Intro by Mayra Orellana-Powell & Chris Kornman
An unusual and spectacularly clean Pacamara here, one of the finest we’ve seen, in truth. Picked out for its lush floral qualities and complementary sweet and savory notes, we found flavors like plum jam, mandarin orange, vanilla, peach, peppercorn, apricot, golden raisin, and praline, all with a pleasant, Pinot-like acidity and lingering finish.
It’s not every day the Crown team can be convinced to release a Pacamara Crown Jewel. Pacamara is among the more divisive cultivars in specialty coffee circles; it produces a coffee with a number of distinctive sensory properties, not all of which are universally appreciated (red onion is a frequent note I hear from the folks who prefer their coffees less savory). Yet this one struck us with its impressive balance of flavors related to cultivar, process, and clear meticulous attention to detail.
The coffee was produced by Anny Ruth Pimentel, manager of her family’s estate in El Boquerón on the Quetzaltepec Volcano. She continues to cultivate traditional varieties like Pacamara and Bourbon and relies on shade trees to protect the ecology of the estate.
During the harvest a great deal of care and focus is dedicated to picking the best quality of cherries based on brix measurements. The harvest is so precise that every lot can be traced to a specific section of the estate (this Pacamara hails from a parcel called “Lomona”).
Anny Ruth also takes steps, uncommon in El Salvador, to control the entire post-harvest operation all the way through exporting and marketing. At the base of the estate she has a fully equipped mill called Loma La Gloria. Using recycled water, the harvested cherries are floated to extract under ripe, damaged and less dense beans, but because access to water is so limited, all of the coffee is processed either as a honey or a natural and then expertly dried on clay patios and raised beds. Loma la Gloria has a cupping lab where every lot is tasted before dry milling, which also takes place at on site.
Honey processing, also known as pulped natural and sometimes semi-washed, leaves in place a bit of the fruit that surrounds the coffee seed in its protective parchment coat. It then skips any sort of formal fermentation stage and goes straight to dry, in this case on recently constructed shaded raised beds. Colored honey designations (black, red, yellow, white, etc) are a recent addition to the conversation, and are meant to indicate the relative amount of mucilage remaining on the seed. This Pacamara is designated as a “yellow” honey, so it has more fruit remaining than if it were demucilaged, but less than if just the skins were stripped away.
The result is a coffee we’re thrilled to offer exclusively as a Crown Jewel.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
An interesting specimen of green coffee here. The first thing you’ll notice is that the silver skin is thick, clings tightly to the seed, and has a strong reddish hue — this will produce heavy chaff and can impede visual cues when roasting, but otherwise has no real effect on sensory quality.
Pacamaras almost always break the curve on screen size. This one skews predominantly 18-19 which is large, but not absurdly so. What is remarkable is that the coffee maintains a high density, an uncommon trait for the cultivar. Moisture content looks solid and the water activity is slightly elevated but not truly a cause for any concern. You might expect some interesting developments in the roaster as a result of these unusual physical specs and the oblong shape of the beans, so be sure to check Evan & Candice’s recommendations on roast approach. We had a surplus of sample for this coffee and they were both able to do a little extra work to ensure due attention was paid to this rewarding and unique coffee.
Pacamara is a distinctly Salvadoran cultivar, released in the 1970s after more than 30 years of work at the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC). Despite only accounting for about 0.22% of El Salvador’s coffee plants, Pacamara has developed a cult following among specialty roasters. Interestingly, the quality report that accompanied its release recommended processing it as a natural for best results.
Pacamara’s genetic lineage comes from two naturally occurring variations, called Pacas and Maragogype, branching off Arabica’s two most common heirloom cultivars. Pacas, a dwarf Bourbon, was discovered by the Pacas family in the Santa Ana volcanic region within El Salvador, while Maragogype is a Typica mutation exhibiting traits of gigantism, first discovered in Brazil’s mountainous Bahia region. The large size of the beans, for which Pacamara is famous, are inherited from its Maragogype parent.
Roast Analysis by Candice Madison
Hello dear reader and welcome to today’s Crown Jewel. Let’s jump right into roasting this delicious beast of a coffee! I say delicious because, just wow! This coffee is truly deserving of that descriptor. I say beast because, well, it’s not an easy roast. Don’t turn your brain off when approaching this one, you’ll need to consider your recipe and may find that it needs to be changed on the fly. I remember my worry as the coffee exited the drum. With a finite sample size, when you think you’ve messed up a roast that some of the most discerning cuppers will be evaluating, it can lead to a sleepless night!
This Pacamara is dense and full of sugars, but its tendency to go and keep on going means that it’s like trying to wrangle a headstrong horse. I decided to go in at a moderate charge of 370 and keep the gas low. The coffee turned around at a brisk 34 seconds. I raised the gas to 3 on the dial and did so early, as I knew that if I pushed the gas any later than this, I would have a difficult time controlling the latter stages of the roast. I also wanted to express all of the fruits and acidity I could, knowing that the abundance of sugars would develop into something wonderfully sweet that would be complemented by all of those enzymatic notes.
As the roast proceeded, and seemed to be doing so in a timely manner, I knew to step off the gas about a minute after recording the beginning of the Maillard stage, I then stepped down again, to a minimum gas setting of 2 on the dial, approximately 25 seconds before first crack. Even so, the coffee continued at pace, not even stopping to glance back at the moisture released during first crack. Onwards and upwards she climbed, until I decided to discharge the roast at 401 degrees F.
I managed to spend the time I wanted to in both the first and second stage, but, as I suspected, stage 3 flew buy with an ever-increasing temperature, something to note when you’re making your roast plan. Another important thing to recognize is the fact that the beautiful ruddy hue of the coffee is the silverskin, adhering tightly to the bean. In the roaster, this translates to a great deal of chaff. Ensure that you are aware of this before roasting, especially if you are doing multiple batches. You will find that you have to clear your chaff bin more regularly, probably, than your usual chaff-clearing protocol to mitigate any fire issues caused by excessive debris.
To the cups and to reiterate – just wow! Evan and I waited nervously over the steeping bowls before the break, and the tension rose as the coffee cooled after being cleaned. We were rewarded, differently, but just as well. The Probatino eked out fruit notes of Meyer lemons, pear, plum, red apple and sweet grape soda. The acidity was more present that I had expected with a complex mix of lemon, lime, white grape and green apple. And the sugars rewarded us with baking spices, cocoa powder, vanilla and molasses. So of course I took the leftovers home. What’s the saying? To the victors go the spoils? Spoil yourself, I say with a breakfast mug of Anny Ruth’s Crown Jewel and maybe a muffin too!
Quest M3s Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Quest roasts. Generally, I’ll allow the machine to warm up for 15 minutes until my environmental temperature reading is at least 250F, weigh out 150g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here and my updated post here.
I won’t beat around the shrub; this was not an easy coffee to roast! Due to the tendency of honey and natural coffees to take off after first crack, I decided to start off with a more gentle charge temperature of 375F in my initial roast, and 380F in my final roast – a touch below my usual charge temperatures. In both cases, I think this ended up forcing me to spend most of my time in the drying phase, where I would rather have had more time in Maillard. In retrospect, my recommendation would be to stay your course, or even use a slightly higher charge temperature for this coffee.
Another thing: this coffee can really retain some heat. Don’t be shy about backing off on heat application after the drying phase begins, as this coffee will continue to chug along quite nicely with a gentle push. I continued heat application steadily until nearly the end of my final roast, and the result was a coffee that veritably leapt into post-crack development. My rate-of-rise shot up right before crack in both roasts, to keep in mind that this coffee really wants to take off running.
Make sure to clean out the back of the roaster at the end of your roast. The silverskin on this coffee definitely leaves a lot of chaff in the roaster, so I would even recommend clearing out the bottom tray as well.
On the cupping table, both Candice and I were wringing our hands a bit in anticipation of people turning up their noses at our roasts, but what we found is that people were ready to just plain ‘turn up’ (as the kids say these days) after tasting this coffee. All the gentle fruit notes in this coffee came through readily, along with deep sugars and vanilla aromatics. Sure, I would have liked the dark chocolate note we got to be more of a milk chocolate, but despite some heavy handedness this was still a delicious roast.
Be gentle yet firm with your heat application on this coffee, and you’ll be rewarded. There is a lot to explore – Candice and I got very different flavor attributes in our roasts. Exploring this coffee should be a fun and tasty endeavor whether it ends up in a filter drip or a huge cup of full-immersion brew. Enjoy!
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
We caught so many different tasting notes on the cupping table, I barely knew where to start with this coffee. I had a hunch that the variety of tasting notes were hinting at this coffee’s versatility, so I decided to brew two very different cups to see what we could get.
For the first brew, my plan was to brew something on the weaker end of the spectrum, TDS-wise. Keep in mind, a lower TDS doesn’t necessarily mean the coffee won’t taste as good as a stronger brew; it just means the brew will have less coffee in it, resulting in a lighter body and potentially a different flavor profile. I thought the florality and acidity I often get out of conical brewers would complement the lighter brew, so I used a v60. I brewed my first cup at a 1:18 coffee:water ratio, and we were surprised at how thick and syrupy it still tasted, so I got a little crazy and made another brew at a whopping 1:20 ratio! Even with this unusual ratio, this coffee was delicious! The body was crisp and floral, with tasting notes of mint, clementine, apple, honey, caramel, and milk chocolate.
I wanted the second brew to be very different, so I brewed it on a Kalita with a 1:14 brew ratio, hoping for a much bigger body and a flavor profile driven more by sweetness than acidity or florality. To put it succinctly, yowza! This cup with super thick, syrupy, and velvety, without compromising on clarity and balance. We tasted tons of red apple, grape, baking spices, molasses, dark chocolate, and black currant! This brew would be perfect for someone who wants a rich, complex cup without necessarily having to drink a darker-roasted or less complex coffee.
The coffee is outstanding in every sense of the word! From its giant screen size and processing to its absurd flavor profile and complexity, there’s simply no reason for you not to buy this coffee right now.