Papua New Guinea is back in stock and it is looking like it will be a really great year, not just for coffees from this island nation but from much of the South Pacific.
We’re really excited to highlight this delicious, zesty, grapefruity Crown Jewel. It’s got that Kenya-like intensity, turned up to eleven, matched by the savory-sweet uniqueness common in washed PNGs. It’s an instant classic with verve to spare.
We’ve been sourcing coffee from the Nebilyer Valley for years. Coffees cultivated here are typically heirloom stock grown on 1-2 hectares of land by indigenous smallholder farmers, but this lot is grown on Korgua estate, among the first established on the island in the early parts of the 20th century by immigrants and colonizers. Prior to the twentieth century, coffee was not an important crop on the island, despite its proximity to other coffee growing Pacific islands.
The country of Papua New Guinea comprises the eastern half of the New Guinea island (the western half is part of the country of Indonesia) that rests like a disjoined puzzle piece off the northern coast of Australia. Commercial coffee production began in earnest in the region in the late 1920s, and is now the country’s second most important agricultural export after palm oil.
Korgua, and the local Kuta mill, are managed by Brian Leahy, the son of the farm’s founder and an early Australian explorer, Dan Leahy, who (with his adventurous brother, Mick) chronicled in photos and on film Europeans’ first interactions with the indigenous highland population in the early 1930s. The farm and mill, built on a “neutral zone” has the distinction of creating a common ground for the Ulga and Kolga tribes, whose relationships have not always been amicable.
This Papua New Guinea is pretty dry, but has a slightly high water activity compared to its moisture content – not wholly unusual for either Pacific island coffees or summertime arrivals. It’s small with fairly good distribution between screens 14-16 and is a bit low in density, surprisingly, considering it is a peaberry.
The peaberry 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, so keep an eye on Jen & Evan’s roasting recommendations for this lovely coffee!
For a peaberry, this Papua New Guinea is quite large in scale and not quite as dense as I am accustomed to. I decided to use a profile with a little more time for internal development due to these parameters and because this coffee had such a clean and tart acidity on the arrival table. While Ikawa Roast (1) can make some smaller screen size coffees taste roasty, this coffee packs quite the punch when it comes to acidity. Tasting more like a bright Kenyan coffee with tart summer yellow tomato and lots of grapefruit.
On my second roast, I decided to lengthen the post crack development time and increase the end temperature by five degrees (°F). On the cupping table, this roast was much more approachable and sweet. The tart acidity was now more malic in flavor with a sweet orange flavor and baked apple. The body and sweetness of this coffee reminded me of a buttery caramel candy.
After charting both of these profiles I noticed that my heat profile is much lower in Ikawa Roast (2) than in Ikawa Roast (1). I checked the iPad, and sure enough the firmware was set to the new profile. Most of the profiles that I have used were programmed with the 2016 version. When you compare the two, the new firmware fan speed is much lower than previously set. This greatly changes the flavor of the coffee. The reduced fan speed will use less heat in order to achieve the programmed temperature on the exhaust probe.
Since first crack happened much sooner in Ikawa Roast (2) and at a lower temperature, this dramatically increased the small change that I thought I had programmed. Instead of increasing my post crack development time by 15 seconds, I had increased it by 53 seconds which is a huge difference on a small air roaster like the Ikawa.
Due to my experience last week, I approached my roasts with a more standardized procedure from the outset. One of the main differences that I tried with this week’s roasts is a higher charge temperature of 450F on the Quest’s provided analog thermometer.
I started my roast at 9A with the back of the roaster open to stymie airflow. The goal here was to move quickly and easily through the drying phase. As soon as 2:45 rolled around, I closed the back of the roaster and increased the fan speed to 4.
As would be expected, my turning point was at a much higher temperature (415F), though it was at an identical time (2:30). I lowered my amperage to 7.5A at 430F/5:30 and tried coasting through to first crack with a little less vigor. At 440F/7:00 I increased the fan speed to 6 in order to abate as much smoke as possible. Despite this adjustment, this PNG wanted to keep moving, and this is my fastest roast on the Quest to date.
First crack occurred at 450F on the thermometer… but to be honest, I don’t particularly trust this thermometer. For next week, I will be taking one step towards more effective temperature manipulation by using a thermocouple and various probes.
I allowed the coffee to develop until 9:45, and dropped it onto my new cooling apparatus – a 100CFM computer fan I found on Ebay for $5. It worked like a charm, and the coffee was cool to the touch within 2 minutes.
On the cupping table, this coffee exhibited lots of fudgy notes. Chocolate covered banana, citrus, and more chocolate were present. If you like chocolate, taking this coffee to a darker roast level will certainly be pleasing to your palate. Tropical notes shine through in the background, but there’s plenty of sugar for those out there with a sweet tooth.
Evidence of my fast roast remained in my ColorTrack numbers. My internal development wasn’t as thorough as other Quest roasts. If I were to change anything about this roast, it would be to increase my fan speed at an earlier time. Allowing the heat to gather unchecked definitely adds up, and I could have achieved more even development with a longer roast.
Looking over the cupping notes for this Nebilyer Valley coffee, it was clear that this Papua New Guinea would be fun to dial in. In the past I’ve really enjoyed brewing Crown Jewels from this region on the Clever; something about the full-immersion-plus-paper filter combination works wonders for these coffees. Sure enough, with 18g of Jen’s Probat roasted coffee and 275g of brew water, I was able to produce an incredibly balanced, sweet, and interesting cup. Incredibly syrupy, this Korgua estate coffee offered sweet papaya, milk chocolate, cane sugar, green crape, tamarind candy, zesty acidity, and even a hint of white florals. What a delight!
A little at a loss on how to improve this delicious brew, I went for a bypass brew while sticking to the clever. My initial research shows that a coarse grind can increase perceived sweetness when using bypass technique, so I coarsened the EK 43 one notch and brewed a 70% concentrate and added 40g of water directly to the brew. This bypass water recipe was a bit too aggressive for the small volumes the single cup clever brews up, and the resulting cup was a little thin as a result. Nonetheless, there were still prominent notes of baked apple, pear, cinnamon, lime zest, vanilla and cacao.