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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

Phil and Sebastian – Part 2: Colombia

31 Aug

This is the second instalment of the [long awaited] Phil and Sebastian review and testing. This is a result of a number of things in my life… nevertheless, here it is!

Phil and Sebastian - Colombia

Phil and Sebastian - Colombia

I already posted a preview and full review of the Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil that you should check out, if you haven’t already.

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So I received two separate bags of the Colombia. One was single estate, “Carlos Imbachi” profiled for filter/drip, and the other was a 7 farm blend profiled for espresso (“La Plata / Bruselas, Huila, Colombia”). Much like my earlier Brazil review, though I usually only focus on espresso testing I was very interested to play with both on multiple brewing methods.
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Section 1: Non-Espresso Results
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Pour Over

Brewed with 19grams of coffee via a Brewt device.
Initial aroma had cinnamon and spice, and first sips were clearly brighter than the Brazil I had previously tried. Acidity was medium to high with a pineapple-like quality and backed by a nice caramel sweetness. Overall mouthfeel was similar to juice, especially as it cooled. It’s complexity increased as it cooled, and red fruit dominated the cup.
Notes included: cinnamon, spice, pineapple, red fruit and caramel. Medium to high acidity, juice-like mouth-feel and nice red fruit finish.


Aeropress

Brewed with 18 grams of coffee with the upside-down method aeropress and coava disc.
The body increased a little over the pour over, and there was definitely chocolate dominating the cup. The cinnamon quality was still present as well as the red fruit, but there was also an interesting mango-peach thing going on.

Final Notes

The overall cup was interesting with a pleasing [yet high] acidity. Unlike the Brazil, it was a much brighter cup. Lots of fruit in this one, and a great juicy/ syrupy coffee.

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Section 2: Espresso Results
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Started with the usual baseline for this espresso (94 degrees Celsius, 19grams). Given this was a multi-estate espresso, I was open to the possibility there was more than one profile and temperature for this coffee.

La Plata / Bruselas, Huila, Colombia.

La Plata / Bruselas, Huila, Colombia.

This espresso seemed to work well at both 93 & 94 degrees Celsius. The dose seemed ideal around the 20.0 gram range, with a final liquid weight of ~31-33 grams with a total shot length of 26-27 seconds. Keep reading for details.

Straight Shot

Espresso was more than acceptable between 93 and 94 degrees Celsius, with best results (in my personal opinion) @ 94 degrees Celsius.
@ 93 degrees Celsius: caramelized flavors, berry-like, red fruit, and a snappy lemon acidity. Sweet with a little tartness.
@ 94 degrees Celsius: red fruit, orange, juicy, and really well balanced (more so than 93 degrees Celsius). Nicer acidity with some raspberry, vanilla and hints of caramelization.

While this was a fantastic espresso, it was relatively fussy. I could see potential for problems in a cafe setting, unless the staff was bang on all the time.

In Milk

Pulling 19.9 grams solid to 32.6 grams liquid and adding 98 grams of milk (~6oz total volume cappuccino), the dominate flavour was a caramel/ caramelization. It had an interesting ginger thing going on, with slight hints of ginger-like heat. There was also faint hints of lemon rind and a very pleasing tartness.

La Plata / Bruselas, Huila, Colombia.

La Plata / Bruselas, Huila, Colombia.

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Straight: another multidimensional espresso with red fruit, berries, orange, caramelized sweetness 9+/10

In Milk:  great in small amounts of milk, with caramelized notes and ginger 9/10

While it wasn’t a single origin espresso in the truest sense, it was another espresso with multidimensional qualities. Nice complexity, and I was surprised by the changing flavour profile as the temperature changed. Final score for this coffee… 92/ 100.

This was a very promising Colombia, one of the better examples I’ve had in the past few years.

Total 100 point score of 92/100.

Phil and Sebastian – Part 1: Brazil

20 Jul

This Phil and Sebastian review and testing has been a long time coming, and I do apologize. Delays by Canada post as well as other personal things have pushed this back a little. Nevertheless, here is part one: the Brazil coffees.

I already posted a preview of this coffee, but I wanted to open it up with one of the espresso extractions from the Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil. Here it is:

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I received two separate bags of Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil. One was profiled for espresso, and the other was roasted for pour over/ drip/ etc. Even though I usually only focus on espresso testing, I was very interested to play with these coffees on multiple brewing methods.
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Section 1: Non-Espresso Results
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Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil

Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil

Pour Over

Brewed with 19grams of coffee via a Brewt device. Initial results were delicious, with a juice-like mouth-feel and taste.
Notes included: dark cherry, stone fruit, chocolate and grape. Nice round body and mouth-feel, syrupy and medium acidity.

Press Pot (French Press)

Brewed with 50grams of coffee via Bodum. Clearly the biggest difference was the change of body, which was much thicker brewed in the press pot. Also picked up on some nutty components, faint fruit and a citrus-like acidity.

Aeropress

Brewed with 18 grams of coffee with the upside-down method aeropress and coava disc. The body was similar to the pour over, but it had similar nutty notes of the press pot with stone fruit components.

Final Notes

The overall cup was well balanced, great acidity, displaying typical Brazil qualities with surprisingly delicious stone fruit and nutty aspects. I’d be happy to drink this one day in and day out.

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Section 2: Espresso Results
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Starting from the usual baseline with this espresso (94 degrees Celsius, 19grams) I made some guess work on the grind. I was finding different, but great results at 93 – 94 degrees Celsius. The dose seemed to work best at 19.0 grams, with a final liquid weight of ~29-31 grams and total shot length of 25-27 seconds was ideal. Keep reading for details.

Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil.

Fazenda do Serrado, Brazil: "naked"

Straight Shot

This was pulling an acceptable shot between 93 and 94 degrees Celsius, with best results (in my personal opinion) @ 93 degrees Celsius: nice sweetness, vanilla, peach, stone fruit, hints of tobacco and a syrupy overall taste and mouth-feel. @ 94 degrees Celsius: there was also vanilla, peach, apricot, but there was a definite brighter citrus-like acidity. The syrupy play turned to a brighter honey-like play.

This was a delicious espresso, and I’d be happy to receive either of these incarnations at a coffee shop.

In Milk

Pulling 19.2 grams solid to 30.7 grams liquid and adding 115 grams of milk (~6oz total volume cappuccino) it was evident the stone fruit qualities disappeared. Instead it turned into a nice sweet toffee and milk chocolate cappuccino, even caramel-like at times.

In the cup.

In the cup.

Americano

The americano was decent. Personally I found the body diminished and the very special juice-like qualities I enjoyed so much in the coffee also subsided.
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Straight: multidimensional with vanilla, stone fruit, honey and more 9+/10

In Milk:  good, nice toffee and milk chocolate 8.75/10

Americano: decent, good balanced, but loss of body and profile 8/ 10

Another surprising single origin espresso that was multidimensional. Nice complexity, and I was blown away by the changing flavour profile as the temperature changed. Good tobacco notes at 93 Celsius, which is a rarity.
Final score for this coffee… 92/ 100.
One of the best Brazil coffees I have had in a long time!

Total 100 point score of 92/100.

Phil and Sebastian – Breakdown

8 Jul

I received four coffees from Phil & Sebastian for review and testing at Coffee Folk:

Phil and Sebastian coffee arrives!

Phil and Sebastian coffee arrives!

After some thought, here is the format I will be using to break it down on the Coffee Folk website.

A short 1:24 video:

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You can also check out the Coffee Folk channel on Vimeo here:
http://vimeo.com/channels/205698

More soon!

– Matt

Phil and Sebastian – Preview

25 Jun

Working with Phil and Sebastian for the next review, check out the first impressions and preview:

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I also shot some video of a few extractions taking place.
Check out the Fazenda Do Serrado, Brazil with some swanky music:

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You can also check out the channel on Vimeo here:
http://vimeo.com/channels/205698

More soon!

– Matt