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El Vapor, “The Steam,” is a special selection of coffee from the heart of Costa Rica’s famed Tarrazu growing region in the town of Santa Maria de Dota.
We fell in love with this coffee’s instant charm on the cupping table, and its ease of use in many applications. It’s so sweet and clean, elegant and classy without being flashy. Honeydew melon, rosewater, and red grape top the list of gentle fruit notes, each accompanied by a delicate sweetness and pristine juiciness.
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 educational opportunities in addition to 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.
Moderate density, standard EP screen size, modest moisture and water activity numbers. Another by-the-books green coffee might make it seem as if this kind of post-harvest handling is the norm. But quite to the contrary, the kinds of precision drying and storage practices that make great coffees stay great are sadly uncommon, and it stands as a testament to the high quality practices employed by the network of suppliers with whom Royal engages.
This particular coffee is eco-pulped, a practice that uses efficient equipment to strip the coffee fruit from the seed leaving very little mucilage in place, with the added benefit of water efficiency. Figures I’ve heard tossed around tend to be on the order of 10 times less water than standard depulping and fermenting. Eco-pulped coffee typically skips the fermentation tank and goes straight to dry.
Common cultivars in the region include Caturra and Catuaí. 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.
Trying out a new profile designed for washed and honey processed Central American coffees this week, this classic Costa Rica performed well, offering a nice balance of cherry, peach, plum, vanilla, honey, and chocolate notes. El Vapor is unlikely to need much special treatment in the roaster, it’s a coffee that should roast true to character with few surprises.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: RC ck 6.5m afmod 6.2019 3rd
This year’s Santa Maria Coopedota El Vapor is a charming, balanced and surprisingly complex offering for all its delicacy of flavor components. It hails from one of my favorite coffee growing regions. I’ve always loved Costa Rican coffees, but coffees from Tarrazu have always been a secret favorite of mine. I roasted this coffee to emphasize the floral and fruit flavors that seemed to dance delicately on top of the bed of clean, sweet, caramelized sugar notes I experienced when first tasting it as it debuted on the arrivals table.
I started the roast at a slightly lower charge temperature, around 360 degrees F, at a high heat, in order to allow the temperature delta between the coffee and drum to equalize at a lower temperature. This allowed me to apply the heat I wanted to move through the drying stage more quickly and then slow the roast down to extend the Maillard stage. I achieved this by reducing the heat immediately at coloring – although I would probably reduce it before this should I roast this coffee again. The reason I say this is that I like the coffee to roast as unbothered as possible, allowing it to ‘speak for itself’ – a roasting peccadillo of mine; every roaster has them! I achieved my goal – the stage ratios were as I had planned, leaving me room to effect a respectable 16% PCD ratio.
The overwhelming consensus at the cupping table was that this coffee was a sweet as it was juicy. The wonderful, multilayered sugar browning notes came through as caramel, brown sugar, and maple. These were overlaid with a light cinnamon dry spice note, complemented by a deep raisin dried fruit sweetness. Plum, rosewater, honeydew melon, and red grapes were finished off with a lemon and lime brightness that enhanced the whole cup. Really this is a coffee for the everyman. It has something for everyone, and performs excellently on all fronts – flavor, acidity, sweetness and body. This leads me to recommend adding this coffee to your filter line up as the quiet powerhouse that supports your other offerings or as a crowd-pleasing, syrupy sweet, clean and juicy single origin espresso.
The Costa Rica El Vapor comes through every year tasting exactly how I remember it: fresh, lively apple with a touch of lemon-lime briskness. I served this coffee for a number of years at Blue Bottle, and became very familiar with this splendid summertime arrival. Great for pourover drip and as a zesty espresso component, this solid offering never disappoints.
This week, I experimented with lower charge temperatures, with increased airflow and heavier heat application just a touch after turning point. This was in an effort to get the ‘deep-v’ shaped roast curve that allows for more time in the Maillard stage.
This coffee reacted well, but its density prevented a swift move through the drying phase. A slight spread of sizing in this large screen size coffee also contributed. I began the roast at 380.5F, one of my lowest charge temperatures. I increased fan speed to 3 and heat application to 10A at 218F/1:25, just after turning point (216F/1:08). Progression through drying was a little slower than I would have hoped, so in future roasts I will delay engaging the fan for a bit longer. Also, Maillard progressed a bit faster than I would have liked, leading me to think that I should increase fan speed a bit more dramatically towards the end of drying stage.
As it was, I increased fan speed to full at 340F/5:00, and reduced heat application to 7.5A at 350F/5:20. A little too late! Maillard turned into first crack quite quickly (385F/6:33), and I allowed for 1:15 of development time (which came out to roughly 16% in this fast roast).
On the cupping table, malic acid notes like honeydew melon and plum dominated, with a subtle background of caramelized sugar; maple, caramel, and clean chocolate abounded. There was even a touch of cinnamon floating around. This coffee is sure to be an easy-drinking crowd pleaser, good for most brew methods – though I would personally love to see this expressed as an espresso.
A fun new coffee from Costa Rica here – I’m not sure if I’ve ever brewed an eco-pulped coffee before. Even if I have, I was unaware. I was curious what this coffee would have to offer, especially with such a wide range of tasting notes coming from cupping the various roasts of this coffee, so I opted to use the Clever Dripper. The hybrid immersion-infusion brewer would allow me to eliminate as many variables as possible and just manipulate steep time to affect the extraction yield. Based on other brew analyses I’ve worked on lately, I decided that a 1:16 ratio would be a winner, ground my coffee and got to brewing.
When working with an immersion brewer I typically forgo a bloom, so I simply poured my brew water onto the coffee bed and gave each brewer a few gentle stirs to make sure I had evenly wet all the grounds without trapping any dry pockets within the coffee bed. I allowed the first brew to steep for 2 minutes before draining, resulting in a total brew time of 3:55, with 1.24 TDS and a 21.06% extraction. I went for a gentler extraction the second time around, setting the brew to drain at 1 minutes, giving me a 3:25 brew time, 1.19 TDS, and 20.21% extraction. Nothing weird here; the coffee brewed exactly as one would expect it to.
When tasting, the first brew featured lots more rich, heavy sweet notes like marshmallow, caramel, maple syrup, and dark chocolate, with a gentle plum and grape-like acidity. Tons of sweetness packed into this cup, plus a wonderfully smooth body and clean finish! The second brew was lighter than the first, both in body and in taste profile. This cup had crisper acidity with notes of peach, honeydew, and pear, with hints of brown sugar, vanilla, and marmalade on the finish. Both cups were delicious, although the second brew was a little too light for our tastes. If I had to do it again, I would shoot for the extraction from the second brew with the strength of the first. Either way, this coffee showed us that it can perform very well under a variety of extractions, so don’t hesitate to try brewing this coffee several different ways to find your favorite!