Introduction by Chris Kornman
This coffee is produced by family owned farms organized around the Koperasi Kopi Gayo Organic cooperative (KKGO), located in the Takengon highlands of the Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. This region of Indonesia is also referred to as the Gayo land because the coffee farmers are from the Gayonese ethnic group. A high percentage of farmers, typically from the most remote villages of the Takengon highlands, are widows who lost their husbands during periods of conflict in Aceh. These families are also in the process of rebuilding after an earthquake in 2013.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
One of the best things about coffee is that there’s always more to learn. My relatively limited exposure to good Sumatran coffee has been somewhat broadened since working with Royal. Take this coffee for example. In a lot of ways it’s a troublemaker – very high moisture content and water activity, relatively low density and large screen size. Yet in spite of all these rogue variables, this is a pretty nice coffee. Specs below, because #opensourcecoffee. Read on for some thoughts on roasting.
Roast Analysis by Chris Kornman
Traditional roasts of Sumatran coffees (to broadly overgeneralize a large and diverse producing region) tend towards the longer, darker side. In fact, our founder Bob Fulmer jotted down a few thoughts on dark roasting and Royal’s intentional sourcing back in 2006 here (from the deep blog vault!).
There are undoubtedly a plethora of reasons coffees like this offering respond well to post-crack development. Wet hulling alters the way the coffee dries, affecting its moisture and density in such a way as to require fundamentally different heat application when roasting. The flavors imparted by local varieties, common practices, and the terroir are also frequently enhanced by a touch of roast.
In these ways, this coffee is less of a rebel and more of a conformist. I took two stabs at longish (especially for the tabletop Probatino) and darkish roasts this week. My first roast (Pr-0247, gray below) started low and slow, using incremental gas adjustments throughout Maillard, maintaining a pretty steady rate of rise throughout the majority of the roast, and backing off incrementally during first crack to extend caramelization. I ended the roast as the coffee appeared glossy brown, just prior to the start of second crack. The 64.49 ColorTrack reading was favored by some of our more third-wave-leaning cuppers (including myself). The coffee offered some mild acids that reminded me of kiwifruit while preserving a sugar-browning sweetness for balance.
Roast number two (PR-248, red below) was a nod to the dark side, starting hot and using minimal flame adjustments until second crack. The coffee loses so much weight and density once it begins caramelizing, there’s really no need to keep the pressure on once you get past 400° F. I brought the coffee into second crack and let it roll briefly as it fell in the cooling tray; it ColorTracked at 68.43, on the light side for a French Roast. The sweetness remained, but the acidity was more or less absent and the flavors tended more toward roasted red pepper, peat smoke, and fudge.