intro

The Aberdares Mountains erupt from central Kenya, just west of the mountain that bears the country’s name. The forested mountain range also happens to be fertile soil for coffee, among other crops, and the coffees from western Nyeri county benefit from its particular ecosystem. This is one such coffee, grown by smallholder farmer members of the Othaya Cooperative, a collective of around 20 washing stations in and around Nyeri County. The county is bordered on the west by the Aberdares range, and on the northeast by Mount Kenya. In all of Africa, only Kilimanjaro tops the maximum elevation of Mount Kenya.

Nyeri’s coffees are highly coveted for their exceptional quality, so much so that a recent governor attempted to seize all control of the district’s exports. After an unfortunate season where excellent coffee sat in warehouses, abandoned for political posturing, coffee is once again flowing from the district.

This lot was processed at the Kiaguthu Factory, the Kenyan term for what is called a washing station, wet mill, or beneficio elsewhere in the world. The typical farmer here counts their trees rather than the size of their land; most average just 250 coffee plants per farm. Many are inter-cropping to improve the biodiversity of the region and the security of their harvest, planting banana, grevillea, and macadamia in addition to coffee. The Kaiguthu Factory itself is positioned along the southern border of Nyeri county between two rivers along a main road to Nairobi, and was established in 1964. At around 1850 masl, the area is considered a transitional growing region for both coffee and tea.

GREEN

Oh, peaberry, the coffee world’s favorite genetic flaw. This lot is fairly dense and typically dry for a Kenyan coffee. Its screen size, and really the fact that the lot is peaberry, is what makes it especially unique. The peaberry (referred to as caracol in Latin America) is generally recognized to be a developmental anomaly that results in the presence of a single seed inside the cherry, rather than two. Our affection for the funny round little seeds might simply be visual appeal – they’re adorable and often pleasantly uniform both before and after roasting. It’s possible, but generally disputed, that peaberries may have more concentrated flavor. They most definitely present challenges in drying and roasting, as their shape, size, and density don’t absorb heat in the same manner as a flat bean. Keep an eye on Jen’s recommendations for roasting, as they’ll help illuminate the nuances required to roast this coffee well.

TASTE

ROAST


Maine Hofius, from True North was with us for this roast and after roasting the first roast, PR-358, we wanted to increase the overall duration of the Maillard reactions while staying as close as possible to the same profile. We managed to increase the time by +23 seconds and stay on profile. Increasing the Maillard reactions did mute the acidity slightly and added some fig and honey, but overall, we all preferred the vibrant acidity in PR-358. The strategy used for PR-359 may be more useful if we were profiling this coffee for an espresso preparation.

BREW

Our first Bonavita brew was an attempt at using the same ratios and doses as we did with the Kalita, hoping to make a true comparison of the two. Batch brewers timers and functionality rely on a gravity fed system, however. There is an optimal batch size to achieve the perfect flow rate and if the tank is underfilled then it will not work as well as it was designed to and we have the high TDS reading of 1.90 to prove it. Generally speaking, not all water put in the top chamber will make it through the grounds. The brew was so intense that it was undrinkable.

We decided to give it another try with a larger, traditional batch size and received much better results, but still rather strong (1.71 TDS) compared to the Kalita (1.58 TDS). While this next batch was palatable, it paled in comparison the the complexity we tasted on the Kalita. Juicy orange and the floral nature stood out in the Kalita, while the second Bonavita brew produced a much more flat and muddled cup. Stay tuned as we continue to dial in the Bonavita brewer! It’s worth noting that we were just introduced to the Bonavita this week.

Origin Information

Grower
Smallholder farmers organized around the Kiaguthu Factory
Variety
SL28, SL34, and Ruiru 11
Region
Nyeri County, Kenya
Harvest
April-June | October-December
Altitude
1,220 - 2,300 meters
Soil
Volcanic loam
Process
Fermented underwater for 12-24 hours, washed with clean spring water, soaked for another 12-24 hours, and dried on raised beds
Certifications

Background Details

This coffee is sourced from family owned farms located on the southeastern slopes of the Aberdares mountain ranges in Nyeri County, Kenya.  Farmers deliver their harvested cherry to be processed at the Kiaguthu Factory (wet mill), which is managed by the Othaya Farmers Co-operative Society.  Cooperative members generally cultivate around 250 coffee trees on half-acre plots intercropped with Bananas, Grevillea, and Macadamia trees.