El Salvador Concepción de Ataco Thelma de Gutierrez Black Honey Crown Jewel

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Intro by Thelma de Gutierrez & Chris Kornman

Royal Coffee’s Marketing and Outreach Director, Mayra Orellana-Powell, is tasked with (among other things) getting specific information about every single coffee we import. It’s a monumental task that she handles with grace, persistence, and tact. It’s refreshing to receive such a succinct and direct response to emails, like the one Thelma de Gutierrez provided recently regarding her farm, Finca Lemus Bella Vista, on which this coffee was grown.

“The Lemus Bella Vista farm,” she told us, “is a 15 hectare property, located in Concepción de Ataco, in the department of Ahuachapan, in the Ilamatepec mountain range, a region known for its excellent coffee. At an altitude of 1,200 meters, the farm has a Bourbon, Catuaí, and Sarchimor plantation, planted under the shade of native trees of the region and on volcanic soils rich in organic matter.”

“The farm is owned by Thelma de Gutierrez, and is managed by her husband José Enrique Gutiérrez. Both have a special passion for coffee, as they are the third generation of coffee families, a tradition that they already share with their two children. The family believes in the importance of respect for the environment, so to control coffee tree pests, only biocontroller fungi are used instead of chemical pesticides. In addition, for 2 years a cultivation diversification project has been underway, beans are being planted in association with coffee, thus preserving soil conditions while favoring employees who harvest this bean for consumption and that of their families. This contributes to the sustainability of coffee cultivation and the environment.”

This “black honey” — so called because it leaves as much fruit on the seed as possible after pulping, turning dark in the sun as it dries — is a welcome addition to our lineup of 2020 Crown Jewels. It is delectably sweet like maple syrup on pancakes, with deep fruit notes of raisin, black grapes, and cherries, accompanied by lighter stone fruits like nectarine and plum. There’s a light chamomile quality to the fragrance on lighter roasts, and a smooth, blended almond butter quality to the texture.

Green Analysis by Nate Lumpkin

This honey-processed coffee from El Salvador comes to us with well above average density, somewhat below average water activity, and about average moisture content. Its screen size is tightly clustered, with 74% of the coffee falling into sizes 16 through 18. Its high density may cause it to resist heat in the roast, so consider increasing the temperature early on in the roast.

Bourbon, Arabica’s second cultivated variety, was selected from Yemen landraces and brought to the island of Bourbon, now La Reunion, and from there progressed widely through the Americas. Catuai is a recent cross of Mundo Novo and Yellow Caturra, not released into the public domain until the 1970s, and is known for its short stature and resistance to wind. Sarchimor refers to a group of coffees rather than an individual genetic selection, and is a rust-resistant cross between Villa Sarchi and the Timor Hybrid.

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.

Looking at this coffee, and knowing it from the past few seasons of arrivals, I was pretty sure my standard sample roast Ikawa profile wasn’t going to be the best fit. It’s a tried & true go-to, but for unique coffee like this large screen size black honey process, it almost always loses out on the cupping table by slower approaches and gentler heat applications.

The two profiles I roasted included the +30 Maillard (red) and a longer, lower airflow approach, which proved to be a little too slow for these high density beans (blue). The lower airflow works great for lighter, lower density coffees but these heavy beans just soaked up the heat too quickly at first crack and flattened the acidity a bit too much. Lots of lovely black grape and mandarin orange notes were still to be found, with a chocolate and peanut butter base note, but ultimately it didn’t impress me as much as the shorter roast. Note that on the graph below for this curve (blue) first crack was logged after the fact, and may be off by a few seconds one way or the other.

The Maillard +30 profile (red) offered more almond than peanut, more black cherry than grape, and hints of chamomile. Syrupy sweetness like Saturday morning pancakes and spiced sweet wine made for a complex and interesting experience. The coffee’s unique processing and physical attribute combination seemed to respond well to a high airflow environment with a good amount of heat and a slight extension of the color change stage, allowing the flavors to develop evenly and in harmony with each other.

You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:

Roast 1: Crown Maillard +30 SR 1.0

Roast 2: Crown 7m SR Low AF

Diedrich Analysis by Candice Madison

Hand claps for El Salvador from me, as it is an original I love, but haven’t had the opportunity to roast very often at all. I am also quite intrigued by all the different methods of processing which have heralded what I believe (if I believed in waves) in the fourth wave of specialty coffee – processing innovation. We have featured honey processed coffees, and although they have many different names; white honey, red honey, black honey, amongst others, there is no standardization to the way these coffees are processed. Farmers and producers, where resources and the market make it possible, experiment with all manner of agronomy, before the coffee is even harvested. After harvest, they are able to influence the flavor profile further. Natural and pulped natural (the umbrella term under which honey processing, as a facet, has previously been known) coffees tend to lend the resultant brewed coffee a higher perceived sweetness, a more mellow/less dominant acidity and, typically, a smoother, heavier body. The degree to which these resulting cup features are influenced wil, of course, be a result of how much mucilage is left on the seed, and how the fermentation and drying is approached.

I decided to roast this Concepcion de Ataco coffee using a profile that I had previously created for CJO1311, the ever delicious and delightful coffee from San Pedro, Guatemala produced by Juanita Bravo Mateo. Both Ms Mateo’s coffee and Ms Guttierez’s coffee share very similar green coffee metrics. Dense, but on the drier end of the moisture spectrum, they have almost identical readings for those two metrics, as well as having very similar numbers for aW(water activity) and of screen sizes.

I decided to roast on the Diedrich and started the roast gently, at 360 degrees F, with a 2 kg batch. At the minimum gas(2) and 0% Air. This minimum heat approach, pre-equilibrium/turning point, allows me space to make decisions about heat application throughout the roast – if the coffee takes on heat too quickly, it can be hard to control. The risk, however, is that the coffee is so dense that the initial blast of heat is needed to prevent it stalling during the roast. This batch size, married with the roaster capacity and the application of heat works for this machine, so away we go! After the turning point, I turned the heat up to 5, which translates to approximately 90%. After noting the color change at 274 degrees F, a little earlier than I’m used to – in general, I decided to turn the heat down to 4. Although I noted the crack at 374 degrees F, for reasons known to none, I moved the airflow to 100%, and I didn’t turn the gas down for 5 degrees. Big-ish mistake. I turned the heat down once I saw the delta curve (RoR) rising rapidly turning it to 2 on the dial, and eventually 0 gas at 397 degrees F, to slow the post-crack development, ending the roast at 405 degrees F in just over 9 minutes.

The mistake was forgiven by the coffee gods, thank goodness! In the cup I got a lovely deep dark chocolate bass note, supporting both a deep caramel and lighter confectioners sugar sweetness enveloping myriad flavors – a light summer fruit salad of melon, plum and cherries. A silky smooth body floated all of these flavors across my tongue with alarming ease! That evening, I made myself a warm cup on a cool California evening, as I read about El Salvador, a country I was set to visit the evening COVID closed the borders. Here’s wishing everyone around the world a safe and speedy pandemic recovery.

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. 

Roasting natural and “nearly natural” coffees like this Black Honey coffee from Finca Lemus is always a test of heat application. I’ve found that these coffees benefit from the slow and steady start of the Behmor, but also tend to speed through development, and perhaps need more airflow than the Behmor can provide. All in all this was a pleasurable roast with just a touch of room for improvement.

I started with my standard parameters: P5 for 100% heat application, high drum speed, and 225g of delicious green coffee. I knew from looking at the green that there would be a fair bit of chaff involved, but also.. this coffee smells amazing!

To really temper the tendency to race through first crack, I hit P4 at 9:50, about a minute before first crack happened at 10:45. There was more smoke than I was anticipating with this coffee, so I opened the door of the roaster for 30 seconds at 11:00, and ended the roast at 12:00 when delicious smells of passionfruit began emanating out of the roaster.

I do think that a little more airflow could have kept some of the smokier notes at bay, but my first tasting of this coffee was wild anyway. While it was hot, I couldn’t put my finger on a particular fruit – but there was lots of it! Perhaps more passionfruit? But when it cooled, whole worlds of fruit shone through the haze. This coffee has amazing mouthfeel as well. Look for purple florals, lime candy, and pluot tartness too. This is a very fun coffee!

Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman

Brewing this coffee was just as surprisingly fun as roasting it. I knew that I wanted to transfer the positive notes I tasted on the cupping table to my brew. I especially wanted to get those florals and that tasty lime (anybody remember those citrus sours that Altoids had a long time ago?).

For my first brew, I just wanted to test things out a bit. At a grind of 22 on the Baratza Virtuoso and a 1:16 ratio on the Chemex, I got plummy sweetness and some thick chocolate flavors.. The mouthfeel was astounding, but the coffee lacked the zip that I found earlier. I wanted to get a bit more water through more quickly to focus on the acids that are definitely present in this coffee.

I decided to grind coarser and use a 1:17 ratio of coffee to water, but it turns out that I could have used a little agitation, or perhaps to just stick to a 1:16 ratio! My extraction percentage was too low, at 16.76% – but the flavor, surprisingly, was spot on. I got the florals (candied violet), cranberry tartness, vanilla top notes, and that ephemeral ‘purple flavor’ that I love so much. The finish was a little bitter, but it was worth it for all the lovely notes present.

A small aside – it was supposed to be hot this week in the Bay Area, but it is decidedly not. Looking at the forecast, I decided to make a cold brew coffee as well. I make my cold brew in the simplest manner (just straight full immersion) and I enjoy performing a hot preinfusion before adding the bulk of my brewing water to the mix. So I added 200g of 200F water to 100g coffee, allowed it to steep for 1:30, and then added the remaining 600g of water to the mix for a final ratio of 1:8 (pretty strong!). The result was predictably underextracted, but this coffee is meant to be served over and diluted with ice, which balances out the strength of this brew a bit. As my ice melted, thick vanilla and cherry flavors mellowed out into peach and pear sweetness with a brown sugar undertow. With roughly half cold brew and half ice (an estimated 1:16 ratio), my TDS came out to 1.51. Absolutely perfect for … what turned out to be a foggy day!