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

Review: Boxcar Coffee Roasters Burundi Rugoma Lot 5 (Boulder, Colorado)

This bag comes to me courtesy of my awesome friend Ebonee. Thanks, homeslice. 🙂

Boxcar was founded in Boulder, Colorado and now has a second cafe location in Denver. Since they are located at such high elevation, water has a lower boiling temperature, and Boxcar has developed an intriguing brewing technique they call the Boilermakr to brew coffee effectively and deliciously given the peculiar needs of their environment. There is more information and a picture of the Boilermakr contraption here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Whole bean: A bit nutty, with an aroma of rich warm spice and raisins.

V60: Sour orange dominated this cup with a nice medium body. There was a hint of spearmint on the finish.

AeroPress: I drank this coffee as a concentrate, and it had a lovely mix of orange peel and cinnamon. Once I added a bit of water, the brew smoothed out and tasted more like a generic black tea.

Chemex: This coffee reminded me quite strongly of visiting England and having English breakfast tea + milk (though I added no milk at all). This cup also had just a hint of orange to it, which was a pleasant fruity note at the end of a rich, comforting cup.

French press: Everything was strong and outspoken. More sour orange!

Summary: I’m not sure why a coffee grown in Burundi and roasted in Colorado would make me think of the English countryside and the hustle and bustle of London, but there you go… coffee is one way to travel the world and visit unexpected places.

From the roaster: Orange, clove, black tea, brown sugar.

Boxcar Coffee Roasters Burundi Rugoma Lot 5

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