Intro by Chris Kornman
When I was chatting with Royal Trader Laurel Wirth, who buys much of our Salvadoran coffee, we agreed to set aside a few different lots for Crown Jewels this year from two shipments and take a look side-by-side when they landed. This Natural Pacamara has been featured before as a Crown Jewel, but it’s never faced as much competition from lots like Thelma de Gutierrez’s Black Honey Crown Jewel.
In a blind cupping, Candice Madison and I (separately) tasted eight different CJ candidates (including the two Ethiopias we’re releasing this week) and this lot from Ricardo Valdivieso’s Las Ninfas farm impressed us both, outpacing nearly every other coffee on the table. It reminds me a little of blueberry syrup on a buttermilk pancake. It’s super sweet, vibrantly fruity, and comforting. There are whispers of its Pacamara genetics, but honestly the onion and herbal notes many folks associate with the cultivar are not here in the least; rather it presents as a mulled wine or raw cacao.
Ricardo Valdivieso, a fourth-generation coffee farmer, and his family are responsible for producing some pretty fun coffees for us over the years. The coffee was harvested on the Las Ninfas finca, which, along with its sibling farm Santa Leticia, are both full of productive coffee trees and brimming with beauty.
Passed down through the family, the farms were originally founded in 1870 by noted statesman Francisco Menéndez Valdevieso, a native of the region, a general, provisional president of the country, as well as the founder of El Salvador’s educational system. Ricardo is his great-grandson. In addition to coffee and preserved forest, the farms contain archaeological ruins from the Mayan era and Ricardo’s daughter Monica runs an eco-tourist lodge on Santa Leticia.
The farms are located near the town of Apaneca, due east of El Salvador’s major coffee landmark, Volcán de Santa Ana, also known as Ilamatepec. The mountainous region that spans the north and east of the country’s highest still-active volcanic peak is ideal in climate for coffee cultivation. Volcanic soil, steady Pacific breeze, sufficient elevation, and a clear division between rainy and dry seasons make for a fertile environment that is also lush with native forests.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Classic Pacamara metrics here: very large screen size paired with slightly lower than average density. The coffee has been nicely dried to very stable looking moisture metrics and should continue to taste fresh and fruity for a long time.
Pacamara is a distinctly Salvadoran variety, released in the 1970s but worked on for more than 30 years prior to that 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 an oversized Typica mutation, first discovered in Brazil’s mountainous Bahia region. The large size of the beans, for which Pacamara is famous, are inherited from Maragogype.
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.
Unsurprisingly, this large-bean and slightly low density Pacamara is going to respond well to gentler approaches. It will likely try to race if given a lot of heat, and the fastest roasts are probably going to give you more acidity and nuttiness, and less developed fruit flavors, as was the case with my Ikawa roasts here.
The clear winner on the cupping table was the 7-minute low airflow profile, and while the coffee seems to crack a little on the delayed side on all three roasts, the short 45-second post crack development didn’t seem to be a problem. It showed off loads of sweet grape and cherry juice right off the bat, and finished with a super clean, raw cacao depth that was very impressive. I’d highly recommend profile 3 (yellow) on the Ikawa, and a gentle approach all around to this style of cultivar and processing.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown Maillard +30 SR 1.0
Roast 2: Crown Standard SR 1.0
Roast 3: Crown 7m SR Low AF
Probatino Analysis by Alex Taylor
Well, hello there! It’s been a hot minute since I got to handle roast analysis. We’ve been sending the Quest and Behmor home with Candice and Evan for Crown-Jewel-Analysis-from-Home, but now that The Crown is ramping back up, it was my turn to fire up the Probatino for this week’s Crown Jewels. Had a little dust to knock off, but the coffees did not disappoint!
Up first was this natural Pacamara from El Salvador, with some truly large and in charge beans! The prep and green specs all looked nice, but I must have let the Probatino idle a touch too long, because I practically got whiplash when I dropped the coffee into the roaster. Despite a lower charge temperature to accommodate a slightly smaller than usual batch size and low gentle gas at the start, this coffee absolutely gobbled up the heat and took off. Other than a super hot start, though, this coffee roasted quite smoothly. First crack was actually a little on the gentle side for this coffee, so pay attention there. As a result of the hot roast, my development time came in at just under a minute, but still a decent 15.7%. The end temperature for the roast was 403.2F, right about where I like it for Crown Jewel analysis, and the total duration clocked in at 5:56, which is definitely on the short side (but not as short as the time I turned the gas to 4 instead of 3). To be perfectly honest, I really had no idea what to expect on the cupping table the next day.
Much to my delight, this coffee was delicious! It seems the coffee either appreciated or was impervious to my small missteps in the roast, because I kept coming back for more of this coffee. I got a smack of pineapple, blackberry, and red currant up front that flowed nicely into rich and creamy notes of raw honey and dark chocolate. The super vibrant acidity made me want to enjoy this coffee as a nice crisp pourover (exactly what I’ll do for the brew analysis), but those honey and milk chocolate notes lead me to believe this coffee could be taken a little darker or even just slowed down a bit to highlight the sweetness and yield a slightly more balanced cup. I’m even tempted to throw some in the espresso hopper and try to pull a shot or two. 150g is enough coffee to dial in from scratch, right?
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
I was pretty excited to drink some more of this coffee after cupping my roasts! For the first time in years, I bought myself a new coffee toy, the new Bloom dripper from Espro; I figured this week’s brew analysis would be a good opportunity to put it through the works.
I wanted to try to push the extraction a little bit on these brews, so I ground pretty fine and used an additional pulse pour. In addition to my brew with the new Bloom dripper, I made a v60, for the sake of having something familiar to compare to. The Bloom brew finished in 3:10, and the v60 at 4:45 (a very long brew, by my standards, but I knew I had ground fine and it was a bigger brew than typical, so not alarming). Despite the wildly different brew times, the specs for these two brews were almost identical! TDS’s of 1.4 and 1.41, and extraction yields of 21.24% and 21.28%! There were some subtle differences in taste though.
The Bloom brew (the quicker of the two) was a bit juicier; we picked up on pineapple and fresh blackberry up front, and lots of brown sugar sweetness, with a milk chocolatey sweetness at the end. The v60 also had some intense flavors, but it was a little unbalanced and muddled – not surprising considering the long brew. Lots of honeydew, citrus, peach, and white grape up front followed by maple syrup and dark chocolate with a super velvety finish. Delicious! This coffee was great as a pourover, but I think it could really shine as an espresso option, too; there’s tons of sweetness packed in there!!