Introduction by Chris Kornman
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 Kamoini 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 Kamoini Factory itself is positioned near the Ichamama river at around 1825 meters above sea level, and it was built in 1987.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Oh, peaberry, the coffee world’s favorite genetic flaw. This lot is typically dense and 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.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Peaberries sure can be a tough customer in the roaster. This coffee in particular was influenced heavily by the 10 degree change in charge temperature. In my first roast I decided to back off a little and observe how the coffee roasted in the drum with as little influence as possible. I began with a moderately high charge temperature and shortly after the turning point I knew that I would not have enough energy to finish the roast. I quickly increased the heat to three gas at 1:27 and needed to make an additional increase to 3.25 gas at 5:16. It is on rare occasion that I need to increase the gas past 3 on a 1 pound sample.
On my second roast, PR-343, I increased my charge temperature from 368.1 °F to 379.3 °F and left my gas the same. My Turning Point came sooner and was 8 °F higher than my first roast. Knowing that I would need to add some heat to the drum, I decided to push it back to minute 2:30, but keep it before the Maillard reactions started. My goal was not to decrease the length of the roast by too much and so I turned the heat down slightly at 4:46 by just a quarter turn. This slowed my progression to first crack, but also extended my roast time. I still needed to turn up the heat to pull me out of a lull immediately following first crack. When profiling this coffee on your machine, do not be afraid to crank up the heat to really open up this coffee and prevent stalling.
Brew Analysis by Chris Kornman
I decided to try and wring out a little extra from this coffee by using a little more brew water than usual. I figured the compact little peaberries could handle a stretched out extraction, and as it happens, one of the roasts was better equipped than the other. Jen’s first roast (PR-0342) gave up plenty of soluble material, nudging over 21% extraction and tasted bright and floral to Jen, citric and clean to Richard, and like baked/grilled fruits and cola to me. By and large, we preferred the second roast (PR-0343) at these brew specs (note the much quicker extraction), which offered up flavors like peach, fig, pineapple, cranberry, and ginger cookie / custard pastry sweetness. Small differences in the roast seemed to make a big difference in the brew.
This coffee is available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.