This coffee comes to us from a small town called Dumerso, just around the bend from Yirgacheffe. It’s processed at a private mill owned by the Birhanu family and co-managed by a brother-sister team: Mahder runs the mill and her brother Surafel leads the export arm of the business. Their coffee has made many appearances on the Crown Jewel menu in the past; their quality is a well known quantity, so to speak.
Dumerso is located within the iconic Yirgacheffe district, in Gedeo. We see so many coffees from Gedeo (the larger “zone”) labelled Yirgacheffe, it can get a little confusing disambiguating. Part of the reason for this is that Gedeo’s cooperative union operates under the name Yirgacheffe (YCFCU)… but technically speaking Yirgacheffe woreda (district or town) is just one of many such localized districts within Gedeo.
As we were sampling coffees from the 2018-19 harvest season in Ethiopia, we began looking ahead to find a coffee we could decaffeinate for the Crown Jewel program. This dry-processed coffee impressed us with its character and its timing was perfect; we were just about to sell out of the most recent decaf.
From Addis to Djibouti, from Djibouti to Vancouver, the coffee shipped and processed at Swiss Water in Canada, a chemical free method of caffeine removal. You can read a little more about decaf processing and Royal’s commitment to environmentally friendly methods for caffeine removal here on the blog.
Finally, after what seemed like months of waiting and watching the ETAs from a distance, the coffee landed in Oakland. It’s queued up for service at The Crown and we’re pleased to make it available in both Crown Jewel boxes and full size bags, for a limited time. It is, after all, a small run and I expect a decaf of this caliber won’t last long.
It has a gentle sweetness to it, powdered sugar and honey, with a mellow acidity including white peach, melon, and lemon bar. It’s an easy-going coffee with the slightest wisp of florality to it, and effortlessly clean. Pairs well with cool evenings equally as well as brisk mornings, and we’re delighted with its performance as espresso.
Some say decaf drinkers are the purest of heart of all coffee lovers — there’s no psychoactive incentive for consumption. You’ll have to be the judge for yourself, but if this example were less the exception and more the rule, I’d be entirely convinced.
Swiss Water had built up a name for itself by the early 2000s, it’s brand essentially the “Kleenex” to water process decaffeination. But competition from Descamex’s “Mountain Water” decafs led to an industry-wide shift in popularity to the less expensive alternative. Among Descamex’s hallmarks is the brownish hue the “green” takes on after the process. By contrast, in recent years the cost of SWP has decreased and its coffee retains more of the original color of the raw material prior to processing.
Because of the rehydrating and drying process involved in decaffeination, we sometimes see completely normal moisture content paired with unusually high water activity levels. Not so here, in fact, quite the opposite. Our Sinar Beanpro, set for decaf setting, cranked out an almost absurdly low 6.9% reading (I checked on the green setting, and the figure read 8.4%), and the Rotronic spat back an 0.54 water activity measurement. A high density measurement and small screen size, indicative of its Ethiopian origins, remain steadfast.
We’ve updated our V2 Ikawa Pro machines with the latest Firmware version (24) and run on “closed loop” setting. Our roasters underwent full service in October of 2018 which included replacement heating elements and an updated PT 1000 temperature sensor, and were recalibrated in September 2019.
I’m still dialing in a few profiles, and I’ll be completely frank that I wasn’t thrilled with the way these two roasts handled the decaf Ethiopia this week. I’ll need to spend a little more time getting something more appropriate for handling these beans. That being said, the roasts did give us at least an initial window into the coffee’s potential.
Roast 1, a 6-minute roast designed specifically with natural Ethiopian coffees in mind, offered some graham cracker and honey sweetness, with a slightly dry finish. Roast 2, a 7.5-minute roast created to replicate a boilerplate sample roast profile, offered a bit more acidity with a hint of lemon bar and overall felt a bit cleaner. However, this longer roast (with its higher initial airflow rate) lost a few beans early in the process. That roast also hit first crack far earlier than anticipated, and spent almost 1:45 in development after crack. However, it’s lower end temperature prevented overly roasted flavors, but I’m confident it may have baked a little as a result.
In coming weeks I’m hoping to share Ikawa profiles with a little more confidence.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown 6m NatEth ck1.4
Roast 2: Crown 7.5m sample roast ck4
I have to confess, I wasn’t delighted to roast another decaf offering for our Crown Jewel program. Why? Because our current offering is outstanding and like a petulant child, I couldn’t be convinced that I’d ever find another gem that allowed me to drink a heavenly, pillowy-soft cappuccino at 3pm, as is my wont. I can’t imagine why I was worried, knowing the amount of work that we all, at Royal, and again at The Crown, put into selecting coffees that fit our program of excellence. Why did I even fret? This offering from Surafel Birhanu is delicious to drink and easy to roast – win win!
I decided to go with a compact maillard stage, to ensure that the delicious candy sweetness was evident, but to ensure that the fruit notes and delicate florals were preserved. Charging the 1 kg drum at 350 degrees F, with my usual 400g weight, I started the roast with a low gas, of 2 on our trusty Probatino (who, as I type this, has decided to be not so trusty, but more on that next time!). The lower charge weight is merely habit, and not for a particular reason – I usually use a charge weight of 800g when roasting for production and adjust the temperature a little higher accordingly.
Once the roast had started its ascent, I turned the gas up a little, to 2.5 on the number dial. Worried that it was proceeding to fast, I turned the gas down about a minute and a half after noting the color change. Not the right idea! The coffee reacted to the change quickly, losing momentum. However, the quick reaction of the coffee, meant that turning the coffee back up 30 seconds later, effected a quick result and the coffee kept rising. The roast cracked at 393 degrees F, a typical temperature for the Probatino. I turned the number dial down to 2 and the flame down half way just after first crack to eke out a decent post-crack development percentage and develop all those delicious sugary notes.
I would make changes if roasting again – I would probably start with a high gas, and step down as the roasts proceeds. I would then turn the gas down just before first crack and back again once it was rolling to stop the roast running away from me. Just a thought, because, in honesty, on the cupping table this coffee was a dream; all confectioners sugar and cotton candy, with a buttery, vanilla flavor that translated into a velvety smooth body and silky aftertaste. Those sugar notes were accompanied by melon and red grape sweetness and a complex, delicate acidity reminiscent of kumquats. What a delightful cloud to sail away the afternoon on, either as a sweet and smooth brewed coffee, or a sticky sweet espresso base to my decadent cappuccino habit! Sail on the sweet seas to happy dreams!
Brewing really delicious coffee is truly a joy, especially in service. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a customer say “There’s no WAY that’s decaf!” So I was particularly excited to taste this new Crown Jewel. I didn’t want to overthink this brew and wanted to use a pretty approachable brew method and dial in order to give folks a more familiar reference point, so I brewed up a 1:16 brew on a Kalita and a 1:14 on our v60. No special gadgets, no bells and whistles, just good coffee and 205 degree water.
The first brew, on the Kalita, drained pretty slowly, finishing in 4:15. The brew had a 1.32 TDS and 18.47% extraction yield. The second brew drained a good bit faster, clocking in at 3:00 flat, with a 1.43TDS and 17.15% extraction.
The first cup was super juicy and clean! We tasted lots of lemon, lime, honeydew, and peach, rounded out by notes of caramel and panella, with a super clean finish. The second cup, being a 1:14 brew ratio, was notably heavier, but not overly so. In this cup, we picked up more rich, sweet notes like plum and honey and dark chocolate. I was fairly surprised that the extraction was only 17.15%, as this cup was plenty delicious as-is, so I would probably try to push this coffee a little further the next time around, but it was very reassuring to taste how delicious this coffee is, even at a low extraction! This coffee is sure to delight whoever is indulging in that one last cup of coffee in the afternoon!