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Honey, if processed under any other name, would it taste as sweet…?
I love to see this coffee being produced by the Canales family, who operate a group of farms in Estelí. Multi-year Cup of Excellence winners, this family has been growing and processing exceptional coffee organically even through the rust outbreak in 2013. Royal has been a proud partner for many years, and we’re thrilled to support their harvest again this year with a delightful honey process coffee, grown by Milton Canales on his farm, Termopilas.
Located in Pueblo Nuevo, a municipality located within Nicaragua’s Estelí department just to the south of the Honduran border. Termopilas is one of a group of family farms collectively referred to as Los Delirios, run by Daniel Canales and his sons Milton, Donal, and Norman. It is also part of a larger collective of regional farms overseen by the family called El Eden, and together they destroy the competition, expertly producing spectacularly complex and sweet coffee that rises head and shoulders above the next best Nicaraguan offering.
Honey processing, also known as pulped natural and sometimes semi-washed, leaves in place a bit of the fruit that surrounds the coffee seed in its protective parchment coat. It then skips any sort of formal fermentation stage and goes straight to dry, in this case on recently constructed shaded raised beds.
This coffee gave our roasting and cupping team a bit of a challenge, but after some trial and error we found a number of interesting roasts that offered up a clean, chuggable coffee with plenty to like. Praline and clover honey dominate the profile, with some mild apple and baked orange acidity and hints of golden raisins. An easy drinking coffee, perfect for pairing with warm summer mornings and almond croissants.
Nicely graded to European Prep screen size, this coffee looks pretty by-the-books in terms of physical specs. Moderately low moisture paired with a steady-looking water activity is always an encouraging sign when dealing with summertime Central American coffees, and honey or natural process especially. Very nicely dried coffee here, surely aided by the shaded raised beds. Density looks fairly middle-of-the-road, as well. Expect good shelf life and reasonable early-stage roasting rates.
To the credit of Milton and the rest of the Canales family, they continue to grow legacy varieties like Bourbon, Typica, and dwarf Caturra. These plants offer flavors roasters often covet, but have relatively low yield and low resistance to rust compared to modern hybrids. In the wake of the rust epidemic earlier this decade, Nicaragua’s response, by-and-large, was to replant resistant cultivars. Familia Canales have not only maintained the health of their legacy varieties, but done so without synthetic fungicides – a testament to their dedication and to the fact that good farm management practices can have a positive impact, even in adverse circumstances.
Hello all! Back from a little British R&R with a bang – this bang being in the form of this lovely gem from the Esteli department of Nicaragua produced by Milton Canales Sevilla. Sugary sweet with comforting notes of brown sugar, baked apple, caramel, golden raisin, honey, lemon zest all tied up in a creamy body? Yes please!
I tried roasting this coffee a couple of ways and realised that the amount of energy expelled at first crack would need some careful management. Wanting to eke out more of the fruity notes present in this coffee to add nuance to the abundance of sugar and dry spice I knew I would get from this honey-processed coffee, I started off with a high gas application. The coffee dried quickly, about 30 seconds faster than my reference curve, which allowed me to ease back on the gas just before the Maillard Phase and give a good amount of the overall roast time over to developing the sugars during this stage of the roast. Learning from a previous mistake, I chose to lower the gas significantly for around 30 seconds just before first crack (turning it up as first crack was rolling). This small change meant that the amount of thermal energy released by the beans wasn’t given extra energy to run with, allowing me to control the post-crack development. I was then able to manage a 14% PCD (post-crack development) ratio. Happy days! This roast made for a really complex, richly sweet, but uncomplicated palate experience, just what Milton’s hard work deserved. I would be very happy with this as the espresso base for a tasty morning gibraltar. Have fun out there!
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 150g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here.
This coffee from Nicaragua is as smooth as it is sweet – attributes I’m a bit jealous of, having never been accused of being either myself. However, it is fairly dense. Anyhow, the slightly wider spread of screen size will allow you to continue heat application throughout the roast without the roast getting away from you.
So I approached this coffee with an older style approach: 9A heat application all the way through the roast, with slowly increasing fan speed as I went along. I charged 150g of coffee at 395F, set fan speed to 3 at 2:38/260F, and increased fan speed to full at 6:58/370F, just before crack at 7:40/388F.
Though this roast was a bit slower, I was able to achieve a falling rate of rise all the way to the end – something that is generally good practice, but some roasters swear by. I would have liked to decrease below 12 degrees/min rate of rise through post-crack development, but didn’t sweat it too much.
Cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla, and zesty citrus came through in this roast on the cupping table. This coffee is unabashedly sugar-forward, so I’d recommend it for full immersion or espresso. I’m sure it would be equally tasty on filter drip, but the rich body of this coffee is definitely worth bringing out with a full immersion method at least once!
This coffee is super sweet and smooth, so I decided to lean into that for this brew analysis, brewing on the Clever Dripper. I thought this coffee would taste great in an immersion-style brew, and to cater to my own preferences, I chose the Clever dripper, since its paper filter yields a cleaner cup than some other immersion brewers. And as much as I’ve enjoyed toying with weird brew ratios on the bar lately, tasters’ preferences have almost always selected brews at ratios between 1:15 and 1:16, so I stuck with good ol’ 1:16 today. For my variable to play with today, I decided to use two very different steep times, draining one clever dripper at 2:00 and the second at 4:00.
The results were exactly what I was looking for. Despite the steep time being twice as long for the second brew, the TDS and extraction yield were almost the same! This goes to show that most of the good extraction in a brew is happening in the first 90 seconds to 2 minutes of the brew (this is also why brewing with a bypass is often a delicious approach: most of the water added to a pourover towards the end of a brew is really only diluting the brew). With immersion brews, you hit a sort of extraction ceiling, at which point the amount of water you’ve poured atop your coffee bed cannot really extract much more from the coffee.
Extraction theory aside, both of these cups were delicious! We tasted lots of notes reminiscent of apple pie: apple, honey, cinnamon, baking spice, and graham cracker! For folks who love a smooth cup of sweet coffee in the morning will absolutely love this coffee.