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Saturday, November 19, 2005

the nic la guayabo coe

keeping my promise to bccy pal cgg, today i made up oren's nicaragua nueva segovia c.o.e. from la guayabo farm. this shade-sheltered bourbon coffee is wet-processed, sun-dried, and grown at more than 4,000 ft.

long-time readers know i usually rush to make all the c.o.e. coffees i have in the vac pot, but again, since oren is totally mr. chemex, i made it up per his brewing preferences, 2 oz/57 g. fresh ground coffee to 26 fl. oz/769 ml water. total brew time: 4 mins. 45 secs.

oren roasted this coffee on monday, meaning it's now 6-days old. he calls this roast level city+, but let me add that the occasional bean shows small patches of oil.

ok, got your scaa flavor wheel about?

let me first say that if i were to make this coffee again, i might personally dial the amount down to 1.85 oz/53 grams to check it out there. but oren loves it strong, so i wanted to experience it the way he intended the coffee!

i thought the dry grounds were floral and spicy, maybe like smelling paperwhite narcissus. there was a little hint of fruitiness that i really couldn't i.d. there too.

when the coffee bloomed, that fruitiness seemed to return. i thought it smelled a little bit like apple cider maybe?

the rest of the bouquet felt like brown rice and caramel. oren had warned me that this was a "subtle" coffee, one that needed to sit in your mouth for a few seconds before it revealed its rich character.

and indeed, when i sipped again and held it in my mouth again, it did seem to get a little sweeter. as the coffee cooled, its medium bright taste -- i would say snappiness, i mean a step beyond crisp -- became very apparent.

what also emerged was more of that apple-type character, a sort of tart apple, like maybe a granny smith? this isn't a flavor i see a lot in coffee personally, and so it appeared quite distinctive to me in the cold cup.

i would say that to find and really appreciate this apple cider/granny smith quality you'd need to drink the coffee black. when i tried a second cup with light cream, this fruitiness disappeared entirely.

but the cream does increase the caramel aftertaste, and with a little raw sugar as well, the brightness came down a bit too. so i think the best way to appreciate this coffee is probably black, or at most with a splash of half-n-half, because once you lose the apple and the snap, i think a lot of what makes this coffee remarkable is probably too muted.

but ymmv! i would certainly be remiss if i didn't note that this coffee has a great body for a central (american), especially at full-oren strength.

just another great coffee from oren -- if you bright centrals, you'd be missing out unless you pick up this prize-winner. remember, i supposedly don't like bright coffees, but i always enjoy oren's beans!

posted by fortune | 5:20 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments

Friday, November 18, 2005

the finch wa yrg, redux

as promised yesterday, i made up oren's prize-winning finch wa yrg this morning in the vac pot. i used my usual vac pot proportions -- 60 g/2 oz fresh ground coffee to 1 liter/33 fl. oz. water.

this coffee is now 7 days old -- which actually is just as well, because despite that age it bloomed so mightly in the vac pot i had to stir down the top globe like mad to prevent a foamy overflow!

i know you all already have that scaa flavor wheel to hand. . .

yesterday oren's full-city+ finch wa did a more than credible passage as a harrar. today in the vac pot it reverted to some more traditional yrg-like characteristics, such as a delicate, "tea-like" body.

while the dry grounds were just as flagrantly floral and blue as before, when the coffee bloomed, the plum/tamarillo scent seemed to me to be more like sweet candied prunes, quite reminiscent of those vanilla agen prunes i wrote about not so long ago.

i also thought the brew had a more maple-syrupy flavor. but boy howdy did it keep that harrar-esque chocolate aftertaste.

it's medium wine-y taste, interestingly enough, didn't seem to change much from the chemex. and again, this coffee kept its exquisite balance.

(on the subject of balance, ken david's definition makes it seems like it's a dull thing, as if you'd always rather have a wild, extreme coffee. this isn't true!

some coffees have a nature, like the kello yrg, that is best suited by wild, passionate excess; others are more like a refined piece of chamber music where all the parts should play in balanced harmony.

the question of balance and whether it's a fantastic thing or not is something that can only be experienced in the tasting, imvho. in the case of oren's finch wa, balance is gorgeous quality.)

tomorrow, the finch wa in the cafetiére! and, an apology to norman v: i should have thanked him earlier for his colombian and the 75% chocolate! i will get to that by sunday, i promise!

posted by fortune | 8:32 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 4 comments

Thursday, November 17, 2005

the amazing finch wa yrg

long-time readers may recall that i've written many times about the historical ethiopian internet coffee auction, which was a tipping point for the specialty coffee industry. the batdorf latitudes kello yrg i've been writing recently about came from that auction.

ethiopian gedeo coffee farmers at market as did today's incredible coffee, the amazing finchwa (or finch weha, depending on how you transliterate it from amharic's abugida) yrg that oren bid on, as i mentioned in the original ethiopian auction post linked above. coffee farmers like those pictured here, members of the gedeo ethnic group, grew this beautiful coffee.

oren's finchwa is a "naturally" organic, certified fair-trade coffee, grown at 5,900 ft. the name "finchwa," oren says, means "original source."

the co-op subjected these beans to the dry process. at auction, oren paid US$3.18 for the green, meaning the farmers received a substantial premium for the superior cupping quality of this coffee, coffee they lovingly grew with care.

the gedeo people tend their coffee in the home vegetable gardens that surround their humble dwellings, and often refer to the trees as their children. this is how central coffee is to their way of life.

it's also crucial to note that the finchwa is rare coffee -- there are only 18 bags of it in the whole world. period. no more.

dear readers, now that you have an overview as to how special these ethiopian coffees are, get out those scaa flavor wheels.

since oren's a chemex fan, i ground these beans as i did the kello yesterday, and brewed them the same way, but at oren's recommended dose of 2 oz/57 g coffee for 26 oz/769 ml water. my total brew time was 4 mins 27 secs.

oren had roasted the finchwa darker than scott did his kello yrg; the beans exhibited a light sheen of oil. so i'm calling them a full city +.

the roast date is 11/11, meaning the coffee is now 6 days old.

the second these beans hit the grinder hopper, it was easy to smell the blueberry aroma. the dry grounds perfumed my kitchen in a floral, blue breeze -- a most excellent sign.

oh, i thought, this is another yrg disguised as a harrar! if the sourcing weren't so transparent on these ethiopian coffees, i would have sworn from this first scent that it was a harrar.

after the coffee had bloomed in the chemex, i gave it a stir and was pleasantly surprised to see the blue note turn more towards a plum (actually it reminded me rather of the recent tamarillo, but that may just be because the fruit was still relatively fresh in my mind).

now i'm going to have a problem describing this middle part of the bouquet. as scaa chief ted lingle once said to me, "coffee is infinite: the wheel is just a guide to the mountaintop where you go on alone and gaze into forever."

this is a coffee where we have to leave the wheel so to speak -- the middle of the rich bouquet seemed to me rather a mix of malty, toasty but also the stem of dried sage. (have you ever gotten a dried sage stem in your bowl of new mexican green chile? like that!)

there is no doubt that the aftertaste of the finchwa is chocolate-y, like a harrar. the finchwa is a tad different than the kello in that it's more mocha-y -- you sense more "roasted coffee" flavor in with the chocolate -- this is probably due to the finchwa's darker roast level.

when cooler, i thought the finchwa was a medium-wine-y tasting coffee; the kello seemed more wine-y to me. again, this is probably due to the finchwa's somewhat longer roast.

as a result of this roast level, the finchwa also had a notable balance. black, it's a complex coffee with an intriguing set of aromas and that wonderful deceptively harrar body.

with light cream and a little raw sugar, the wine-y taste was reduced to a murmur, and the yummy mocha taste much increased. highly recommended!

tomorrow i must make this in the vac pot. . .if you're a fan of a wild, lemony-citrus feeling in your coffee, you'll love the kello; if you'd prefer a more balanced, plum-fruity feeling, the finchwa.

if you're like me, you count yourself blessed to have both of these fabulous coffees. the finchwa is such a limited production, i just don't see how a coffee lover could let it pass by forever without a taste.

needless to say, it would also make a stellar gift for your thanksgiving hostess!

posted by fortune | 7:15 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 6 comments

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

kello yrg, part iii & congrats

first of all, the nytimes has a great article today on long-time bccy pals, including mark inman, doug zell, and nick cho (use bugmenot). it's annoying that the times new publishing system doesn't put up many articles until the mid-morning, so if you don't see the page at first, check back later.

congrats to all! however, i do fear that the times misquoted nick, who surely would never say that coffee should be "hacked out of the jungle with a machete."

long-time readers know that premium coffee cherries are carefully picked branch by branch by skilled workers who can tell when the fruit is appropriately ripe. it's an acquired skill that's harder than it looks, as many -- such as long-time pal dougie -- have discovered for themselves when they visit origin!

this morning i followed through my promise yesterday to make scott & jessica's batdorf "latitudes" kello yrg in the chemex.

again, i brewed this coffee with 26 oz/769 ml water and .5 oz/43 g fresh-ground coffee for a total drip time of 4 mins., 40 secs. and the result was good, but next time i would definitely recommend moving up to 1.75 oz/50 g coffee.

(oren, jedi chemex master, believes 26 oz water -- a chemex half-pot -- calls for 1.85 oz/52 g to 2 oz/57 g fresh ground coffee. "stronger is better," for the chemex urges he; so go for it; i certainly will!)

um, where was that scaa flavor wheel?

a quick reminder: scott crafted this coffee to a city roast, and it's now 9 days old. the flavors of the coffee are definitely shifting in a beautiful way, like the autumn leaves changing color.

now a hint of the blueberry is easily discernible even in the fresh dry grounds, and when i stirred the bloom this morning, the strange sweetish wild aroma was replaced by a clear, light blue. say, a caribbean blue!

the chemex gave the kello yrg an interesting mix of its yrg-marries-harrar-and-wins-a-cupping-prize character. the blue barely made it into the cup, but that presence could be increased by using more coffee -- thus oren's dosage recommendation.

the coffee also displayed great molasses or maple syrup flavors in the middle of the bouquet and ended with a great chocolate harrar note. what was extremely interesting is that the yrg-type citrus also was clearly detectable as the coffee cooled just a bit.

so we had a rather blueberry-lemon maple-syrup coffee parfait with a dusting of chocolate. it's a yummy, if unusual thing!

the body in the chemex was a little heavier than when i brewed it in the vac pot, but was still a bit attenuated. again, going to oren's 1.85 oz would improve this.

the wine-yness of the coffee remained the same as the brew cooled. flat cold, the blueberry-lemon and wine-y taste became predominant, i thought.

again, a great coffee to drink black or with a little light cream and raw sugar. with cream and sugar the wine-yness and the lemon are rather obscured, i must confess -- but the chocolate feeling is enhanced and the caribbean blue haze hovers over a cooling cup. . .

posted by fortune | 7:18 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 6 comments

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

elegant geishas, part vii

as promised yesterday, this morning i brewed scott and jessica's batdorf panama geisha in the chemex so kindly given to me by long-time bccy pal oren.

after my earlier valiant struggles with the chemex, i think i finally have this puppy figured out. so thanks again, oren!

and what a great coffee to figure it with. . .now i can go back and apply this knowledge to oren's harrar. . .

the panama is now 8 days old, so you might expect the flavors would begin to change a bit as the coffee moves through its freshness lifecycle. but different brewing methods, as i often say, also highlight different aspects of a coffee.

here we go with the scaa flavor wheel!

today i made up a half-pot (26 oz/769 ml water) with 1.5 oz/43 g coffee, ground at setting "12" on my saeco 2002 for a total brew time of 4 mins. 10 secs. i got good results, altho' next time i might up the coffee to 1.75/50 g since i thought the body was a bit more delicate than i would have expected; let's call it "gossamer silk."

the dry grounds were as gloriously floral as ever. not only does the panama retain its beautiful allspice/vanilla qualities in the chemex, but as the coffee bloomed, a new aroma came to the fore, i thought -- wait, was that pineapple?

yes, as i quickly and lightly stirred the chemex grounds with a plastic spoon (so as not to poke any holes in the paper filter), i definitely felt a brief whiff of something tropical. . . in the cup, the chemex, brought out a malty, dry-toast quality, a caramelly, honey-type thing and more vanilla!

a little light cream and raw sugar brought this honey/caramel note to the fore. the coffee kept its overall light nippiness. when flat cold, the pineapple juice thing returned and could be felt a little in the cup.

i'm hoping a slightly higher dose of coffee here will bring more body to the cup and allow that interesting pineapple to be noticed when the coffee's at drinking temperature. tomorrow: the kello yrg in the chemex!

posted by fortune | 6:53 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, November 14, 2005

elegant geishas, part vi

"caffeine is a kind of sophia loren that everybody wants to interview and investigate," said illy."

oh, yeah, that is such a dr.-illy-type remark, and this piece has a couple of nice ones! he's the most hilarious individual, trust me.

in my continuing brewing of scott & jessica's batdorf "latitudes" panama geisha, i picked up from sat. to make this lovely coffee in the cafetiére.

remember, scott crafted this to a standard/light city roast. i didn't make a full press pot this morning, due to lack of time; instead i dug out my old 2-cup bodum.

the exact model i have has been long discontinued (i think i've had this pot for about 15 years now!) but it supposedly holds 12 fl. oz. water, which means really 10 fl. oz (about 296 ml). it sort of looks like a tiny kenya.

according to the lingle coffee constant, this means i should ballpark at about .57 oz coffee by weight (about 16-17 g). by carefully pre-heating the little pot, i managed a brewing temperature of 200 degrees f., and i brewed for 4 mins.

as you might expect, french press brewing decreased the bright crispness of this coffee a tad, and boosted the body. i'd say the body grew from silky to satiny!

also as i might have foreseen, i think this now 7-day-old coffee lost some of its lighter, more complex notes: the strawberry i found earlier was scarcely present, but the coconut was more pronounced in its place.

in the remainder of the bouquet the flavors remained the delicious same: vanilla, allspice, nutmeg-y. this is just a fine cup of coffee however you make it, i think.

if you're tempted to try this coffee, but are one of those hard-core low-toned espresso drinkers who doesn't really enjoy bright coffees, then perhaps you should try it in the press. it will still be bright, but not i think beyond your ability to savor it.

(or you can follow the advice of long-time scaa consumer members jim schulman, bob yellin, and ex-barista chris tacy: pull it as a short double espresso at a temperature of somewhere between 200.5 and 202 on your machine's pid.)

everyone else will adore this coffee no matter how you make it. but i will confess that i am leaning towards pronouncing the vac pot as my favorite brewer for these beans.

but you know me, gentle readers. i tend to walk through the freshness life-cycle of a coffee brewing it all different ways to see what surprises it has in store.

thus tomorow: the geisha in the chemex! a guaranteed adventure -- stay tuned.

posted by fortune | 7:05 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Sunday, November 13, 2005

kello yrg redux & the scented tamarillo

having made the batdorf "latitudes" prize-winning kello yrg yesterday in the vac pot, today i decided to capitalize on its harrar-like character and brew it up in the cafetiére.

i think more people brew at home with the press pot than the vac, plus the press should really showcase the kello's surprising body. lemme just say that since this coffee was a lighter roast, i took extra care pre-heating the pot and so got brewing water at 201 degrees f.

otherwise i made it to the standard 60g. ground coffee to 1 liter of water. and what did i get? a blueberry harrar!

this kello yrg wigs me out. at 6-days old, the water hit the grounds, i stirred the bloom down, and was instantly faced with a gentle whiff of blueberry.

this is more of what scott must have meant when he described this coffee as wild, wild, wild. hey, does this coffee have any consistent character? or it is gonna be different every time?

well, different brewing methods and water temperatures do highlight different aspects of a coffee, no doubt. by scaa flavor wheel standards, in the press, this coffee was wine-y tasting, with aromas of blueberry, dark caramel, and a dry powdery dutch cocoa aftertaste.

its body wasn't quite as heavy as some of the outstanding harrars -- like this year's stumptown 2005 mao horse harrar, a.k.a. the ravishing indigo -- nor as blue either -- but it was really more like a harrar than you'd expect a yrg to be. unusual, and very good!

again, add light cream and sugar, you'll get yesterday's milk chocolate effect. if you wait until the cup's really cold -- actually not the best way to drink coffee -- even then you might find a haze of blue hovering about the cup. . .

after living la vida loquat last afternoon, i decided to treat myself to a tamarillo, another sophie grigson fave. the tamarillo is interesting: it's the color of a black plum, but shaped like a large roma tomato.

it smells strongly and deliciously of ripe plum crossed with rose geranium or maybe tomato leaves. cut it open, and the interior has a texture similar to a passion fruit.

in fact, i think the ripe flesh tastes like a cross between an ultra-sweet tomato paste and a passion fruit when you just scoop it out of the thick skin with a spoon. it might be interesting this way on a mixed-fruit pavlova or something.

grigson however suggests that you halve the puppy, dampen the skin and heavily coat the whole thing with brown sugar. then broil it for 2-3 minutes or flame it with a kitchen torch.

this makes an interesting dessert on its own with vanilla ice cream or an exotic accent for something like venison. you could also dip this fruit in boiling water, peel it like a peach, slice it cross-wise, and use a couple in a double-crust frangipane tart.

posted by fortune | 11:39 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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