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Intro by Mayra Orellana-Powell with Chris Kornman
This early May arrival Kenya lit up our cupping table with a lively mixture of fresh cranberry and mellow citrus notes. The classic Kenyan savory citrus flavors are here, fresh tomato accompanied by lemon and lime is the backdrop on which more nuanced flavors of cranberry, kiwi, and mild floral notes like honeysuckle and violet. The sweetness is abundant, as well, powdered sugar, salted caramel, and a deep chocolatey lushness round off the experience.
Perched high up in the southern foothills of Mount Kenya on rich red volcanic soil, the growing areas surrounding the Karimikui factory are ideal for producing some of the finest Kenyan coffee. Farmers in these fertile foothills who typically cultivate around 250 coffee trees on half-acre plots have been delivering cherry to the Karimikui factory since it first opened in 1968. In 1997, the factory left a large umbrella farmers’ cooperative society (FCS) and joined the Rungeto Farmers’ Cooperative Society, which manages just two other factories. Smaller in size than the other FCS, Rungeto has focused on quality processing and meticulous attention to detail, garnering it a reputation for amazing coffee traceable to some of the cleanest and best organized factories in Kenya.
At the Karimikui factory, only the ripest cherries are delivered, and additional hand sorting and floating are done to remove less dense and damaged beans before the coffee is depulped, fermented and washed. The water, flowing down from higher elevations of the mountain, is cold enough as to extend fermentation times to nearly three full days in some cases.
After the coffee is washed, it’s soaked in fresh water for long periods of time to solidify the hallmark Kenyan profiles. The coffee is dried over a period of two weeks on raised beds, which are carefully constructed to ensure proper air circulation and temperature control for optimal drying. When the coffee is milled for export, the green beans are sorted by screen size and graded according to size and shape.
Rungeto’s manager, Frederik, is working to improve the lives of the cooperative members in ways that go beyond coffee as well. He’s set up a dairy processing infrastructure and encouraged farmers to diversify their incomes in this way, and has set up microfinancing opportunities so the members have access to capital when they need it.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Green coffee from Kenya is often a treat to grade, and this selection from Karimikui is no exception. It’s a classic AA in size, a sprinkling of 20+ but mostly 18-19 screen sizes, larger than average for much of the world but the gold standard in countries using the British grading system. Good looking moisture and water activity figures indicate drying practices were ideal. The coffee is a little on the pedestrian side in terms of density, unusual for a Kenyan coffee.
Specialty farmers in Kenya are still growing mostly SL28, a lower-yielding but high sensory potential cultivar originally selected from a bronze-tipped Bourbon population in Tanzania in 1931. SL34 is a Kenyan selection from Kabete, and a bronze-tipped Typica type with slightly higher productivity than SL28. Both were bred and distributed by Scott Laboratories
Coffee berry disease (CBD) remains a major concern in this area of the world; a highly transmittable fungal affliction (a farmer I knew in Zambia used to literally strip down and burn his clothes upon returning to his farm from travel abroad to prevent CBD infecting his trees), and much like with leaf rust, research has focused on breeding resistance. Ruiru 11 entered the market as a complex F1 hybrid, and more recently the high-yielding and early-maturing Batian variety (essentially an F5 backcrossed Ruiru 11 with less Sarchimor) have been offered as solutions to farmers.
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.
Despite its slightly lower than average (for a Kenya) density, the coffee reacted predictably in the Ikawa, with a consistent first crack time and temperature compared to expectations of similar coffees roasted in the past. I decided to add my recent low airflow profile to the mix this week and test it out on this citric and floral washed coffee to see what might happen. As expected, it underperformed compared to the faster profiles.
Roast 1, in blue, is the standard sample roast profile with a high charge and short Maillard, and it out-cupped the others by a wide margin in my isolation cupping at home. Lots of bright citrus notes, raw sweetness, blackberry in the aromas, and a savory finish that adds rather than detracts from the experience.
The second roast (red), just a 30-second Maillard extension of the first, and while a nice persimmon note emerged, there was a slight dryness in the finish that I found a little distracting. The low airflow profile, in yellow, is not just longer, but employs reduced fan speed in order to better develop coffees that fall outside the “classic washed coffee” green metrics. Unsurprisingly, in my opinion it did not highlight the coffee’s best attributes which are its zesty acidity and raw sweetness, but I’ve included it here for those interested in a mellower approach that highlights fudgy flavors and plummy fruit notes with a bit of a toasted edge.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown Standard SR 1.0
Roast 2: Crown Maillard +30 SR 1.0
Roast 3: Crown 7m SR Low AF
Quest M3S Analysis by Candice Madison
As soon as the news hit the office comms that Kenyan coffees had started arriving, I witnessed more whooping (in real life, as well as digitally) than I ever have in a workplace! Ok sure, it was mostly me, but honestly, Kenya season is like Coffee Christmas. Kenyan coffees are rightly prized for their depth of flavor, their impeccable sorting and the selected cultivars which contribute to producing a rainbow of flavors year on year.
Kenyan coffees are traditionally larger sized beans, and this coffee is no exception. Its lower moisture reading and higher density reading made me worry a little about the Quest’s ability to handle my, now usual, charge of 150g.
I haven’t started messing with the drum speed on the Quest yet, but as there is always the danger of scorching, or even stalling out with a large, dense batch, I do like to know that I can consider multiple variables to handle any such situation. Luckily our Quest is not only a heat beast, it is a powerful one at that.
Although I may have usually gone with a higher charge temperature, I decided to stick with my usual drop temperature of 360 degrees F, just to see how the batch would behave.
After an initial setting of 5 Amps and 0 Air, I raised the amperage to 9 and opened up the air fully. I think if I were to roast this coffee again, I would give it maximum gas here to really take advantage of expressing all of those delicious bright fruit notes to balance out the unctuous sweetness of this coffee.
I came off the air and heat slightly, just before the Maillard phase, in order to prolong the sugar browning reaction time. The roast proceeded efficiently and without much fuss at all.
I turned the amperage down to 3 and opened up the air just before first crack, I wanted to be able to let the coffee release its energy into a cooler drum before I ramped the amperage up again to 5 as first crack rolled. I wasn’t as quick or as forceful with the energy I reintroduced into the drum at first crack as I possibly should have been, but this error was forgiven in the cup.
Although this coffee stalled out at the end, the long-ish development ratio, but short time in post-crack development mitigated any underdeveloped sour notes, and the steady ascent through the Maillard stage also helped to extinguish any baked notes.
Lots of blackberry in the aroma and fainter echos in the cup, compliment and highlight a soft sweet lime acidity, which matches well with the tartness and sweetness of a ripe plum. This coffee is so sweet, it almost tastes as though someone put sugar in my cup! However, the complexity of the flavor profile, the brightness of the multi-tonal acidity and the unctuously smooth body manage to balance this cup perfectly. I would say drink it, if you can get your hands on it, but I have a feeling this one will go fast!
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
Kenya season is a very special time, and one that I believe we all look forward to at The Crown. There really aren’t any origins comparable to Kenya in terms of flavor, cultivar, or cleanliness. And Karimikui Factory tends to produce some of the best of the bunch.
I knew going into this roast that this coffee had slightly lower moisture content and water activity, fairly dense composition, and had a very consistent, large, screen size. I thought it might need a little extra push in the beginning, and more gentle heat application towards first crack, but this coffee ended up taking heat very well and achieving first crack only a little later than most others at 10:55. As we know, the Behmor can only push so hard, so I went ahead and attempted to get this coffee through drying as quickly as possible.
To that effect, I started this roast using my normal parameters: P5 for 100% heat application, and high drum speed. I kept the heat application on until just after crack, when I usually like to reduce heat to P4 in anticipation of crack. Right after crack, I opened the door of the roaster for 20 seconds to abate smoke and reduce heat, and I must say that the abundance of smoke with this roast may have caused me to stop a little sooner than I would have liked in retrospect. I hit ‘COOL’ after 1:15 development.
If I were to do anything different, I would suggest letting this coffee develop a little more in Post Crack than you might be comfortable with. My roast was pretty light, and while I like this for Kenyan coffees in general, I feel that a little more development would have added a lot to the flavor of this coffee. It’s not really possible to achieve a true ‘Nordic’ roast on the Behmor, so I tend to rely on a bit more sugar browning.
The result was still, as is typical of this mark, incredibly delicious. Take a look at my brew notes below that might take you beyond the honeysuckle, jasmine, ripe pear, and milk chocolate notes I found in my initial cupping!
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
My first brew of this coffee was the morning after roasting it, which was mostly because I was so excited to try this coffee. With my past experience of Kenyan coffees, I tend to err on the side of larger coffee to water ratios since this origin seems to have so much soluble material in its coffee. In past years, we had trouble getting less than a 22% extraction with some Kenyan coffees!
To that effect, I started at a 1:17 ratio of coffee to water ground at 22 on the Baratza Virtuoso, performed my usual 3-pour routine with the Chemex, and had a resulting total brew time of 4:30. The cup hit me immediately with honeysuckle florals, just like in my cupping. It felt like late summer in May! Though I did get some of the pear and milk chocolate, this cup seemed quite thick, and had a very slightly bready aftertaste (likely an effect of my roast degree). Though I could drink this all day, I wanted a cleaner cup.
So I decided to make my grind coarser with a lower ratio and as fast of a pour as I could possibly muster. I performed 4 pours this time, and weighted them heavily toward the beginning of the extraction (meaning I poured more water in the first pour than in the remaining pours, taking a page out of the Kasuya method). I wanted more acidity in this brew, and acidity I got!
In my second cup, the florals changed to something like candied violet, with tart lime acidity, and a very slight sun-ripened cherry tomato flavor (certainly not the tomato soup kind). Something else stuck with me – an almost soda-like effervescent nature like Dr Pepper. This coffee is super unique and incredibly delicious.
I would highly recommend filter drip for this coffee, and a focus on the acidic side. Try shorter brew times, slightly coarser grind size, and hot water (205F). I love some sugar, don’t get me wrong. But you’ll find enough sugar still in the cup even when you focus on the acidic attributes! Very excited to have the Karimikui in hand!