Introduction by Chris Kornman
Happy belated Solstice! Summer is upon us and happens to be prime time for amazing coffee. This ridiculous offering is a gem amongst gems – a stand-out selection from its first sampling to arrival and through production trials, I have nothing but glowing remarks to share about this lovely selection. It’s a stunning coffee on the cupping table and makes for a delightful first, second, or third cup of the day.
The relatively small Yirgacheffe district (woreda) is located within the Gedeo Zone, among the smaller administrative divisions in the vast Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Ethnic Region of Ethiopia. Gedeo receives its name from the ethnic majority in the region, and shares a border to the north with the much larger Sidama zone. A kebele could be translated to mean “neighborhood,” so geographically, this coffee is from the Konga neighborhood of the town of Yirgacheffe in the zone of Gedeo within the bounds of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Ethnic Region. It’s particularly interesting to note that Yirgacheffe has it’s own cooperative union, a distinction typically reserved for much larger geographical areas – a testament to the importance of the microregion to Ethiopia’s coffee production. Especially notable is that the town of Yirgacheffe was an early adopter of the fully washed method of processing coffee, where the coffee seed is mechanically depulped and then dried on raised beds.
This Ethiopian comes to us from family-owned farms organized around the Hayat PLC a coffee mill located in the town of Konga near the woreda of Yirgacheffe within the Gedeo Zone, Southern Nations Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, Ethiopia. Coffee producers deliver their ripe cherries to the Hayat coffee mill station where the cherries are sorted and then run through a 3-disc depulper. After pulping, the the coffee ferments for 36 to 48 hours prior to washing, grading, and drying on raised beds in thin layers. The coffee initially begins drying under shade, and then is moved to full sun and during the first few days is turned every 2 to 3 hours. After about 10 to 12 days the coffee finishes drying and conditions in dried parchment for about two weeks prior to dry milling and export.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Yet another spectacularly clean, top lot from Ethiopia. Take a look at the very small screen size on this lot and keep that in mind as you’re roasting. With more than a third of the lot slipping through that 15 screen you’ll probably need to keep an eye on application of heat. Check out the roasting notes below for more specific recommendations on how to make the most of this elegant and complex coffee.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Editor’s Note: These are Jen Apodaca’s roasts, with commentary from Chris Kornman
Jen’s roasts of this lot sought to highlight the incredible complexity of fruit and floral flavors available. Her first roast, PR-207, was short and steady with no gas adjustments. High flame throughout produced an early first crack time, but a bit of a stall afterwards and a long (2:17) post-crack development time, totaling over 28% of the total roast time. In the cup, the coffee’s character was apparent but muted with a flat finish.
Our cupping panel strongly preferred the second roast, PR-208. Her approach was much more nuanced, using a lower initial flame and gradual increases in gas throughout the roast, including once after first crack to maintain momentum. The result was a longer roast than PR-207, but with a higher drop temperature and an emphasis on pre-crack development. This roast averaged over 93 points on our cupping table.
PR-208 emphasizes the importance of managing this coffee’s development during Maillard. It also highlights a trend of coffees with high density and low water activity requiring additional energy as they exit first crack.
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
As noted above, the two roasts of this coffee were a bit different. Having this in mind, I set out to taste these two coffees in a controlled set of brews in order to more thoroughly experience their differences.
While PR-207 had a slight stall noted after first crack and wasn’t as expressive on the cupping table, the brew came out snappy and tart. I tasted some fresh sugar cane and more tart tropical fruit (cherimoya, grape) in PR-207.
We all preferred PR-208 at the cupping table; that was also true during my brewing session. More complex acids and layered sweetness gave this roast a third dimension. Everything I experienced in PR-207 was still there, but an added date-like sugariness made it even more pleasing in the cup. While it was hot, I tasted a sticky sort of nectar-like flavor that reminded me favorably of the coffee plant blooming nearby in our cupping lab. That is to say, I really enjoy this particular roast of this coffee.
A more muted finish tends to indicate a coffee that wouldn’t result in a bracing shot when pulled as espresso, so I set out to see if that was indeed the case. Perhaps PR-207 would shine as an espresso; I wanted to give it another chance off the cupping table.
PR-207 exhibited dried mango and tropical fruit tartness, but was a very delicate coffee to work with. Slightly over-extracting led to some very tough ashy flavors, and under-extracting added some bready characteristics to an otherwise juicy shot with notes of sweet pineapple. Though it was a more difficult roast to work with, it would make a fine single origin espresso for the attentive barista. I preferred the second shot listed below.
While I wasn’t disappointed with my results with PR-207, I still found PR-208 more pleasing as espresso. After using PR-207, I needed to coarsen up the grind significantly for this coffee to get a similar extraction. A balance of sugars and acids is needed in espresso, and PR-208 offered more in this vein. Big chocolaty sweetness and aromatic Meyer lemon came to mind, especially in extraction #2 below. Driving this coffee to denser territory was rewarding, though the finish became toastier with a lower brew ratio. Thick and syrupy hibiscus would cut clean through a milk drink while still being pleasant all on its lonesome. This makes PR-208 more versatile and accessible in various service situations.