Archive for April, 2010

Final Burundi Stats

Posted in Coffee Cupping on April 14, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

Tasted the Burundi offerings for what I believe will be the last time, simply because we have a whole bunch of new offerings that we roasted yesterday that I need to get into, rather than continuing on with coffee that we may or may not carry.

The best summary I can come up with for these Burundi coffees is that they carry the typical profile of an African coffee, but are much cleaner and less dynamic.  It isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I know I don’t always want over-the-top crazy fruit flavors, but I don’t always want the floral and citrus attributes of a Central American coffee.  These Burundi samples filled that void for me.  Both coffees were very similiar.  I’m not sure I would have picked out much difference at all if I hadn’t known up front that they were different lots.

Coffee drying on "raised beds" in Kayanza, Burundi. (Click for enlarged image)

Final stats for Burundi Kayanza Yandaro Bourbon:
4/12
Aroma: 7.0
Flavor: 7.0
Acidity: 6.9
Body: 7.0
Finish: 7.0
Total 84.9
4/13 (Lighter)
Aroma: 7.0
Flavor: 6.8
Acidity: 6.9
Body: 7.1
Finish: 6.8
Total: 84.7
4/13 (Darker)
Aroma: 6.8
Flavor: 6.9
Acidity: 6.7
Body: 7.3
Finish: 6.9
Total: 84.6

Final Stats for Burundi Kirimiro Mwurire Bourbon:
4/12
Aroma: 7.1
Flavor: 6.9
Acidity: 7
Body: 7.1
Finish: 7.0
Total: 85.1
4/13 (Lighter)
Aroma: 7.1
Flavor: 6.9
Acidity: 7.2
Body: 7.0
Finish: 6.7
Total: 84.9
4/13 (Darker)
Aroma: 6.9
Flavor: 6.9
Acidity: 6.8
Body: 7.2
Finish: 7.0
Total: 84.8

So like I said, nothing over the top outrageous, but some really nice, balanced and overall clean coffees.  We call these coffees “coffee coffees.”

Today I’ll be tasting some of the new Panama offerings that came in and I’ll be reporting on them later in the week.

-bry

Just like Columbus

Posted in Coffee Cupping on April 12, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

I really fell of the deep end, so to speak, with coffee when I discovered that, for the most part, coffee in my area at the time sucked. It was stale, poorly roasted, and the greens were old and of low quality to start with.

So I started roasting my own.

Now we are trying to break down all of the different components to go into our chocolate blend, and well… crap.

Here’s to roasting cocoa nibs and to Alchemist John who is more or less going to have to hold our hands as we cross the ‘roasting cocoa nibs to perfection’ road.

http://chocolatealchemy.com/

-bry

2152

Posted in Coffee Cupping on April 11, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

When we receive a new coffee it has an ID number.  In the case of this particular Burundi it was 2152.  Before I go about tasting a coffee I don’t want to know too much about it.  If it’s a farm that I’ve dealt with before then I might start formulating flavors in my mind that aren’t actually present in the cup.  Now, this isn’t the case with this particular coffee, and it was an impossibility that it could have been the case because of my limited exposure to Burundi coffees in the past, but still I thought I would shed light on how unfamiliar we are with a coffee when it’s first given to us as a sample.

So, to get back to the point, this coffee was tagged as Burundi 2152.  After I tasted it I logged onto the importer’s site and read up on the farm and washing station so I could become a little more informed about the coffee before posting my findings here.

Burundi Kayanza Yandaro Bourbon
Bourbons are usually a very buttery, smooth coffee and this one was no exception.

About the farm:
The Yandaro washing station is located in Northern Burundi, near Kayanza on the border of the Kibira National Park.

"Le ville de Kayanza" photo by Irakoze

The farm is located west of the other Burundi I tried this morning.  Just like the other coffee the farms carry an average altitude of 1750 meters and smallholder farms bring their coffee to the washing station.

In the cup:
The coffee wasn’t as dynamic as the Mwurire for me.  Lots of the same characteristics and qualities, and if I broke down the description into flavor terms it would almsot mirror the Mwurire, but everything just wasn’t as pronounced.  It was a little bit more buttery, but that was about it.  The finish was pretty non-existent.

Final Stats:
Aroma: 7.1
Flavor: 6.9
Acidity: 7.2
Body: 7.0
Finish: 6.8
Total: 85

More later.

-bry

Burundi 4-1-1

Posted in Coffee Cupping on April 11, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

Technically it’s just that today is 4/11, but you know… catchy titles are where it’s at.

Burundi Kirimiro Mwurire Bourbon
In the Cup:
Trail mix.  Yup.  To give a little more detail, we make a trail mix that has dark cocoa chips, sunflower seeds and raisins and this totally reminds me of that.  It’s winey from start to finish.  You grind the beans and it’s red wine.  You add hot water and it’s red wine.  You break into the grounds and start tasting and it’s red wine.  It caught more and more chocolate as it cooled off, which is where it started reminding me more of that trail mix we make.  Also as it cooled, the “grape” part started becoming sweeter and sweeter, which is where it started turning toward sweet tomato sauce for me again.  There was a little flash of blueberry for just a second.  Only caught it once, but it was pronounced enough that it stuck with me.  The finish was clean and simple.  The flavors present in the cup lingered for about 20 seconds and then faded gently.  It was a really pleasant cup.  We have it at a couple different roast levels, the level that I tried today was extremely light. We brought it out of first crack and dropped the beans.

Final Stats:
Aroma: 7.3
Flavor: 7.2
Acidity: 7.4
Body: 7.8
Finish: 7.5
Total: 87.5

Losing a couple points from 1 hour past roast until 12 or so hours after roast is pretty normal.  Right out of the roaster everything is very vivid.  The coffee is really bright and dynamic.  Then those flavors kind of go away for a few days before reappearing in the realm of 72 hours after roast.  We’ll really get a feel for this coffee on probably Tuesday or Wednesday.

-bry

Testing 1,2,3

Posted in 1 on April 11, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

So many different taste tests today.  Saturdays tend to be like that, however.  The slower weekends allow for more experimentation and cupping than usual.  Today it just so happens that we also have a ton of new cocoa ingredients because we are working on reformatting our chocolate for the cafes.  So today the tasting went beyond coffee, although there was still plenty of coffee.

Chocolate:
We are currently trying to figure out the best combination of high-end and not so high-end cocoas to use for our chocolate.  Sure if we could we would run with Bernard Callebaut at 100%, but our mochas would also probably cost about $5 for a 12oz, which some might be willing to pay, but then we also turn into “that” shop, and I enjoy not having to wear a suit to work, thank you very much.

So we purchased some different cocoas and tried them out.  Scharffen Berger, Ghirardelli, and plain-ole Costco bulk.

Now, I can’t do a full break down of everything flavor related because I haven’t developed a palate for tasting chocolate the same way I have for tasting coffee.  What I can tell you is that Ghirardelli tastes like crap.  I never would have thought so, but break it down into a straight cocoa sauce (cocoa and water) and it tastes like you are swishing a role of dimes around in your mouth.  Absolutely disgusting.  In the coffee realm we would describe these flavors as medicinal and metallic.  You get the picture for sure.  It’s like when someone tries to fake cherry.  It tastes nothing like cherry and just gets way too sweet.  There’s always something a little off, whether or not you can put your finger on exactly what it is, you know something is off.  That’s exactly what happened with Ghirardelli for me.  On the other hand, the uber-bulk Costco was actually leaps and bounds better than Ghirardelli.  Both cocoas were a little gritty, but the Costco had no off flavors like the Ghirardelli.  And at something like 1/3 the cost of Ghirardelli, I’ll take the one that doesn’t taste like crap, thanks.  The Scharffen Berger was about 100% better than the Costco, but that was to be expected.  The cocoa is something like $12.50/lb when you buy it in super bulk, not cheap at all.  However, also not gritty at all, no off flavors, just super smooth, dark, rich, velvety, “full” flavor.  The true taste test will come later when we compare the Bernard Callebaut to the Scharffen Berger to see which is the high end that we carry (although, I suppose we could end up going with both).  We’ll move forward with adjusting the ratios once we have a better handle on what all of the raw ingredients have to offer (or in the case of Ghirardelli, how catastrophic their nuclear mouth blast zone is… seriously, it took a lot of water to get that taste out of my mouth).  More to come on the chocolate side of things in the coming days.

The coffee.
More of the same, but also some new ones.  I revisited the two Ethiopians I tasted the other day to see how they had developed on a couple of days of rest.  The results were quite positive!  I also ran Burundi coffee past my taste buds for the first time in my life and was happy enough with it that I’m going to keep trying it throughout the week.  I’ll start with the Ethiopians I gave you a preview of the other day.

Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe Koke Co-op:
Final Stats:
Dry Fragrance: 4.1
Aroma: 4.2
Acidity: 9.1
Body: 8.9
Flavor: 8.9
Finish: 8.9
(add 50)
Total: 94.1!

In the cup:
A couple more days rest on this coffee made it quite impressive.  It gained a ton of sweetness and balance.  The flavors have really come forward.  There are more flavors and each of the flavors are more pronounced and easily detectable.  Maybe I’m just having a “good palate” day… who knows.  The citrus note that I was tasting before isn’t really as present anymore, but has been replaced by an extremely pronounced blackberry flavor.  It reminded me of a blackberry Izze soda, if that resonates for anyone.  The little citrus that I did catch today was more like Ugli fruit, if anyone has tried that.  Think a mixture of tangerine and grapefruit and you’ll get an idea.  Really sweet, though.  Fantastic cup.  If we can scrounge the money together we are going to try to snag up like 60 pounds, not sure if it’s possible yet.

Ethiopian Sidamo Guji Shakisso, Maduro, Haile Gebre
Final Stats:
Dry Fragrance: 4.3
Wet Aroma: 4.4
Acidity: 8.9
Body: 8.9
Flavor: 9.2
Finish: 9.1
Total: Ninety Four Point friggin Eight!

In the cup:
I score coffees low.  Truly I usually do.  For me to give a 90 takes a lot and the difference between a 90 and a 93 for me is like the difference between a $3 bottle of beer and a $7 bottle of beer- i.e. those $4 go a long way, and so do those 3 little points.  So for me to give a coffee a 94.8 is saying something.

I haven’t tasted this much blueberry in a coffee in 3 years.  It isn’t like it is fermenty or anything, far from it.  The blueberry taste is so fresh and pleasant, it’s amazing.  Blueberry on the nose, blueberry when it’s hot, and blueberry as it cools.  Floral aspects are laced all throughout the cup, but today they reminded me much more of rose than of the lilac and honeysuckle I was getting the other day.  Truly an exceptional coffee.  I could go on all day about how much I enjoyed this coffee and how glad I was that I decided to taste it first thing this morning.  It really put me in a good mood all morning and afternoon long.

Burundi Kirimiro Mwurire Bourbon
Like I stated earlier, I’ve never tried coffee from Burundi before.  Not sure why, they produce some awesome coffees and I’ve known this for a while, just never gotten my hands on any.

I used a different scoring system for this coffee, and I think I like the system a lot.  The new categories for grading are all based on a scale of 1-10, with the different categories being aroma, flavor, acidity, body and finish.  There is an additional “Cupper’s Correction” category, but I rarely award bonus points to a coffee.  At the end you add 50, just like in the other system.

About the farm (what I’ve gathered by scouring different internet sources):
This coffee comes from the Mwurire washing station, located in Kirimiro, which is in central Burundi.  The farms have an elevation of approximately 1785 meters.  Different smallholder farmers bring their coffees to the Mwurire mill.  The coffee is of the Bourbon varietal, but has different Bourbon derivatives (among them Jackson and Mibirizi).  The coffee is fully washed, undergoing double fermentation (18 hours dry, 18 hours wet, then 12 hours soaking) before being dried for 5 days on raised (“African”) beds under shade screens.

In the cup:
The enticing aroma had me hooked early.  It wasn’t really complicated, but that almost made it more complicated.  I realize that makes no sense, but I often go “hunting” when I’m tasting a coffee.  I try to seek out an outlying flavor or attribute, and in the aroma I couldn’t.  It was clean, fruited and a little floral.  I guess I could summarize it as being a little like a merlot.  The flavor had me even more hooked.  Extremely sweet (I know I’ve been tagging a lot of coffees as sweet earlier, but if you were tasting them, you’d agree).  It was rather complex, berryish and winey, but also a little toasty with glances at some sort of sweet roma tomato sauce or something.  Quite interesting.  The acidity was brisk, with continued sweetness and mirrored the winey attributes of earlier (think dry red).  It had a pleasing medium body, or mouthfeel, something like what a 2% milk would give you over a skim milk.  The finish was very long and lingering, still giving weight to the winey flavors (so I suppose overall you’d be stupid not to say this coffee was very winey).

Final Stats:
Aroma: 7.3
Flavor: 8.0
Acidity: 8.1
Body: 7.1
Finish: 7.8
Correction: +0
Total: 88.3

The Burundi was only 1 hour old when I cupped it, so it should do a lot of changing over the next 6 days or so of tasting it.  I’ll post my findings.

Busy, fun day.

-bry

“My Coffee is Called WHAT?!”

Posted in Coffee/Espresso on April 8, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

One thing that I encounter a lot when I try to introduce someone to a coffee is a defensive wall as soon as I say the coffee’s name.

It’s frustrating.

“09 Guatemala Huehuetenango Finca El Injerto Bourbon.”
And there goes the defense mechanism.  That’s all it takes.  After I say Guatemala they turn off.

Why?

If you walked into a winery and your sommelier told you they had an awesome new wine, you’d hope they were able to tell you more than, “Well it’s a Californian.”  Color?  No mention of the type of grape?  Valley?  Farm?  Harvest?  Flavor attributes?

Why is coffee so different?

A bag of coffee isn’t like a box of cereal.  It isn’t always the same year after year.  A Mexican from us isn’t going to be the same as a Mexican from someone else.  Not only that, but our Mexican Chiapas isn’t going to taste the same as our Mexican Oaxaca.  Not only that, but our Mexican Chiapas Bourbon isn’t going to taste the same as our Mexican Chiapas Catuai.

What’n the heck is a Chiapas?  Don’t go gettin’ all city on me, boy.  This’n just coffee af’r all.

Sure.  And reaching for the Folgers over the Farm Gate is just saying that you don’t care about the life of a kid, that’s all.  It’s just a caffeine delivery service right?  But there I go gettin’ all city on you all over again and that’s a different article for a different time.

You’re supposed to be confused originally.  It’s new.  You haven’t dug in yet.  It’s fine.  It’s normal.  But why go through life putting something in your body every single day and not know where it came from?

Chiapas is a state.  The same way Washington is state.  The same way Oregon is a state, the same way Michigan is a state.  Can you even imagine how strange Mississippi must look to someone from Kenya?

Run with that analogy for a moment:
International Checkers Hall-of Fame, Pelahatchie, Mississippi, United States.
Think that makes any sense to someone in Papua New Guinea?  Or do you think they glaze over everything except for the last two words?

Get curious.  Get involved.  If you just drink “regular” you probably spend about $1000 on coffee a year (if you don’t go all crazy about it like me, otherwise it’s a scary amount more).  And you’ll probably drink coffee for 50 years of your life.  If I’m spending $50,000 on something I want to know about it, that’s just me.

I’m not saying everyone has to scour the internet for 6 hours a day reading up on different coffee offerings, their farms and farmers like me.  I’m an extreme example, I realize that.  All I’m saying is that the next time you look at the name of a coffee and it reads like a novel, ask the person what the heck everything means.  Chances are they’ll know exactly what everything means.  You’ll feel a lot closer to the fingers that toil over picking only the ripest cherries.  The backs that are broken from carrying hundreds of pounds of coffee down dusty roads to the mill.  The eyes that are sore and strained from staring at the line, meticulously scouring for defective beans.

“09 Guatemala Huehuetenango Finca El Injerto Bourbon.”

-bry

Cupping Session 4/6

Posted in Coffee Cupping on April 7, 2010 by thatcoffeeguy

Today I put two different Ethiopian coffees to the test.

The cupping system that I am most familiar and comfortable with is really, quite basic: fragrance (1-5), aroma (1-5), acidity (1-10), body (1-10), flavor (1-10), and finish (1-10).  At the end of everything you add 50 points to bring it to a score out of 100.

Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe Koke Co-op:
I tried this coffee for the first time yesterday and really wasn’t that blown away, but what a change for today!

About the farm (quoting Tom, our importer):

“Yirga Cheffe coffees are a renowned wet-processed type with effervescent brightness in the cup. This past season, buying Yirga Cheffe coffees from specific mills has been difficult, as the new Ethiopia Coffee Exchange rules took effect and the traditional auction was abandoned. The new rules mean that the coffee suppliers will be paid quickly by the exporters, and there will be a new level of transparency in pricing within the country. But it has also meant that, for the time being, we don’t know the exact mill or farmer group where outstanding lots like this originate. Nonetheless, it is not like great Ethiopia lots have disappeared. And in fact we were able to buy coffees direct from the Unions (the name for a farmers’ cooperative) that are traceable to the source. This is from Koke coffee mill (pronounced Ko-Kay), a part of the Yirga Cheffe Coffee Union.”

In the cup:
Tons of floral right up front.  Lots of rose and jasmine on the nose, interlaced with ripe red cherries.  Adding water increased the intensity of these flavors and also brought forward a smooth sweet chocolate scent.  Upon tasting the cup’s acidity hits right away with a nice snap.  The cup is very clean and the flavors very dynamic, but overall is well balanced.  The nuances present in the fragrance and aroma carry straight through into the cup with the addition of some nice citrus tones, especially lime.  There were also hints of tart apple and the slightest bit of a sweet tomato sauce that I found really interesting and quite pleasant.

Final Stats:
Dry Fragrance: 4.2
Wet Aroma: 4.0
Acidity: 9.0
Flavor: 8.9
Body: 8.6
Finish: 8.8
(add 50)
Total: 93.5

Ethiopian Sidamo Guji Shakisso, Haile Gebre
We already knew this coffee was going to be special just because of the extensive amount of work our importer has done with this farm in the past, but wow, it’s really awesome this year.  Not the top Sidamo I have had this year, but definitely in the top 5.

About the farm (again, from Tom):

This is a coffee from a remote area of the Sidamo district, quite far from where most Sidamo coffees originate. In fact, it is mostly known for the large gold mine in the area, and sadly the local tensions between mine workers and farmers becomes open conflict. The area of Shakisso is on the Guji zone, and when I was in Ethiopia in December, the local conflict made travel there unsafe. Nonetheless, we met the farmer who produces this coffee, Haile Gebre, in Yirg Alem, and we were able get a sample to cup some of this new crop Maduro lot, in anticipation of the following harvest. Maduro? This is a dry-process coffee where extra care has been directed toward harvesting only crimson-purple coffee cherries, a deeper red than the picking point for most coffee fruit. Maduro means mature in Spanish, and I am not sure how that name was adopted for and Ethiopia coffee, but that is the one Senor Gebre chose.

In the cup:
Explosive is really the best word I can come up with for this coffee.  There is tons of fruit in the cup, and for me (didn’t seem to hold as true for Tom) tons of floral aspects as well.  More floral on the nose, more fruit on the tongue.  The fragrance brought me fresh spring lilac and also strawberry.  The aroma, again, heightened these attributes, turning the lilac to honeysuckle and adding a pleasing milk chocolate note.  Also, the addition of water started bringing the spice notes to life for me.  Clove and allspice were what really stood out for me, with faint hints of cinnamon in the background.  The flavor brought a quick burst of floral, but quickly fading into sweet, ripe red berries with candy like sweetness.  There was a hazelnut note in the finish that I didn’t expect to find, but that added a really interesting dynamic along with the previously mentioned flavors carrying through to help keep the cup balanced until the end.

Final Stats:
Dry Fragrance: 4.4
Wet Aroma: 4.5
Acidity: 8.9
Body: 8.5
Flavors: 9.1
Finish: 8.9
(add 50)
Total: 94.3 (no kidding…)

I think I’m going to continue cupping these each of the remaining days of the week to see how they develop as they age.

-bry