Introduction by Chris Kornman
It’s not everyday that the buzz around the cupping table centers on a decaffeinated sample, but such was the case with this delightful Ethiopian coffee. We’ve had some pretty spectacular fruit-dried natural Ethiopias this season, and this one retained plenty of its original character all the way through decaffeination. Characterized by a smooth, fudgy body and unmistakeable berry flavors, it’s an easy coffee to enjoy, with the added benefit of being caffeine-free.
The coffee is sourced from smallholder farmers in Guji, a zone of the Oromia region to the east of more familiar coffee growing areas like Sidama and Yirgacheffe. Drying coffee in the cherry, as was the case with these contributions, is the original tradition in Ethiopia. Natural or dry-process, fruit-dried or cherry-dried – however you prefer to talk about this style of ‘zero-process’ coffee post-harvest production, it all comes back to Ethiopia. While farmers across the globe still practice this method of letting the coffee fruit dry like raisins around the seed, it all started in here. It’s still common to see smallholder farmers drying their daily harvest on their porches or lawns across the country. Unlike much of the rest of the world, many of these farmers will then roast and grind their own harvest – Ethiopia is the world’s only coffee producing country whose volume of consumption equals its export.
The green coffee was shipped, after preselection by our cupping team here in Emeryville, CA, from Ethiopia to Veracruz, Mexico, the location of Descamex and their chemical-free decaffeination method called Mountain Water Process. The technique involves hydrating the coffee beans, preloading the water with green coffee extract – basically everything that makes coffee coffee except for caffeine. The saturated coffee-solids water extracts just the caffeine, is drained and filtered, and then the process is repeated until the coffee is at least 97% free of the alkaloid.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
If you’ve ever set eyes on Mountain Water Processed coffee before, you’ll know that “green analysis” is a bit of a misnomer, as the coffee takes on a brownish hue after decaf processing. Not to worry, once you get into the Maillard Reaction during roasting things will start to look normal again, but it can be a little shocking seeing the effects of processing on the physical state of the coffee.
Decaf coffees must be handled with care during processing; the re-hydration involved means they must also be re-dried, and as a result even low moisture decafs can still have high water activity. This particular example has maintained the characteristic high density associated with Ethiopian coffees. The large discrepancy between moisture readings taken on the Sinar and Kett are a strange anomaly; check Jen’s notes on roast loss percentage and roast this coffee with care not to scorch or otherwise over-expose it to heat.
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
I dropped this coffee fairly early into development, perhaps due to the very soft crack that this coffee exhibited at 11:50. Over my 1:30 development time, the cracks sped up and gained in intensity, but the first few were quite hesitant. Take this coffee a little longer into development if you aren’t sure about the first few cracks.
Out of the three roasts we did of this coffee, my roast on the Behmor was by far the lightest, and displayed quite a few of the lemony and bright characteristics that Ethiopian coffees are known for – but not usually decaf Ethiopian coffees! Our initial impression of this coffee as a standout decaffeinated lot held up.
Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow
It’s obvious by now that we love this coffee. It rarely (if ever) displays any “decaf-iness”, instead sparkling on the table as an exemplar of naturally processed Ethiopian coffee. I was therefore very disappointed with the results of my three kalita pours overs. Whether from its natural processing or from it’s decaffeination, this coffee has a lot of fines, which led to very slow draining through the paper filter. My first instinct was to coarsen the grind, but despite coarsening significantly, my brew times remained inordinately high. This meant that the fines were not a result of grind size or user error, but rather a natural byproduct of the coffee. The fact that the TDS and extraction percentages when down as I coarsened–despite the elongated brew times–also indicated that the fines, which have a very small surface area, were getting thoroughly extracted very early in the brew and had nothing more to offer. Meanwhile, the brew water was unable to penetrate the coarser grinds enough to extract them properly. I had to find a different method.
A full immersion brew allowed me to extract everything more evenly without worrying about draining through a filter. I wanted to minimize the disparity between the size of the grounds and the fines inherent in the coffee. I decided on Aeropress: small grind size meant the grounds and fines would extract at an even rate; full immersion meant that the entire dose would spend the same amount of time in the water; pulling through a filter at the end would remove any silty-ness from the mouthfeel; and the short brew time would prevent the fines from over extracting.
Sure enough, the final two aeropresses were truly delightful, with prominent mango, nectarine, and pleasant graham cracker sweetness. This coffee was a fun challenge and was a pleasure to sip on when brewed correctly.
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.