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This is a semi-experimental double-washed and double-fermented coffee from Nyeri, Kenya, produced by smallholders organized around Othaya Cooperative Society’s Mahiga Factory.
The flavor profile is unique and rife with sweetness and refreshment. We found cherry, pineapple, vanilla, tangerine, and many other interesting flavors depending on the roast and brew method.
Our roasters found the coffee a dream to roast. Lower than average first crack temperatures may indicate quicker sugar browning but effortlessly sweet and effervescent in the cup.
When brewed on multiple pour-over devices the coffee was delicious and dynamic, trending towards slightly longer brew times; we’re featuring it as a pour-over option at The Crown. It’s been suggested as an excellent candidate for flash-brewed iced coffee as well; an ideal summertime Kenya.
Taste Analysis by Sandra Loofbourow
A syrupy cherry bomb, this coffee is so delicious. Packed with pineapple, sweet like vanilla and with balanced citrus acidity that calls delicate tangerines to mind, this coffee is super crisp, and supremely drinkable. With a coating mouthfeel, pervasive cranberry sweetness and lime acidity, this coffee is refreshment in a cup. If you’re looking for a Kenya that pushes beyond the traditional and into the thoroughly unique and spectacular, this is it!
Source Analysis by Chris Kornman
Mahiga is practically synonymous with “fantastic” around The Crown and Royal Coffee offices. Last year’s electric offering is the counterpoint to the current lot: a complex and fascinating offering this year, with more balance than acidity and an unparalleled sweetness. I tend to hold my breath a little when other folks taste it, anticipating their joy and delight, hoping they’ll be as excited as I am.
Mahiga factory has caught our attention before (and my personal favorite from its first year of participation in the Red Cherry Project in 2017) and has been featured as a Crown Jewel in years past — it has a solid pedigree for quality coffees. We’ve come to expect great things from Mahiga. The 400 contributing farmer cooperative members are organized under the station manager, Daniel Kingori, whose experience also recently included management of the nearby Rukira factory, also a member of the umbrella Othaya Cooperative Society. Mahiga translates to “stone,” and the coffee and processing here are nothing if not rock-solid.
Mahiga has undertaken an especially unique and complex processing model. We’re calling it “double fermented and double washed.” Here are the details: after pulping (on the factory’s brand new machine), the coffee is fermented underwater for 12 hours. It’s then washed to minimize mucilage and fermented underwater again for 12-36 hours. After this second fermentation, the tank is drained, filled with fresh water and soaked for an additional 16 hours. Lastly, the coffee is cleaned and sorted in grading channels and taken to drying beds for two weeks before delivery to Othaya’s dry mill.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Exceptional sorting here, at 99+% screens 16-18, offers up a very classic looking AB grade by the numbers. On-point moisture and stable water activity are paired with exceptionally high density, common for East African coffees, but no less appreciated. This coffee may want a little extra heat in the roaster and the green should keep its quality for months to come. Prior to shipping and repacking in airtight Crown Jewel packaging, the coffee was vacuum sealed at origin.
By and large, Kenyan coffees are characterized by a limited number of highly controlled cultivars. The oldest of these are SL28 and SL34, selections made in the early days of cultivation from legacy Bourbon and Typica populations which were suited to growing conditions in Kenya. More recently Ruiru 11 and Batian have entered the fold, and are proprietary hybrids integrating the genetics of more than a dozen separate varieties in order to improve quality, yield, and disease resistance.
Diedrich Analysis by Candice Madison
A delicious coffee with near perfect green metrics and the constant noise of rubber stamps from the trading desk and The Crownies here before my time, had me champing at the bit to start roasting this coffee. The glee at tearing into the foil bag was matched by a heavenly scent and beans so well-sorted, and of an even size, that they resembled jade beads. All in all, this coffee from Mahiga screams quality and an easy roast.
I was tempted to start hot and fast, and probably will, if I roast this coffee again. However, I chose to roast this at the end of the roast day, not the beginning, which is my usual wont. As the Diedrich’s drum is enclosed by ceramic heat exchangers, I chose caution, due to the day’s worth of heat sink that the machine had had. Keeping the start temperature high (considering the small batch size and the amount of heat already in the machine), I kept the gas low (50%) and the air to the drum off, until the turning point. At the equilibrium point, to compensate for the density and moisture of the bean, I turned the airflow and gas up to 100%.
Midway between the turning point and the advent of the Maillard stage (stage 2), I turned the gas down to 70% and the air to 50% – I wanted the RoR descent to take full effect during stage 2 and not plateau, thus baking the coffee. This meant I had to be dynamic before this point, but I was able to keep the roaster fairly static. But the caution from applying heat from the outset was felt – I was only able to spend 38% of my roast time in stage 2. I was worried I may have sacrificed some of the unctuous sweetness that Kenyans are known for due to this fact and I worried myself all the way to the cupping table.
As suspected – saved by the coffee! Wow, really, just wow!! This coffee is eminently quaffable, and yet delightfully complex and very much of its origin. Dark, sweet notes of dried cherries were complemented by fresh fruit notes of guava, lychee and peaches, with an effervescent acidity provided by flavors of starfruit, and kumquat. The soft bright sweetness of panela was accompanied by milk chocolate and butter. All of which was tied in a neat bow by a smooth, clean coating, viscous body. Just a hint of what I know I can get by messing with the profile, and the post crack development ratio. A boon – just in time for a Japanese ice brew or Kyoto cold brew method. From Africa to Asia in the blink of an eye!
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 200g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here and my updated post here.
Sugar plum faeries from last year’s lot from Mahiga factory were dancing in my mind as I opened the vaccum sealed foil bag of this year’s anticipated arrival. My nose did not deceive me – the very smell of this green coffee triggered fanciful notions of a world without worries, where fortean beings grace the freshly picked.. Okay, I’m getting carried away here.
Anyhow, the fragrance of this coffee carried through clearly to the final roasted product, and roasting was a dream. I wanted to really express the complexity of this coffee, and not to take away too much of what the green was already full of: magic (or la magia, for my Spanish speaking friends).
The way I accomplished this was by starting with a lower temperature, close to what I anticipated my first crack temperature to be, 382F. These lower crack temperatures are common for Kenyan coffees, and I was correct in my assumption. My environmental temperature was high, at 300F, which was perfect for how I wanted this coffee to soak up heat in the first stage. I turned up the heat past 10A, as far as it would go, as soon as I charged the coffee, and turned the fan to full as well.
The coffee started off at a reasonable clip, and I felt comfortable introducing fan speed to 3 at 250F / 2:40, then turning heat application down to 7.5A at 275F / 3:10. I waited until just after the second stage of roasting began to introduce full fan speed at 310F / 3:50, then reduced heat application further to 5A at 325F / 4:20, whereupon my rate of rise began its even descent. Just before first crack, I cut heat application entirely, and allowed the coffee to roll through post-crack development for a hearty 1:24, or 17% development. Though I only reached 388F, the sugars in this coffee were super clean and sweet – even forceful.
Tasting this coffee is a journey. When hot, bright cranberry and lime tartness was right up front, with purple flowers and red grape developing as the cup cooled. All the while, each sip left my palate with a confectioner’s sugar cleanliness, keeping me coming back for more. This coffee did not last long in my house, and it probably won’t last long in our warehouse, either. Another fine year for the Mahiga factory!
Ikawa Pro V3 Analysis by Nate Lumpkin
As of September 2020 we are running all Crown Jewel Analysis roasts on an Ikawa Pro V3, using the most recent app and firmware version on “closed loop” setting.
This is my first time drinking a fermented coffee from Kenya, let alone a double fermented coffee, so I did not know what to expect! I was happy to discover a clean, crisp, and versatile coffee, that was very well behaved in our Ikawa Pro V3 roaster, and provided us some surprises when we brewed it up.
Our standard hot and fast profile, which is what I would usually think of as most well suited to a coffee from Kenya, produced a clean, juicy cup. I tasted notes of apricot, white peach, cherry, and lime acidity, with brown sugar sweetness and a creamy milk chocolate and cocoa butter finish. This was really delicious and easy drinking, and just what I would expect from a high quality washed Kenya.
Our lengthened Maillard profile produced a cup that frankly wasn’t my favorite. It had some positive qualities, such as notes of tangerine, green apple, sour cherry, and lime, with a dark chocolate finish. However, it had a quality of astringency and slight sourness that overpowered its flavor notes, and it didn’t possess much of the candy-like sweetness and heavy body I expect from profiles like this.
On the other hand, our long, low, and slow profile, which I normally wouldn’t expect to result in a pleasant cup with a Kenyan coffee like this one, ended up delicious and different. We tasted pear, fresh apple, kiwi, and tamarind, with a citrus blossom florality and baker’s chocolate heaviness. This was a crisp, clear cup, with notes that reminded me of a crisp Autumn day. I liked this a lot! I would recommend giving this a try if you want a clearer, lighter cup.
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 LowAF 2
Brew Analysis by Nate Lumpkin
This week we introduced our new baristas Zainab Syed to our Crown Jewel analyses, and she brewed this coffee on the Saint Anthony C70 to see how it turned out. I also brewed this coffee up on Origami and Kalita to draw a couple comparisons, and found this coffee so delicious that we decided to feature it as our pour-over this week.
Using the C70, a reliable tool that tends to produce a clear and brilliant cup, we found this coffee to be bright and sweet, with intense acidity and notes of tangerine, kiwi, pineapple, quince, and lemon, along with a buttery body and some deeper notes of dark chocolate, panela, and vanilla. It had a longer brew time at 4:05 and a spot-on extraction of 20.63%.
On the Origami Dripper with flat-bottomed Kalita filters this coffee really shined. It brewed a little faster, at 3:50, with an extraction of 20.16%, and had a thick and juicy quality that reminded me of pie filling and lemon custard. I tasted notes of dragon fruit, pineapple, lemon, lemongrass, vanilla, cream, and pastry crust. It was intensely sweet with a mild and balanced acidity, and the finish was long and sweet as well. This was exceptionally delicious, but unfortunately we have only one Origami dripper at the Crown, as this delicate brew device is prone to breaking!
I brewed it up again on the sturdy Kalita and was rewarded with a coffee no less delicious. This time it brewed at 3:37 with an extraction of 20.56%. I found it to be a touch more acidic than the last brew, but with very similar flavors: lemon curd, vanilla, custard, creme brulee, black tea, red grape, pineapple, watermelon, sweet almond paste, and sweet pastry. It had a sweet finish and unusual complexity that kept me coming back for more, and I finished the last cup. I can’t wait to serve this up on the pour-over bar!
Mt. Kenya, at the helm of Kenya’s Central Province, is the second tallest peak on the continent of Africa and a commanding natural presence. The mountain itself is a single point inside a vast and surreal thicket of ascending national forest and active game protection communities. The central counties of Kenya extend from the center of the national park, like six irregular pie slices, with their points meeting at the peak of the mountain. It is along the lower edge of these forests where, in wet, high elevation communities with mineral-rich soil (Mt. Kenya is a stratovolcano) many believe the best coffees in Kenya, often the world, are crafted.
Nyeri is perhaps the most well-known of these central counties. Kenya’s coffee is dominated by a cooperative system of production, whose members vote on representation, marketing and milling contracts for their coffee, as well as profit allocation. Othaya Farmers Cooperative Society, the umbrella organization that includes Mahiga Factory, is one of Kenya’s larger societies, with 19 different factories and more than 14,000 farmer members across the southern Nyeri region. The Mahiga Factory has 400 members actively harvesting and delivering to the processing center. The factory’s total parchment output this past harvest was 152,000 kgs, meaning the average member of Mahiga is farming enough coffee fruit for roughly 11 30kg units of exportable green.
Mahiga Factory’s chairman is Newton Mugai, one of the founding directors of Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCCE). KCCE is an historic organization of almost 4,000 individual cooperatives. The group was formed in 2009, with the express goal of managing marketing and exporting operations cooperatively (as opposed to contractually with third parties) and thereby increasing returns to farms. The economics of smallholder systems are consistently difficult everywhere in the world, and in Kenya in particular the number of individual margins sliced off an export price before payment reaches the actual farms is many, leaving only a small percentage to support coffee growth itself. And most often this arrives many months after harvest. KCCE, by managing more of the value chain itself, can capture a greater margin on behalf of the farms. Farmers belonging to Mahiga receive 55 shillings per kilogram of fresh cherry delivered to the factory, the equivalent of $1.40/lb of the green coffee price.
Kenya is of course known for some of the most meticulous at-scale processing that can be found anywhere in the world. Bright white parchment, nearly perfectly sorted by density and bulk conditioned at high elevations is the norm, and a matter of pride, even for generations of Kenyan processing managers who prefer drinking Kenya’s tea (abundantly farmed in nearby Muranga county) to its coffee. Ample water supply in the central growing regions has historically allowed factories to wash, and wash, and soak, and wash their coffees again entirely with fresh, cold river water.
Mahiga typically ferments twice: once under water for 12 hours, and again under fresh water for another 12-36 hours, with a washing in between. Double fermentation is very rare in Kenya, and, based on our experience, the technique is strongly correlated with excellent cleanliness and clarity in the cup (Mahiga’s lots are some of the best and most balanced Kenyas we’ve tasted all year).
After fermentation is complete, the clean parchment soaks for 16 hours, again in fresh water, before it is sorted by density and brought to the tables to dry, which typically takes two weeks. After drying is complete the coffee is stored on site and eventually delivered to the Othaya dry mill for grading and a final density sort. The established milling and sorting by grade, or bean size, is a longstanding tradition and positions Kenya coffees well for roasters, by tightly controlling the physical preparation and creating a diversity of profiles from a single processing batch.