Review: Batdorf and Bronson Dancing Goats Blend (Atlanta, Georgia)

Before I started this blog, I had asked my Facebook friends to recommend some coffees to try out, and one of those coffees mentioned was this one – Batdorf and Bronson’s Dancing Goats Blend (thanks, Sara!). It took me close to two years to get around to trying it, but better late than never!

Batdorf and Bronson roasts beans in Atlanta, Georgia and in Olympia, Washington. They are a longtime part of the specialty coffee scene, having begun their business back in 1986 (30 years ago!). I had the pleasure of visiting their cafe in Atlanta (which is where I picked up their beans), and it truly is a gorgeous place – spacious and airy, with lots of comfortable chairs and sofas strewn about the sunroom-like outdoor area. I chose to pull up a stool to the only space left at the coffee bar, and happily sipped my way through a deliciously delicate Ethiopian pourover coffee. It happened to be my first cup of coffee in weeks, and it didn’t disappoint. I was very much looking forward to trying their beans at home, particularly since this roaster is famous for their Dancing Goats blend.

Whole bean: toasty aroma that smelled nutty and rich. Lots of nice depth to this coffee!

Espresso: The best shot I made of this roast tasted like chocolate-covered almonds, with amaretto on the finish. Decadent, with a pleasant bitterness on the finish. I found that these beans required a pretty high temperature – anything less than 205 degrees F made the espresso a bit sour!

Favorite parameters: 205 degrees F, 17 grams in, 21.6 grams out, 26 second extraction

AeroPress: This coffee made in an AeroPress tastes much like it does as espresso, just less intense. Still rather dark and toasty in flavor with a nutty bite to the finish. I don’t take cream or sugar in my coffee, but they would compliment this coffee very well if you choose to add them.

French press: Just for fun, I brewed these beans a couple of times as press-pot coffee, and while I didn’t think it was quite as special as the espresso, it was a satisfying cup of coffee if you’re looking for classic, comforting flavors.

Summary: I can see why this espresso blend has its fans, as it’s a crowd-pleasing mingling of flavors. This espresso is great on its own, and stands up well in milk drinks. It also does well brewed in methods like the AeroPress and a french press.

From the roaster: Our signature blend! Dark, smooth and sweet with a beautiful floral aroma, exceptionally clean acidity and a heavy, nutty body. Flavor nuances include fresh citrus fruits and fine chocolate. Caramelly and spicy, its complexity makes for both a flavorful espresso with rich, rusty reddish-brown crema as well an excellent drip coffee. This fabled blend is featured in espresso bars, cafes and restaurants across the United States that strive to create the “perfect cup”.

Batdorf and Bronson Dancing Goats Blend

Review: Caffe Vita East Timor Hatuhei (Seattle, Washington)

On my recent trip to New York City, I told myself that I needed to limit my coffee purchasing to just two bags of coffee, and they needed to both be roasters which were new to me. Birch Coffee’s Emma Espresso was the first, and this bag from Caffe Vita is the other. Now, I’ve actually had Caffe Vita before, so I feel like I am cheating just a tiny bit from my resolve. I had a cup from a storefront across the street from Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon, and I had another cup at a corner cafe on a different trip to Portland. Both cups struck me as being on the darker side than I usually drink, and darker than I typically get from ubiquitous roasters like Heart and Stumptown. Is this bad? Not necessarily. I decided it warranted further investigation.

Whole bean: The bag itself, once opened, has a pretty strong smell of plastic (perhaps it’s something to do with the inner coating?). However, the beans were rather fruity, like peaches and cherries.

V60: Toasty and milk chocolaty flavors at the start, but on the finish, this brew tasted like nail polish smells. Terribly astringent. I don’t know what it was about this, but it tasted like chemicals and rubbing alcohol. Not my favorite! Surprisingly though, when I came back to this cup after it had cooled down, it smelled JUST like french vanilla ice cream.

AeroPress: Slightly burnt tasting when consumed straight; I had to add water. Once the water was added, it was a pleasant, if slightly generic tasting coffee.

Chemex: Same notes as the V60 method, but even more objectionable. Something about the pourover method must just bring out notes in this coffee that overpower the cup and make it smell/taste strange.

French press: This was the best method for this coffee, in my opinion. The coffee had a nice deep toasty flavor that was accented by a slight hint of nectarine.

Summary: Coffee from this region of the world is not my personal favorite and I don’t drink much of it, so take my opinion for what it’s worth ($0.02?), but I think this particular bean is best suited to being brewed in a french press. Back when I used to drink Sumatran coffee more regularly, the french press was my favorite brewing method for that bean, and I do think it coaxes out the best flavors for beans similar to it. This coffee is fruitier than most Sumatrans, but it shares many of the same characteristics in the cup.

From the roaster: Maplewood, toffee, marionberry, black tea

Caffe Vita East Timor Hatuhei

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: Cultivar Coffee Colombia Henry Serrato (Dallas, Texas)

The last time I reviewed a coffee from Cultivar, it landed in my Best of 2015 list. I happened to be visiting Emporium Pies in McKinney, Texas one weekend and they had fresh bags of this Colombia Henry Serrato on the shelves, so I decided that the time was right to give Cultivar another go.

Whole bean: The beans smelled fragrant like nectarines and caramelized sugar. Delicious!!

French press: When the hot water hit the grounds, a slight minty scent emerged, but the end product did not taste minty. The coffee was thick, rich, and creamy in texture, and it tasted like the top of a luscious creme brulee. Wow.

Chemex: Less sweet of a cup; this brew had a markedly thinner body (no surprise) and it was a bit bright and acidic.

AeroPress: Lemony flavor and full body. Adding a bit of water smoothed out some of the lemon/acidic flavor and made for a very pleasant cup.

V60: At a 3:00 extraction, the coffee was toasty but otherwise not that remarkable.

Summary: In my notes, I starred both the French press and AeroPress brews, which means that those were my favorites, but honestly, I can’t remember how the AeroPress version tastes now because all I can remember is the sublime, sugary, creme-brulee flavor of this coffee made in a french press. Do yourself a favor and get some!

From the roaster: Toasted sugar. Figs. Soft acidity.

Cultivar Colombia Henry Serrato

Review: Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi (Richardson, Texas)

This past Sunday was the first annual Dallas Coffee Day, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. What a great event! Eight fantastic Dallas-area coffee roasters gathered to celebrate their shared collective passion for craft coffee and the steady elevation of coffee culture in Dallas/Fort Worth. There was such a friendly and welcoming vibe to the whole event. I suppose it’s not surprising that a large room of caffeinated people would be in a good mood, but there really was a terrific convivial feel to the whole day.

The featured roasters were (in alphabetical order):
Ascension Coffee Roasters
Avoca Coffee Roasters
Cultivar Coffee
Eiland Coffee Roasters
Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters
Novel Coffee Roasters
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters
Tweed Coffee Roasters

I’ve been lucky enough to sample coffee from all of these roasters in some capacity (and I’ve even reviewed a number of them on the blog), EXCEPT for Eiland (same pronounciation as “island”), which is ironic since of all the roasters on this list, they are the closest to my house. Eiland (like all of the other roasters present) had small bags (8 oz) available for sale, so I bought this one after asking the helpful associate which he would recommend if I was just buying ONE bag.

Whole bean: Notes of berry and cocoa. There was a nice depth to this aroma. Ground, I smelled buttery richness. I’m already liking this.

French press: Mostly cocoa flavors with some toasty characteristics. Smooths a bit as it cools. Bold, strong flavor. As it sat, I got a rich, buttery mouthfeel in the cup.

Chemex: Yum. Smooth as silk!! This brew had less cocoa and more berry character but it was not overly fruity or tart. I was surprised at the rich mouthfeel in the cup considering the rather thick Chemex filter. Again, as the coffee cooled, I tasted and felt butter on the palate. Decadently delicious.

AeroPress: I drank this as a concentrate and felt it was pretty strong but pleasant. There was a slight tannic presence but it had a nice cocoa note and brightness of strawberry. More butter on the finish! I’m sensing a theme here.

V60: Bright, sharp scent to this cup, with a toasty, nutty flavor. Very little fruit in this cup but once again, in time I tasted a beautifully buttery finish.

Summary: Of the natural-processed Ethiopians I’ve tried thus far, this particular crop has some of the most emphasis on cocoa/chocolate flavors that I’ve encountered. Since I like berry brightness, I enjoyed the Chemex version of this most, but even that batch wouldn’t be a coffee I would classify as fruity or heavy in berry flavor. This coffee is good for people that like deep chocolaty flavors and buttery richness in their brew. Approachable, comforting, and delicious, with just a little hint of interesting character that keeps you thinking about drinking more!

From the roaster: Jam, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, buttery, medium body, strawberry-like acidity, natural (dry) process

Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi Natural Process

Review: Quasar Coffee Rwanda Kibuye Valley (Chicago, Illinois)

I kind of take for granted these days that pretty much all companies will have websites. It was a surprise when in the process of writing this review, I could barely find any hint of an online presence for Quasar Coffee Roasters, outside of a sparse Instagram feed and a Twitter account (both of which link to the company website, the fascinating 404 Not Found). However, I did glean that whoever runs the Twitter account (which I assume is the founder of Quasar) is a hip-hop fan.

What I do know of Quasar Coffee is that it’s a small operation based out of Chicago. They may not be big, but they are apparently good enough to get on Craft Coffee’s radar!

Whole bean: A little bit earthy and nutty. I couldn’t really put my finger on what I was smelling, but it wasn’t very strong in any case.

French press: Sweet flavors reminiscent of toffee and peach. As it cooled, I was reminded of hazelnuts and fresh cream. It almost was like I added some sort of non-dairy flavored creamer to my coffee, but without all the artificial flavors and weird chemicals.

Chemex: I did not dig this. It smells a bit like cough syrup. Tart on the finish with a medicinal taste.

AeroPress: Toasty and a little sweet with minimal fruit. This was pleasant but less interesting to me than the french press cup.

V60: The ground coffee had a vegetal scent to it that I found odd. Once it was brewed, it tasted like celery. No thank you!

Summary: I only really liked this coffee prepared one way (in the French press). It isn’t something I’d probably take the trouble to seek out again though, and it’s just as well, since I don’t think I could order any more of this coffee even if I wanted to (except perhaps through Craft Coffee).

Notes from Craft Coffee: A body resembling Darjeeling tea evokes flavors of juicy white peach and crisp Gala apple.

From the roaster: None

Quasar’s website currently goes nowhere but I’ll link to its Twitter page: Quasar Coffee Twitter

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: Red Bird Sumatra Permata Gayo (Bozeman, Montana)

I used to drink a fair amount of Sumatran coffee, before I started branching out to explore other flavors and lighter roasts. I haven’t had a cup of Sumatra in at least a year (probably longer), so I thought it might be nice to revisit it with a new roaster.

Red Bird Coffee, based in Bozeman, Montana, is a small batch roaster that seems to be best known in coffee forums for its Red Bird Espresso blend, which reportedly tastes like Snickers bars. I ordered a pound of the espresso blend at the same time as this Sumatra Permata Gayo, and I can confirm that the USPS Priority Mail box definitely smelled like Snickers!! Heavy on the peanut and chocolate/caramel aromas.

First impressions: The Sumatra whole beans didn’t really smell like chocolate, but they had depth to them. Red Bird classifies this as a “Rich Medium” roast. “Medium” doesn’t really signify anything, as different roasters will define it different ways, but these beans are a bit darker than what I’m used to seeing vs. other “medium” roasts. The coffee was roasted long enough that oils were starting to come to the surface. The aroma strongly reminded me of the Sumatra from Peet’s Coffee, which also tends to be roasted darker than what is typical nowadays amongst craft roasters.

A “medium” bean on the left*; Red Bird’s “rich medium” on the right.

IMG_0971

 

(*I’m not sure what bean this is. It’s either from Coffee del Rey or Blue Bottle!)

French press: Dark but mild flavor. No fruit or flowers. Nutty taste, but in contrast to the Coffee del Rey Mexican Chiapas beans I had recently, no chocolate flavor… tastes more earthy but thankfully not gamey/off-putting.

Chemex: Thinner in texture but otherwise has the same flavor notes as the French press cup. This coffee is sort of moody and brooding. Is it going too far to call this “Eeyore in a cup”?

AeroPress: This method brought out a little spice in the finish – livened up the cup a small bit with toasty flavors.

V60: Tasted kind of plasticky right off the bat but it smoothed out and I tasted toasted almonds along with the earthiness.

Summary: I think this coffee is great for dark roast fans, who want to try something a bit lighter than what they are used to if they usually drink stuff like French Roast. Sumatran coffee has a reputation for being kind of funky, but I didn’t find that with these beans – they definitely had an earthiness to them but they didn’t taste or smell weird or anything.

From the roaster:  This coffee has a smooth deep body, a cleaner taste than most Sumatras, with mild spice, remarkable sweetness and a hint of almond and berries in the finish.

Red Bird Sumatra Permata Gayo

Mini review: Stumptown Guatemala Finca El Injerto Bourbon (Portland, Oregon)

Got a little sample of this lovely Guatemala Injerto from an equally lovely friend yesterday! I may choose to do a full review of these beans someday, as I definitely liked what I tasted (when brewed in a Chemex) and would be curious how it would taste in other applications. Generally speaking, I enjoy the citrus notes of Central American coffees, and the Chemex produces a light, sweet but slightly dry cup (comparable perhaps to a dry Riesling or Pinot Grigio?).

This cup had a toasty flavor at the start. As it cooled, I tasted lemon/orange notes along with buttery richness, like I was eating a buttered piece of toast with orange marmalade. It was rich but not heavy, and because it left my mouth slightly dry (like some wines), I kept wanting to drink more. No doubt that’s all part of Stumptown’s nefarious (but delicious) plan!

From the roaster: Navel orange, butter, transparent

Stumptown Coffee

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