Intro by Mayra Orellana-Powell & Chris Kornman
They say necessity is the mother of invention. For the Chacón family, necessity was certainly the driving force in 2006 when Oscar and Francisca Chacón decided to build Las Lajas, one of the first modern micro-mills in Costa Rica. Located in the Central Valley region (encompassing the provinces of San José, Heredia and Alajuela), today Las Lajas is at the forefront of micro-mill processing trend in Costa Rica.
Prior to building Las Lajas, Oscar and Francisca relied on large multinationals to purchase and process their coffee cherries. But the price for harvested cherry was not covering the Chacón’s rising costs of organic farm management and labor to harvest the cherry. The Chacón family needed the micro-mill to try and find a way to make ends meet.
Necessity struck again in 2008, when an earthquake cut off the Chacón’s access to electricity and water during the harvest. With no other way to process coffee and employees relying on Oscar and Francisca for income in a time of crisis, they did the only thing they could: dried the coffee in cherry.
Over the last decade, the Chacón family has focused on balancing environmental impact with expressive cup profiles. The family farms have remained certified organic while processing cherry is always in a state of reinvention. Frequently a source of coffee in barista competitions and the Cup of Excellence, Las Lajas is renowned for its natural and honey processing methods, which are processes that greatly reduce water consumption but also require precisely executed drying protocols. For this particular coffee they have taken brix measurements to ensure only cherries with sufficient sugar content are selected.
We’re thrilled to have here a lovely example of Oscar and Francisca’s work, for the second year in a row as a Crown Jewel. Much as it was last year, this season’s offering is bursting with ripe fruit jamminess, loads of concord grape jelly and watermelon candy. It’s sweet and syrupy and pairs nicely with pancakes, bike rides, and sandals.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Prep here is pretty standard EP style, maybe a little larger than normal with almost 50% of the beans unable to pass through the 18 size slots. We’ve got a moderate density paired with a picture perfect moisture content and water activity, all point to nice sorting and good shelflife.
Legacy Bourbon trees here are accompanied by 3 short-stature trees: Caturra, Catuai, and Villa Sarchi. Catuai is a man-made hybrid of Brazilian lineage, but Caturra and Villa Sarchi are both naturally occurring Bourbon mutations that have been selected and reproduced for decades. Villa Sarchi is a Costa Rican plant, first observed in 1949 and now widely used as one of the parents of the introgressed hybrid group known as Sarchimors.
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.
This jam-bomb natural Costa Rica was a favorite last season, and I for one think it’s even better this year. The coffee performed admirably on the Ikawa, and yielded the most distinctive cup on the last, longest profile with lower airflow (yellow). Despite (or perhaps because) of its late first crack — a scant 40 seconds spent after before the end of roast — the coffee was especially juicy with grape jelly and blackberry leading the flavor profile, followed by a lovely watermelon candy-like finish. It was a little lower in acidity, which honestly seems just fine for this style of bean.
The fastest profile (blue) cracked predictably and yielded a zesty and slightly pulpy cup with a distinctive Rose wine type flavor but had a slight toasty note. Probably aggressive heat application is not the ideal roasting style for it. A slightly extended, very similar roast (red) offered more plum and cascara flavors and a slightly wheaty flavor distraction. Don’t be afraid to treat this coffee gently, and let it develop early in the roast rather than later for best results, it seems.
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 Low AF
Roast Analysis by Candice Madison
An easy coffee to drink and a delicious one to roast – or vice versa, maybe! There’s nothing that’s not supremely comforting about receiving a well-known (to you) coffee, and have it shine year on year. We all know that it is no mean feat to accomplish the precision and care in processing that Oscar and Francisca Chacón have managed to achieve at Las Lajas, but to improve each harvest, whilst maintaining strict conditions that allow their coffee to be certified organic is more than impressive.
Since they are known and celebrated for their natural and honey coffees, I wanted to bring the qualities of the meticulous growing, harvesting, and processing to the fore. Having cupped this coffee before, I wanted to bring forward the complex sugar and fruit notes, as well as ensuring that I didn’t sacrifice either to eke out a weighty body. Whilst envisioning the roast, I used my experience with natural/honey processed coffees to decide on the heat application. Naturally processed coffees tend to take on heat easily and, if applied judiciously and with adjustments at distinct points in the roast, the coffee usually has enough energy to carry it through first crack.
I started this roast at the minimum gas on the Probatino and a charge temperature of 350F. The charge weight being 10F lower helped the uptake of heat for this smaller than usual batch remain relatively stable through equilibrium. The smaller batch size meant that the coffee had a higher equilibrium temperature than usual. I waited a few seconds before applying more heat after the turning point. I went straight up to 90% gas (3 on the dial), which allowed for a steep, steady ascent, before turning down to 2.5 as I saw the coffee color. Beware here – this coffee will race at the beginning of Stage 2 and at first crack. Be sure to apply the most heat early in the roast, and, if necessary, reduce the gas before first crack, as a large batch may be difficult to control and may develop further and faster than you would like.
The beans being relatively dense and dry ensured a good amount of heat transfer and as the beans progressed, I knew to leave well enough alone. The coffee cracked right on time, at 391F. I immediately turned the gas to minimum and waited for around 1 minute of post-crack development before I dropped the beans into the cooling tray.
At the cupping table I found a lovely bakers chocolate base and a round and coating body, both softly unobtrusive and the perfect foil for zingy notes of bing cherry, cola and a red apple acidity. Warming flavors of allspice, cloves and vanilla are accompanied by floral notes of lavender. I can only imagine a complex, sweety, syrupy and wonderfully complex espresso translating into a sweet apple-pie flavored cappuccino. Yes please!
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.
Chris likes to joke with me that I hate washed Central American coffees (I definitely don’t!), but this one passes the test. It’s a natural Central American coffee! And one from a producer that gets us incredible quality year after year, at that. I too remember this coffee being the star of the show at our booth at SCA in Seattle, so I’m happy to see it on the menu again.
I wanted to truly exaggerate the berry flavors coming from this coffee, and I believe I succeeded by using the profile below. Starting with 225g, and my usual settings of P5 and high drum speed, I allowed this coffee to take on heat as quickly as possible until a few puffs and a very strong ruby red grapefruit smell began emanating from the roaster at 9:00. Just afterwards, I engaged P4 (75% power) for 1 minute to really ease into first crack. Flipping back to P5, I kept heat on through first crack (11:15) until the end of the roast (12:10).
Pretty much all of my post crack development was done with the door of the roaster cracked open to abate smoke – this is quite a smoky coffee due to all the chaff! Don’t forget to clean your roaster afterward, Behmor or otherwise.
The flavor of smoke definitely didn’t come through in the cup, however. Huge berries and tart winey flavors did come through prominently, and some truly juicy orange notes topped off the whole experience nicely. This is the sort of natural I think can be delicious as espresso as well as drip coffee, but unfortunately I do not have an espresso machine at home. Read below for some brewing tips!
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
A true adventure to brew. I was enthusiastic to get started on this coffee, and thought I’d start with bringing the lighter and brighter notes forward before trying to get a heavy extraction.
The result from my first brew on Chemex at a 1:16 ratio, using grind 24 on the Baratza Virtuoso and 150g pulse pours was a cup full of strawberry jam, cherry, pomegranate, and chocolate orange flavors. I was taken aback by how pleasantly fruity this coffee was on first sip, and I nearly finished the cup before taking TDS measurement. Imagine my surprise when I found this coffee was underextracted, at least by the Brew Control Chart standards. I could have chugged this cup all day.
So I did what I could to extract more from this coffee, and ground finer, at 22 on the Virtuoso. In order to speed up the brew a little, I used pulse pours of 200g, but the same 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. The result finished a mere 5 seconds sooner, and my cup was certainly heavier. Thick concord grape juice, sticky chocolate, and heavy creaminess coated my palate… but a lot of the gentle fruit was lost here. To that effect, I intentionally brewed lighter cups in order to take the fruit power back.
I went a bit overboard with my first iteration. Brewing at a 1:17 ratio, a grind setting of 26 on the Virtuoso, and using 200g pulse pours, I poured another Chemex. During preinfusion and drawdown, I agitated the grounds with a spoon to ensure even extraction. The brew was finished at 4:40, my longest dwell time despite also having the coarsest grind size. The cup was interesting. Juicy fruit bubblegum, wine, and dry potpourri greeted my palate, but the finish was all dry cocoa powder. This was a clearly underextracted cup, and left my mouth feeling like the Sahara despite the interesting flavors.
So, going to the opposite extreme, I went super fine to a grind setting of 20 and decided to use bypass! I brewed to an original strength of 1:15, then diluted to a 1:17 ratio. With my 200g pours, the brew time was short at 4:00, which I believe added a lot of clarity to the cup. Juicy lime acidity, distinct dried blueberry, and clean grape juice made this the best cup of the four. I may be a sucker for bypass brewing, but the proof is in the pudding.
Disclaimer: I also brewed an AeroPress of this coffee, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. I do think that filter drip is the way to go with this coffee, unless you have the option for true pressurized espresso.