Review: Driftaway Coffee Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor (Brooklyn, New York)

This review will be a both a usual and an unusual review, in that Driftaway Coffee operates as a coffee subscription company with constantly rotating offerings, so while you may not be able to get these exact beans, I wanted to do a full review of the beans I did receive to give an overview of what you might be able to expect from this company.

A recurring trend these days seems to be the personalized subscription… Stitch Fix comes to mind as an example, where you get clothes selected for you each month, you give the company feedback about what you do and do not like, and they adjust their future shipments to reflect your preferences. Driftaway Coffee works like that, where you first receive a tasting kit with four overall coffee profiles (fruity, classic, balanced, bold). Then, you choose your favorite of the four, tell Driftaway what you like or don’t like about the coffee via their website or iOS app, and Driftaway will send you freshly roasted coffees personally selected to reflect your preferences. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of going into a coffee shop and blindly picking out a bag, hoping you’ll like it. In addition, since it shows up at your door at the frequency you choose, you won’t run out of freshly roasted coffee. Great for busy folks!

In my case, rather than sending me the tasting kit, Driftaway simply contacted me to ask what I would like, and based on my answers, they sent me this bag from their “Balanced” taste profile – this Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor. Shipping was very quick, and I believe the coffee was in my mailbox 4-5 days post-roast. Having my name handwritten on the bag was an unexpected but very sweet touch; it really felt like this coffee was personally roasted just for me!

Whole bean: Peanut brittle, butterscotch.

French press: Very sweet. Toffee, nutty, rich flavor and mouthfeel. There’s nothing sharp or sour or off-putting about this coffee – it feels smooth and luxurious in the mouth. Delicious! If you usually take your coffee with cream, I challenge you to try this black and see if it doesn’t convince you that good coffee doesn’t need anything added.

Chemex: Tangy flavor, with a hint of blood orange. Mild citrus taste. Very different from the French press cup!! Sweet and tart at the same time.

AeroPress: Straight up Snickers bar (for anyone that doesn’t have Snickers candy bars where they live, it’s caramel, peanut and nougat, covered in milk chocolate).

V60: Like the Chemex cup in its citrusy character but with more of a toasty finish.

Summary: I was fascinated by how this particular Colombian coffee could have such different results; the immersion methods (French press/AeroPress) created a coffee that was decadent, sweet, and rich. The pourover methods (Chemex/Hario V60) resulted in a light, citrusy brew with a balanced finish. Both flavor profiles were fantastic but I have to say this coffee done in a French press was my personal favorite of the four methods I tried, and I think if I was introducing craft coffee to someone who had not had it before (especially if it was someone who was used to putting cream and sugar in their coffee), this would be a fantastic bean to give them to show what really great coffee can be like, unadulterated.

If the idea of having the equivalent of a coffee sommelier appeals to you, check out Driftaway! I am really impressed by the sample I received — it’s one of the best coffees I’ve tasted so far this year!! — and they couldn’t be nicer people to connect with. Many thanks!

From the roaster: Toffee, turmeric, peanut

Driftaway Coffee

Review conducted 6-7 days post-roast.

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.

Review: Summer Moon Organic Sweet Hearth (Austin, Texas)

My dear friend Julee brought me this bag from a recent trip to Austin, knowing I would be intrigued by the workings of this roaster. Summer Moon Wood-Fired Coffee Roasters is a company that does everything old-school. They built their brick hearth by hand, one brick at a time. They use no electricity or modern technology in the roasting process; just a wood fire (oak) and a hand-turned roasting drum. They know the coffee’s done when the coffee tells them it’s done, via sight, smell, and sound.

This coffee was labeled as a medium roast on the bag. When I opened it up, I raised an eyebrow because I felt that the contents of the bag had bypassed “medium” and were beginning to venture into what I would consider a medium-dark stage, due to the sheen of oil on the beans. There are no official standards for “light” or “medium,” so every roaster is free to define it as they wish, but it was a bit past what I would consider to be a medium roast. I would be afraid to see what a dark roast from this roaster looks like.

From left to right: a light roast from Joe’s Coffee, a medium roast from Stumptown, and a “medium” roast from Summer Moon. Note the deeper color and oily sheen to Summer Moon’s medium vs. Stumptown’s.

IMG_1124

Whole beans: Smoky. Nutty. No trace of any origin characteristics to my nose. The bag says the beans come from Honduras but I would never have known that from the smell – to me, it just smells like dark-roasted coffee.

V60: Notes of toffee with a medium-bodied finish.

AeroPress: Consumed via the traditional brewing method as a coffee concentrate, it was smooth and had a nice fullness to the body. This would be a good canvas for adding milk/sugar and flavorings.

Chemex: Strong note of roasted peanuts. Light body (the filter likely caught most of the natural oils). Reminds me of a PayDay bar but not as sweet.

French press: Fullest in body, with a smooth finish and a smoky taste.

Espresso: I tried pulling this coffee as an espresso shot at a couple of different temperatures to see what would happen. Luckily, I got the right grind size right off the bat but the flavors ranged from bitter (at 201 degrees) to just okay (at 199). I didn’t see too much potential in this as a straight espresso, as it was rather one-dimensional for my taste, but I’m pretty sure with a bit more experimentation I could get a smooth, “comfort food” espresso shot out of it that would work fine in a milk drink.

Summary: This coffee was definitely roasted on the dark side of medium. It “tastes like coffee,” and would be pleasing to anyone looking for a smooth, uncomplicated brew that is not acidic.

From the roaster: Traces of almond and sweet brown sugar finish.

Summer Moon Sweet Hearth

Review: Red Bird Espresso (Bozeman, Montana)

Here is a tasting that I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. This is the espresso blend I mentioned previously that has a reputation for tasting like Snickers (peanut, chocolate, and caramel). I have ordered these beans several times previously and enjoyed them, but this will be my first time pulling the shots on a machine that will give me more control over variables like temperature, etc.

First impressions: The USPS Priority box that these beans came in was releasing maddening smells of peanuts and chocolate and caramel. Now, to be honest, I have never cared for peanuts, and after a bad experience with a rotten peanut inside a Snickers bar when I was about 12, I have sworn off Snickers for life, but I was very much looking forward to seeing how these beans would taste in the cup. The beans are smaller than I see usually, and they are roasted to a “Northern Italian roast,” which looks on the dark side of medium. It has not been roasted long enough to make oil come to the surface of the beans, though.

Favorite brew parameters: 16g/double basket, 198 F, 25 sec pour

I experimented with this blend between 6-15 days post roast. Day 6, the above brew parameter yielded a lively shot that tasted like cola and brandy. Very sweet! By day 10, the same parameters yielded a shot that was much more muted and rounded. Amazingly, this bean kept getting better with age. On day 15, I got the Snickers flavor! This blend does not taste fruity or spiky to me at all – it’s definitely more on the “comfort food” side of espresso with a nice sweet finish. Even the less-than-ideal pours from my experimentation had lots of wonderful rich, flecked, reddish-brown crema. These beans stood up VERY well in milk. I actually found my lattes that I made with this to be a bit more intense in coffee flavor that I am used to!

AeroPress: Brewing this coffee in the AeroPress brought out the dark chocolate and roasted peanut flavors. I think this coffee is roasted dark enough that I more taste the flavor of the roasting process vs. the flavor of the bean origin. I do taste a little acidity on the finish, but I can’t say I taste fruit flavors – just a little brightness.

Summary: This is a very forgiving espresso blend which tastes delicious at a variety of parameters, and it’s got plenty of strength to stand up well in milk. Great for those looking for a more chocolaty/nutty flavor profile vs. fruity/acidic. The price is also very reasonable – less than $13/lb.!

From the roaster: Rich, balanced and aromatic, this espresso starts with a distinct hazelnut-chocolate aroma and progresses to sweet chocolate, toasted nut and caramel flavors in the cup, with subtle citric acidity. It finishes with a rich and lingering aftertaste. When used in other brewing methods, citrus and dried fruit notes add to the complexity and depth.

Red Bird Espresso