Introduction by Chris Kornman

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 Ethiopia. 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.

Banko Fuafuate is the name of the kebele, essentially a neighborhood, within the larger Yirgacheffe district where the washing station of the same name is located. Receiving freshly harvested coffee from smallholder farmers in the field, the workers at Banko Fuafuate will then select, sort, and process – either pulping and washing or simply sending the cherries straight to drying. In either case, the drying process will occur on traditional raised beds, receiving frequent rotation and undergoing continuous sorting.

We selected this, our first dry-processed Ethiopian Crown Jewel of 2017, for its broad appeal and balance of bright fresh stonefruit and berry flavors, gentle fructose sweetness, and silky smooth viscosity. It’s a crowd-pleaser, deftly supplying sufficient tartaric and acetic notes for the natural lovers in the audience and simultaneously, harmoniously integrating exceptional cleanliness.

banko fuafuate

Green Analysis by Chris Kornman

A sweet, fruity fragrance greets you on opening a bag of this dry processed Yirgacheffe. Typically dry and of high density, the coffee is overall small in size but perhaps a little larger than the average Ethiopian coffee. This may be due to variety selection, dry mill preparation choices, or a combination of these and other factors.

Drier-than-usual coffee from Ethiopia is the norm this season, and could very likely be climate related. Ethiopian highlands are emerging from the midst of a significant drought that began in 2015, compounded by an unusual frost this past winter in some microclimates. Droughts are becoming more severe and more frequent in Africa’s horn. Compound this with political unrest that damaged or destroyed a number of coffee washing stations last year in Southern Ethiopia, and there’s a real possibility we might never see more and better Yirgacheffe lots than we do now.

Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca

A hallmark of a great coffee is that it can tolerate a large scale of roast profiles and produce delicious results in the cup. This dense coffee is just the kind of natural processed coffee that I like to see on my desk. From a big juicy piece of blueberry pie to a sophisticated and complex floral red wine, this coffee will be what the roaster makes of it. My first roast had a high charge temperature with high heat applied after turnaround. This shortened the overall roasting time, including the post crack development time which gave us peak fruit flavor from this coffee. Because this coffee is so clean, it came across as juicy and jammy on the cupping table. My second roast had a lower charge temperature with an extended roast time. In the cup we experienced more balance with sophisticated fruit flavors, honey, and cocoa.

Roast one: Concord grape, blueberry jam, big fruit
Roast two: Apple, honey, cocoa, jasmine, red wine

Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman

This is what I would consider my first truly successful roast of a natural coffee on the Behmor. I didn’t experience altogether too much roast loss (10.5% is pretty low), and didn’t experience any scorched off-flavors from a roast that took off after first crack.

Since I was very wary of too much heat being applied after first crack, I ramped down the heat using the P4 setting immediately upon hearing first crack. It worked!

We tasted fresh apple, plenty of lively fruits, and honey-like sweetness in this natural coffee. Since less development occurred, the less desireable acetic acid qualities found in many natural coffees did not make itself present. I found this roast particularly enjoyable.

Brew Analysis by Richard Sandlin

Late in July, my colleague and Brew Analysis regular contributor, Evan Gilman and I attended SCA’s Bloom San Francisco. Royal had a table and sampled some of our favorite Crown Jewels to a packed crowd. If you haven’t been to a Bloom event, I can’t recommend them enough. The SCA and volunteers organized an incredible set of lectures and panels.

This isn’t a trade show review. Part of the swag bag that was handed out, was two familiar products; a baby blue Bloom branded small Clever Coffee Dripper & a pack of Third Wave Water. If you’ve been around the business as long as I have, you’ve probably received one too many promotional items. Going against the grain, I wanted to put our new products to use.

To date, most of our brew analysis have focused on varying brew apparatus, different recipes or grind settings. Feeling refreshed from Bloom, I wanted to take our shiny new clevers and experience just what Third Wave Water had to offer.

For the sake of science, please look away. But for those curious at heart, I think you would have enjoyed this tasting.

The Goal

Eliminate variables when brewing with Clever Coffee Drippers to see the effect Third Wave Water would bring to one of our favorite Ethiopian Naturals. To the best of my ability, I keep all things constant when brewing the two roasts of one coffee, each with a different water. How would water effect flavor?

Our Waters

I brewed Jen’s two roasts, each with our “house” water and with “Third Wave Water” treated water. Chris Kornman manages our in-house water filtration here at Royal’s headquarters. Our water is treated and comes from varying sources around Northern California. For years, the East Bay’s water has been considered “pretty good” for brewing coffee; however, due to the multi-year drought that faced California followed by epic rains, our water source has changed and rotates when convenient for our water purveyor, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

Third Wave Water is a newish product that aids coffee professionals and coffee enthusiasts to produce SCA spec water with a little planning. Start with a gallon of water, add the capsule and boom: third wave water. Per their website, Third Wave Water provides a “re-mineralization capsule to blend in the perfect amount of calcium, magnesium and sodium.”

Well – I didn’t have any distilled water & I still wanted to try this. Instead, I took water from our tap, which has been treated & added one packet of Third Wave Water to one gallon of water.

Additionally, I set up the waters side by side to get showcase the differences between the two.

Brewing

I used four Clever Coffee Drippers and brewed on scales to ensure I hit the same recipe four times over. I grouped each roast together and brewed one sample with our house water & another with our Third Wave Water treated water.

SCA Bloom Clever Coffee Dripper Third Wave Water Brew Analysis

Tasting

I set up a brewed coffee cupping for my colleagues to taste as well. We tasted the samples blind and grouped the samples by roast. One coffee, roasted two ways, brewed each with a different water.

Results

Overall, we preferred Roast One. But that’s only half the story.

One would think prior to tasting that each taster would prefer one water, “house” or “third wave”, across the board. The “house” drinker would prefer the water served neat, and both roasts brewed with the house water. Nope.

All and all, most tasters preferred sipping the house water instead of the treated water. This intuitively makes sense as this water is what we are all used too. Familiarity = preference. There may be some scientific reasoning here as well as the treated “Third Wave Water” includes a higher dose of minerals which may negatively affect the water’s taste.

What’s interesting is how most tasters preferred one coffee brewed with Third Wave Water and the other brewed with our house water. There was no clear winner with each roast. Due to the sample size (less than 10), let’s call it a chance conclusion.

The big takeaway here, and something I’m always enthused by, is the kind and quality of water matters. It was overwhelmingly apparent that the samples differed. Nothing is more disappointing than learning the things you hold true aren’t accurate.

The water you brew with matters. As to whether or not you should use water type A or water type B, that’s up to you. Like all things in coffee, intentionality matters. If your coffee (or your wholesale clients’) isn’t tasting right, check the water. It may hold some answers.

Bringing it back to the coffee, this natural preformed wonderfully with both waters and both roasts when brewed on the Clever Coffee Dripper. Expect lots of berries, chocolate, florals and great sweetness.

This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.