Interview by Mayra Orellana-Powell with additional words by Chris Kornman
“I have been a coffee grower all my life,” Franco López told us. “I started helping my father on his farm. Then, several years later, I inherited the farm from him.”
At 72 years old and having operated his farm, called La Mina, since 1994, it’s not hard to see the results of decades of expertise.
We loved this coffee on the cupping table, in multiple roast profiles, drawing flavors ranging from red apple, fudge, maple syrup, peach, white grape, clove, and brown sugar, with a hint of vanilla. It’s well balanced, with an easy-drinking nature, one that belies its complexity and nuance. You could spend all day with it if you wanted.
“I take special care of the shade trees,” Don López said, referring to the coverage that maintains about 50% shade across the 4 hectares of coffee on his 23-hectare farm. Between the shade and the intermittently cloudy conditions in southern Colombia, the conditions on La Mina are excellent for long cherry maturation periods, a good indicator of high quality coffee. In addition to the shade trees, Don López keeps a close eye on the purity of his natural water sources, and does not apply chemical products for pest control, only using chemical fertilization once per year.
Nariño is Colombia’s southwestern-most coffee growing state, bordering Ecuador and the Pacific Ocean. Nariño boasts about 40,000 coffee farms, two-thirds of which average just 3 acres in size. Nariño’s proximity to the equator delivers intense exposure to the sun (relatively constant and powerful year-round), which influences the cherry maturation rate. In Buesaco, warm air rises from the deep canyons at night and acts like a protective blanket for the coffee plants perched at high elevations (up to 2300 masl) on the mountain tops. These combined attributes cause coffee plants to passively absorb the sun’s energy during the day and then come alive at night when the conditions are less harsh. This translates into concentrated flowering and long cherry maturation periods.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Coffee from Nariño tends to be some of the densest in Colombia. High elevations and particular weather conditions sometimes stunt the size of cherries (we seem to see less Supremo grade from this department), but the sensory and physical quality is otherwise unmatched.
Franco López demonstrates here a lot with exceptional density, moderate screen size, and a balanced moisture profile with average-looking water activity. Unsurprising figures that belie the attention to detail and dedication to precision it takes to craft such high quality coffee.
Don López is growing 100% legacy Caturra, a dwarf single-gene mutation of Bourbon first reported in 1937 in Brazil. Its short stature allows for denser planting and therefore higher per-hectare yields. It is susceptible to common afflictions like Coffee Leaf Rust and Coffee Berry Disease, so active, preventative management is key to keeping these types of trees healthy and productive.
Ikawa Analysis by Chris Kornman
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 kept it pretty basic this week, after feeling a little defeated trying and failing to perfect a slightly longer roast profile. This coffee followed my 6 minute curve and landed on the table a little on the savory side, with some grilled peach and salted caramel accompanying its characteristic red apple, white grape, chocolate, and brown sugar notes. Its balance and mellow nature came through on the cupping table as well..
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown 6m NatEth ck1.4
Roast Analysis by Candice Madison
Here we are with the second of this week’s Colombia offerings, and the second from Nariño, one of my favourite coffee origins. Franco López (no relation to Nilson, other than geographic location) has produced a parabolic dried caturra and an absolute stunner at that!
Much like Evan, I noted the moisture content, water activity, and density numbers were all slightly higher, and concluded, as he did, that this coffee needed a bit more energy to get where it was going. Which is all well and good, if you remember that that’s your roast plan. The coffee, being the second of the day, benefited from the extra heat soak of the first batch and stable temperature of the drum, luckily for me, because I allowed someone to talk to me at the beginning of the roast and missed turning the gas up at the turning point. The coffee went along quite merrily under its own steam, until the color change. All of those reactions require energy, and the drop in RoR at this point alerted me, thankfully, very quickly, to my error. I raised the temperature from the minimum 2, to the maximum – 3. The coffee swiftly regained momentum, and after a little high heat, I was able to then turn the coffee down to 2.35 for the rest of the roast, coming down to 2 at first crack and leaving it there.
This approach led to a whopping 50% roast time in the Maillard stage, and I even managed an 18% post-crack development, which for me, is rather high, but all in all, this seems to have served the coffee well. At the cupping table, everyone’s first reaction was to how sweet the coffee was. It had notes of almond candy, cherry pie, caramel, bittersweet chocolate, raisin and maple syrup. Fruit notes of grape, tangerine, red apple, and white grape were met with spice notes of clove, allspice, and cinnamon. Just stunning. I’d really love to know what an espresso of this coffee would taste like, plain as well as with milk. If you find out, let me know!
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.
This week brought us four very dense coffees from Colombia. I learned my lesson with the first of them, and while it was definitely chuggable, in the end I preferred Candice’s roast. Franco López’s coffee came out much more to my liking. While I used nearly identical adjustments to Nilson López’s coffee, I noted that the moisture content, water activity, and density numbers were all slightly higher. As a result, this coffee needed a bit more energy to get where it was going.
Since this coffee was so dense, I decided to hit it with a lot of heat right from the get go. Keeping my heat application at 9.5A, I charged 125g of this coffee at 390F – slightly high for the Quest, but not outside of the usual. The difference in my approach this week is that I waited to introduce airflow until about 290F, where I usually begin increasing fan speed around Turning Point.
Franco López’s coffee reached each stage just slightly later than CJ1323, allowing me to spend more time in Maillard. I introduced airflow at 3:10 / 290F, and ramped up airflow to maximum at 6:10 / 370F. Once first crack hit, I cut heat application entirely and allowed this coffee to ride out until 8:14 / 406.8F. It really didn’t need much push to get there!
The fruit notes we expected from this coffee really came out, with big purple grape, orange juice, and a finish of sweet brown sugar. Ever had a mamey fruit? If not, I definitely suggest getting one, though it may require a trip to Central or South America! Think deep brown sugar with the thick texture of an avocado. Pretty dang delicious, and definitely a note I got from this coffee.
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
What a way to start off the new year! Four new Crown Jewels in our first week back at it, and all of them delicious coffees from Colombia. Rather than working on completely different brews and methods for each of these four coffees, I decided to pick two brew recipes and follow them for all four CJ’s, hopefully allowing more of the nuance between these coffees to shine through for you. You can find the analysis for this week’s other additions on their respective pages, CJ1323, CJ1325, and CJ1326. But for now, back to this selection from Franco López.
I wanted to give the coffee the opportunity to show its different sides, so I planned for one brew via a pourover (a v60 in this case), and another on the Aeropress. It’s been a minute since I last brewed on an Aeropress, but my warm-up brews were encouraging, so I stuck with it. I’m hoping to include more brews on the Aeropress and other immersion or hybrid brewers this year, for diversity’s sake. I could brew and write about conical pour-over brews until I’m blue in the face, but Crown Jewel analysis isn’t for me, it’s for you! Anyway…
After the encouraging results from the brews for CJ1323, I was excited to taste these next brews! As we started tasting the v60 brew, I was relieved to find a notably different flavor profile in this coffee! With my first sip, I was greeted with juicy white grape and melon, followed closely by a pear butter sweetness, notes of plum, milk chocolate, and cacao nib, and just a hint of black pepper on the finish. In the Aeropress brew, we picked up on notes of pineapple, apple cider, cantaloupe, nougat, and almond, with a lasting milk chocolate-y finish! This coffee is complex, bright, and juicy, but also packed with tons of comforting chocolate and baking spice to keep you warm on these cool winter mornings!