Sweet Maria's Weblog

Four New Additions

-Costa Rica Lourdes de Naranjo with syrupy body, sweet cane sugar notes, malic acidity, and Bourbon vanilla hints.

-El Salvador Finca Siberia Pacamara a very complete profile with floral hints and fruit juice sweetness.

-El Salvador Peaberry "Aida's Grand Reserve" works well across the roast spectrum with tart acidic brightness and dark brown sugar sweetness.

-Ethiopia Illubabor Camp with apricot and peach flavors, dense body, and a bittersweet chocolate tang.

The Home Barista Challenge

Last week we were pleased to host the “brewed coffee” portion of the 3rd Annual Home Barista Homeroasters Competition here at Sweet Marias. This has become an annual event for home-barista.com, and provides craft roasters of all skill levels an opportunity to see how their
roasting technique measures up against fellow home-roasters. Aleco Chigounis and myself (Dan Wood) were this year’s judges. We were joined by Henry Cheng and Tom Chips who “silently” took part in the cupping – since they were contestants they didn’t share their thoughts until Aleco and I came to a consensus on how the coffees ranked.

There were two parts to the competition. First we judged “closed bag” entries, where nine participants picked coffees to roast from a predetermined list of coffees on the Sweet Marias website. These were either single origin or blended entries. Since all the coffees were
specialty grade, it was a challenge for the participants to hone a roast profile that enhanced the nuances and notes of each particular coffee.

The second part of the competition was “open bag”, where there was no limit to what kind of coffees participants could submit – anything goes. This made for a very interesting contest and we saw everything from grade 1 Ethiopian washed coffee to coffee from Kenya that had been frozen for several years. Eleven submissions in all, it was clear that an incredible amount of thought and creativity was poured into each entry in an effort to find that “perfect” roast.

We set up the cupping table following our standard protocol – two cups of each coffee containing 12.5 grams of ground coffee to 8.5 oz. water, with a small amount of the roasted beans next to each entry in order for us to consider the physical state of the beans while tasting
the final product. Coffees were judged by dry aromatics, wet grounds, and cup flavors, and instead of giving a numeric score, we chose to rank them in order of favorite to least favorite. The competition was tough, and in both categories several entries were neck-in-neck for the lead.

In judging these coffees, we took notes on characteristics of flavor and aroma, as well as levels of sweetness, acidity, cleanliness, age, and all that’s in between. That said, this wasn’t about who presented the sweetest and cleanest coffees, but rather, it was about the consideration each contestant put into deciding how to handle the coffees they’d chosen. This is why you see...

Clever, Clever, HandyBrew.

The Clever Coffee Dripper has been a very popular product for a long time which is why it was frustrating to have been sold out of them for the past few weeks. We have been impatiently waiting on our new shipment (that just arrived this afternoon) because the shipping container was packed with 2 new versions of the popular dripper and a new product called the HandyBrew. The Clevers now come in a large size (same capacity as the previous model) and a small size (about 10oz max). They are made of much better plastic that is a bit stronger and does a better job of standing up to abuse and daily use. The large size still takes a #4 filter (1 box included with purchase) and the small size takes a #1 (1 box included with purchase), which sits a little below the rim so if you plan on filling it right to the brim each time, get some #2 filters that extend a bit past the edge.

The HandyBrew is kinda like a Clever but kinda not. It has the same drain system that allows you to drain your steeped coffee when it's ready but it doesn't require paper filters since it uses a double stainless steel filter that is easily removable for cleaning. It makes tea too.

An Ethiopian Natural and 3 Amazing New Guatemala Lots

Ethiopia FTO Dry Process Worka Sakaro is what fans of naturals have been waiting for, this lot is so heavily fruited that our entire warehouse smells like ripe coffee cherry just from the aroma of the green beans; expect strawberry, mango and milky body in the cup, works well across the roast spectrum. Guatemala Antigua Finca Cabrejo has a profound sweetness that intensifies as it cools, berry and malic notes round out one of our top Central arrivals of the year. Guatemala Antigua Retana Red Bourbon is a clean, well-structured cup with a bright acidic snap, great at all roast levels and as SO espresso. Guatemala Finca La Florencia is a very juicy cup with tea-like acidity and a nice balance between bittersweet and sweet. Happy Fourth of July everyone, be safe.

Five Awesome New Additions

Costa Rica Helsar Caturra - Macho Arce has cane sugar sweetness and raw cocoa in a lively, refreshing cup. Costa Rica San Martin de Leon Cortes is silky with blackberry and malic brightness, you must keep this one light to truly enjoy. Guatemala Acatenango Gesha is floral, as expected, with red cherry, kaffir lime and syrupy sweetness. Brazil Fazenda Recreio Yellow Bourbon has a nectar-like body with rustic hints of tobacco, dark fruit and burnt sugar. Ethiopia Jimma SWP Decaf Blend is yet another amazing custom decaf blend that has dark fruit and almond milk notes.