Review: Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend (Berkeley, California)

Back in the days before I made my own coffee, I was fond of visiting Peet’s Coffee locations to get my fix. For those who don’t know, Alfred Peet was the man that trained the founders of Starbucks how to roast beans. Starbucks coffee is generally a bit too darkly roasted for my taste, even back in the days when I liked dark-roasted coffee, but Peet’s seemed better balanced to me than Starbucks. When I started making my own coffee at home, I started out with a Peet’s subscription, getting it shipped from California, because I had warm fuzzy feelings toward the company and my days back in the Golden State. However, as my tastes evolved and I learned more about the third wave of coffee, I gradually stopped buying Peet’s in favor of smaller roasters that roasted their beans more lightly.

I haven’t bought a bag of Peet’s in quite a long time, but I happened to be at the grocery store and noticed that they had bags of their Major Dickason’s blend roasted only 15 days prior. That’s an almost unheard-of level of freshness for grocery-store beans, so I decided it would be an interesting experiment to put this second-wave bag of coffee through the same tests I do all the other coffees I bring into my home these days.

The first thing I noticed when I opened this bag was how incredibly oily the beans were. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I get a bit nervous when I see oily beans. Green (unroasted) coffee beans have coffee oils inside them, but the beans themselves stay quite dry through roasting until they reach a certain level, at which point the oils start coming to the surface. I would classify that level as medium-dark. Why do coffee beans get oily? I think it’s an indicator of the roasting level, similarly to how a piece of meat dries out the longer that it’s cooked. If a steak, for instance, is cooked to medium-well or well done, the juices inside the meat have largely left it and the meat itself is much tougher than the same steak would be if cooked medium-rare.

From a practical matter, I prefer my coffee beans to not be oily. I find that coffee beans that have visible oil on the surface tend to go rancid more quickly than beans that do not have the sheen of oil. Besides, part of the pleasure of drinking coffee (especially in a french press or other unfiltered method) is tasting the rich oils in the cup. I want the oils to be in my cup, and only in my cup. When I measured and ground these Peet’s beans, they left an oil slick in the little measuring bowl I use for dosing, and they left quite an oily residue in my grinder. On the bright side, there wasn’t a static problem when I opened the grinder drawer, but on the down side, that means the entire interior of my grinder (hopper, burrs, bin) was coated with oil. I was a bit grossed out by this and endeavored to clean my grinder immediately after this tasting was done.

Whole bean: Very oily. Strong, brash, acrid smelling. Not rancid in normal terms but if I’m smelling roasted coffee and smell what I smelled from this bag, it’s the first word that comes to mind. Not a good fragrance.

French press: Pleasantly thick mouthfeel and chocolaty flavor, with a bitter edge on the finish that tasted like almond skin.

Chemex: This method made the smoothest cup of the four methods I tried, with a vanilla and almond flavor. It was a bit bland but inoffensive overall.

AeroPress: Drinkable but had a sharp bite of acidity. Quite brash. I would need to temper this with milk.

V60: Similar to the cup from the Chemex but also smelled a bit like dog. A clean dog, but still dog.

Just out of curiosity, I made a french press of this for Shutterbug. He added milk and sugar, as he normally does, and then he took his first sip. I wish I had a picture, or a recording, but this pretty much sums it up:

I haven’t seen him react this violently to a coffee, perhaps ever. He really hated it! It happened to be on his birthday as well, so I felt extra bad. Lesson learned though, I’ve made him into more of a coffee snob than I thought. Yay?

Summary: Like FunDip, Squeeze-Its, and Hi-C Fruit Punch, Peet’s Coffee is something I have fond memories of from my youth, but trying it again in the present day makes me realize I just can’t stomach it anymore. My tastes have changed to the point where it’s just not enjoyable for me. With that said, if you are a dark-roast coffee fan, it certainly is that, and it is pretty widely available. I’m just the wrong demographic for this coffee now! The Chemex would probably be my vote for a brewing method for these beans, as it created the smoothest cup, but I’m not likely to buy these beans again anytime soon.

From the roaster: Rich, smooth, and complex, with a very full body and multi-layered character.

Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend 

Review conducted 20 days post-roast.

Review: Quills Coffee Ecuador La Papaya (Louisville, Kentucky)

I’m always on the lookout for new coffee roasters to try, and this one came across my radar thanks to my friend Chloé’s recommendation. Quills is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and they have 4 cafes nationwide (2 in Kentucky, and 2 in Indiana).

Fun fact – they are partnering up with Alabama-based artisan popsicle company Steel City Pops and opening a joint cafe/popsicle shop in Louisville later this year. Lucky Kentucky!! I adore these popsicles…

When I was trying to decide what coffees to purchase from the Quills website, I paused for a moment when I saw the price of this Ecuador La Papaya ($25 for 12 ounces??) but hey, life is short… Plus, I managed to make use of a coupon code for a 20% discount so that helped assuage any guilt I might have felt for the cost.

Whole bean: Can something smell pink? All I could think when I smelled these beans were various shades of pink. Pink lemonade. Magenta. It was vibrant, it was sweet, it smelled LOUD, if that makes sense. So intriguing.

V60: I ground these on the fine side and the extraction time ended up being 4:05, which is longer than I usually do for this method, but the coffee didn’t seem to suffer for it. In fact, it was delicious… very smooth, sweet aroma and flavor that was mostly of hibiscus. I loved this.

AeroPress: Drinkable straight, though it did make my eyes bug out of my head with its intensity!! It’s better with a bit of water added after brewing. Vanilla was the dominant flavor.

Chemex: Floral, subtle flavors and scents. Gorgeous in the cup! If magenta was a flavor, I tasted magenta in this coffee. A little less sweet than the V60 cup, but only just.

French press: Powdery, pleasant cup but less fruity than the other methods.

Summary: This coffee is a stunner brewed in pourover methods. I really appreciated the vibrancy of the flavors! I don’t know what it was about this coffee that made me think pink, but it was intensely, strongly, unabashedly pink. I absolutely loved it.

From the roaster: tangy pomegranate, strawberries and cream, berry jam

Quills Coffee Ecuador La Papaya

Review conducted 7 days post-roast.

Review: Anthology Coffee Burundi Nyangwe Bourbon (Detroit, Michigan)

On my recent trip to Michigan (where I picked up bags from Astro Coffee of Andytown and George Howell beans), I had hoped to find beans from a local Michigan roaster. Sadly, I arrived in Detroit just slightly too late to pick up any coffee from Anthology Coffee’s location… on Saturdays, their shop closes at 4 pm, and I arrived at the store at 4:03 pm. This pretty much sums up my reaction:

Happily though, the magic of the US Postal Service allowed me to get my hands on beans from this Michigan roaster anyway. This was the first of two bags that I ordered.

First off: what are bourbon beans? Don’t get excited, there’s no bourbon in these beans, nor are they aged in bourbon barrels. Rather, Bourbon refers to a particular family of coffee bean. Most people know that there are two main kinds of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta. Within the Arabica category, there are categories such as (but not limited to) Geisha, Typica, and Bourbon. The name Bourbon has to do with this varietal’s cultivation on the island of Bourbon (now known as Réunion) in the Indian Ocean, rather than from any use of the spirit. Sorry, Maker’s Mark fans!

Whole bean: Very bright aroma, that smelled like a vaguely floral perfume. This does not smell like a typical coffee, that’s for sure!

French press: Smooth mouthfeel gave way to a bright flavor full of green grape, white wine, and vanilla. There was also a hint of paper towel/pulp aroma in this cup, which was perplexing to me as a french press uses no paper filters. Weird!

Chemex: Even though I know Bourbon coffees have nothing to do with bourbon the alcoholic spirit, this particular brewing method did produce a coffee that tasted downright boozy to me. It was rather astringent in character. Not my favorite.

AeroPress: Smooth and easy to drink without any additional water added, with an aroma and flavor of spearmint.

V60: This cup had the darkest depth of flavor of the four methods. Toast and vanilla. Very easy to drink, if a bit simpler in character than the others.

Summary: I enjoyed the complexity of flavors best from the coffee brewed in the french press, though the papery taste was distracting. The V60 cup was less complex but pleasant to drink.

From the roaster: No tasting notes provided

Anthology Coffee Burundi Nyangwe Bourbon

Review conducted 4 days post-roast.

Review: Chromatic Coffee Voyager Blend (San Jose, California)

Most of the time, when I buy coffee, I buy coffee that I haven’t tried before, so that I have stuff to write about for this blog. However, every now and then I’ll buy an old favorite, just to have an opportunity to simply enjoy the coffee without over-analyzing it. It’s sort of like when I choose to watch a movie I’ve already seen before – I enjoy the familiarity. Coffee is a seasonal crop, so there’s no guarantee that a particular varietal or blend will be the same from year to year, but especially in the case of espresso blends, I find that roasters tend to try and keep things pretty consistent. So, I was happy to order an old favorite, Chromatic Coffee’s Gamut Espresso Blend. I threw in a bag of this Voyager Blend while I was at it though, just to see what else they had to offer!

Whole bean: Chocolate malt.

V60: Smooth and pleasant. At a 2:45 extraction, I got a lot of chocolate flavor in the cup.

AeroPress: Completely different. Very light body in the cup with NO chocolate flavor whatsoever. Green apple? Bit tart like lemonade. Not bad, but not at all what I was expecting.

Chemex: This tasted just like Kit Kat bars! Chocolate with a touch of vanilla. Sweet and fun, to have these throwback flavors.

French press: This tasted like a chocolate malt shake, or Whoppers candy.

Summary: Chocolate and malt bomb, as long as you don’t use an AeroPress. I liked it best in the Chemex, but it also made fabulous cups for chocolate lovers in the French press and V60.

From the roaster: Cosmic, luminous, dense

This coffee is currently not available on Chromatic’s website. Here’s a link to their online store: Chromatic Coffee Online Store

 

 

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: James Coffee Company Ethiopia Geisha (San Diego, California)

This is only the third Geisha coffee I’ve had an opportunity to taste-test on this blog; the first two, from Square One and Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, both originated from Panama, so I was especially excited to get to try this Ethiopian Geisha from James Coffee Co. Call me shallow, but I LOVE the glass jar that this coffee was shipped in. It’s like I got my own little coffee prescription!

Whole bean: The aroma was mild, a bit plasticky (which I find common among natural-processed Ethiopians), with a hint of unfrosted strawberry Pop-Tart. Once ground, the strawberry and sweetness were amplified.

French press: A bit smoky, with a flowery scent and flavor. As it cooled, the brew tasted more like tart strawberries.

Chemex: Sweet vanilla flavor, with a bit of pastry (again, unfrosted strawberry Pop-Tarts!). Smooth and floral on the finish. I really liked this!

AeroPress: Really nice brewed as a concentrate! Floral, sweet, full-bodied, with no bitter or sour flavors.

V60: At a 2:45 extraction, it had a pithy, slightly bitter flavor at the start, but improved as it cooled, emitting tart strawberry and floral flavors after a few minutes.

Summary: This was a delicious coffee made in a Chemex and an AeroPress; the Chemex rendition was my personal favorite for its vanilla and pastry notes. As with most Geisha coffees, it’s rather expensive ($17 for 8 oz at press time). Worth it? For an occasional treat, I’d say yes!

From the roaster: Jasmine, strawberry jam, vanilla, balanced body

James Coffee Company Ethiopia Geisha

Review: BeanFruit Coffee Co. Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry (Jackson, Mississippi)

I had not heard of BeanFruit Coffee Company until very recently, but upon investigating, I discovered I was clearly behind the times, as they are a 2015 Good Food Award recipient, and they have had their coffees rated at 90+ points on both Coffee Review and The Espresso Vein. When people think of great cities for coffee in the USA, cities like Portland, Oregon come to mind… I doubt too many people think of Jackson, Mississippi! However, I’ve discovered over time that great coffee can be found where you least expect it, and I was eager to try these beans, especially once I caught a whiff of the heavenly fragrance coming from this bag.

Whole bean: Wow!! The whole and ground beans smelled bright and punchy – this is not a shy coffee bean. Sweet smell of juicy nectarine.

V60: Complex, mysterious cup. I taste the nectarine that I smelled in the whole bean form but it also has a syrupy flavor with a hint of black pepper. Loved this! Medium-bodied result with a dry finish. When doing tastings, I normally will brew the usual 12 oz and drink just as much as it takes for me to get my notes down, but for this tasting, I opted to drink all of the coffee I brewed, just because I liked it so much.

AeroPress: WOW. The concentrate blew me away. Nectarine, raspberry, and vanilla. Sweet as pie and smooth as silk.

Chemex: The fruit was muted by this method but it also amplified the vanilla flavor. The coffee also had a cream flavor to it with a hint of lemon on the finish which brightened it up and woke up my palate. So, so good. The brew smelled just like clover honey as it cooled.

French Press: Compared to the AeroPress and Chemex cups, the French Press cup was less sweet and complex; it wasn’t a bad cup by any means, but I was definitely more blown away by having it brewed in the other methods. Still, it was definitely better than a lot of other coffees I’ve had!

Summary: This coffee is a stunner. I am so impressed with the depth and range of flavors! For the sweetest result, go for it in an AeroPress (fruitier) or a Chemex (vanilla-ier). But really, I doubt it’s possible to make a bad cup with these beans. Absolutely lovely.

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. And honestly, I loved this coffee so much that BeanFruit will definitely be making a repeat customer out of me!

From the roaster: Vibrant, sweet melon, nectarine, complex

BeanFruit Coffee Company Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry

 

Review: Roseline Coffee Kenya Othaya Peaberry (Portland, Oregon)

I went back to Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas recently to see if they had any more bags of the Roseline Ethiopia Limu Gera I reviewed. They did not, but they did have this Kenyan coffee that sounded delicious. I try not to get swayed too much by roasters’ tasting notes (in fact, I try not to read them at all if I can help it) but I looooooove the flavor combination of lemon and raspberry, so it’s like this coffee knew just what to say to get me to hand over my credit card.

Whole bean: I’ll be darned. To my nose, these beans did smell like lemon pound cake and raspberry jam.

V60: A creamy and rich aroma wafted from this cup. The flavor was hard to pin down and didn’t finish sweet – it actually had a little bit of a cardboard/paper flavor. Hmm. I didn’t do anything differently than normal (I used bleached Hario filters and rinsed them thoroughly with hot water before brewing), so I don’t think the papery taste would have come from the filter.

AeroPress: The concentrate was DELICIOUS. I actually wrote that word in all caps in my review notebook as well! The flavor was complex and joyous. My mouth was so happy – there were flavors of rose, cream, lemon, and vanilla in this coffee. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate because I felt like it would be a crime.

Chemex: Lovely, lovely cup. Full bodied and full flavored. Creamy and sweet with a lingering complexity. For some reason, all I could think of when I drank this was the opening to Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. Fellow musicians will understand that a flutist comparing a coffee to this masterwork by Ravel is a pretty big deal.

French press: Bright and lemony. I wasn’t as impressed with the coffee in this method for some reason. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the balance that it had in other methods.

Summary: Compared to the Roseline Ethiopia Gera, this coffee is brighter, sunnier, and more extroverted. I really adored it brewed in an AeroPress and in the Chemex.

From the roaster: lemon curd, raspberry tart

Roseline Coffee Kenya Othaya Peaberry

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango (Dallas, Texas)

Considering the fact that Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters is based in Dallas, I suppose it’s a bit ironic that I picked up this bag in Tyler at the same time that I got the bag of Porch Culture Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural, but hey, when fresh coffee calls, I answer!

Whole bean: Aromas of butter, kelp, and plum. The kelp note was especially surprising to me – it was like a whiff of nori sheets, as if I was about to make sushi rolls. Once ground, the beans smelled sweeter and had a tart stone fruit character to them.

V60: I made this twice; the first extraction, at 3:00, was bitter on the front but improved slightly as it cooled. There was a lot of flavor in this coffee – vanilla, plus the butter, kelp, and plum I smelled earlier. However, it was still too bitter for my taste. The second extraction, at 2:45, was better but still did not result in a cup that I would deem sweet.

AeroPress: Not bad. A little perky/piquant of a brew. I drank this without adding water, and it was okay – I didn’t really feel like diluting this would have improved it, but the acidity was tempered when I drank it along with my breakfast.

Chemex: Big difference! At 3:50 extraction, this brew method resulted in a smooth and sweet cup of coffee that was reminiscent of Nilla wafers.

French press: Also resulted in a smooth and sweet cup, which tasted like vanilla pudding. Luscious.

Summary: I felt this coffee was the most delicious when brewed in the Chemex. It was also good in a French press, but it was just starting to push the boundaries of decadence for my taste!

From the roaster: Baked apple, vanilla

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango

(I forgot to snap a picture of the bag before I threw it away, so this MoMa mug will have to do!)

Review: Evocation Micro-Coffee Roasters Peru Cajamarca (Amarillo, Texas)

Shutterbug and I had the pleasure of checking out Evocation’s shop while visiting Amarillo for a wedding. It was hard to find; the shop is located in an industrial-looking area and there are no discernible signs from the road to indicate that there is a pretty special little coffee shop in the vicinity, but we found it anyway (thanks, Yelp and Google Maps!).

I enjoyed chemistry class while in high school, so I was pretty tickled that this was how their coffee was served:

IMG_2994

The in-house pourover coffee that day was Evocation’s Colombia Las Colinas. The barista told me of the tasting notes, but honestly I don’t remember what they were; I just remember tasting this incredibly sweet and fragrant brew that brought the JAMC’s “Just Like Honey” to mind. It was seriously THAT sweet. There were also notes of dark chocolate present in the cup.

Compounding this pleasurable experience was the scent wafting through the shop of sweetness and bread. I thought it was french toast or brioche, but Shutterbug informed me later that they were making waffles (somehow, I didn’t notice this!). The one bean they had available in bags was this Peruvian Cajamarca, and I had pretty high hopes for it based on how much I enjoyed the Colombian coffee I tried in the shop.

Whole bean: Bright aroma of green grapes, cocoa powder, and vanilla with a creaminess about it. Once ground, the aroma became an unimaginably rich and earthy chocolate truffle plus notes of plum and port wine.

V60: Given the promise of the ground beans, this cup was a disappointment. I tried this twice; the first attempt (3:15 extraction time) smelled like warm clean hair or clothes… it didn’t smell like soap or detergent, but it smelled like burying your face into warm laundry just taken from the dryer. The taste was slightly bitter. The second attempt (2:50 extraction time) was smoother but still had weirdly bitter notes plus a chemical smell that bothered me. I was pretty sad about this! It’s possible my technique or something else was off here but maybe this is just not a good brewing method for this particular coffee.

AeroPress: MUCH better. Dark chocolate flavor and smooth mouthfeel throughout. There was a hint of caramel and stone fruit (plum?) on the finish that was really nice. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate because it was lovely just as it was.

Chemex: Less chocolate flavor and more plum in this cup. Pretty good! Sweet and perky.

French press: This cup was the showstopper of the bunch. Both plum and chocolate flavors mingled in this cup along with the flavor of marshmallow fluff. This cup was ridiculously sweet; almost to the point of being too much for me to drink without laughing. Okay, I did giggle a little, but only because it was unbelievable how sweet this black coffee turned out! What a delight.

Summary: Try this in a french press if you’re ready to be bowled over with sweetness. The Colombia Las Colinas from this same roaster is also a winner. I’ve got my eye on you, Evocation! It’ll be sooner rather than later when we meet again.

From the roaster: Toffee, chocolate, plum

Evocation Peru Cajamarca