Introduction by Chris Kornman

Cauca is one of Colombia’s most readily identifiable coffee growing regions, and this sparkling gem from the Timbío municipality effortlessly earned its place among our Crown Jewels. Tucked away in the La Marqueza village, José Luis Ortega is cultivating coffee on his three-hectare farm he calls (curiously) “Salsipuedes” (“Get out if you can”).

Sr. Ortega is employing some unique practices on the coffee he produces, making extensive use of Brix (sugar percentage) readings to ensure consistency. First, and not uncommonly, he’s waiting to harvest his Castillo trees until they ripen to purple. He assures consistency of ripeness by measuring the brix at 20%, picking about once every 24 days during the harvest between May and July. Allowing the ripe cherries to rest overnight reduces their reading to about 15 Brix as fermentation begins naturally. The coffee is then pulped, fermented for about 14 hours (down to 10 Brix), and washed. The coffee is dried under cover of polisombra parabolic dryers and can take up to two weeks to complete.

It shouldn’t surprise you that José Luis didn’t simple stumble onto these processes by accident. After a concerted effort to change the direction of his farm to be productive and profitable, he partnered with specialty coffee exporter BanExport and employed the advice of one of his three daughters, an agricultural engineering student. Since measuring Brix during fermentation, José says his cup scores have improved.

We can testify to the radiance of the cup quality – an exceptionally clean cup, bursting with sweet tropical fruits and bright citric acidity balanced by a silky-smooth mouthfeel. Easy to appreciate, hard to put down!

luis ortega cauca colombia

Green Analysis by Chris Kornman

Sporting a remarkably high density paired with a relatively high water activity level, you’re likely to notice a few peculiarities in the roast. Jen’s extensive notes on this coffee can be found on two separate profiling machines below, so I won’t spend too much more time on roasting recommendations.

You might have noticed that this Crown Jewel is 100% Castillo. Having now visited Colombia’s Cenicafé, the research branch of the FNC (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros), and seen their work, I’m in possession of what I’d consider to be a sufficiently dangerous understanding of the coffee tree’s development. Originating as a project to improve on previous cultivars’ (Tabi and Colombia, specifically) disease resistance and yield without compromising cup quality, this complex hybrid was introduced in 2005 and proved immensely resilient to leaf rust. Today, it can be found on nearly every farm in the country, thanks to its hearty nature and subsidized pricing.

Among the cultivars’ benefits are a multi-line composite of 5th generation breeding that allows for genetic diversity sufficient to resist rust and other diseases holistically within a single field of trees. Let’s say a “super-roya” develops that can target Castillo – traditional varieties would flop uniformly in the face of such a predator, but only part of the Castillo grove (in theory) would be susceptible because, despite being 100% Castillo there are actually 5 or so unique genetic compositions in each bag of seeds. Additionally, Castillo has been divided into multiple “regional” varieties in addition to a “general” profile.

There’s a tendency for many cuppers to regard the rust-resistant variety as qualitatively inferior. However (as evidenced by the high sensory quality of this particular lot) there is still exceptional quality potential, depending on the particular Castillo strain, and contingent on growing conditions and processing methods. I’m a firm believer that, given the proper care, this horticulturally advantageous variety is also an uncommonly tasty one.

Ikawa Analysis by Jen Apodaca

The Ikawa roaster is perfect for profiling coffees. The flexibility of the software lets the operator dictate exactly the type of profile they wish to execute. Because Ikawas are air roasters, first crack temperatures will be in the range of 398-402°F, which is much higher than the average drum roaster and the Probatino. I created four different roast profiles to get a better idea of the range of flavors that this coffee has to offer. They ranged from different end temperatures, post crack development times, and total roast times. I kept the fan speed profile and the cooling time the same on all four roasts.

This particular coffee was a medium screen size and  high density. Roast (1) and Roast (3) had the best expressions of tropical and juicy acidity with the short post crack development times. The high water activity of this coffee accelerated the Maillard process and when that is combined with the longer post crack development times, both Roast (2) and Roast (4) developed more sugar browning flavors. Roast (4) in particular tasted extra roasty and had bitter floral flavors in the cup like juniper and pine. The table agreed on Roast (3) being the most balanced in sweetness and acidity.

Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca

Now that we chose a preferred roast and flavor profile, it was time to translate the ikawa to the Probatino. There are several strategies that I could have applied, but since this is my first attempt, I decided to try and apply the same roasting stages ratios. This would allow me to increase the length of the roast on a larger machine and with a larger batch size. I was aiming for an 8:30 minute roast and calculated the times that I would need the Maillard stage to begin and when I would like first crack to happen. Of course, the coffee itself plays a large part and I knew that I would need to make some on the fly calculations during the roast.

The Ikawa roaster has a much shorter drying time than I am used to executing on the Probatino so I ramped up the charge temperature and added high heat at 1:00 minute into the roast. I was hoping to reach the yellowing stage by 3:00 minutes and was just 12 seconds off. I drastically reduced the heat right after the maillard stage began to mimic the ikawa roast. The high water activity and density of this coffee wanted to accelerate this step so I watched it very closely making minor adjustments to keep the profile on track and hit my marks.

For the most part, I think that this profile translation was very successful. Every stage of the Probatino roast was less than 1% off from the Ikawa roast. On the cupping table, the acidity profile was nearly identical with tropical citrus notes. The main difference was that the Ikawa roast had more sugar browning flavors and a heavier viscosity than the Probatino roast. This is particularly interesting because the Probatino roast was 2.5 minutes longer than the Ikawa and the loss percentage was higher as well.

luis ortega colombia cauca

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.


This week’s Crown Analyses brought some very different coffees to the table – and to the roaster. Perhaps the most conventional of the three was this excellent Colombian offering, though that isn’t saying much because this coffee is a screamer. Bright sparkling acidity and gloriously smooth texture really turned this coffee up to 11, which is one past where most coffees go.

In all seriousness, this coffee was a dream to roast. One aspect that differentiated this coffee from the others was the amount of chaff generated during the roast. You’ll need to clean the Behmor thoroughly after roasting this coffee, as it puts out more chaff than I have seen in recent memory. After the chaff begins releasing, this coffee had a crack that started slow and continued strongly even when I removed it from the roaster after 1:30 development time.

I achieved 14.8% roast loss with this coffee, but there wasn’t too much roast flavor coming through on the cupping table. I recommend engaging P4 or a lower power profile about 30 seconds after first crack. This roast had me giving high marks on the cupping table, and I couldn’t recommend this coffee more.

Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow

As a team, we really felt the need to defend this coffee. Stuck between an insane Colombian Mokka variety and a fantastically complex Sulawesi on the cupping table, it passed nearly unnoticed.  This coffee is so clean, so sweet, so drinkable, that it was easy to say “yes, lovely” and then go back to discussing the intricate complexities of the other two offerings, forgetting that this truly was an outstanding Colombian coffee.

Getting to taste José Luis’s product alone during brew analysis really highlighted its high quality. This coffee is incredibly clean and syrupy, packing a bunch of sweet plum, honeydew, and raspberry, sweet orange juice acidity, all balanced by sweet cocoa and brown sugars.

I chose to brew on a Chemex because there wasn’t much I wanted to manipulate here. A simple pour over with a thick filter and a long brew ratio seemed the way to go. Sure enough, this allowed the coffee to express all of its delicious complexity and sweetness. This was an easy one to enjoy.




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