Review: Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu (Austin, Texas)

Cuvée Coffee is regularly featured at my local Whole Foods market, but I don’t buy it very often because the beans aren’t often on the shelf within two weeks of the roast date (which is a common situation when you buy coffee at retail outlets like markets). However, I lucked out recently when I spotted this bag of their Guatemala Hunapu, and I realized it had been a LONG time since I had reviewed any Cuvée (the last time was their Decaf Spicewood 71, back in May 2015!). So, into my basket went this bag.

Whole bean: White sugar, cherries.

V60: Strong and nutty. There was a bit of flavor like almond skin. A tad overwhelming taken black – I expected more sweetness, given the sweet aroma of the beans.

AeroPress: Very thick and smooth brew with a bit of floral character. Not very sweet.

Chemex: Much better in my view vs. the V60 cup. Something about this method took away the strong bite. Sugary and light-bodied coffee but very smooth flavor like marzipan. Bit of cherry on the finish.

French press: Best of the four in my view. Fudgy, sweet, floral, nutty. Tasted like almond butter with some complexity, and it only got better as it cooled.

Espresso: On a hunch, I tried these beans as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled four shots or so, but it produced a really promising result that convinced me that these beans would be great in this method. Even over 2 weeks post-roast, there was an outrageous amount of crema, and the espresso tasted sweet and smooth. Delicious stuff.

Summary: Taken as a coffee, I like this brewed in a French press best, with the Chemex a close second. Works arguably even better as a single-origin espresso!

From the roaster: Nutty, orange zest, dried cherry

Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu

Review conducted 12 days post-roast (coffee), 16 days post-roast (espresso).

Review: Blue Bottle Hayes Valley Espresso (Oakland, California)

I have my cousin Lynn to thank for introducing me to Blue Bottle Coffee Roasters. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, they’ve expanded to include locations in Los Angeles, New York City, and Japan. In recent years they’ve acquired both the Tonx and Handsome Coffee companies, and it was just announced that they are merging with San Francisco-based bakery Tartine. Clearly, this company is growing!

I’ve ordered online from Blue Bottle before (their Giant Steps and Bella Donovan blends). Those came in 12 oz bags, so I was surprised when I found that the bags at the shop I visited were 8 oz sizes. Now, it did make the price a little easier to swallow, but since it’s always a challenge to dial in an espresso grind, I was a bit concerned that I would run out of coffee before finding the sweet spot. I would have purchased 2 bags, but they only had one Hayes Valley left on the shelf. Thus, I crossed my fingers and decided to take my chances!

Why did I choose Hayes Valley over their other espresso offerings that day? This sentence jumped out at me: “This is the most Brahmsian espresso we have.” How could I resist??

Whole beans: Spicy dark chocolate. Heady aroma.

Brewing parameters: 20 g in a double basket, 1:2 normale ratio, 200 F, 30 sec shot.

I still feel like I can experiment a bit more with temperature, ratio, etc., but based on the shot I sampled at the shop (which was super smooth and delicious), I think this shot got closest to what I was served. There was a nice balance to the shot; it was very creamy and sweet, almost like a chocolate malt. This is one espresso I prefer straight vs. in milk; I steamed a bit of milk (maybe 3-4 oz) to add to my 2 oz shot, and I felt like the flavor of the espresso got lost. Still pleasant, but it didn’t stand up as well as I would have liked.

Summary: Very pleasant as a straight shot. Not the most complex of flavors, but nice and comforting to drink. Slightly lower temperatures (199 F) bring out more of the orange zest and less of the cocoa.

From the roaster: Cocoa, orange zest, smoky finish

This is probably our darkest espresso: lower-toned, minimal brightness, plenty of chocolate – with an engaging complexity as a straight shot. The shots are gorgeous: achingly heavy with voluptuous red-brown crema, and the silky, somewhat dangerous-looking viscosity of a power-steering stop-leak product once used on our (now departed) heroically battered 1983 Peugeot. In milk, it tastes like chocolate ovaltine, and holds its own from the daintiest 3oz Macchiato to our towering 12oz caffe latte. This is the most Brahmsian espresso we have. Brooding and autumnal, it is a coffee to mourn the passing of time.

Blue Bottle Hayes Valley Espresso