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Central American coffees have been a little slower to hit port this season than last. I’ve been told that this is related to a shortage of available vessels on the shipping lines. The result is that we’ve had to be judicious with our purchasing and many roasters have need to stretch their inventory.
Well, I’m pleased to say that we’re finally in high season for arrivals, and we’ve chosen to feature a lovely Honduran coffee from producer Cristina Lara. Doña Cristina and the other 5 members of her household are growing coffee on a plot of just under 5 hectares in El Pelón, a community in the Department of Intibucá, just a few miles up the road from Maracala. She’s been growing coffee for eighteen years.
This season’s harvest reminded us of softer stone fruit flavors like plum, honeydew melon and pear, with a candied sweetness of praline and marzipan. It’s a very easy-drinking coffee, and perfect for pairing with weekend brunch or a mid-morning pastry.
Pretty standard stuff here in terms of physical specs. Moderately dry with a low water activity (yep, the Rotronic’s back with a power button that doesn’t stick), the coffee is also of roughly average density and standard EP prep: mostly 16+ screen sizes.
Cristina Lara is growing the classic Latin American Catuaí, a Brazilian hybrid of Mundo Novo (itself a spontaneous hybrid of Bourbon and Typica) and Caturra (a dwarf mutation of Bourbon). Catuaí, while well-loved for its vigor, yield, and short stature, is unfortunately susceptible to rust. To address this, Honduras’ IHCAFE (Instituto Hondureño del Café) bred cultivars for resistance, resulting in (among others) Lempira and IHCAFE90, both of which are grown by Cristina Lara. These are independently developed Catimors, both being the result of unique crosses of the Timor Hybrid and Caturra. Both have been deemed susceptible to rust in recent years, having fallen victim to the fungus’ uncanny ability to evolve.
We’ve updated our V2 Ikawa Pro machines with the latest Firmware version (24) and run on “closed loop” setting. Our roasters underwent full service in October of 2018 which included replacement heating elements and an updated PT 1000 temperature sensor.
Our initial QC protocols for selecting coffees for Crown Analysis vary, and this week this particular Honduran microlot was chosen from a field of other contenders, including two other small lots from Cristina Lara’s farm. Putting the Ikawa Pro to good use during a busy week, I used a single roast profile to roast all the coffee. You can find the profile linked below.
The roast showed off a good amount of fruit flavor: Plum and apple, juicy tropical fruits, and a splash of apricot, fig, and concord grape. It was after cupping this Ikawa profile that the group elected to focus our attention on this coffee, and it’s been well worth the attention.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: RC ckornman 6m afmod dec2018v3
My initial reaction to this coffee was much like Chris’s – I found this coffee to be very easy drinking. My experience with the roast was much the same. This coffee from the Opalaca region is incredibly sweet, clean and has variety of flavor notes to be exploited, whether or not you’re thinking of this Crown Jewel for either espresso or filter brew methods. The slightly higher region of the Honduran Western Coffees designated Geographical Indication (a notable producing area. Think French Champagne or Mexican Tequila) produces coffees with complex flavors such as tropical fruits, berries, sugary sweetness usually paired with a mellow acidity.
Wanting to exploit as much of the fruit notes and acidity as possible, whilst producing a sweet and balanced flavor profile (after all, there’s much in the mix here), I decided to charge the coffee at a higher temperature than I usually do, 377 Fahrenheit, to be specific, with the maximum gas application I usually use on the Probatino (3). Even so, the turn was almost 200 degrees lower than the charge. I was worried, but the coffee recovered well and made a rapid rise through stage one of the roast. I decided to step down off the gas soon after coloring to make a steady, step decent up to and just after first crack.
After pushing the coffee quite aggressively initially, to all for as many enzymatic reactions possible and express those fruit and acidity notes, I wanted allow the coffee time to develop during stage two. Looking at the ratio between stages, this coffee spent almost as much time in stage two (coloring/maillard phase) as it did in stage one (dehydration) and stage 3 (post-crack development) combined.
So did this pay off in the cup? A resounding yes! The syrupy heavy body, paired with a characteristic soft, articulate acidity was equally matched by flavor after flavor. This coffee made me dream of experiencing this coffee as an espresso as well as a filter. Fruit forward notes of cantaloupe, cherry, red apple and plum are complemented by sugary flavors of almond, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla and fudge. The mandarin orange and white grape acidity balanced the cup, tying it together with a delicate bow. Go forth and explore!
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.
Whether you’re making an espresso or a drip coffee, this Honduras coffee is a nice one to have in hand due to its adaptability and deliciousness in various applications. I approached this coffee with the understanding that I wanted to maintain the gentle grape and plumminess I knew was in this coffee, while getting plenty of developed sugars.
This was my first roast of the day, but the Behmor came up to temperature in regular time. One thing I noticed when roasting this coffee is that there was very minimal chaff, and very little smoke emanating from the machine. This coffee cracked at a standard 10:40, and I engaged 75% power shortly afterwards, and opened the roaster door at 11:20 to allow what little smoke was inside to exit the roasting chamber. After a relatively short 1:10 development (ending the roast at 11:50), I stopped the roast.
While we did experience some roast notes on the table from this coffee, the sugars were the true winner. S’mores and dried dates took the forefront, and raisin was the consensus note. I would opine to say that even less time in development is warranted with this coffee. Try going for 1 minute of post-crack development on this coffee to really allow the acids to shine for filter drip. If you’re only concerned with sugars, a bit more time won’t hurt for your espresso-intended coffee.
After cupping this coffee, we knew it had so much to offer! So I decided to give it a whirl on the Stagg brewer and see which tasting notes shone through. During my first brew, I noticed the filter choking a little bit, resulting in a significantly longer brew time than I’m accustomed to with the Stagg. When the brew wrapped up around 4:20, it boasted an impressive 1.61 TDS and 23.53% extraction, both of which are high readings. We were pleasantly surprised when we tasted the coffee, though, picking up notes of bold red fruit (cherry, plum, apple, and red grape) and a really pleasant cocoa sweetness, with just a hint of a dry finish and a great syrupy, molasses-y body.
I was impressed with how well this coffee performed as such a strong brew with a high extraction, but wanted to give it a taste when brewed closer to the parameters I typically drink my pourover coffee. So I lowered the dose to 18g and increased by total brew water to 320g on the second brew. This brew went as planned, finishing in just over 3 minutes, with fairly standard TDS and extraction numbers. This brew definitely had some lighter, more floral notes, but I may have stretched it a bit too far, as we started to pick up on a couple dry tasting notes: some toast, cacao nibs, and dried fruit. Definitely still an enjoyable cup of coffee, just not quite as sweet and delicious as the first brew! Overall, this coffee was a pleasure to brew and wonderful to drink at multiple points along the strength and extraction spectrum and would be a wonderful addition to any coffee menu.