“How Fleeting Coffee Is” – The Roast Date

25 Jun

It’s been some time since my last post. So long in fact, that I was starting to feel intimidated as to what I would contribute for the next round of content.

That fleeting cuppa

That fleeting cuppa

However, I’ve had something on my mind the last little while:

I often hear coffee compared to wine- or conversely how it shouldn’t be compared to wine. More recently there has been some debate about a comparison to craft beer brewing- and then conversely how it shouldn’t. To take a step back, it is important to note that everything is relative. I want to take a new direction…

Let’s look at how fleeting coffee really isI’ll be doing this in small installations here on the blog, with the first one being all about the Roast Date. This is often the first line of engagement the customer has when buying a bag of coffee.

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i. THE ROAST DATE
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Let’s imagine you walk into your local cafe and are faced with a ‘wall’ of coffee they currently have to offer. You walk up and have a look for something that looks interesting and you pick it up. It’s from your favourite region: ‘x’, from the province of ‘y’.

“Is it ‘Fresh’ ?” you ask.

Roast Date + Time Limit.

Roast Date + Time Limit.

Well, you just opened a can of worms… there are many layers to ‘fresh’- but we will get to that.

The barista behind the counter is likely to respond with a date. This, 99% of the time is the day of which your coffee was roasted. For example, I’ll use this plain and simple snapshot of a bag of coffee. Literally, in black and white, this is what appears on the back of many bags. Now I’m not picking on any one roaster in particular here, or how exactly the formatting works. Instead, I’m calling attention to the fact that consumption must occur within a mere 30 days of when the coffee was roasted!

So let’s say that coffee was roasted locally. It probably sat to degas (coffee is actually too fresh 24-48 hours after roast to do anything with – it’s far to volatile), and then was bagged and shipped out to each store… say 3-5 days to get to the final cafe. So now you are left with only 25 days to consume the coffee within the roast date.

Wait- so what about coffee coming from across the country? Say your local Newfoundland cafe is selling coffee roasted in Ontario, or even as far as British Colombia? Well, that deadline collapses even further. Say it takes 5 business days (i.e. 7-10 real days), you are now down to a 23-20 day timeline to drink that coffee.

BUT WAIT- it gets worse. The above guidelines are provided you manage to get to the cafe on the day the coffee arrives there. Not exactly always likely to happen. More than likely, you will have approximately 2 weeks to drink that bag of freshly roasted whole bean coffee.

To put that into perspective, let’s have a look at a tasting note from McLean’s Magazine on one of Norman Hardie’s bottles of wine:

A Wine Tasting Note

A Wine Tasting Note

That’s right, “cellar three to five years”. We all know certain fine wine can last longer than this, and some of the best actually need time to age and soften the harsh tannins (bottle ageing does this). However, most wine is meant to be consumed relatively fresh – within the first few years as a guideline. Yet, imagine if that note said “order now and consume within 30 days of bottling” !

So let’s look to beer as the next comparison. Most import beers (and most beers in general) are meant to be consumer within a year of bottling- at the most. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but I’m talking in general. Craft beers usually have a smaller drinking window, especially some of the better ones with no preservatives. Yet again, it’s months that we are talking about as a consumption window. However, that beer is brewed over and over in small batches and in a similar style throughout the year- which is not unlike coffee in the way that coffee is roasted many times throughout the year in order to maintain freshness. Where as wine is the years harvest all fermented, aged, etc and bottled all in one go, a mere once a year.

Without going off on a tangent here, the point I’m trying to make is twofold:
(1) There are many links in the chain that can deplete your drinking window (shipping, storage, and turn around time). Think of the coffee at your local cafe the same way you think about your fresh tomatoes: keep it stored in a cool, dry environment and enjoy it while it’s ‘ripe’. Never put it in the fridge or freezer as you’ll spoil the delicate, concentrated flavour.
(2) Thus coffee is [relatively] fleeting.

Hopefully this gets the gears in your brain turning, and you take an extra second to enjoy that next fleeting cup of coffee!
Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for the next part of the series:
“ii. THE TEMPERATURE” .

Cheers,
- Matt

“The Best of Coffee” – Best of the Year 2012

17 Jan

First of all, welcome to 2013!

Early 2012 in Nova Scotia. A delicious Kenyan coffee in January

Early 2012 in Nova Scotia. A delicious Kenyan coffee in January

While everyone was busy writing their year end write-up, I was… well frankly I just wasn’t. I was busy. Even though it’s now halfway into January, I’d like to take the time to review the year 2012 in coffee.

Personal Disclosure 

I’m now embarrassed to admit I spent over half of the year working solely with espresso review and testing. Because of this, all of my notes until August are only about espresso. Essentially it looks as if I didn’t even drink anything but espresso and cappuccinos.

In reality, this was certainly not the case. Thus, I’m left with a hole because of a stubborn mistake I made. I like coffee – hell, I love coffee. So why limit my notes to espresso?

Initially I was set on finding a particular set of values – a ‘focus’ for this website. However, over the past years I’ve realized the draws to this site are: (1) Primarily Canadian content, (2)Regionally specific to coffee available on the East Coast of Canada, and (3) is my narrative and my contextual approach to coffee. I love photos, video, and contextual information. After all,

“coffee is dependant on so many things: harvest date, processing, roasting, roast dates, a narrow window of time to consume it after roast, style of brewing, length of brewing… and even situational and contextual elements.” – Matt C. Reynolds, 2012

So with all of the above in mind, here are my thoughts on 2012. I’m including some of the best coffee tested, best espresso tested, and also my top experiences in various cafes.

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Coffee
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By far and above my most nostalgic coffee was one I enjoyed during the month of January in Nova Scotia. As a gift from the mighty East Coast coffee guru Zane Kelsall (of Two If By Sea Café in Dartmouth and Nova Scotia as well as the new Anchored Roastery) I spent each and every cold morning grinding the Kenya Kaliluni Peaberry from Ritual Coffee in my Hario hand grinder and making a small french press in my steel Frieling.

A delicious Kenya Kaliluni Peaberry from Ritual Coffee.

My morning routine was to wake, load my hand grinder with coffee, grind, and french press (or Ritual shall we say).

Ritual Coffee

Kaliluni Peaberry, KENYA This was a real delight to drink. It was a really well balanced coffee with red fruit (raspberry and cherry) with a savoury smokiness of an oolong tea. The tasting notes on this coffee were short and succinct and very true to their actuality. I found this had a lovely acidity and most of all everything was very, very well integrated.

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#1 Coffee of 2012
49th Parallel 
“La Benedicion”, HONDURAS

The second delicious Honduras coffee from 49th Parallel in mere months. They were really on fire the second half of 2012. This was purchased at Fixed Coffee and Baking after hype from the guys.

On the nose there was a medium+ intensity, I found dried sticky fruit like pineapple, honey, and red fruit like raspberries and red currant.

On the palate I found red currant, lime acidity, honey, and bright dried fruit (pineapple and peach). The finish was long with a pleasant sweetness and working into dark chocoalte.

This also would make a great everyday coffee with a nice complexity to keep it interesting to drink. Great coffee, lovely sweetness, pleasant acidity and great sweetness. Excellently balanced. THIS IS COFFEE how it’s supposed to be. Anyone could enjoy this one!

(93 /100 pts in November)

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#2 Coffee of 2012
Fratello Coffee
“Ethiopia Kongo”, YIRGACHEFFE

This was a really summery coffee, just dripping with strawberry flavours.

On the nose I found an obvious aroma of strawberries, citrus and strawberry pastry.

On the palate the coffee developed and changed as it aged. At 5 days off roast until about 12 days off roast I found there was a dominate warm, fresh strawberry juice, much like biting into a harvested strawberry. As time went on, I found the strawberry notes settled a little into a more subtle strawberry compote/ dried strawberry. There was also citrus, brown sugar, and a cranberry flavor and cranberry-like acidity.

Personally I found this was the best on the French Press, it really brought out the brown sugar/ pastry sweetness. I gave this a whopping 93+ points, stating it was “easily one of the best coffees I’ve had this year”. It was really and truly just a great example of what a special coffee can be, plant to cup!

(93+ /100pts in September)

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#3 Coffee of 2012
Phil & Sebastian
“Isaias Cantillo”, COLOMBIA

This coffee was a selection from Steve down at Rocket Bakery. While I was down visiting, he brought this Colombia up. “First time I’ve had a tomato flavour in a coffee I’ve liked”, he explained. An a-typical Colombia is something I really love to see, shaking up some of the stereotypes that often come with Colombian coffees. This coffee is surrounded in a little mystery, as when I went to look it up for the post, it was already in the archives on the Phil & Sebastian website.

It was one of the most interesting coffees all year and really exciting. It’s really amazing how savoury notes in coffee used to be horrible (I can’t place exact dates here) but now many roasters have the nuance to actually play up these aspects in a positive way. The acidity on this was huge, and it really did show bright tomato-like acidity.

This was good on both the french press and the clever. I found the clever to edge out slightly, as the press tended to muddle the flavours a little.

On the nose I found it had a nice cinnamon spice component, apple, brown sugar, and baking apple pie.

On the palate I found it had a huge tomato-lime acidity, with some cherry and plum, with a chocolate/ caramelized sugar finish. While the stone fruit showed some typicity, the huge tomato-lime acidity was really special, almost searingly high. This would have be fun to play with as a food pairing coffee.

(91 /100 pts in September)

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Espresso
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Red Brick Espresso

#1 Espresso of 2012
Square Mile
“Red Brick Espresso” (March Parameters)

All I have to say is here is complexity.

This was a really wild coffee and it really threw me for a loop. Experimenting with this blend I found I was able to highlight certain aspects of each particular coffee, and after some tinkering I hit a sweet spot. Really amazing!

Think red fruit, toastiness, stone fruit, amazing acidity and just an overall very complex espresso.

WILD!

#2 Espresso of 2012
Fratello Coffee
“Los Pirineos”, EL SALVADOR (Single Origin)

I was pleasantly surprised with this coffee. I’ve had nothing but mediocre coffees from El Salvador the past few years. However, this year there were some really new and exciting things happening there with lots of experimentation. This includes “experimentation with 45 different varietals of coffee trees on [the Los Pirineos] farm… to find which varietal of coffee tree results in the best cup profile when grown at his elevation, with his soil conditions, in his ecological conditions.  This is NOT normal protocol” (via Fratello Blog). Fratello has a great post on their blog about the farm and more here.

El Salvador as an espresso!

This had some great fruit, structure and winey characteristics. The nose had a medium intensity with blackberry and cherry.

On the palate it had a nice body (winey mouthfeel), sour cherry, berry, blackberry, and a crisp green apple acidity. Overall, an interesting coffee with a nice complexity.

#3 Espresso of 2012
Phil & Sebastian
“Zelaya”, GUATEMALA (Single Origin)

This coffee was a workhorse when we used it at the cafe.

I found it really great typicity as a Guatemala and it worked very well as an espresso.

Notes were spice, amaretto, red fruit, plum, amazing acidity and honey sweetness. Yum!

Phil & Sebastian’s “Zelaya”

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Cafés
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#1 Cafe of 2012
Fixed Coffee & Baking

Fixed Capuccino

Fixed Capuccino

There is really no competition or comparison when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of cafes in this city… the best coffee.

This is the best coffee in the city. No question.

Not only that, day in and day out it is consistent; that is an amazing thing!

In November I had one the best cappuccinos of the year. It was early one morning before I headed off to the farmers market. The light was pouring across the floor from the huge front windows of the Fixed Cafe, and Jon served me up a cappuccino. It was delicious. Great sweetness, perfect temperature and silky milk. The Epic popped through the milk wonderfully bringing a great brightness of orange, spice and red currants. As I stood at the bar and chatted with Jon, I made mental note this was probably one of the best spro drinks of the year.

I’ve also had some amazing coffee here, including a fantastic Panama and two delicious (different) regions in Honduras.

#2 Cafe of 2012
Post Espresso Bar

Clean, crisp and minimalist is the Post Espresso bar.

I usually limit my orders to an espresso or a macchiato here. The espresso is especially good off that industrial Synesso machine.

I’ve also had two really excellent coffees here via a chemex dripper. However, they were “Guest Roasters” – a special coffee they run in very, very limited quantity.

That being said, I had perhaps the best coffee of the year here from the the legendary Tim Wendelboe!

It was a Kenyan coffee and I had it via a pourover method, which at Post is a Hario V60. I spend a few minutes nosing the coffee as it cooled: wild berries and spice. The first sip was intense. It was incredibly juicy (acidity). Tons of red fruit, winey, baked goods spices, fennel seeds… but most of all the mouthfeel was wild! Very special indeed. The body was nice, and compared to the acidity it was great. As the cup cooled I found raspberries, red currant and a snappy red apple acidity. A memorable visit indeed!

#3 Cafe of 2012
Coffee & Company

From time to time, I love to pop into Coffee and Company early in the morning to chat with the manager Brad Burness and grab an espresso or a macchiato.

There is always a hustle and bustle of people going in and out, and it’s right in the center of downtown.

On the last day of the year I popped in to grab an espresso and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Nice chocolate base, medium+ acidity, cranberry and lemon zest.

After a chat with Brad, that killer ‘spro, and a few minutes to warm up, I walked out with a big grin on my face.

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SHAZAM. Year’s over!!
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There it is! A full year in coffee!
Keep sipping and keep note of those special experiences.

Happy 2012 and best of luck in 2013!
- Matt

“The Best of Coffee” – November

10 Dec
November Month

November Month

November was a busy month filled with plenty of things to work on. Nevertheless, I made it out and about on the town a half a dozen times or more. Although there were the first signs of the winter weather setting in, the weather was  great overall. I even managed to sneak in a few last bicycle rides.

The bulk of my time was spent thinking and working on school term papers, as reflected in this months photograph. I also had wine class ever single week this month. It was a busy one! As December hit, and I started to write this post, it’s becoming very obvious the year is near the end. I’m excited to write about this year in coffee!

This post features an awesome coffee roasted in late October from Fratello and a fantastic 49th Parallel coffee from Honduras. It also holds some very memorable cafe visits!

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Coffee
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Fratello Coffee Roasters
“Los Pirineos”, EL SALVADOR

This was one of two coffees in another surprise shipment from Russ at Fratello Coffee (twitter machine @FratelloCoffee2). Thanks again Russ. As they get in new coffees, Russ usually sends some over in a dialogue… really awesome!

I was pleasantly surprised with this coffee. I’ve had nothing but mediocre coffees from El Salvador the past few years. However, it looks like this year there are some really new and exciting things happening there with lots of experimentation. This includes “experimentation with 45 different varietals of coffee trees on [the Los Pirineos] farm… to find which varietal of coffee tree results in the best cup profile when grown at his elevation, with his soil conditions, in his ecological conditions.  This is NOT normal protocol” (via Fratello Blog). Fratello has a great post on their blog about the farm and more here.

El Salvador as an espresso!

El Salvador as an espresso!

This had some great fruit, structure and winey characteristics. I played with this as an espresso, but for the sake of continuity the grading is based on the coffee brewed via clever (where it seemed to do the best).

Aroma 9 /10  

Body 9 /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 9+ / 10 

Finish 9 /10

Reading over my notes, this looks like a wine tasting! I see cherry, sour cherry, blackberry and red fruit… like a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon blend?  The nose was a medium intensity with blackberry and cherry. On the palate it had a nice body (winey mouthfeel), sour cherry, berry, blackberry, and a crisp green apple acidity. Overall, an interesting coffee with a nice complexity. I’m adding on an extra cupping point here for the interesting complexity of this coffee.

92 /100 pts

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49th Parallel 
“La Benedicion”, HONDURAS

Another delicious Honduras coffee from 49th Parallel. They are on fire this year! This was purchased at Fixed Coffee and Baking after hype from the guys.

La Benedicion

La Benedicion

On the nose, there was a medium+ intensity, I found dried sticky fruit like pineapple, honey, and red fruit like raspberries and red currant.

Aroma 9+ /10  

Body 9 /10 

Sweetness   9+ /10

Acidity 9 / 10 

Finish 9 /10

On the palate, I found red currant, lime acidity, honey, and bright dried fruit (pineapple and peach). The finish was long with a pleasant sweetness and working into dark chocoalte.

This also would make a great everyday coffee with a nice complexity to keep it interesting to drink. Great coffee, lovely sweetness, pleasant acidity and great sweetness. Plus one cupping point because of its excellent balance.

93 /100 pts

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Out on the Town / Other Thoughts

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Novemeber 7th

Popped in for a quick visit at Fixed Coffee & Baking because I was tired and craving some delicious coffee. Here I had a pourover of the Honduras I described above and loved it. I noted the great acidity, sweet honey and dried fruit (pineapple).

Novemeber 9th

David mentioned there would be yet another guest roaster… the legendary Tim Wendelboe!

Wendelboe Kenya!
Wendelboe Kenya!

This is not their typical everyday fair, and to stay in the loop you can follow David on twitter @postespresso (if you don’t already).

This was a legendary and memorable visit for me at Post espresso. Incredible coffee, no question about it… really special!

It was a Kenyan coffee and I had it via a pourover method, which at Post is a Hario V60. I spend a few minutes nosing the coffee as it cooled: wild berries and spice. The first sip was intense. It was incredibly juicy (acidity). Tons of red fruit, winey, baked goods spices, fennel seeds… but most of all the mouthfeel was wild! Very special indeed. The body was nice, and compared to the acidity it was great. As the cup cooled I found raspberries, red currant and a snappy red apple acidity.

Fantastic!

November 17th and 22nd

Both were early morning visits at Fixed Coffee & Baking. Here they serve 49th Parallel Epic Espresso, which is a seasonal blend that constantly changes throughout the year. During the November it was on fire: a blend of two coffees, the Guatemala “Providencia” and El Salvador “La Jolla”. These were also monumental visits (Nov 17th cappuccino and Nov 22nd macchiato).

Fixed Capuccino

Fixed Cappuccino

In November I had one of the best cappuccinos of the year. It was early one morning before I headed off to the farmers market (ironic and hip, yes I know). The light was pouring across the floor from the huge front windows of the Fixed Cafe, and Jon served me up a cappuccino. It was delicious. Great sweetness, perfect temperature and silky milk. The Epic popped through the milk wonderfully bringing a great brightness of orange, spice and red currants. As I stood at the bar and chatted with Jon, I made mental note this was probably one of the best spro drinks of the year.

Later in the month I stopped back again to get a macchiato from Jon. It was also delicious. Similar red currant notes popping through the milk with some lemon. Bright and sweet.

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Hold tight for Christmas, a Holiday edition of the “Best Of”, and the long awaited Year in Coffee!

- Matt

“The Best of Coffee” – October

9 Nov
Strolling around the backyard, coffee in hand.

Strolling around the backyard, coffee in hand.

October passed by quickly. The combination of school and work put a huge dent in my cafe visits this month…

BUT I had the chance to try a bunch of new and different coffees from a wide range of Roasters: 49th Parallel, Phil & Sebastian, and 3 others from a Craft Coffee monthly subscription (I’ll have more in this in the future).

While (sadly) only a mere two coffees made it into the best of this month, I’ve been noticing more and more that 2012 is coming to an end. I look forward to writing about my best experiences!

This post will ultimately be short. However, you should keep an eye out for another post in the near future which will detail my experience with the Craft Coffee Monthly Subscription.
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Coffee
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Phil & Sebastian
Patricia Perez, GUATEMALA

This coffee was heavily hyped by Steve down at Rocket Bakery. He excitedly explained the story of this coffee before it had even arrived, and once it did come in I made sure I got my hands on some. Surprisingly, some of the story even appeared on the bag.

P&S Patricia Perez Guatemala

P&S Patricia Perez Guatemala

This was good on both the french press and the clever. Personally, I found this coffee was more exciting on the nose than on the palate… perhaps this was also a product of the excessive hype. Nevertheless, this was a nice coffee with spice, apricot and red berries on the nose.

Aroma 9+ /10  

Body 9 /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 9+ / 10 

Finish 8+ /10

On the palate it had a nice body (winey mouthfeel), tart cranberry-like acidity,  chocolate, red currant, a slight greenish-ness, with a slightly drying finish.

91 /100 pts

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49th Parallel 
El Ocotillo, HONDURAS

This was a real nice coffee, very subtle and great complexity. I hammered through this bag of coffee fast enough I nearly forgot to write notes…

49th's Honduras El Ocotillo

49th’s Honduras El Ocotillo

On the nose, there was a low to medium intensity, I found dried sticky fruit like figs and dates, and red berries.

Aroma 9 /10  

Body 9+ /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 9 / 10 

Finish 9 /10

On the palate, the coffee had a welcoming syrupy body. I found there were obvious notes of prunes, along with some red berry and some chocolate, with a lingering cocoa finish.

This would make a great everyday coffee, nice complexity makes it interesting to drink. Certainly not overbearing in any aspect, even though I’m describing an obvious prune-like character.

91 /100 pts

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Out on the Town / Other Thoughts

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Apparently I was  hermit this month. I only remember 1 cafe visit, and it was late in the month:

Afternoon 'spro and Cannondale Supersix SRAM

Afternoon ‘spro and Cannondale Supersix SRAM

October 26th

After getting out for a short 45 kilometer bicycle ride in the cool autumn air, I stopped into Post Espresso on the way home. I remember David mentioning they would be featuring a guest roaster. This is the second time David has done something of this sort, and it’s particularly exciting when he does so. If you don’t already, you can follow David on twitter (@postespresso).

The guest roaster for October was Koppi Coffee Roasters from Helsingborg, Sweden. This fits neatly with the Scandinavian theme David puts forth in the cafe… I’ll have to shoot some photos I suppose!

Because I knew I would only get to try this coffee for such a short time, I planned to make a few passes at the bar, especially if I liked the coffee.

First, I ordered an espresso. Personally, I found it was pulled a little short.

Coffee cups @ Post

Coffee cups @ Post

I’m guessing it was < 30 ml of coffee for a double. While it was pretty sweet, it was also pretty muted and the crema was pretty dark. I drank it up, and thought to myself that it would be great in milk of equal proportions. A shot that size would really pop in milk.

However, David was kind enough to offer up another coffee as a pour-over: a Costa Rican Geisha crop from “Monte Rosa” also roasted by Koppi. I really have to say, it was one of the nicest coffees – if not the nicest – I have had at Post. It was deliciously sweet, and it held lots of Costa Rica’s typicity that I like so much. Tons of citrus on the nose, especially orange and lemon, and some floral components. On the palate it had a lighter body – like many geishas so often have – but great acidity and sweetness, with orange, faint berry, and chocolate.

Happy with such a delicious coffee, I did not swing back for that macchiato. However, I can’t say I regret it… that was a delicious coffee to think about on my ride home. Thanks David.

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Daylight savings time has come into effect as I write this, and we get nearer and nearer to winter. Buckle up, break out your toque and get ready for more coffee!

- Matt

“The Best of Coffee” – September

5 Oct

As fast as it started, September is over. For myself, September is one of the busiest months of the year – a transition month in many ways.

Tomatoes from my garden, with some herbs, and my favourite mug.

Tomatoes from my garden, with some herbs, and my favourite mug.

First, there is a shift in the weather and the wind gets cooler. Second, students of all levels go back to school, including University students like myself. Thirdly, we shift ourselves from the relaxed mood of the summer to a more focused working mindset. For a lot of us, we must shift our idle minds back to the framework needed to absorb information in a school environment – this is very unlike the applied learning of say, a summer job. This is also reflected in the functionality of the local café’s, and many students shift from their summer “lackadaisical” visits to a get-down-to-business utilitarian viewpoint where it is now a working environment.

Nevertheless, coffee is more than fuel to me. I still seek a cup that will provide me pleasure; an escape from that working environment. This month I’ve had some really great coffees, most of which still represent a bright summery style. We get the tail end of summer, a harvest season of sorts, much like all the lovely local produce you can get around this time.

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Coffee

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Phil & Sebastian
ISAIAS CANTILLO, COLOMBIA

This coffee was a selection from Steve down at Rocket Bakery. While I was down visiting, he brought this Colombia up. “First time I’ve had a tomato flavour in a coffee I’ve liked”, he explained. An a-typical Colombia is something I really love to see, shaking up some of the stereotypes that often come with Colombian coffees. This coffee is surrounded in a little mystery, as when I went to look it up for this post, it’s already in the archives on the Phil & Sebastian website.

P&S Isaias Cantillo, Colombia

P&S Isaias Cantillo, Colombia

 

This was an interesting coffee and really exciting. It’s really amazing how savoury notes in coffee used to be horrible (I can’t place exact dates here) but now many roasters have the nuance to actually play up these aspects in a positive way. The acidity on this was huge, and it really did show bright tomato-like acidity.

This was good on both the french press and the clever. I found the clever to edge out slightly, as the press tended to muddle the flavours a little. On the nose I found it had a nice cinnamon spice component, apple, brown sugar, and baking apple pie.

Aroma 9 /10  

Body 9 /10 

Sweetness   9+ /10

Acidity 9 / 10 

Finish 9 /10

On the palate I found it had a huge tomato-lime acidity, with some cherry and plum, with a chocolate/ caramelized sugar finish. While the stone fruit showed some typicity, the huge tomato-lime acidity was really special, almost searingly high. This would have be fun to play with as a food pairing coffee.

91 /100 pts

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Fratello
ETHIOPIA KONGO YIRGACHEFFE

Fratello Ethiopia "Kongo"

Fratello Ethiopia “Konga”

I was actually really surprised to see another package land on my doorstep from Russ @FratelloCoffee2. While I received two coffees from them, again I’d like to put my focus on one in particular here: another Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. This time it’s a natural processed Typica from the Wote Cooperative.

This was a really summery coffee, just dripping with strawberry flavours. On the nose I found an obvious aroma of strawberries, citrus and strawberry pastry.

Aroma 9+ /10  

Body 9 /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 9+ / 10 

Finish 9 /10

On the palate, the coffee developed and changed as it aged. At 5 days off roast until about 12 days off roast I found there was a dominate warm, fresh strawberry juice, much like biting into a harvested strawberry. As time went on, I found the strawberry notes settled a little into a more subtle strawberry compote/ dried strawberry. There was also citrus, brown sugar, and a cranberry flavor and cranberry-like acidity.

Steve @ Rocket Bakery

Steve @ Rocket Bakery

This was a delicious coffee, and I couldn’t wait to share this one with some of the lads at two local cafes. I’ve even included a photo with the infamous Steve at Rocket bakery I keep mentioning.

Personally I found this was the best on the French Press, it really brought out the brown sugar/ pastry sweetness.

I’d easily give this a whopping 93+ points, easily one of the best coffees I’ve had this year. Just a great example of what a special coffee can be, plant to cup!

93+ /100 pts

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Out on the Town / Other Thoughts

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As predicted, my cafe visits have begun to climb. However, I’ve only noted two particular visits this month:

September 9th
I had  a delicious espresso at Post Espresso (@postespresso)… “Aperture Espresso Blend”. This is a blend of two washed coffees: a Yergacheffe and a Guatemala Santiago Atitlan (no mention of percentages). It was pleasantly served by a blonde girl… I do not yet know her name. It was a nice, heavily spiced espresso with some fruit and a nice sweetness.

My Fixed Coffee experience.

My Fixed Coffee experience.

September 20th
I had an amazing pour-over at Fixed Coffee of a 49th Parallel Panama “Don Pepe”. It enjoyed it with a Bagel sandwich (brie, arugula and proscuitto). Great acidity on this coffee, plum and chocolate. Nice sweetness and some Graham cracker. It was delicious right down to the last sip, cooling extremely well.  Great combo, sandwich and coffee pairing really well!

Rock ‘n roll, bring on the Fall!

- Matt

Cherry Hill Coffee

27 Sep

In late August, James Calder got in contact with me to share some coffees from Cherry Hill Coffee (or @Mmm_Cherry_Hill on the twitter machine). I was surprised I had not heard of this Canadian roaster until now, this is a big operation! It has a flashy website and equally flashy looking coffee bags and merch. But when I headed to the Post Office to pick up the package James sent, I was still surprised to see such a large box. Inside was:

Cherry Hill Care Package

Cherry Hill Care Package

It was nice to see a Canadian Coffee Roaster so established.

James sent along some info…

“Cherry Hill Coffee originated from humble beginnings in 1986. Starting out as a small downtown Kelowna storefront coffee shop over 25 years ago Cherry Hill coffee now roasts 200,000 lbs for independent cafe’s, ski resorts, golf courses and restaurants across western Canada. Cherry Hill Coffee has 12 employees working out of our a 6500 sq ft roasting facility/espresso bar/lab. With a focus on quality organic coffee we considers ourselves genuine and passionate coffee folks, doing our thing the old fashioned way in the mountains of BC.”

Cupping four coffees at a time.

Cupping four coffees at a time.

The following afternoon I spent a few hours sorting through everything and cupping all the coffees. I had to narrow down what I thought were the best coffees, and then make some decisions as to what I thought I could get from each coffee.

The roasting profile used for most of these coffees seems to result in a relatively low acid coffee in the cup. For those of you who are long time readers, acidity is something I really look for in a coffee. Personally, I found these coffees were more suited to espresso brewing. Nevertheless, I made sure to give each one a chance.

The top two coffees James sent were the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe “Gedeo Worka” and the Espresso Milano light roast espresso blend. These are the two I’d like to explore in this post.

However, one other that deserves mention was a particularly surprising “Wine Barrel Aged Coffee“. Apparently they age green beans in an empty merlot barrel (from a local winery who just finished bottling) at the roastery for two weeks, turning it every day. The resulting french press coffee was heavily dominated by cassis and purple fruit. This was no every day coffee… It was certainly worth trying, but I wouldn’t want to roll out of bed with a hangover and try to gulp down a merlot infused coffee! Personally I found it to be a little overwhelming with cassis and purple sour-candy-like flavours.

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Ethiopia Yirgacheffe “Gedeo Worka”
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This coffee is produced in the Gedeo region of northern Yirgacheffe bordering on Sidamo. It is collected from area small farms and processed at the Worka cooperative. It is a natural process, Heirloom varietal coffee.

I found this was a pretty nice representation of a coffee from a region of Yirgacheffe near Sidamo. I found it had a very berry dominated profile with some nice citrus/ lemon and spice. I’m going to say straight-up that I found this was best on the French Press… the Pour Over methods didn’t do justice or emphasize the best aspects.

French Press

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe as a cappuccino.

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe as a cappuccino.

It was in the French Press I found I was able to get the maximum sweetness from this coffee. It was brewed 24grams of coffee to 400mL water in a steel Frieling. The overall cup was dominated by a blueberry, spice and chocolate on nose, with lemon and berry on the palate. The finish was a mostly cocoa (almost a little dusty).
 Aroma  9 /10 
 Body  8+ /10
 Sweetness    8+ /10
 Acidity  8+ /10
 Finish  8 /10
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Espresso

I also thought it would be fun to play with this coffee as an espresso. For the most part I found this liked a medium dose in the range of 18.5 – 19.0g of coffee to 30-31g of water. On the E61 machine I found it was best with at 93 degrees Celsius in 26 seconds.

I was able to get some real nice baking spice notes, blueberry and lemon. This really worked well in 3-5oz of milk as a cappuccino or macchiato. All the best aspects cut through the milk: think baking blueberry pie and caramel.

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“Espresso Milano”
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This espresso blend was a bit of a throwback for me. Amidst all the single origin espressos and the lighter, brighter blends this one really holds true to the oldschool Italian blend. Thankfully, it’s a “Northern Italian inspiration”… meaning a lighter style roast.

This was a robust espresso, and leading into the fall season it was a welcome shift. I’ve included a short video working with the Espresso Milano blend, and below are my notes.

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Straight 

This, much like the Yirgacheffe listed above, was pulling well in the range of 19.0g of coffee to 30-32g of water. On the E61 machine I found it was best with at 93 degrees Celsius in 26 seconds.

This was a simple espresso. Nicely dominated by chocolate, cocoa, vanilla and a little spice/ cedar on the aromatics.
What can I say? This was a good workhorse espresso for everyday use.

In Milk 

In milk I found myself going a little finer on the grind as to get 28-30g of espresso from the same 19g of ground coffee in 26 seconds. This really boosted the sweet chocolate notes in milk. Again, this was a real throwback: I found notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, and malt. A 5oz cappuccino had a nice malted milkshake-like feel.

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Big thanks to James for hooking me up.
Have a look out for “The Best of Coffee: September” coming in the next week!

- Matt

“The Best of Coffee” – August

5 Sep

The months of July and August ran into each other, simply because of the timing – I chose to start this “Best Of” feature in mid-July. This made it a little confusing as to what I would include in each post, as well as how it would look.

Pouring up some coffee in the backyard.

Pouring up some coffee in the backyard.

Since I’m still working on the actual layout for these monthly updates, it may still change slightly (however this seems to flow nicely). Featured coffees for this month include Phil & Sebastian and Fratello, as well as some updates out and about in St. John’s.

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Coffee

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Phil & Sebastian
KENYA NGUNGURU

Very early in August my good friend Steve down at Rocket Bakery gave me a shout and let me know about the @PhilandSeb Kenya Ngunguru. Thanks to some friendly coffee exchanging some time ago, Steve was going to bring a bag in complementary!

Generally my experience with Kenya coffees is underwhelming on the ‘cost to taste’ ratio.

P&S Kenya Ngunguru

P&S Kenya Ngunguru

HOWEVER, this was a real nice coffee. Usually I never finish a bag of coffee because I have so much work to do trying multiple coffees, but this one I happily drank almost every morning. It was really one of those coffees I could drink everyday for a long time. I finished the whole bag.

This was good on both the french press and the clever. On the nose I found it to be very floral, dried fruit, spice, and faint melon.

Aroma 9 /10  

Body 8+ /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 9 / 10 

Finish 9+ /10

On the palate I found it had a huge juicy acidity and lots of sweetness. I found melon and spice with faint dried fruits. There was also a citrus component that became particularly apparent as the cup cooled- grapefruit in particular.

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Fratello
ETHIOPIA ECX TOP LOT

Ethiopian ECX Top Lot

Ethiopian ECX Top Lot

I’ve been trying out coffees from @FratelloCoffee for some time now and I’d like to think I have a good relationship with Russ (@FratelloCoffee2 on the twitter machine). Whenever they receive and roast new coffees they are happy with, he always makes sure to send some my way for feedback.

This month, I receive two coffees from them. I’d like to put my focus on one in particular here: an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Sadly, we will never know its exact origins because it was placed on the Ethiopian exchange (hence ECX in its name), nevertheless it is a very interesting coffee.

This coffee was very a-typical for a Yirgacheffe, something you would want to try out if you are looking for something out of the ordinary. I need to point out my early reactions with this coffee were because I had brewed it too fresh (August 20th roast date). I actually found this started to peak around 7+ days off roast.

On the nose I found it had a medium intensity with grapefruit, spice, and some ‘fruit doughnut’.

Aroma 9 /10  

Body 9 /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 8+ / 10 

Finish 8+ /10

On the palate it showed it’s unusual-ness. I found it had a typical citrus, but also a persimmon-like middle and sweetness. It was delicate and had a black tea finish (also savoury).

Despite its delicacy, I found this coffee did far better on a french press. It seemed the Clever accentuated it’s dry aspects and sucked some of its sweetness out. Maybe some tweaking could fix this.

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Out on the Town / Other Thoughts

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My cafe visits were few in the month of August. Sadly I can relive the month simply by looking through my phone – if there were no photos of espresso in cafe, well then it just wasn’t a really special experience.

I found myself enjoying the last bit of summer, taking my french press and hand grinder around and brewing outdoors. As we move into the month of September and I dig back into school work, the cafe visits will climb greatly.

Hold on tight and brace for fall…

Keep warm with coffee, and thanks for reading!

- Matt

The Monthly Coffee Update: “Best of JULY”

22 Aug

I’ve been incredibly busy with work and new projects in my life… however, I’ve been drinking plenty of coffee along the way. Rather than get too deep into the complexities of what I’ve been doing, I’d like to get straight to the point.

I’m introducing a new featured post for this website: “Best of the Month”. This will revolve around the best and most interesting coffees I have been drinking this month, but it could also include the best in cafe experiences (best spro, best coffee) and more.

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JULY MONTH

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Surprise package from Steve at Social Coffee

Surprise package from Steve at Social Coffee

Thanks goes out to @SocialCoffeeCo yet again for sending me some coffee. Steve sent over 4 bags of coffee, most of which are new offerings from Social. There are two I’d like to focus on: a Colombian filter coffee (which was a Geisha crop they won the 2012 SCAA Roaster’s Choice with) and a Burundi as an espresso coffee.

Geisha coffees are a difficult varietal, for a number of reasons. Because of this, Geisha’s usually fetch high prices to accommodate the risk, time and low yield associated with the varietal. Coffee is changing, and though more attention has shifted to the particular varietal(s) involved, much is still unknown about the geisha crop in particular. Nevertheless, they provide a very different experience; the result is a very delicate cup, which is certainly not for everyone.

Colombia Cerro Azul Geisha

The Colombia Cerro Azul Geisha from Social was interesting because of the experience I describe above. It is unlike other coffee varieties, usually categorized by two things: explosive, intense aromatics and a thin, tea-like body. The Cerro Azul followed this typecast.

Colombia Cerro Azul Geisha

Colombia Cerro Azul Geisha

I Prepared this via french press, pour over, etc, and found it to do best on the Clever Dripper (18g coffee to 300g water [6%]). High intensity aroma with citrus (orange and lemon), red fruit and red grapes.

Aroma 9 /10  

Body 7+ /10 

Sweetness   9 /10

Acidity 9 / 10 

Finish 8 /10

On the palate, it just did not match the powerful aromatics. It had good acidity, red grapes and savoury jasmine notes on the mid palate, and then finished with a cocoa-like dryness.

Personally, while the aromatics were quite interesting, I have to lump in into my other Geisha experiences. These “experiences” are enlightening, but not fulfilling. I feel as if I am being cheated out of the complexity I get on the nose once I actually put liquid to lips and try the coffee. But, as I note above, Social won the SCAA Roaster’s Choice with this coffee, so not everyone would agree with me.

Burundi Gatare as Espresso

Burundi Gatare as Espresso

Burundi Gatare

First and foremost, I need to outline that I received a light-ish roast of the Gatare intended for filter brewing. My espresso brewing of this coffee was solely for experimentation and based on a hunch that I thought it could do quite well as an espresso. While grinding this coffee, I was reminded of cherry pop-tarts!

This being said, I used a parameter of 19.5 grams coffee to 32 grams of water @ 93 degrees Celsius in 27 seconds on a semi-auto lever machine. The result was a delicious, red stone fruit driven espresso.

My notes were cherry, hickory and red plum on the nose, great acidity, nice sweetness. On the palate I got cherry syrup, red plum, and a gooseberry-like finish and acidity.

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Out on the Town

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Regretfully, I did not keep notes on particular experiences in July “out and about” on the town. However, I did get numerous coffees from ‘Fixed Coffee & Baking’ through the month.

‘Fixed Coffee & Baking’ is relatively new on the scene (early summer of 2012). Despite this, each time I go in there I get a remarkably consistent espresso no matter who serves me. Each time I have received appropriate ~2 ounce doubles with great body, lots of sweetness, and good acidity.

I can also recall heading to ‘Fixed’ early one morning and getting a delicious 5oz cappuccino and an old-school cinnamon bun. The capp had stellar latte art, perfect temperature milk, and a nice punch of espresso coming through with sweet anise notes - just a delicious. It was a great experience overall. I’ll be exploring this more over the August month.

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So that’s July in a nutshell. Thanks for checking it out, and I’d love to hear about anything you would like to see next month.

Cheers,
- Matt

Updates,Thoughts, and Square Mile

5 Apr

So this is to be a multifaceted post.

Square Mile "Red Brick" (Mid-March 2012)

Square Mile "Red Brick" (Mid-March 2012)

As you can see, this is my first post in some time. In fact, it looks like I left the Phil & Sebastian Zelaya post up in the air… there is no conclusive remarks, parameters or grades. Why you ask? Well the coffee has run-out at the roaster!

Why then, write a detailed review on a coffee that technically no longer exists? 

So, we have reached a problem then. Or- at least I’ve hit a personally challenging issue. I mean, think about it… Yes, there may in fact be a similar coffee next season, BUT it will never be the same coffee. So now my pending review is stagnant, stuck in time… Even if a reader were interested, they are completely unable to participate and can not get that bag of that coffee.

Which leads my to the next issue: if the point of my writings is to put coffees under the magnifying glass for the practicality of the reader, then what is less practical then a review on a coffee that is out of your reach?

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So, I’m asking for your help. Do you want the review anyway? Or do you want to see me acting sooner and working faster on coffees as they are coming out?

Is it worthwhile to act early and ask roasters for new coffees to ‘test out’?

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Which brings me to my final point for this post. What belongs on a bag of coffee or espresso? I’ve been thinking about this idea of ‘what belongs on a bag of coffee’ for some time now, and two Roasters have caught my eye. The problem though, is that this in itself  is a very complex and tricky post – perhaps one I will have to expand on at a later date.

Square Mile "Red Brick" bag detail

Square Mile "Red Brick" bag detail

However, there is one point I’d like to touch on here. I’ve been working on some coffees from Square Mile (yes, the one that the super star James Hoffmann is associated with – Mister JIMSEVEN himself). What is interesting, is their breakdown of their espresso blend “Red Brick”. Firstly, current trends all point to increased transparency in the coffee/ producer relationship (this is certainly not new). However, Square Mile pushes further, offering transparency in newer territory.

Let’s look at the ‘espresso blend’, something that was once a covenant entity, one that was held tightly by the roaster and sworn to  secrecy. Now, I’m not saying Square Mile was the first to free the details on their espresso blend (49th Parallel’s Epic also comes to mind off the top of my head)… however, they do offer a new and clear version of this idea directly on the bag. Red Brick is clear, and concise: take a look at the photo [Square Mile: "Red Brick" bag detail].

On it, we see three important aspects: (1) the coffees involved, (2) their percentage, and (3) what taste components to look for on each coffee. Now, this raises and interesting idea… should we be investigating each espresso blend intently enough to highlight each coffee individually? OR is it a collective harmony that we should be aiming to highlight time and time again? Personally, I like blends an AWFUL lot and the complexities they can offer…

What I find interesting here is a lack of a cohesive flavour profile. Instead, we see a visible disconnect – which may not necessarily be a bad thing – just an issue I’m raising! And you know what? I also found this in the espresso as I was testing it. I pulled this for days, all around the recommended parameters, and got a delicious espresso consistently (perhaps highlighting the Brazil?)BUT it was not until I spend some time ‘tinkering’ with the recipe to tighten it in, when I hit a sweet spot and there was a wonderful singing of other components (I got wonderful stone fruit and the most pleasing tartness I have ever had in an espresso). The tartness was NOT a displeasing experience, it was a different type of acidity balanced perfectly with sweetness. It was beautiful! [Note: Parameters were: 19.4g dry coffee to 30.4g wet coffee, in 26 seconds at 94 degrees on a semi-manual E-61 machine with pre-infusion]

So, there are two things here: the general (which consistently each shot was very good) and the minuet (where we hit other, or all? aspects of the blend). Interesting… I’d love to hear others thoughts here. This was certainly an epiphany moment for me… it’s one of those things I’ve thought about for a long time but never had it work this clearly in praxis.

Thanks to James to recommending some coffees, easily accessible through twitter.

Cheers,
- Matt

Phil & Sebastian – Preview of the Zelaya Espresso

27 Feb

I’ve been working with the Zelaya espresso for about a month now at the coffee shop, and have been meaning to get my thoughts online. Over the weekend I shot some video outlining my initial thoughts on the Zelaya Espresso from Phil & Sebastian:

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The espresso was pulling really nice, here is a shot from the naked portafilter:

Zelaya Espresso from P&S Roasters, Naked Portafilter

Zelaya Espresso from P&S Roasters, Naked Portafilter

Keep an eye out for the full detailed post!

- Matt

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