Introduction by Chris Kornman
This is the third and final Crown Jewel release for the season from Lerida Estate (companion lots include a Geisha and a Catuaí). This Pacamara micro-lot is also dry-processed, and much like other coffees from the farm exhibits an impressive balance of character from cultivar, terroir, and process.
The Lerida Estate has an impressive history and rich heritage. Sometime around 1920, the land was sold by a local farmer to a man named Tollef Bache Monniche. Monniche, a Norwegian, found himself in Panama after immigrating to the United States and accepting work as a lead engineer on the Panama Canal Project. Upon his retirement, he sought a quiet existence, so he and his wife, Julia Huger, moved to the farm in Los Naranjos, a neighborhood just north of the town of Boquete in Chiriquí, Panama.
Once settled, the couple began cultivating fruits and vegetables and eventually developing much of the farm into a coffee plantation. Their first major harvest in 1929 yielded an impressive quality that sold to Germany and sparked a global interest in the region’s coffee. Monniche’s engineering background led to the development of a siphoning device used in processing to separate low density coffee; the invention became popular in the region and replicas can still be found in use today. Among his other impressive hobbies, Monniche’s penchant as a naturalist led to cataloging the snakes and birds of the region, and his collection of wildfowl was acquired by Chicago’s Museum of Natural History.
In 1956, the aging couple returned to the United States and sold the 365 hectare estate to Alfredo and Inga Collins. The Collins family remains owners of the land to this day, preserving the land (including a significant portion that remains native forest), cultivating the farm, and welcoming guests to their charming, vintage hotel. The land itself exists on the border of La Amistad International Park and in the shadow of Volcán Barú, an active volcano and the highest peak in the country.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Pacamara is a fascinating and somewhat heavily researched cultivar, originally developed in El Salvador by the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) over the course of nearly 30 years beginning in 1958. Pacamara’s parents are Maragogype and Pacas, a naturally occurring Bourbon mutation discovered by the Pacas family in the Santa Ana volcanic region within El Salvador. Maragogype is a naturally occurring (and well-researched in its own right) mutation of Typica, first discovered in Brazil’s rural mountainous Bahia region. Maragogype is a large seed variety, and it contributes this characteristic to Pacamara.
This is the largest coffee I’ve analyzed this season; well over 80% did not even pass through the top screen. Pacamara is coveted for more than just its absurdly large seed size, however. The cultivar showcases an intrinsic, unique character typically dominated by the herbal and savory side of the coffee flavor family tree. Interestingly, ISIC recommends dry-processing this variety, which is exactly what the family at Lerida estate have done, expertly balancing flavors of both variety and process. It has a moderate density, albeit lower than its companion lots, with an average looking moisture content and a higher than average water activity.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
It is no secret among roasters that the Pacamara cultivar can be difficult in the drum because the large size makes it easy to burn the tips. It may take several attempts at a profile before you are satisfied with the outcome because of the unique flavor combination of citrus and herb that this cultivar is known for. My first two roasts of this coffee were faulty: one extremely fast (PR-0313 @ 7:57) and one extremely slow (PR-0314 @ 14:14). The faster roast was very lively and acidic, but lacking balance and the slower roast had some complex sugar development, but overall a flat and baked out acidity. I decided that somewhere in the middle lies a great roast of this coffee and proceeded to test two different theories about convective and conductive heat transfer. Every roasting machine is different and has different capabilities with how it handles heat transfer, but on most machines the operator does have some control over how that heat is manipulated. On our Probatino, I attempted to make two very similar roasts in duration and end temperature, but applying two different techniques.
In round 2, my first roast, PR-0320, I began with a low charge temperature, meaning that the air in the drum was cooler and I relied on a high flame, 3.0 gas for the bulk of my heat transfer. Conversely, my second roast, PR-0321, started with a high charge temperature (380.2 °F) and a low setting of 2.0 gas. All drum roasters use a majority of convective air for heat distribution, this being the most efficient form of heat transfer. Bakers love convection ovens for that reason, no raw middles. On a large bean like the Pacamara, using hot air was more effective than a high flame. PR-0320 displayed some roasty notes and even ColorTracked higher (darker) than PR-0321. Part of the reason is the unevenness in the roast; the outside of the coffee roasted faster and darker than the inside. Our favorite roast, PR-0321 was well fruited and even had a pleasant herbal touch that this cultivar is known for with no burnt ends.
Happy Pacamara roasting!
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
We have come to expect certain flavor profiles from certain cultivars; Pacamara coffees are certainly one of the more distinct cultivars, and have the reputation of being herbal bulls in the china shop. Some of the less common entries in the coffee flavor repertoire are found in abundance in Pacamara coffees. Rosemary, sassafras, chives, onion, and even cheese are not uncommon notes to experience in these coffees.
However, this coffee seems to straddle the line between the herbally absurd and the deliciously fruity. Jen’s two roasts were very distinct indeed; she mentioned above that finding the right profile for this coffee was a task that she had expected from the get-go.
As you can see in the chart below where we brewed these coffees in Chemex, the first roast (PR-0313) was full of juicy fruit notes; I personally tasted Chambord (a raspberry liqueur), and we all noted peach and raspberry independently. Though this was clearly our favorite out of the gate, the coffee was fairly brash in its fruitiness. For PR-0314, we tasted all the intense herbal notes that were lying just below the surface. Herbal and spicy, this was also a bit more intense than we had expected.
The next roast (PR-0321), which was Jen’s preferred roast above, hit the nail on the head. In both Chemex and Kalita, clean and balanced fruits came through without being overbearing. Our first brew, the Chemex listed below, resulted in a clean and clear finish with plenty of blackberry and mango. The Kalita brew was delicious as well, but altogether more lingering. More chocolate came through with a finer grind setting, and stuck around for long after the coffee left our palates. Sticky and sweet, this was our favorite brew of the bunch. It wasn’t easy to get to this point with this coffee, but it was well worth the experience.