This coffee comes to us from a small town called Dumerso, just around the bend from Yirgacheffe. It’s processed at a private mill owned by the Birhanu family and co-managed by a brother-sister team: Mahder runs the mill and her brother Surafel leads the export arm of the business. This is now the second consecutive season we’ve released his coffee as a Crown Jewel.
In addition to the freedom and centralized control afforded by privately milling, this sparkly clean coffee has undergone “double washing.” Like many coffees from Ethiopia, the washing station employs a secondary underwater soak after fermentation. Not only does this help remove any leftover pulp on the seeds, it also triggers the seed to begin germinating and it’s speculated this can improve the flavor.
Yirgacheffe, of course, is a bit of a coffee icon, and oftentimes its name becomes synecdoche for the entire Gedeo region in which it is located. Yirgacheffe roughly translates to “water town” so it’s fitting that the region became famous as one of the first places where fully washed coffees were produced. Yirgacheffe coffees continue to be associated with exceptionally clean profiles exhibiting floral aromas the likes of which are found nowhere else on earth.
Ethiopian coffees have been landing dry across the board this year. This Dumerso, like the Haru we released two weeks ago, are both dry coffees that taste great and, in my opinion, can be trusted to retain their character for a long time. Their volatility is quite low and their composition stable. The coffee is typically dense and fairly small; both common for the region.
Drier-than-usual coffee could very likely be climate related. Ethiopian highlands are emerging from the midst of a significant drought that began in 2015. It’s probably among the most devastating coffee-related weather phenomena in recent years, but has generally gone under-covered in international news. However, droughts are becoming more severe and more frequent in Africa’s horn. Compound this with political unrest that damaged or destroyed a number of coffee washing stations last year in Southern Ethiopia, and there’s a real possibility we might never see more and better Yirgacheffe lots than we do now.
Our first roast of this dense coffee took on a lot of heat and raced through the Maillard stage, resulting in a shorter overall roast time and a nice and bright acidity. In order to slow things down a bit, I started the roast at an extremely low temperature of 0.5 gas, which is the lowest setting on the probatino. This allowed for a more gentle rate of rise through the Maillard reactions and lengthened the time from color change to first crack by 42 seconds. My friend and colleague, Rob Hoos, writes that lengthening the time for maillard reactions to occur will increase the body and sugar browning notes in a coffee and this is exactly what we saw happen. Both roasts were delicious and this technique worked well with this particular coffee because of its high density coffee and low water activity. Roast two displayed more rounded and fruit notes verses the more citric and vibrant roast one.
Roast one: citrus, fig, lychee, nectarine, jasmine, lemon curd
Roast two: candied peach, melon, orange blossom, apricot, vanilla, toffee
Dumerso coffees were some of my favorite last year, and they’re shaping up to be true winners this year as well. Honestly, both of these roasts of the Ethiopia Birhanu Family Double Washed Crown Jewel were fantastic and I think we all had trouble picking a favorite. The first roast was a more fruit-driven flavor profile, while the second highlighted floral notes and acidity. Both were brewed using a Chemex, with the only difference being that the first roast drained through slightly slower than the second.
As with many Ethiopian coffees, this coffee tended to pour through more slowly in general. This is a trend we’ve noticed over the years, and we hope to explore this phenomena in the near future when the Crown opens in Oakland! Stay tuned for more on this and other coffee oddities.
In the meantime, see some of our example brew parameters for Chemex above.