Introduction by Chris Kornman
Ricardo Valdivieso, a fourth-generation coffee farmer, and his family are responsible for producing this wild and wonderful dry-processed Pacamara. The coffee was harvested on the Las Ninfas finca, which, along with its sibling farm Santa Leticia, are both full of productive coffee trees and brimming with beauty.
Passed down through the family, the farms were originally founded in 1870 by noted statesman Francisco Menéndez Valdivieso, a native of the region, a general, the President of the country, as well as the founder of El Salvador’s educational system. Ricardo is his great-grandson. In addition to coffee and preserved forest, the farms contain archaeological ruins from the Mayan era and Ricardo’s daughter Monica runs an eco-tourist lodge on Santa Leticia.
The farms are located near the town of Apaneca, due east of El Salvador’s major coffee landmark, Volcán de Santa Ana, also known as Ilamatepec. The mountainous region that spans the north and east of the country’s highest still-active volcanic peak is ideal in climate for coffee cultivation. Volcanic soil, steady Pacific breeze, sufficient elevation, and a clear division between rainy and dry seasons make for a fertile environment that is also lush with native forests.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Pacamara is a fascinating and heavily researched cultivar, that is uniquely Salvadoran, originally developed by the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) over the course of nearly 30 years beginning in 1958. Despite only accounting for about 0.22% of El Salvador’s coffee plants, Pacamara has developed a cult following among specialty roasters.
Pacamara’s parents are two naturally occurring variations, called Pacas and Marigogype, branching off Arabica’s two most common heirloom cultivars, Bourbon and Typica. Pacas descends from Bourbon and was discovered by the Pacas family in the Santa Ana volcanic region within El Salvador, while Marigogype is a Typica mutation, first discovered in Brazil’s mountainous Bahia region. The large size of the beans, for which Pacamara is most famous, are genetics from Maragogype.
This coffee matches physical expectations; about 80% of the seeds are screen 18 and up, and more than half the lot didn’t even pass through my first screen. The seeds also exhibit the elongated appearance associated with the Pacamara cultivar. The green is pungent, offering hints of the fruit that dried around it. It’s pretty average looking in terms of moisture, and unsurprisingly not terribly high in density.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
When I get a coffee sample on my desk, I usually roast it with some intended difference. Lately I have been testing a low charge temperature / high gas approach and comparing it with a high charge temperature / low gas approach. Sometimes a coffee doesn’t care what I want to do and follows the same curve regardless of my intention. In this instance, this natural Pacamara did just that. It could be that with my small batch size and small 1 kilo roaster, I needed either more coffee or a more dramatic change to see a difference in curves. Or it could be that Pacamaras are big beans that are impervious to my influence, you be the judge. Despite the similar curves and different heat applications, we did perceive some difference on the cupping table. Roast one with the shorter post crack development time was bright as well as balanced with a syrupy texture. Roast two had a slightly extended post crack development time, which gave it a heavy fruit and red wine flavor.
Roast one: blackberry compote, dried strawberry, syrupy, chocolate
Roast two: sangria, concord grape, blueberry, unbalanced
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
True to form, this fruit dried Pacamara from El Salvador is less than a cakewalk to roast. Though I necessarily take a more hands-off approach to roasting with the Behmor (at least until I feel like I’ve mastered the typical settings), this is definitely a candidate for a more hands-on approach. Development happens quite quickly after first crack, so with a 1:15 development time, I still achieved 13.3% roast loss. My recommendation would be to ease into first crack, and really turn down the heat as soon as you hear the first pop. The key here is developing some nice sugars in this coffee after first crack, rather than allowing it to scorch (which, again, can happen quickly). Tread carefully!
Brew Analysis by Chris Kornman
I found this coffee to be surprisingly quick-brewing in both the Kalita and as espresso, with relatively high solubility. Using a 15-to-1 ratio in the drip-brewed Kalita wave, both roasts edged just over 3 minutes including a full 60s preinfusion. They were fruity and herbal, sweet, and a little on the bright side. At right around 20.5% extraction, it seemed enough sweetness came through, but not so much as to feel sticky or overly viscous.
As espresso, I had just about a half-pound to work with, so much of my time (and coffee) was spent dialing the grind and dose. Settling in on shot times around 25 seconds and doses between 17 and 17.5g, yields of 35g or so were thick and juicy, while 40g shots were bright and zesty, both finishing with that characteristic hint of savory herbaceousness that accompanies Pacamaras of all stripes.
Though the coffee doesn’t rate highly on my “chuggability” scale, it is unique and a fantastic change of pace, particularly when pulled as a single origin espresso.