George Howell “Addis Ketema” Yirgacheffe

8 Mar

Last week I posted a preview of this coffee, detailing my communications with George Howell and Doug Sparks. If you have not had a chance to check that out, click here to see the preview.

Great looking product, one of the 'prettiest' bags I've seen.

Great looking product, one of the 'prettiest' bags I've seen.

This espresso is definitely of the new-school philosophy: a light roast which George Howell Coffee describes as a “Northern Italian Espresso Roast”. Generally – and I say generally to avoid causing problems – the trend is the lightest roasts in Italy are in the North and get progressively darker as you travel South (GENERALLY).

Personally, I was relieved to see this arrive last week, as it was finally a break from the wintry deep flavoured espressos (syrupy, molasses, etc) I have recently been sampling.

A few words before I begin: This is a very delicate cup, and incredibly complex. My initial reaction was to conclude too early, not investigating all aspects of this. Honestly, this has been crazy interesting and thanks to a dialogue with other cafes like @MercuryEspresso via twitter I’ve be able to crack this special Single Origin espresso open as much as possible.

I started at the baseline with this espresso (94 degrees Celsius, 19grams) and did some guess work on the grind. My results were decent, but I was temped to raise the temperature, especially given the light roast…. Well, the answer was no, it didn’t work. This is a great example of generalizations not always applying. Believe it or not, by taste I needed to lower the temperature.

Turns out I was finding the best flavours at 92 – 93 degrees Celsius. The dose seemed to work best at ~18.5 grams, with a final liquid weight of ~30-31 grams and total shot length of ~25-27 seconds was ideal. Keep reading for details.

Pulling a 18.5 gram double @ 93C

Pulling a 18.5 gram double @ 92C

Straight Shot

I actually have to split this up into two temperatures, because the results were different.
@ 92 degrees Celsius: honey sweetness, brightness, citrus: lemon & orange, some ginger-like pepperiness, and vanilla notes. This was more mellow in the cup, and I personally preferred at this temp.
93 degrees Celsius:
lemon rind, springy lemon acidity, ginger, floral aromas and a little bit of a woody/ spice taste.

It is important to note the fact that it lacked a little on depth, given this was a Single Origin espresso. It was complex, but followed the same profile through the cup (personally I’m indifferent). However, the delicate cup and interesting brightness and flavour profile was intense. The next interesting discovery was a very different profile in milk.

In Milk

Personally, I nearly concluded this was purely a delicate, desert-like espresso and would fall apart in milk, becoming muted. Boy was I bias again, and shocked once I made a cappuccino.

Pulling 18.4 grams solid to 30.5 grams liquid and adding 110grams of milk (~6oz total volume cappuccino) I found a different flavour. First sips I was indifferent, but it opened up into a creamy fruit and dulled some of the citrus I initially found as straight espresso. It was easy to find, but I had a hard time placing it exactly: it was a stone fruit play intersecting between cherry and peach (which @MercuryEspresso described it as strawberry for reference).

18.4gram solid to 30.7gram liquid espresso, set-up for Cappuccino.

18.4gram solid to 30.7gram liquid espresso, set-up for Cappuccino.

...and with 112 grams of milk on top.

...and with 112 grams of milk on top.


This was personally one of the best americanos I have ever had. The extra water (5oz added by pulling a double over the top of hot water) really opened this coffee right up. I could find some more interesting notes including: honey, golden raisin and a lovely sweetness.


Straight: Sweet, bright, mellow, citrus, and even vanilla. Very complex, only lacking slightly in depth through the cup 9/10
In Milk: a totally new beast, offering creamy fruit and stone fruit play 9+/10
Americano: Spectacular 9.5/ 10

This was a great break from all the wintry blends. Single origin, very complex and has plenty of brightness and springy notes BUT surprisingly not overly acidic. It was very pleasing and had a very nice natural sweetness, especially at a lower temperature like 92 degrees Celsius. This was a very interesting espresso and a lot of fun, but personally it did fall down marginally on depth from the beginning to end as espresso. Again, totally different beast in milk offering creamy stone fruit. All in all, very exciting and pleasing.

Despite my bias towards Single Origin espresso, this one is an eye-opener. It land the highest score I have offered yet at an amazing 94 points. PLEASE treat this with respect, and if you are also indifferent towards S-O espresso give it a try.

Total 100 point score of 94/100.


2 Responses to “George Howell “Addis Ketema” Yirgacheffe”

  1. Espresso Adventures March 9, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    Amazing post!
    Well detailed, and a clear breakdown of your scientific and coffee geek approach.
    Loved it, and have scrolled through some of your other posts.

    Great job, share the knowledge. Always great to find other geeks online.


    • MattCReynolds March 9, 2011 at 4:50 am #

      Cheers, and thanks for the comment.

      I agree, dialogue and sharing ideas through the coffee and espresso community is always so much fun!
      – Matt

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