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overview

Overview

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 tart and syrupy, led by mandarin orange and fresh tomato, and accompanied by a syrupy brown sugar sweetness.

Our roasters found the coffee to require a lot of heat and preferred the complexity and balance of waiting a few days (up to about 5) after roasting to taste.

When brewed the coffee performs well at high extraction percentages and offers a bright, complex cup.

taste

Taste Analysis by Elise Becker

This coffee is heckin’ delish! When we performed analysis this week it was clear that with careful attention to brewing, this coffee is delightfully creamy and packs a seriously fruity punch. We’ve got plenty of the classic Kenya profile here, with lots of fresh ripe cherry tomato, juicy peach, and brown sugar. We got plenty of citric acidity that reminded us of a syrupy mandarin orange, balanced out by dark chocolate. The coffee performed exceptionally well at a high TDS and high extraction when brewed as a pour-over on the Kalita, and I am willing to bet that it would make a truly spectacular single origin espresso for those who love a fruit-forward yet sweet shot.

source

Source Analysis by Chris Kornman

Mahiga is practically synonymous with “fantastic” around The Crown and Royal Coffee offices. We already released one iteration of coffee from this washing station, which sold out very quickly. Fortunately we’d booked additional coffee and this second round landed as good if not better than the first. Don’t sleep on this one, it’ll be gone before you know it. 

We’ve come to expect great things from Mahiga. The 400 contributing farmer cooperative members (relatively small for a local cooperative in Nyeri) 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

Green Analysis by Chris Kornman

High density, unsurprising here from Kenya, and a really nice dry looking moisture and water activity spec put this selection squarely in the “will likely need some heat” category, so keep that in mind when roasting. Unusually, the size spread is split almost evenly between 18 & 19. AA grade Kenyas (like this one) often show a clear majority in one or the other size.

The usual cultivar suspects are all here: 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 ir-5

Diedrich IR-5 Analysis by Chris Kornman

This is my favorite kind of coffee to roast. So dense and dry, these beans can take some serious heat and won’t make you regret putting the pedal to the metal.

I charged hot for this 5.5lb batch at 390F and started with my gas at 85% and kept it there. I opened the airflow to 50% right at the turnaround to give it a little extra boost early in the roast and to clear out any hits of early smokiness. I’d really hoped this would shorten my drying time but the Diedrich is a sluggish machine in the early stages, and I had to wait a full five minutes to see color change.

Fortunately, all that early heat energy set the stage for a lot of movement late in the roast. This kind of white-knuckle approach isn’t for the faint of heart: you’ll see a couple of well-timed adjustments late in the roast to the gas and to open the airflow fully.

I wanted to get a nice, light roast with a lot of acidity and doing so meant balancing color homogeneity with short, cool development time. I dropped the roast at a very low 395F after just under 1:30 after crack. The cup was bright, tart, and zesty, with flashy notes of guava, pomegranate, and blood orange.

I can’t say this enough: don’t be afraid to give this coffee a lot of gas and a shorter roasting time (the 8:45 here is about a full minute shorter than the average Diedrich analysis roast).

quest m3s

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.

Kenyan coffee arrival season is the best season. Luckily, it comes twice a year. Not only that, this lot from the Mahiga factory is the second we’ve had this year as well! Clearly, they’re doing amazing work. This lot is no less delicious than the last, which disappeared quite quickly from our menu due to its popularity. This is a typically dense and well-dried coffee with a very tight screen size, and it’s delectable.

I started my roast with a charge temperature of 386F on the Quest M3s, with amperage and fan speed at their maximum. I didn’t make too many adjustments during this roast cycle, and this coffee moved predictably, for a super-dense Kenya with incredibly tight screen size. At 265F / 3:25 I increased fan speed to 3, and at 290F / 4:00 I lowered amperage to 7.5A. This coffee coasted along, gradually reducing in rate of rise without any trouble, and I increased fan speed to full at 330F / 5:05. Lowering amperage to 5A at 377F / 6:50 got me a decent amount of time in post-crack development, and I dropped at about 393F after 8:30 total time.

The only trouble (and predictable trouble at that) was that my peak rate of rise was low due to the incredible density of this coffee, and this resulted in more time spent proportionally in the first stage of roasting – something that’s very common with Kenyan coffees on the Quest M3s in my experience.

I’ll be honest – this roast was a little tart for me at first. I really value sugars in coffee, sometimes to a fault, however. As this coffee rested after roasted, I found that this coffee opened up immensely and the acids played very well indeed with the sugar, to the point that this coffee was clearly most delicious just as I ran out of it 5 days later. Bright cranberry and tart lime mellowed into juicy pluot, violet florals, and super elegant chocolate, something like a Madagascar chocolate if you’ve had that.

This is one of those coffees I could talk about for a very long time. Try a light roast, try a dark roast, you’re not going to be disappointed with this coffee no matter how you choose to roast it. I do believe that it performs best as a drip coffee, but if you’re a fan of those bracingly bright espresso shots, you’re going to love this coffee unconditionally.

brew

Brew Analysis by Elise Becker

We’ve had some truly delicious coffees from Kenya on the Crown Jewel roster already this year, and this one is every bit as excellent. We put this one to the test using the Kalita and St Anthony Industries C70 drippers for our standard flat vs conical brew comparison.

Brewed with the Kalita, this Mahiga AA was bursting with peach, mandarin orange, and fresh tomato and had a thick, syrupy-sweet body. The C70 produced a super clean cup that was less acid forward but much creamier. We tasted mandarin orange, banana, milk tea, and dark chocolate. My preference skewed toward the more acid-forward, higher extraction brew from the Kalita, as it made for a much juicier and fruitier cup.

Origin Information

Grower
400 producers organized around the Mahiga Factory
Variety
SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11, and Batian
Region
Mumwe, Nyeri, Kenya
Harvest
November - December 2020
Altitude
1700-1890 masl
Soil
Volcanic loam
Process
Double Fermented and Double Washed: Pulped, Fermented underwater for 12 hours, Washed to minimize mucilage, Fermented underwater for 12-36 hours, Soaked in fresh water for 16hrs, Cleaned and sorted in grading channels, Dried on Raised beds for 14 days
Certifications

Background Details

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.