We’re thrilled to be throwing down another spectacular offering from Santa Maria de Dota, this time a lovely honey process coffee. Consistent, delicious, juicy and bright, the cup spills over with ripe plum, cherry and mild citrus notes. Longstanding coffee trader and Royal’s VP of Trading Activity, Alex Mason described this selection as “lovely coffee that represents classic style of this origin exquisitely.”
Santa Maria is home to one of Costa Rica’s finest cooperatives, Coopedota. It is the world’s first certified carbon-neutral coffee exporter, but it’s much more than just a supplier with a great certification. Recently retired Director Roberto Mata built up an amazing industry, integrating social services and environmental protections while producing some of the highest quality coffee available in Costa Rica.
CoopeDota’s farms stretch deep into central Costa Rica and while they produce a significant volume, they also are deeply invested in highlighting exceptional microlots. Coopedota provides members with access to wet and dry milling services, yet the outreach extends far beyond processing: coffee by-products are used to fuel the mechanical drying guardiolas and water use during processing is reduced by using eco-pulpers. The cooperative manages trash pickup in the city of Santa Maria de Dota, and has been able to repurpose waste into renewable forms of energy. They also roast their own coffee and operate three cafes and a cupper/barista training center.
This coffee underwent “Honey” processing, a form of semi-washing wherein the cherry skin and most of the fruit are stripped away and the remaining sticky mucilage is left to dry on the pergamino. Skipping the washing and controlled fermentation stages tends to increase fruity flavors in the coffee, and has the added benefit of saving water and time.
This honey process Costa Rica is pleasantly fragrant, fruity and floral smelling, and enjoys a high density. The coffee is also a little higher than average in moisture and water activity, with a pretty classic Central American “European Prep” screen size distribution.
The lot is comprised of Caturra and Catuaí, classic Central American varieties (though both originally hail from Brazil). Caturra is a spontaneous mutation of heirloom Bourbon, first observed in 1937, and Catuaí was developed about a decade later (though not formally released until the 1970’s) by hybridizing Yellow Caturra with Mundo Novo. The short stature of these two cultivars makes them resistant to wind, and easier to plant densely and harvest, though they are susceptible to rust and other common coffee afflictions.
Over the last several months I have started to rely on a few sample roast profiles more and more. One of these I call 5:15 408 \m/fc. I used to have a different name, but now that I have tallied close to 50 Ikawa profiles, it was time to sit down and develop a naming convention before I get lost in the woods. The first number refers to the total duration of the roast, the second number is the final end temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, and the last part is code for my fan speed profile. The code is simple; a forward slash ( / ) is an increase in fan speed and a backslash ( \ ) symbolizes a decrease in speed. Other notes, such as, m is for Maillard or yellowing, and fc is used for first crack.
In the picture below you can see three different coffees roasted with the same Ikawa profile and the differences in not only the amount of chaff expelled, but the color of the chaff as well. CJ1204, the red honey process from Costa Rica Coopedota, had very little chaff that was the palest of the three coffees sampled. It was even more pale than the washed coffee from Guatemala, CJ1206, which was unexpected. The black honey from Tarrazu, CJ1205, has the darkest color chaff, most likely from the large amount of mucilage left on the coffee during the drying process at the wet mill.
n the cupping table, this coffee had a lot of sweetness and fruit forward flavors that are associated with honey processing, but was very lightly roasted and lacked a sugar browning sweetness. I also noticed a dryness in the cup that may have been mostly due to the freshness of the roast, but my intuition tells me that a profile with longer Maillard phase with a shorter post crack development time would be ideal.
What an interesting coffee this was to roast, extremely dense, with a high moisture content and a high water activity. All of this translated to needing lots of energy, but also enough time to drive off moisture before first crack. There were a few pops early on, but don’t be fooled. First crack occurred quite late in the roast at around 401°F and was very loud, possibly due to the high moisture content of this coffee.
My first roast, Probatino Roast (1) had a low charge temperature which resulted in a much longer drying time than most coffees. In Probatino Roast (2), I increased the charge temperature and reduced the drying time, but kept the rest of the roast nearly identical with both roasts having 3:22 of Maillard time and 1:10 of post crack development time. On the cupping table, Probatino Roast (1) was sweet with juicy fresh fruit flavors, while in comparison, Probatino Roast (2) was still sweet with more cooked and dried fruit flavors you might find in your favorite mulled wine.
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.
In counterpoint to Jen’s first Ikawa roast, I took this coffee a bit darker, and took my time doing so. This coffee needed quite a bit of heat to crack. Every coffee this week had higher moisture content and density than usual, so that is only to be expected – but this coffee was a standout with crack happening at 13 minutes. I tried to cool off the roasting chamber drastically towards the end of roast by pressing P4 for less heat, and opening the door for 5 seconds, but this coffee had tons of inertia. I ended the roast at 14:30, removed the drum, and cooled the coffee manually (using silicone gloves of course!).
On the cupping table this coffee seemed a bit roasty, but sweetness still came through very clearly. We noted powdered sugar, vanilla, and red candy notes. All the fruit you would expect from a red honey was there, but definitely not overwhelmingly so. Grape was a recurring note, but this wasn’t a cloying grapey flavor. Think clean and refreshing grape juice.
I would have liked to go a bit lighter on this roast. Keep in mind that this coffee will continue to cook if you push it hard like I did. A firm but gentle hand will be necessary to bring out the best in this coffee.
With this coffee’s high density in mind, I chose the Clever as my weapon of choice. Using my standard recipe for Clever, I started with a 1:16 ratio, a 2:00 brew time (meaning I set the brewer on the carafe to drain at the 2:00 mark) and just one stir at 1:00. This brew produced lots of cranberry, cherry, and red grape acidity balanced by chocolate, nougat, and honey. The brew was also pleasantly delicate, and very complex.
Wanting to turn up the volume a little bit, I tightened the grind by a half notch but kept the rest of my recipe static. This version created a bit more fudge and a pleasant ginger and tamarind quality, while the acidity presented as raspberry and lychee. This brew was lovely, but I wondered what just a little more extraction might do to the coffee. Again, I kept the recipe static and the grind at 8 on the EK43, but added one more 10 second stir cycle to the brew. This produced a slightly thinner brew with notes of vanilla, applesauce, and a tart finish that proved to be divisive among my cuppers.
To be honest, I could have spent hours dialing this coffee in to perfection, but the truth is that it tasted delicious from the very first brew. This red honey processed Costa has the benefit of being an easy drinker while also containing enough complexity to make a barista’s day.