Pacamara is a fascinating and somewhat heavily researched cultivar, despite only accounting for about 0.22% of El Salvador’s coffee plants. It is a uniquely Salvadoran variety, developed internally by the Ahuachapán over the course of nearly 30 years beginning in 1958. Pacamara’s parents are Marigogype and Pacas, a naturally occurring Bourbon mutation discovered by the Pacas family in the Santa Ana volcanic region within El Salvador. Marigogype is a naturally occurring (and well-researched in its own right) mutation of Typica, first discovered in Brazil’s mountainous and somewhat under-regarded Bahia region. Marigogype is a large seed variety, and it contributes this characteristic to its progeny.
Pacamara is coveted for more than just its absurdly large screen size, however. An intrinsic, unique character showcasing unusual notes in the herbal and savory family of coffee flavors. This microlot, which Sr. Valdivieso has dried straight off the tree in cherries, also showcases an array of fruity and sweet wine-like flavors. It’s a unique delight.
Pacamaras are uniquely over-sized, and 36147 – El Salvador Santa Leticia Pacamara Natural GrainPro is no exception; almost half of the lot is above screen 19. Many of my experiences with these large sized varieties have been less than completely positive from a green coffee perspective. Not only does the size create challenges for a roaster, but also can cause complications in processing, drying, and preparing for export. As a consequence, I’ve seen under- and over-dried Pacamara, and the coffee is often somewhat low density. Thankfully, 36147 – El Salvador Santa Leticia Pacamara Natural GrainPro exhibits none of these unfortunately common characteristics, settling in with very normal looking moisture numbers and a spot-on density for its large size. You may notice some reddish/rust coloration on the silver skin of the coffee. This is common in dry-processed coffees and typically doesn’t adversely affect the flavor.
I resolved to produce two substantially different approaches with this coffee. A fairly standard curve on my first roast with just a few gas adjustments led me to a somewhat longer than expected post-crack development time, a touch over two minutes. The coffee surprised me in the drum… I had a difficult time distinguishing the end of first crack. The end temperature was low, but I was afraid I might’ve somehow unwittingly slipped into second crack.
In response, I decided to alter my approach and dig into the heat application progressively after a long development phase. PR-0220 started with a lower drop temp and lower gas setting. This delayed Maillard by around 45 seconds, after which I steadily increased the gas incrementally until I could feel the coffee really flying into first crack. The aggressive approach created a temperature difference in the pop by nearly 10 degrees from the previous batch, and with all that momentum built up I was able to nearly kill my gas and get sufficiently hot for a finished roast with a very short 1:13 post-crack development.
On the cupping table, our group unanimously preferred the second batch. Despite a higher percentage of weight loss, PR-220 tasted sweeter and brighter with less noticeable toastiness intruding on the dark fruit flavors. At the risk of brutal honesty, I wasn’t thrilled with the results of either of these batches, but they illustrated some important points, I think. The coffee reacted unexpectedly, especially during first crack. From my perspective, three moves I made during the roast had a positive effect on PR-220. The first was allowing the coffee to move through initial drying stage low and slow. The second was using extra heat to push the coffee into first crack. And the third was reducing that heat immediately as first crack was immanent and allowing the coffee to coast once much of its moisture weight was gone.
This is an intensely fruity coffee that displays all the characteristics you would expect in a fruit dried coffee, with an added verve that reflects its storied provenance. As a group, we felt that PR-220 was the more enjoyable of the two roasts. This was also the case while brewing. PR-220 displayed consistent fruitiness, and a sweet finish while PR-219 sported some good chocolate sweetness, but with a thick and rough finish.
As you can see below both roasts were quite soluble and, despite both pours being nearly identical, PR-220 finished dripping through quite a bit faster than PR-219. Nevertheless, PR-220 was slightly overextracted; despite overextraction it was still the more pleasant of the two, displaying the flamboyant fruity notes that truly exemplify the nature of this coffee.