Oaxacan coffee has long been synonymous with high quality, and we’re pleased to present this delightful addition to the family of Mexican offerings. Sourced in Mexico by our long term partner Alberto Pérez Mariscal of Finca la Cabaña, this particular coffee is smallholder-produced in the mountainous regions of southern Oaxaca state, in a province called Juquila surrounding the town of Lachao.
Coffee arrived to Mexico in the 1790s from Cuba, and was already being cultivated and exported by 1802. Up until the 1860s, the mountainous and fertile area spanning the border between what is now Mexico and Guatemala had gone widely unexplored by Europeans. As newly independent countries, Mexico realized the importance of having a physical and geographical border with Guatemala and began measuring the area while simultaneously gifting large swaths of this land to Mexicans of European descent (criollos). The first Mexican coffee plantations arose from these estates in the late 19th century. Coffee production was a critical factor for economic growth for several newly formed nations in Central America. During colonialism indigo dominated the economy, but with the advent of chemical dyes the market for this product suddenly died. Coffee production began to take its place, and the US became Mexico’s main customer.
Nowadays, much of the coffee in Mexico is grown by smallholders, as is this lot. We loved its silky viscosity, its effortless sweetness, and its complexity of chocolate and dried fruit flavors. It’s one of the best examples of a “classic” Oaxaca we’ve seen this season, and we’re proud to offer it as both 69kg bags and 10kg Crown Jewel boxes.
Prepped at size 16+ (with a 10% tolerance) this clean Mexican coffee is relatively unremarkable. Characterized by moderate moisture figures and density, this should be a fairly straightforward coffee to store and roast. The seeds appear as a mix of rounder Bourbon style beans and the longer, narrower types associated with Typica.
The lot is primarily comprised of the variety Pluma Hidalgo, named for the region in which it was popularized, which in turn honors revolutionary hero Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. The plume refers to a wisp of cloud that appears on a local mountain, mimicking a feather in Hidalgo’s hat. It is a local Typica mutation, not frequently grown outside of Mexico.
With the larger screen size and relatively low density of this coffee, I decided to use my longer profile with extended Maillard time on the Ikawa. This profile in particular decreases the drying time and lengthens the Maillard stage and the post crack development time which gave this coffee ample time to create aromatic compounds and deter any vegetal or underdeveloped flavors.
This coffee cracked at a reasonable temperature fairly early in the roast, adapting well to this profile. On the cupping table this coffee was sweet with lots of stone fruit flavors and a creamy nutella base. An all around balanced and clean cup.
Slow and low is the tempo for this very sweet and creamy coffee. I decided to use a low charge temperature and delay applying heat until almost three minutes into the roast. This allowed me to extend the overall roast time with a very low and gentle rate of change. First crack happened at 395°F which is the most common temperature for first crack on the Probatino. Post crack, I stretched out the time by slowly turning down the heat a quarter turn at a time until the trier smelled like toasted marshmallows.
On the cupping table this coffee was very sweet and reminded me of the milk chocolate covered marshmallow my mother bought from See’s Candies every holiday. There was also a sweet top note of orange that could be more pronounced if more heat was applied at the front of the roast. Overall, this is an extremely sweet and clean coffee that I could drink all day long.
This is my inaugural Quest M3s analysis, and what better time to experience a sharp learning curve? While I did have a few practice roasts under my belt, my roasts of Crown Jewels this week definitely revealed the different possibilities available when roasting on the Quest.
Jen and I noted during our preliminary cuppings of this coffee that shooting for strong sugar development and focusing on developing body in this coffee would have the best result. Perfect for my sweet tooth!
As a starting point, I am using the stock thermocouple that comes with the Quest. I charged the coffee at 400F, 9A power, and the lowest fan speed setting. The turning point on this coffee happened to be the same point at which I had planned to engage a higher fan speed – 350F. Turning point was achieved at 2:20, and I increased fan speed to 3 concurrently.
I noticed my rate of rise start to slow down a bit, so I employed a trick I had seen on a few home roasting videos with the Quest. I opened the back chamber from the 5:00 mark to the 8 minute mark to limit airflow.
First crack occurred at 8:45/440F, at which point I lowered power to 7.5A and increased fan speed to 5. I felt a bit rushed in these changes, as I didn’t have a solid idea of what temperature the coffee would crack using this thermometer. Spoiler alert: all of my subsequent batches cracked around 440F. I now have a good idea of how to work with this thermometer.
In preparation for dropping the coffee, I increased fan speed to maximum at 10:00 to pull the chaff into the rear chamber. I allowed the coffee to develop further until 10:25/460F for a total development time of 1:40.
On the cupping table, this coffee definitely achieved the mouthfeel and sweetness I was going for, but I would have liked to preserve just a bit more acidity. There was a slight smokiness that I am attributing to my having left the rear chamber open later in the roast; if I use this technique in the future, I’ll only be using it during the initial stages of roasting to avoid any smoky flavors.
I could see using a slightly higher charge temperature in this situation, but as I noticed in later roasts, this machine can really take off running if you apply too much heat at the beginning of a roast. In the future, I’ll experiment with this technique, and perhaps stronger airflow at the beginning of the roast as well.
As it was, this was a delicious coffee with a flavor profile strongly fixed on sugars. Look for fudge, cashew, caramel, dark chocolate, and all manners of confections in your tasting notes. A couple of us noted apricot: sweet and mellow malic acid. Enjoy!
This was a busy week in the Royal Coffee offices: I recalibrated the EK 43 Malkhonig grinder, a process that takes only an hour at most and can greatly improve the consistency of the coffee grounds. I’ve also been doing espresso training this week for our staff. Dialing in espresso is a mildly magical process that always reignites my passion for brewing. I was sure that this Oaxacan coffee would taste delicious as a shot, so I threw it in the hopper between trainings. Sure enough, without too much manipulation I was able to produce a 1:2 ratio shot that was both tart, sweet, and smooth, with notes of juicy peach, orange candy, caramel, and a big syrupy body.
On the Kalita wave at a 1:16 ratio, the peach and vanilla stayed present, as did the sweet orange. There was a hint of berries in the pour over brew, as well as a toffee butteriness that made for a lovely body. Dried dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder played the base notes, creating a dynamic but very chuggable cup of coffee.