor to the final product; perhaps it could use longer than the standard 4 minute extraction?

Chemex: I accidentally had the grinder too fine and this particular batch took 4:45 to extract (way longer than the 4:00 I shoot for). However, the longer extraction time didn’t seem to hurt the coffee any, as it was full of raspberry, strawberry, and vanilla flavors. Delicious!

AeroPress: Intense, bright flavors as a concentrate – I couldn’t handle it and needed to dilute the brew a bit. Once I did, the coffee revealed a nice depth with light fruit flavors.

V60: This was a surprise. The coffee brewed this way was SUPER fragrant and vibrant. Sweet, almost candy-esque. It most reminded me of the strawberry dessert topping on McDonald’s strawberry sundaes. I could see this being overly sweet for some – it was just too sweet for me. Not a bad coffee, but I couldn’t see myself drinking this on a regular basis; I’d have to be in a particular mood for a coffee THIS sweet and fruity.

Summary: Strong, strawberry sweetness dominates in these beans. I think it was best brewed in a Chemex for the balance between fruit and vanilla flavors. However, if strawberry candy/syrup flavors are your thing, this coffee brewed in an V60 will blow your mind.

From the roaster: Passionfruit, orange, grape

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Kossa Geshe (natural process)

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: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Hidden City Espresso (Dallas, Texas)

I have a confession to make. For quite a while, I was convinced that I didn’t like coffee from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. OCCR is a Dallas-based roaster who has a sizable presence in the city, at both coffee shops and restaurants. I am all for supporting local businesses, but I had multiple experiences at local coffee shops ordering espresso and espresso-based drinks made with OCCR’s Hidden City Espresso Blend that resulted in drinks that tasted like cigarette ash. It happened often enough that I figured, “well, this must be how these beans taste, because what are the chances that 4 different baristas at 2 different shops on different days could all be messing up?”

Spoiler alert: Apparently, the chances were good. I need to buy a lottery ticket.

Anyway, I started to change my tune about OCCR when I was introduced to one of their single-origin coffees by a friend, and I discovered that I rather liked it brewed as pourover coffee. I was really blown away by the Geisha coffee I bought from them on Dallas Coffee Day last year. I like their Rosemont Crest Blend and even have given it as a gift! However, I gave their Hidden City Espresso a wide berth until now. I am not an expert on espresso by any means, but I feel like I have decent enough technique and equipment now that I finally would be able to see for myself if what I had experienced from shops is true to the bean’s potential.

Whole bean: Slightly burnt smelling to my nose. This made me nervous. However, the beans weren’t oily or overroasted; they definitely were still in “medium roast” territory.

Espresso: The good news is, at no point did I pull a shot that tasted ashy or burnt. I was pretty happy about this! I got flavors of black currants, orange, spice, milk chocolate, and lilac in the various attempts. The bad news is, I never really feel like I figured this espresso out. I went through the whole bag feeling like I never quite hit upon the right parameters for espresso nirvana. I did start working with this blend a bit early – starting 4 days post-roast and ending 9 days post-roast. Perhaps I would have had different results if I waited longer.

AeroPress: This was actually how I liked this coffee best. In the AeroPress, the coffee was nice and complex in flavor, with a toasty finish and a bit of citrusy zing and spicy punch to wake up the palate. I enjoyed this.

Summary: The Hidden City Espresso has more complexity than I had realized. I might have to give this blend another try in the future, as I don’t feel like I have quite figured it out, but it’s much better than I thought. OCCR, I apologize for not giving your espresso a fair shake sooner.

From the roaster: milk chocolate, strawberry, spice

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Hidden City Espresso

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: Commonwealth Coffee Colombia Carlos Muñoz Nariño (Denver, Colorado)

When I visited Oak Lawn Coffee in Dallas and purchased beans recently, I got a free to-go cup of drip coffee. That cup of drip was so tasty, I turned right around and walked back into the shop to demand (nicely!) to know what it was, and it turned out to be this roast from Commonwealth. On a later visit, I was finally able to pick up a bag and I couldn’t wait to try it at home!

Whole bean: mild aroma with orange notes.

French press: Citrus/orange flavor that predominates through a thick texture and flavor of milk chocolate.

Chemex: Light body with a mild milk chocolate flavor. Less orange in this cup.

AeroPress: Straight up, it was toasty, thick, and rich. It was a little much for me as a concentrate so I would recommend adding water to lighten things up.

V60: Dark chocolate flavor; less sweet than the Chemex cup, but still quite pleasant. Arguably more pleasant!

Summary: Chocolate and orange flavors combine for a very easy-drinking, smooth cup. I happen to really like the orange notes so the french press version was my personal favorite.

From the roaster: I mistakenly threw out the bag before writing up this review so I don’t have the full tasting notes from Commonwealth, but there was definitely chocolate and orange listed! Oops.

This particular coffee is not offered currently on Commonwealth’s website.

Commonwealth Coffee Online Store

Review: Tweed Coffee Foxtrot Blend (Dallas, Texas)

I usually buy bags of Tweed from Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas (their home cafe), but I happened to come across fresh bags for sale while visiting Oak Lawn Coffee, so it was a win-win situation. For anyone not familiar with Tweed Coffee, they are a major player in the local craft coffee roasting scene here in Dallas; their roastery hosted the first annual Dallas Coffee Day that took place back in October 2015. I have reviewed a few of their other offerings and have been pretty pleased with their beans so far.

Whole bean: Smells like chocolate and candied oranges. Sweet and fresh!

French press: Perky, orange-flavor laden cup with the flavor and body of dark chocolate. As it cooled, the coffee became very smooth and creamy with a vibrant orange flavor – it was vaguely Creamsicle-esque.

Chemex: This had less chocolate flavor; it was a brighter and more acidic cup. The aftertaste was definitely more sugary.

AeroPress: This cup tasted like a combination of orange fruit and orange pith (the white stuff that tastes bitter). Rich body but the flavor was unbalanced. Adding water didn’t really help matters – it just watered down the flavor.

V60: This cup smelled like sugar and orange marmalade. Thin body but very fruity and enjoyable.

Espresso: I opted to experiment a bit with this as an espresso since it is a blend and I was curious if the chocolate/orange flavors would be intensified. Unfortunately, my initial testing was not that promising. The espresso wasn’t bad, but it lacked any notable flavor so I stopped after three rounds.

Summary: I enjoyed this coffee the most in the French press (for the chocolate + orange flavor combination) and the V60 (for the straight up sweet orange flavor).

From the roaster: Chocolate, citrus, balanced

Tweed 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:

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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