I’ve never met Alfred Klein in person, but I feel like I’ve gotten to know him pretty well over the course of the last year. We struck up a conversation last May that spanned months and resulted in something like 5,000 words across a blog series about the history of Finca San Carlos – you can check those posts out elsewhere on the blog: Part I, Part II, and Part III.
There’s quite a lot to tell about Alfred and his story and challenges on the farm, and we have two other tasty lots from San Carlos this season, but I want to focus the attention of this analysis especially on this delightful Crown Jewel. It’s an incredible Chiapas, really delightful sweetness with a sparkling acidity uncommon for its origin. Truly a special coffee, likely the most uniquely flavorful Mexican selection you’ll taste this season.
Don Alfred chose the name for this coffee, and it certainly has a ring to it. Jade Centennial refers to the deeper than usual hue of the coffee and the hundred-year history of the farm. There’s more to the story of course – a parcel of the farm called Centenario is home to many of the trees, and on the parcel a hand-carved Mayan jade figurine was unearthed.
The trees were planted on the farm by a Guatemalan worker who claimed to have brought the seedlings from Quetzaltenango. Sr. Klein isn’t sure of the exact variety. Per his description, the bean size is close to Maragogype, the bean shape like old Bourbons, the tree structure like Catuaí with large, deep green leaves and light green new growth. The tree is tolerant, though not resistant to roya and ojo de gallo.
To my eye, the polished seeds appear long, more like Typica, Java, or Gesha.
One of the especially unique aspects of Finca San Carlos is its year-round access to spring water, allowing the coffees to double wash with an extended post-fermentation soak commonly seen in Kenya and Ethiopia. Don Alfred’s water management is second to none; he’s installed purifying tanks and has excellent wastewater management practices. Always in search of innovation, recently Alfred began renovating his drying patio and installing raised beds. He’s also received good sensory feedback from an overall 25% increase in fermentation time.
Mexican coffee has a reputation, much like Brazil, as a mild inexpensive blending option. While there are many Mexican coffees that fit this profile, this Crown Jewel is not one of them. Much larger than average screen size, high density, and precision-drying are hallmarks of this microlot from Finca San Carlos. You should expect this coffee to taste and behave atypically for a Mexico, in the best possible sense. Enjoy!
This Mexican coffee was quite versatile in the Ikawa. Given its high density and large screen size, I knew that it would take more time, rather than high heat to bring out its best. Ikawa Roast (1) was my first and best attempt at roasting this coffee. This roast was 15 seconds longer than my typical sample roast profile, but maintains a low end temperature through post crack development. The cupping notes were as I had hoped: nice crisp citrus, loads of florals, and a good creamy caramel base. For Ikawa Roast (2) I wanted to know how this coffee would taste with a shorter time and a shorter post crack development time, but keeping the same end temperature. The results were pleasant but very dry, and the citric acid was muted.
Transferring the Ikawa Roasts to the Probatino, I decided to try and keep roughly the same roasting stage ratios. In the Probatino roast, the coffee quickly accelerated through the drying stage and I had to reduce the gas in Maillard to lengthen the roast. This ended up giving me great momentum through to the end of the roast with 1:36 post crack development time. On the cupping table there was loads of orange, black cherry, and peach. Roasting this coffee again, I would choose a slightly lower charge temperature so that I could extend the roast during the drying stage.
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.
For this week’s Crown Jewel selections, I decided to try something different. Instead of manipulating heat application using the profile/power level buttons, I opted to open the door of the roaster while maintaining 100% heat application. This was for a number of reasons. I have seen this technique used on many forums, and while the Behmor manual does not directly endorse this method, it isn’t outwardly condemned. I have used this technique very sparingly in the past, but not explicitly. So I gave it a shot, this time with more intention.
I felt that this this Mexican coffee might be a good candidate due to its low moisture content and high density. I know from experience that high density coffees need a bit more push from the heating elements to get to first crack. But I also know that coffees with low moisture content tend to rush through Maillard stage a bit in the Behmor. The greatest decision we have to make when roasting is whether we are more interested in the sugars or the acids in a coffee, and honestly I don’t want to have to make that choice if I don’t have to – so I tried to take a balanced approach.
Five seconds before first crack, I began opening the door at a 2 inch aperture, for 5 seconds each time. I did this three times, with 10 second intervals between openings. While I didn’t achieve the same consistency of ColorTrack numbers that I did with the Yemeni coffee this week, the crack was long in duration, soft and consistent.
While this coffee did fare well on the cupping table, it could have stood up to a bit more development. The finish was slightly sharper than I would have hoped, and there were some savory black tea and grain notes (likely from underdevelopment) but the acidity came through loud and clear with kiwi and pear flavors. I might suggest aiming slightly for the sugar development side of the equation with this coffee, as much as I hate to choose. Either way, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with this delicious coffee!
This coffee, grown on the border with Guatemala, was delightfully easy to brew. My first attempt at a 1:16 ratio on the trusty Chemex yielded a cup that was balanced, sweet, and dynamic. Rather than get too absorbed into the minutiae of endless brew variables, I chose instead to keep all variables constant and play only with ratio between brew water and ground coffee to see how different brew strengths would affect the cup profile.
At 1:16, as I mentioned above, Alfred’s coffee tasting vibrant and sweet, with orange, cherry, hibiscus, and apricot, as well as chocolate, clove, and browned butter. At a more concentrated brew, the orange became a little more acidic and was complemented by grape and stone fruit, but there was a new layer of sarsaparilla, honey, and butterscotch too. Taken to the other end, at 1:17 those citrus notes were still present but the needle had tipped a bit closer to white grape and lemongrass, still retaining its caramel backbone with notes of nougat and graham cracker.
I haven’t had the honor of meeting Sr. Klein yet either, but his continued dedication to experimentation, quality, and eco-friendly practices is astounding; it also results in phenomenal coffee. If you have the opportunity to support Alfred’s work – and taste his delicious coffee – don’t pass it up!