What constitutes a "tail end" sample set, you say? These are the small amounts that remain when we sell out a particular lot. It's not enough coffee to put on the website. They are great coffees, often from our smallest micro lots that sell out rapidly, but an administrative headache for us! We see it as a mutually beneficial exchange, one where we supply you with nice coffees of our choosing, and in return you benefit from a slightly deeper discount than our other sample sets. Why? Because coffees at the tail end are on their way out so to speak, down to the final 30 or 40 lbs and so no chance to return to the site to purchase more. These aren't "old" coffees, but rather tail ends of really good coffees.
What coffees will you get? It's a surprise, but you will definitely get single origin caffeinated coffees that won't be available otherwise (no decaf or blends). Due to availability, we won't always have this sample set available, so strap on your sense of adventure and get it while you can!
This decaf version of Kivubo coffee is a real highlight of our most recent batch of decaf coffees that just arrived from the Swiss Water plant in Vancouver, Canada. Sweetness, acidity, cup clarity, and subtle top notes, Kivubo SWP Decaf holds it's own, and on a table of decafs, tastes much more like a "regular" brew. Kivubo Station is located in the Mutambu area of Bujumbura Province. The station acts as a collection site where farmers from the surrounding hillside can sell their whole coffee cherry after it is picked, and where that coffee will then be blended, wet processed, and dried on raised drying beds. Kivubo is one of several stations under an umbrella association that currently serves around 3,000 farmers, small-holder farms who on average are growing 200 coffee shrubs cultivated land adjacent to their homes. Like most of the region, Bourbon is the dominant varietal grown.
With the dry fragrance and wet aromatics showing smells of sweet raw sugar, dark caramel, bittersweet cocoa, and berry and stone fruit hints, this cup of decaf smells so much like the non-decaf Kivubo that's been such a hit around our warehouse (and with customers). I know we really hammer this point home, but it's a point worth hammering! "Decaf" does not have to equate to a cardboard-flavored brew, and with Swiss Water processing, the flavors and aromatic profile of the original coffee are still very much a part of the decaf'd coffee. Brewed, this is one sweet decaf, City+ roasts yielding layers of caramelized sugars, and a note of toffee malt. A ribbon of dark chocolate weaves through this, and I'm reminded of Rolo candies. As the cup cools, you're presented with a clean and clear flavor picture (especially for a decaf), acidity that's on the snappy side, and top notes that include accents of lemon rind and cinnamon stick, as well as a faint pumpernickel bread note that is probably a result of decaffeination, but does not detract from the cup. This is a versatile decaf, delicious at a fairly wide range of roasts, and with focused sweetness that shows well from City roast level on up to about Full City. I wouldn't go beyond Full City, as bittering/ashy flavors will take over. But anywhere north of Full City, and you're rewarded with a densely sweet cup!
"Blue Forty Two!", an often-yelled quarterback command, signaling a play pattern, and pre-cursing the Center's snap of the football. Yes, believe it or not, we're going to draw a connection between quarter back's play calls and our newest Workshop espresso blend! The blend consists of mostly wet-processed African coffees, 2/5 Ethiopian and 2/5 Rwanda, and as such packs quite the acidic 'punch'. The West Ethiopian coffees are from Limu, and on their own show a mix of chocolate and orange flavors when pulled as espresso, and a resonant lemony tang is easily discernible all the way up to Full City+ roast level (the darkest we tried). The Burundi isn't quite as citric, but still quite vibrant, especially in comparison to most coffees from Latin America. And it's an all bourbon cultivar as well which bodes well for level of sweetness. I have to say, it was tempting to just do a three-bean blend with these three coffees, as I'm a big fan of sweet, bright shots. But in an effort to take a little of the acidic edge off, we've mixed in a small amount of Costa Rica honey processed coffee, which lends a subtle fruited side, clean sweetness, and softens the acidic snap if only by a small margin. And 'snap' is what brings us back to "Blue Forty Two"....the snap of the football, and a snappy acidity in the espresso. OK, I'm reaching just a little with this one. But it also gives us an opportunity to resurrect the art used on an old favorite Sweet Maria's t-shirt from year's back!
If you liked #41, Afiliate Romano, you're sure to be a fan of Blue Forty Two. Like I laid out above, this is an espresso blend with untamable acidic snappiness, and the lighter you roast, the more unruly it will be. And while not necessarily a bad thing, I would avoid City roasting altogether, as even with a long roast time, the metallic flavors that come with light roasting are a lot to contend with. Full City and Full City+ is where I think this blend shows best, where a lemony tartness is engulfed in a flavor of rich chocolate syrup, divergent flavors that seemingly pull you in opposite directions! Ristretto shots of a Full City roast boasts stacked chocolate notes: carob to cocoa, Hershey's syrup, and more. Chocolate of the more bittersweet variety are what's tasted up front, along with a closely-following citric tartness, and in volume. The initial 'zing' is like fresh squeezed lemon, but then backing off in intensity to citrus flavors like orange juice, grapefruit, and citrus pulp too. The sweetness found with the initial onset of chocolate flavors falls away a bit too, leaving behind a more bittering cocoa tone, like unsweetened baking chocolate, that fills out the finish. The mouthfeel is so viscous, and crema comes easily in both short and long shots of Full City and Full City+.
"Pico y Placa" is a phrase I picked up on a recent visit to Medellin, Colombia. It has to do with a law enacted in order to cut down on traffic congestion by prohibiting groups of cars and motorcycles to be on the road during peak traffic times based on the last number of their license plate ("pico" peak, and "placa" plate). I learned of this because our trip to Urrao from Medellin fell on a day where our host wasn't supposed to be driving his car, which left us rushing to get out of the city limits by 7am. Not so relaxing, but I do like the way the name rolls off the tongue! This workshop strays from the African-based ingredients of the previous few Workshop blends. OK, there is a small amount of washed Ethiopian coffee, but 2/3 of the blend is made up coffees from Colombia and Guatemala. Why? Well, we wanted this latest addition to have chocolate notes at it's core. And "chocolately" it is. Both Colombia and Guatemala ingredients are wet processed, coffees that when taken to the outer reaches of Full City promise intense bittersweetness but with balance, and impressive inky body. The Ethiopian ingredient we're using is much more muted in terms of top note complexity, and brings citrus vibrance without being distracting. It too is laden with cocoa roast tones with roast development, adding to the overall flavor matrix. We constructed this blend with espresso in mind, but City+ roasts will serve up a good cup of coffee too. For espresso try starting at Full City (my personal fave in terms of balanced sweet and bittering flavors), edging south if you need to tone down acidity.
All three ingredients used in Pico y Placa are capable of producing incredibly rich chocolate notes when roasted to Full City and beyond, each bringing their own unique set of top notes to construct a complex and bittersweet espresso blend. Roasted cacao nib smells come up from the ground coffee, which if you haven't smelled before, have a chocolatey smell for sure, and with subtle fruited accent smells too. I only roasted this blend to Full City, which produced impressive level of sweetness, and I'm sure this will make a delicious darker roasted espresso too for those who prefer 2nd crack roast development. My first espresso attempt was my longest extraction, roughly 20 grams of coffee going in and 45 grams liquid over the course of 28 seconds. Definitely nothing "thin"about it at this ratio, though not as dense as the one that followed. Flavors are a mix of high % cacao bar and sugar in the raw. The bittersweetness is well balanced, and the cup is lightly marked by a 'pop' of citrus up front. Fruited accents come through, especially in the finish, and come off like dark chocolate covered raisin. I loved the shorter shot I pulled next - 20 grams coffee in, 30 grams espresso out over 30 seconds - so viscous, and dense in terms of flavor profile and mouthfeel. A chocolatey richness dominates the shot, and up front there's a syrupy flavor of dark chocolate stout beer, giving way to to a citrus note that's equal parts tart juice and bittering peel. Layers of cocoa/chocolate notes flourish in the finish, along with subdued dark fruit accents, and compact bittersweetness leaves a lasting impression. I'm impressed by viscosity in both long and short shots with a milky weight and feel, and would make an incredible cappuccino.
"Decaf" conjures memories of coffee flavored drink, a pale example, poor representation of what coffee's supposed to taste like, roasted to a crisp as to obfuscate the flavors that come with the decaffeination process. Thankfully, this is a thing of the past. The Swiss Water decaf method involves nothing more than water, first swelling the beans to become porous, then washing away 99.9% of the caffeine before drying back to 11% moisture. This is a very gentle method compared to decafs of yore, and leaves much of the volatile compounds that affect flavor and aroma intact. Send a floral, fruit-forward regular coffee to Swiss, and get a floral, fruit-forward decaf in return! A little about this particular coffee. We bought this coffee direct from coop Nano Challa, a coffee we've bought for several years now, and is a highlight of our Ethiopian coffee list. Unlike some of the small-holder coffee areas we buy from where harvest lots can be less than 10 bags, Ethiopian cooperatives produce large blends of the coffees of coop members. We bought a full 320 bag container of this coffee, and were able to easily peel off a chunk for decaffeination.
Body and sweetness are what's most apparent to me when cupping this Ethiopian decaf offering. Right out of the gate (or, brewer rather), Gera Jimma has a sweetness like liquid brown sugar, with body the weight of fruit juice, albeit a little oily in mouthfeel. Fruited notes are on the understated side, but I do get accent notes of peach tea, apple and Bosc pear. The cooling cup reveals a toasted carob powder note, along with a long lasting corn syrup flavor, and doughy sweet bread accents. This coffee doesn't need much roast development to kick up hefty sweetness, and actually, taking close to 2nd snaps proved too smokey for my taste. City+ is where this decaf shines in my opinion, that is if you're looking to retain some of the flavor markers of the coffee's origin. But if you're just looking for balance of sweet and bitter tones, by all means, head to the edge of Full City. I don't think you'll be disappointed! Great espresso option too on it's own, or a sweet and bodied base for blending.
A selection of 4 or 8 different coffees. They are curated by us each day.
Trying a sampler is the best way, in my opinion, to get started home roasting, especially if you are not sure what coffee to choose. We can not promise a particular origin in the sampler.
In the 4 Lb and 8 Lb sample sets we try to include a coffee from every coffee growing continent and a range of processes. Some folks have suggested that having a larger quantity of a single bean that takes a range of roasts is a better way to learn roasting -- I think getting a range of flavors so you can start to see the difference origin makes is better. The choice is up to you really. Limit one sample set per order since we cannot ensure against duplicates if you order multiple sample sets.
A selection of 4 different decaf coffees.
A selection of 4 or 8 different coffees we think will do well for espresso roast levels and preparation. They are curated by us each day, no substitutions.
Please note: for this Espresso sampler - we send some of our Sweet Maria's blends, and some single origins considered good for espresso. The selection in this option is more narrow, tailored for demands of espresso brewing and the 4lb espresso sampler will be mostly/all espresso blends.
San Diego Buena Vista ("SDBV") has consistently provided us with top quality Acatenango coffee, a sizable all-bourbon separation from their farm on the slopes of the volcano. They continue to plan new bourbon plants from their nursery each year, and this season's harvest topped 200 bags, which allowed us to send a small chunk for decaffeination at the Swiss Water Decaffeination plant in Vancouver, Canada. We've worked with Swiss to process good tasting regular coffees into good tasting decafs for several years now, and are once again awed by the similarly flavored cup between this decaf and non-decaf pair. Sweetness is central to the SDBV bourbon cup, and remains an integral part of this coffee's profile post-decaffeination. This isn't a decaf you'll need to roast dark in order to obfuscate pasty and savory flavors. SDBV shows well at light roasts as well as dark roasting, and is as versatile in brew method as it is roast level. I roasted a few batches on a small home machine and had no problems hearing first cracks too, which can be a little trick with decaffeinated coffee, and can lead to over roasting. You can expect to see some bean fracturing and broken beans, which comes with the territory of any added decaffeination process, but does not affect the cup. If you're a Behmor user, consider giving your roast grid drum a shake before loading in the machine to let any small bean fragments to fall away outside the roaster.
This decaf version of San Diego Buena Vista ("SDBV") shows classic balance of a washed Guatemalan coffee. A mild cup all around, with the robust sweetness inherent to this coffee, SDBV brews well at a wide range of roasts, and is a great option for decaf espresso too (or a sweet base for espresso blending). The dry fragrance at City roast level has a smell of brown sugar on toast, a touch of rye malt in the background. City+/Full City roasts have a dark bittersweetness in the wet aroma, like burned sugar and Dutch cocoa powder. I was really taken aback by the level of sweetness in the cup, especially considering I tasted next to a non-decaf Huehuetenango coffee. Acidity is muted in comparison, a common affect post-decaffeination, but not lost altogether. And the sweetness is like brown sugar, barley malt syrup, and with a grainy chocolate flavor that reminds me of chocolate stout. Full City has impressive body, still loads of bittersweetness, and a hint of cinnamon powder in the finish. Espresso shots show long and layered chocolate bittersweetness and viscous mouthfeel, and you'd be hard pressed to guess this is decaf at all.
It's that time of year again, when new crop African coffees have us bursting at the seams. Being that African coffees are the highest scoring coffees on our list, having too many is a bit of a luxury problem, as well as an opportunity for us to share them with you in this East African 4-pack. A sampling of East African coffees that deserve a special level of focus, and this sample set highlights the fantastic range of flavor and complexity.
Ethiopia and Kenya receive so much attention in the coffee world, and they are deservedly rewarded with some of our highest scores in the course of the year (as the two in this sample set can attribute to). Yet the quality coming out of nearby Burundi and Rwanda should receive full representation as well. We're investing more and more in these two growing regions as they continually improve, producing wet-processed coffees that are delicious and versatile at a wide range of roasts. These coffees can be syrupy sweet, complex, clean, and even floral.
These are all high caliber coffees in their own right, but the set emphasizes flavor diversity. And it's also worth mentioning that most of these African coffee of score above 88 points.
*Please note that we can't make substitutions or take special requests for our samplers. Thank you!
Every year when cupping coffees from Central America, there are so many lots that make a lasting impression on us as single origin espresso. So much so, that we thought it would be a great idea to blend a few of these lots together, creating a mix of diverse coffees from the Central American highlands. "Altiplano" is the word we are using for high plains, not to be confused with THE Altiplano in South America. From the La Cumbre mountains in El Salvador, to the Los Cuchumatanes in Guatemala, to the Los Arados mountains in Nicaragua, we bring in a wide variety of coffees with unique cup profile, and that all work extremely well as espresso. Blended together, the resulting cup or espresso has balance, and with an acidity that is controlled by roast development. Roasting to City+ will have the highest tones in the cup, and bright results in the espresso machine. Full City/Full City+ will produce a more "classic" espresso profile with chocolate roast pungency, deep sweetness, and zesty citrus acidity. Altiplano is seasonal dual-use blend, and we'll be rotating new coffees in as they become available, updating the review when necessary. This initial version is equal parts, all washed coffees - Guatemala from Acatenango, El Salvador Matalapa, and Nicaragua.
This is a great dual-purpose blend, and so we cupped it as both brewed coffee and espresso. Roasting to City+ - Full City is great for a cup of coffee, and the dry fragrance has a pungent-sugar sweetness, molasses sugars, along with roasted nut and hints of spice-tea. Wet, the sweetness peaks with dark toffee and a smell of butter pecan ice cream. Cupping the City/City+ roasts, you're rewarded with a tea-like brilliance providing structure to the cup. Flavors of muscovado sugar and cinnamon spice come through, along with roasted almond and golden raisin as the temperature cools. FC is surprisingly fruited, and strikes a pleasant balance between raw sugar sweetness and cocoa powder bittering. As espresso, FC shots show high levels of dark sugar sweetness and cocoa roast tones up front, peaking with a tart, lemon-citrus high tone. The mouthfeel is extremely dense, viscous, and like syrupy-chocolate. Nut and cocoa tones round out the finish well, intermixed with faint raisin and dry fruit hints.
People have requested that we offer a pre-blended espresso, a decaf counterpart to the Espresso Monkey blend. Working under the codename of the "Donkey Blend" (don't ask how all these ridiculous names started ---I think it was George's fault) we came up with this. It is intended to be used several ways. As an all-decaf espresso blend I wanted it to work well under a wide variety of roasting conditions, in terms of both lighter Northern Italian type espresso roasts (the equivalent of a Full City to Vienna Roast) and the darker Southern Italian type roast (roasted to a French roast). I also wanted a good espresso from both air and drum roasters, and I wanted good crema. This is a lot to ask from a decaf, but I think this blend works very well. While origin tastes are muted in decafs, I think the bittersweet roast tastes from this blend are very good. My second focus was having the blend not have too much character so that it can be used as a base blend for a "low-caf" espresso. This means it should work well as 50-75% of your blend where you add other caffeinated coffees to give more aromatics and flavor: my choice would be a Ethiopian Harar, or a Central American (see our Blending Basics article for more). Why do we call this Donkey Blend? Frankly, I can't remember .. it just is...
A longtime favorite espresso blend intended solely for pump and piston type espresso extraction. This is a sweet but punchy little cup, and roasted fairly light it is a shock to the palette, but has great body and a smooth, sweet, stunning aftertaste. The joke behind the name: I imagine a fancy roaster charming a client in the cupping room, effusing about their "Master Roaster" and "Master Blender" and "Master Cupper", all in the trade for decades of course. Then I imagine the scene in their warehouse where hired apes rip open bags of green coffee and randomly hurl handfulls into the hopper for roasting. In other words, there's a lot of BS in the coffee trade, and blending is NOT really a noble art ...it's done to save cost and disguise coffee defects 80% of the time. The Irony? I have never worked so hard to develop a blend as this one, designed to cup well at a full range of "espresso" roasts, and developed as a pre-blend (all coffees roasted together to same degree of roast). Am I going to tell you exactly what is in it? No! I am feeling a bit snobby today! Espresso Monkey has become our signature blend for some reason or other, perhaps because it is a true standard that we have sought to maintain for so long, and that we put such nice coffees into it.
We blend this for body, balanced between high and low tones, chocolate roast flavors, and slightly rustic fruited accent notes. Those are our goals, that is the "spirit" behind the blend, and we check it to make sure it meets those targets. Our roast goal is in the beginning stages of 2nd crack ... we never "let it roll".
Ethiopiques, an all Ethiopia coffee blend for espresso. It was our our 17th Espresso Workshop blend from a few seasons back, and with its popularity, we've decided to make it one of our regular blends. This a a vividly bright espresso blend, complex, high-toned, amazing ... but perhaps not for everyone (especially those who only make milk drinks). The espresso editions are limited, lot-specific blends inspired by the ingredients, rather than imposing a fixed idea on the result, then looking at the coffees to achieve it. This is a blend of wet-process coffees from the South, from Sidama and Yirga Cheffe specifically, as well as a Western coffee, interjecting from fruit-forwardness in the cup - all scored 90+ points on the cupping table. These are nuanced coffees, and while they are moderately bright, the resulting espresso isn't too puckering when taken to Full City, or stretched out in the roaster post 1st crack. In fact there is very intense chocolate roast taste formed by this specific coffee blend, and that is one of the dominant characteristics of the cup - as well as intense florals topped with brightness. What does Teddy Afro, famed and shamed Ethiopia music star have to do with this blend? Not much, but he does have an amazing voice. Millenium song! And you really should check out the Ethiopiques compilation records to appreciate the rich jazz and pop music traditions of that great land.
By standard cupping methods for brewed coffees, the profile is much "bigger" than previous years, and extracting this blend in an espresso machine produces something very intense, sweet, and complex. The dry fragrance of City roasts have citrus and tropical fruit suggestions, which are still prevalent in darker roasts but with an overlay of chocolate notes. The wet aroma is downright mouthwatering. Fruited notes are like peaches and apricots baked with brown sugar, spiced cake, and floral hints - our FC smelled like jasmine-infused dark chocolate bar. As a brewed coffee, this is a really amazing blend. So versatile, showing great from City to Full City, lightest roasts being very fruit-forward and clean - nectarine, mango, fragrant berry. It shows surprising level of body at these light roast levels too, carrying with it a syrupy-thick sweetness. Full City roasts develop rich chocolate flavors, with a nice slab of blackberry syrup. Ethiopiques makes for an intense ride through the espresso machine. The chocolate roast taste is pungent, aggressive, bittersweet, and long-lasting on the palate. But it is also very clean, succinct, not earthy or rustic. On top of this are intense florals - jasmine and sweet pea - lemon oil and rind, raisiny ripe fruit and red berries. The body seems bolstered by the intense cup flavors, and has the effect of satiny chocolate. It's fantastic! My preference is about 2 oz in 24 seconds, brew head temp right around 205 degrees. We are finding this also makes amazing Americano (espresso + water), which is no surprise. This can also be used as the "bright" component in a blend that tones it down a bit. For example 2/3 Brazil or El Salvador with 1/3 Ethiopiques.
What do you do when you accidentally use dry processed ingredients in a blend that calls for washed, and the resulting concoction is an impressive, if not wild espresso? If you're us, you don't let a good thing go to waste, and roll the new blend into production. And that's how we came to "Ethiopiques 2.0", a mix of wet and dry processed Ethiopias (2/3 to 1/3 respectively), that melds acidity and clean sweetness that comes with wet processing, with big body and fruit tones of the naturally processed counterpart. For those who appreciate both it's a match made in heaven, and I think you'll find the fruited tones to be quite complimentary. Mixing dry and wet process coffees before blending means equilibrium should be achieved in the drum, and I think is tricky to do when trying to roast light. I recommend making Full City your starting point, the bean mixture taking on a fairly even color tone, and where I think this blend really shows it's stuff - after all, this is an espresso blend. Dark fruits, big chocolate tones, citrus allusions - version 2.0 is a complex espresso to say the least.
From the outset, dried berry and cocoa tones permeate from the ground coffee, especially strong given the finer grind setting for espresso. I probably sound like a broken record, but I'm going with Full City as the recommended roast level for this blend. Partly a function of finding roast equalization between the differently processed beans. But also, dark berry tones start to really unfold in the dry process ingredient when roasting beyond City+, a real highlight to this cup. Dehydrated blueberry and cranberry, blackberry juice, huckleberry tea, are notes I picked up on in our espresso shots, fruited flavor attributes coated in dark chocolate syrup that peaks midway through. The chocolatey bittersweetness sort of fades away, leaving behind a mild fruitiness, and hop floral note to linger in the finish. Full City+ roasting takes some of the edge of the dark fruit flavors, but berry notes still manage to leave an impression amidst smokey chocolate bittersweetness. It's best if you can let your roast rest for at least 24 hours to off gas, but this blend might find it's peak closer to 48-72 hours rest.
This is my favorite blend designed to endure the rigors of dark roasting, and produce excellent pungent tastes, attractive bittersweet/carbony flavors, and great body. Body is so important to a darker roast. Extended roasts incinerate body, and a thin cup of burned water IS NOT what French Roast coffee is about! You do not want to fully burn up all the sugars, you want some degree of bittersweet, overlayed on the carbony charcoal tones of the burned woody structure of the bean itself. You want something still voluminous, and something sharp that stings you a bit down the center of the tongue. Well, at least if you do want these things, then we share common ground, and you might like my blend. Please note that we made changes to improve the blend. I have changed the percentages and added a new coffee that became available that really enhances the chocolatiness in the Vienna stage, and the pungency in the darker French stage
I wanted an espresso blend that was potent, sharp, intense enough in flavor to cut through steamed milk, but clean enough in flavor profile to work as a straight espresso shot. I wanted it also to be complex and hint at all of those tastes, and more. Here's the product of a lot of overly-caffeinated days of experimentation: the Liquid Amber Espresso Blend. It is named for the rich color and multitude of crema it produces. The blend was fairly complex to come up with ... after I found the general tastes I wanted, emerging from aroma and first sip through the very long aftertaste (if I don't cleanse my palate with water I will taste this coffee for 20+ minutes) I needed to play with the exact percentages. The specific blend, hey ... it is my secret! But I will tell you that the 5 coffees that really worked toward the flavor goal I imagined ended up surprising even me! I will say that there are wet-processed coffees, a monsooned coffee, and even a modicum of quality washed Robusta. And to keep this a mystery, the blend contains some coffees not on our list. I admit this is a pretty wacky blend by the current fashion in espresso toward lighter-roasted and acidic coffees; it's downright dated really. But it works in it's own way. Some emphasis here is on the physical character of the espresso, hence the use of the monsooned coffee, which has properties in terms of crema that no other coffee possesses. Even in cupping the dynamics of the foam/bubbles are clearly different from other coffees due to the changes in the bean from the monsoon processing technique.
Extracted in a properly functioning, clean espresso machine the blend produces a lot of crema, making the mouthfeel very thick and creamy. The sharp pungent bite to the blend is not bitter, and fades into a rich tobaccoy-milk chocolate aftertaste. If properly roasted (not scorched) the blend will not be ashy, something I really don't like in espresso. (With any espresso, if the aftertaste turns acrid and bitter after 3 minutes or so, clean the heck out of your machine.) In the Liquid Amber Blend there are hints of fruit, mushrooms, sweet smoke, caramel, and cream in the extended aftertaste. This blend works extremely well in milk drinks, meaning by that a true cappuccino (6-9 oz.) or machiatto. I make no claims for Latte ... is there any coffee that tastes potent mixed down 8:1 in a Slurpee-sized cup of milk? Please note: a long while back, I changed the type of Monsooned coffee. It is paler, sweeter, and is not a coffee we offer on our list at all times. It's a special purchase for the blend to increase sweetness and reduce mustiness. -Tom Liquid Amber Note:If the coffee arrives and doesn't appear evenly blended, this is because of the vibration during loading and shipment. I can positively guarantee you that the blend was packed in the exact, correct proportion (we are extremely careful about this), but the difference in size/density of the Monsooned/non-Monsooned can make them separate a bit with vibration. Just give it a stir....
"Majirani", an all East African coffee blend for espresso, and that works well as brewed coffee too. We thought about making this a Workshop blend, but those come and go. And while this will certainly "go" once ingredients are no longer fresh, we love the results, and so plan to bring back annually. The ingredients will change of course, and right now, this is a four-part blend of all washed coffees from Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania. These countries neighbor each other more or less, and so we're using the name "Majirani" as it's Amharic for neighbor. All of the coffees scored high as single origin, big sweetness, moderate to bright acidity, and viscous body. These are nuanced coffees, top notes garnering as much attention as positive attributes like sweetness and acidity. Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania ingredients are made up of all bourbon varietal too, which in the case of these ingredients, means dense sweetness, and balanced bittersweet cocoa tones at the darker end of the roast spectrum. These ingredients make for a high-toned espresso, which settles down a bit with roast, but a zippy lemon accent refuses to be erased altogether even at Full City+. A versatile blend for those looking for a "dual use" option, and espresso roasts should see at least 48 hours rest in my opinion.
Majirani is a force to be reckoned with. Espresso extraction yields an intensely sweet and extremely viscous liquid, both aspects leaving pleasantly memorable flavors on the palate. Grinding middle roasts gives off big fruited notes, dark stone fruit and berry, along with roasted cacao nib and sweet cedar smoke accent. Fruited smells perhaps make the strongest impression in the wet aromatics of City+/Full City roasts, with essence of cooked fruits in a cinnamon spice bread. I found this tight middle roast range to be great for brewed coffee, and at the Full City end of the spectrum, functions well in both brew and espresso applications. I like a bright espresso, and Full City shots are bracing to say the least. A zap of fresh squeezed lemon kicks in at the first sip, making way for layers of raw sugar sweetness and thick, syrupy dark chocolate goodness. All along the way accents of tart cranberry, herbaceous verbena, and pungent burned sugars pop in and out of focus, and a flavor of high % Scharffen Berger chocolate fills out the long aftertaste (and I mean loooooong). Those looking to tone down acidity a bit can take to Full City+, just the beginnings of 2nd snaps, adding layer upon layer of bittersweet cocoa roast tone, and with uncompromising sweetness to balance things out. Citrus notes still come into play, but more of the 'rindy' nature, candied orange peel, or lemon shavings soaked in simple syrup. F We are finding this also makes amazing Americano (espresso + water), which is no surprise. This can also be used as the "bright" component in a blend that tones it down a bit. For example 2/3 Brazil or El Salvador with 1/3 Majirani. I would let espresso roasts rest for at least 48 hours, but preferably 72 hours.
Once there was "Classic Italian," our espresso blend to set the benchmark for traditional European-style espresso. It was a blend based on quality Brazil coffees, with a touch of aromatic Central American coffee to add a grace note to the cup, and it had a small percentage of premium robusta in it for crema, mouthfeel, and to add traditional flavors found on the continent. But times change and tastes change. Espresso culture is much less Euro-centric, and for good reason. While Italy gave us espresso, the general quality of street-level espresso there can be exceptionally poor. Don't even talk about coffee in France. The big brands in Europe are largely run by multi-nationals who keep a close watch on price, and gleefully buy lower quality green coffee if they can save .01 Euro. The privates follow suit, in order to compete. Of course, there are many exceptions, but the darker roast styles, well into 2nd crack, to cover up the use of low quality green coffee ... well, that is NOT something to emulate. For Sweet Maria's, espresso has never been our "dumping ground" for coffees we can't sell, old lots, or ones with mild defect. It's been a program where we have dedicated much time, focus in cupping, and roast testing. With this in mind, we want to start over again, and offer New Classic, a somewhat silly name, an oxymoron, and overused ... but it says what I want it to say: Here is the new benchmark espresso with sweet-bittersweet balance, body, crema, and finesse, the core definition of the espresso beverage, and defines it in the established West Coast espresso style (clean, bright notes) without the burden of European espresso conventions. In other words, no robusta! No obsessive interest in crema! (You can produce buckets of crema in espresso and still have a very mediocre-tasting cup. What ... do you make espresso just to look at the beautiful crema? No dummy, you make it to drink it!)
While this blend is designed primarily for a lighter roast, stopping the roast before 2nd crack, it also works well with a darker roast treatment. It does not have the extreme brightness that have been the trademark of some of our Espresso Workshop blends; it is a bit more restrained in it's overall demeanor. The cup has a balance between sweet and bittersweet flavors, moderate bright accent, soft traces of fruit, body and depth. The lighter roasts have a very sweet aromatic, fruited with plum and a hint of spice (cinnamon stick, cardamom). Darker roasts tend toward chocolate laced with dark fruit tones, in both aroma and cup flavor. Both have a firm, opaque body, with toasted almond roast notes as the espresso cools. In the aftertaste, peach tea flavor (and it light roasts a bit of jasmine tea) are evident. Of course, results vary with how the espresso machine and grinder are set up. We use 8.5 bars of pressure at the head, with 202 degrees water temperature (measured at the head) to start, dropping to about 198. At higher temperatures, it's a more aggressive espresso with a bittersweet edge and well-suited to milk drinks.
We concocted this 2-bean blend around a couple of our more stellar decaffeinated African coffees that were just processed by Swiss Water in Vancouver. We're at a point where 100% of our decaf coffees are pulled from our own stock and processed by Swiss, which starts by selecting coffee by flavor profile and physical makeup that we think will translate into a quality cup. "Tam Efriqa" roughly translates the "Taste of Africa" in Amharic, which in the past I may have thought a bold statement for decaf given the harsh processing treatments some decafs endure. There's nothing harsh about Swiss's water decaffeination process, a chemical-free water processing technic that removes nearly 100% of the caffeine, while leaving behind volatile compounds that affect flavor and aroma. So in the case of Tam Efriqa, so much of what makes these African coffees unique still comes through in the cup. The blend is made up of a selection of wet processed Ethiopia and Burundi coffees. I roasted to three different roast levels - City, City+, and Full City - and was really pleased with all three. We set out to construct a blend for espresso, but found that it shows really well as both brewed coffee and espresso, though I'd roast to at least City+ if you plan on pulling shots, as City roasts are puckering and metallic as espresso. The decaffeination process does break down the cellular structure of the bean a little, and so oils will rise to the surface more easily, even in roasts as light as City+. So ignore that visual marker when roasting, using the normal sounds of 1st crack and physical fracturing as your guide to judging roast development.
Tam Efriqa is a dual-use decaf blend, all three ingredients shining stars of our most recent custom decafs processed by Swiss Water. From City to Full City, the level of sweetness runs high, a pungent molasses aroma, and sweet undercurrent of palm sugar, muscovado, and smokey-sweetness of burned sugars (especially at Full City). The smells in dry fragrance and wet aroma cover a range of cookie to dried citrus, cocoa to dark rye. And the cup is impressive to say the least, and not just for decaf! We constructed this blend with espresso in mind, but after cupping light roasts give it the thumbs up for brewing too. Decaffeinated coffee often lose any brightness they once had, the cup profile losing dimension along the way. I'm sure if this were non-decaf, acidity would shine even brighter, but the level of rindy lemon-like acidity found in light roasts is striking, and has a voluminous effect on cup profile. City and City+ roasts boast dried stone fruit and raisin accents, subtle cocoa notes, and caramelizing sugars. At Full City smokey cocoa roast tones are more dominant, making room for some dark fruit hints once the cup cools. We were floored by how chocolatey and bittersweet espresso shots are at City+ and Full City roast level. Both roasts exhibit a tangy brightness up front that's like a drop of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and followed by opulent dark cacao notes, and understated accents of berry and pumpernickel/rye bread in the finish. An absolutely standout decaf espresso that we've added to the list of "I can't believe this is decaf"!