Flavor Profile Apple juice, elderflower, chocolate, jammy, sweet
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This is a traditional washed coffee from Nyeri, Kenya, produced by members of the Mahiga Factory and Othaya Cooperative Society.
The flavor profile is so sweet you could chug it and so delicious you don’t want to. We noted honey, lavender, yuzu, and oolong tea among so many other flavors.
Our roasters found the coffee capable of soaking plenty of heat and encouraged a high heat profile, particularly in early stages of roasting.
When brewed, our team noted excellent results using slightly up-dosed pour-over ratios and a moderate grind setting.
Taste Analysis by Chris Kornman
Versatile and uncompromisingly excellent, Mahiga is code around here for delicious. Unique steps in processing make this Kenyan coffee more than awesome, and it seems like every time we brew it up a new flavor comes to light we hadn’t noticed before.
Like other Kenyan options, acidity is definitely a point of interest, but the real attention-grabber here is the coffee’s complex sweetness. Honey, caramel, cane sugar, and marmalade and candy notes dominate the top flavors in our profiles. It is lush with a capital “L” and honestly you could probably just chug it and enjoy it without thinking twice.
That said, the coffee really does stand out from the crowd and grabs your attention if you’re willing to give it. When you find notes of yuzu, lavender, cranberry, mandarin orange, oolong tea, and pear all wrapped up in a silky-sweet package, you should know you’ve stumbled on something really special.
There’s way more to unpack here at the cupping table and the brew bar, and I’m sure you’ll arrive at your own flavor destination along this quest that starts with exceptional processing and ends with a cup that will leave your roasters asking “did I elevate this coffee, or did it elevate me?”
Source Analysis by Charlie Habegger
Mt. Kenya, at the helm of Kenya’s Central Province, is the second tallest peak on the continent of Africa and a commanding natural presence. The mountain itself is a single point inside a vast and surreal thicket of ascending national forest and active game protection communities. The central counties of Kenya extend from the center of the national park like six irregular pie slices, with their points meeting at the peak of the mountain. Many believe the best coffees in Kenya, often the world, are crafted in the wet, high elevation communities with mineral-rich soil that reside just along the lower edge of these forests. Nyeri is perhaps the most well-known of these central counties. Kenya’s coffee sector is dominated by a cooperative system of production whose members vote on representation, marketing, and milling contracts for their coffee, as well as profit allocation.
Othaya Farmers Cooperative Society, the umbrella organization that includes Mahiga Factory, is one of Kenya’s larger societies with 19 different factories and more than 14,000 farmer members across the southern Nyeri region. The Mahiga Factory has 400 members actively harvesting and delivering to the processing center. The factory’s total parchment output this past harvest was 152,000 kgs, meaning the average member of Mahiga is farming enough coffee fruit for roughly 11 30kg units of exportable green. Mahiga Factory’s chairman is Newton Mugai, one of the founding directors of Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCCE).
KCCE is an historic organization of almost 4,000 individual cooperatives. The group was formed in 2009 with the express goal of managing marketing and exporting operations cooperatively (as opposed to contractually with third parties) and thereby increasing returns to farms. The economics of smallholder systems are consistently difficult everywhere in the world, and in Kenya in particular the number of individual margins sliced off an export price before payment reaches the actual farms is copious, leaving only a small percentage to support coffee growth itself. Most often, these dividends arrive many months after harvest. By managing more of the value chain itself, KCCE can capture a greater margin on behalf of the farms. Farmers belonging to Mahiga receive 55 shillings per kilogram of fresh cherry delivered to the factory, the equivalent of $1.40/lb of the green coffee price.
Kenya is of course known for some of the most meticulous at-scale processing found anywhere in the world. Bright white parchment, nearly perfectly sorted by density and bulk conditioned at high elevations, is the norm, and a matter of pride even for generations of Kenyan processing managers who prefer drinking Kenya’s tea, which is abundantly farmed in nearby Muranga county. Ample water supply in the central growing regions has historically allowed factories to wash, and wash, and soak, and wash their coffees again entirely with fresh, cold river water.
Mahiga typically ferments twice: once under water for 12 hours, and again under fresh water for another 12-36 hours, with a washing in between. Double fermentation is very rare in Kenya, and, based on our experience, the technique is strongly correlated with excellent cleanliness and clarity in the cup, and Mahiga’s lots are some of the best and most balanced Kenyas we’ve tasted all year.
After fermentation is complete, the clean parchment soaks for 16 hours, again in fresh water, before it is sorted by density and brought to the tables to dry, which typically takes two weeks. After drying is complete the coffee is stored on site and eventually delivered to the Othaya dry mill for grading and a final density sort. The established milling and sorting by grade, or bean size, is a longstanding tradition and positions Kenya coffees well for roasters by tightly controlling the physical preparation and creating a diversity of profiles from a single processing batch.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Working with green coffee from Kenya is just so dreamy. It is unequivocally some of the best-sorted coffee on the planet, almost regardless of the exact source. This is likely due in part to the influence of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, Kenya’s infamous auction system which still exerts authority and standards despite the introduction of a second window allowing direct trade beginning in 2006.
This Mahiga is an unusual size. The coffee is listed as an AB, which would usually indicate screens 15-17… but we’ve got a full screen size upgrade on our hands here with 99.5% of the beans sorted to 16-18. The tight distribution of the sizes remains on-spec for high grade Kenyas, so I wouldn’t expect any particular consequences from this curiosity. Additionally, the coffee exhibits characteristically high density and low moisture, in-line with our usual expectations from the origin.
The standard cultivar suspects are all here: The oldest of these are SL28 and SL34, selections made in the early days of cultivation from legacy Bourbon and Typica populations which were suited to growing conditions in Kenya. More recently Ruiru 11 and Batian have entered the fold and are proprietary hybrids integrating the genetics of more than a dozen separate varieties in order to improve quality, yield, and disease resistance.
Diedrich IR-5 Analysis by Chris Kornman
Sometimes you throw caution to the wind, kick your burners up, and ride a profile like a bat out of hell. These Kenyas love it when the metal is hot and the engine is hungry. Mahiga has become synonymous with delicious around here over the past few years, and just like in years past, you can really crank the gas on this oversized AB.
My initial Diedrich roast of this coffee used a hot charge from idle. Doris had already roasted a few batches so the bean temp read about 430F and the exhaust was stable at 410F. Using an initial 70% burner setting, I did a quick airflow toggle from 50% (idle) to closed at the turning point, then back to 50% about 30 seconds before color change was visible. I also ramped up the gas briefly to 85% just before Maillard to give the coffee a last little push out of drying stage, and I opened the airflow fully through the roasting drum.
With rate of rise steady at 40F/minute a minute past color change, I dropped my burner to 30%, bringing the roast gradually to about 20F/minute as the first couple of audible cracks started around 6:45, pretty hot and quick compared to my usual profiles. I marked the start of rolling first crack at 7:06, shut off my burners, and baffled the airflow back slightly to try and find a middle ground of heat retention in the drum.
I checked the color a few times and dropped the batch at 1:17 of development at a very low 390F end temperature. The roasted weight loss was just a fraction above the total moisture content, at 11%. The coffee Colortracked at 53, which is light but not too light.
What an absolute delight on the cupping table. Cranberry, plum, and yuzu made multiple appearances from our cupping team, and we lauded its complexity and bright but not overwhelming acidity. When the day is done and the sun goes down and the moonlight’s shining through I’ll come crawling back to this delicious Mahiga.
Aillio Bullet R1 IBTS Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, we use both the roast.world site and Artisan software to document our roasts on the Bullet. You can find our roast documentation below, by searching on roast.world, or by clicking on the Artisan links below.
Generally, we have good results starting our 500g roasts with 428F preheating, P6 power, F2 fan, and d6 drum speed. Take a look at our roast profiles below, as they are constantly changing!
Kenya season is a season where you remember just how intense some coffees can be. The accompanying incredible attention to detail and quality just brightens what is already a sunny summer day at the roaster. This particular factory, Mahiga, is like an old friend now and consistently comes through tasting phenomenal. Regardless of any resilience, I wanted to give it the attention it was due in the roaster.
I started off at the usual 428F, but with a strong P8 power application and F4 fan speed just after charge to really allow this coffee to soak up the heat in the barrel before continuing on its merry way. At turning point, I reduced fan back to F2, only increasing to F3 and reducing heat application to P7 at 295F / 3:05. At yellowing I increased fan speed to F4 but this incredibly dense and large coffee continued on as I knew it would, at a slow but steady clip. I brought this coffee into an early-ish first crack (378F/8:09) crawling at a speed of 11F/min. With this speed, I was able to get 20% post crack development and a final temperature of 395F without completely flattening my RoR. My resulting roast wasn’t quite as light as Chris’ above, as it clocked in at about 12% roast loss, but still fell within my estimation of a lighter medium roast.
There’s certainly a case to be made for Kenyan coffees roasted dark, but this roast level really brought out what I expected, and that was a very pleasing experience. I can imagine this coffee would still have its zesty acidity and taste like an incredible blackberry sauce covered s’more if taken darker. To each their own – give it a shot!
The majority of this roast was spent in Green/Drying, which to my taste is a good thing for an acid-forward coffee like this. Bright and zesty to the last, this coffee kept up the shine even while displaying some heavy sugar (molasses, hibiscus syrup, marshmallow) characteristics from the long development time. Of course, huge citrus, malic acid (think nectarine) and cranberry were up front on the pallet all the way from hot to cooling. One of the most curious notes of Kenyan coffee came through in cooling here, too – a super ripe heirloom tomato sweetness. This is just a phenomenal coffee year after year. Hard to say no to, however you brew!
You can find my roast on roast.world here: https://roast.world/@egilman/roasts/RKMisJAHCSZHly0jJlxdr
Ikawa Pro V3 Analysis by Colin Cahill
We have recently reevaluated our standard practice for Ikawa roasting and narrowed our focus on two profiles that have been particularly helpful in designing our scaled up roasting strategies. These profiles offer a useful contrast, having been developed and refined over time to showcase the best of various green metrics and processing styles to give us a window into their performance on our production roasters.
We’ve been working through a bunch of new arrivals from East Africa here in the Tasting Room and Lab, and I was excited to see a familiar coffee—and one of my favorites—from last year: the delightful Mahiga from Nyeri, Kenya. I ran 50 gram batches on the Ikawa Pro V3 using our Maillard and our Inlet profiles (links to both below) to compare how the beans performed.
The Inlet profile led with a stronger heat and then tapered off into a curve (graphing temperature over time) reaching 209 degrees Celsius, while the Maillard profile built more gradually, spending significantly more time in drying phase, and turned sharply upon reaching 215 degrees Celsius. While the Inlet profile brought this coffee into the Maillard phase almost a whole minute earlier, its tapering off slowed the coffee’s march to first crack. Both profiles reached first crack at nearly the same moment, and both yielded lovely light roasts, though the Inlet roast was slightly darker. Upon cupping, we scored both roasts nearly identically, with a slight preference for the aftertaste and body on the Maillard Profile roast, and a slight preference for the acidity on the Inlet Profile roast.
The Maillard Profile yielded a smooth, syrupy, sweet coffee with floral notes—rose and vanilla—and notes of chocolate, pumpkin pie filling, and a touch of caviar lime. When cupping the Inlet Profile roast, we tasted more notes of rose and vanilla, as well as baking spice, with a smooth and heavy body. Both were delicious, suggesting this is a versatile green coffee that could be relatively forgiving with small variations in the roast. We’re excited to bring this coffee into service again in the Tasting Room!
You can roast your own by linking to our profiles in the Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown Maillard +30 SR 1.0
Roast 2: Crown Inlet Sample Roast 2022
Brew Analysis by Joshua Wismans
I’ll repeat the sentiments of my coworkers: Kenya season is a joy, and these coffees are a blast to work with. This double washed, double fermented Mahiga is no exception.
For the two initial brews, we sought to compare filtered pour over with immersion. The F70 and the Clever were the selected brewers. For the F70, we explored a more “standard” ratio of coffee to water at 1:15.8, and a grind at 8 on our EK43. The result was a brew time that was slightly longer than usual, but still displayed a nice delicate brew that showcased the floral spice, sun gold tomato, and stone fruit this coffee has. For the Clever, we updosed and went with a coffee to water ratio of 13.4 and a longer brew time to really see what we could pull out of this coffee. Ultimately, I don’t believe this to be the direction for this coffee, but there was still a lot of interesting flavors to explore.
After preferring the F70 in the initial round of brewing, but noting some interesting savory notes that showed in the updosed Clever brew, we approached the V60 with a coffee to water ratio of 1:15 and a grind of 8.5 on the EK43. The results were exquisite and highlighted the best of what Kenyan coffees have to offer. The juiciness of nectarine sang with the delicate savoriness of sun gold tomato, all the while enhanced by notes of black tea and baking spice. This was hands down our preferred brew.
We highly recommend a slightly higher dose and moderate grind to make this coffee shine.