This is a traditional double-washed coffee from Nyeri, Kenya, produced by smallholders organized around the Thunguri “factory” or washing station.
The flavor profile is led by an effervescent, lemony citrus acidity and backed by notes of mango and raisin with a fudgy, milk chocolatey body.
Our roasters found the coffee well-behaved in the roaster and generally needing a little extra heat particularly in early roasting stages.
When brewed as espresso, higher volume shots produced expressive, electric coffees. As a pour-over the coffee is juicy and clean, and easy to work with.
Taste Analysis by Sandra Loofbourow
This will be the second consecutive year we’ve served this coffee in the Tasting Room. Last year, instead of dial notes our hopper tag simply read “FIRE”. I’m happy to report that his year’s harvest is no different. Mango, bing cherry, raisin, balanced by milk chocolate and a lovely effervescence make this a truly exceptional cup. Last year we kept this coffee on batch brew, where it provided and incredibly complex and delicious cup. This year, find it in the Tasting Room on espresso, where it sings of elegant tropical fruits, booming juiciness, and a fudgy finish.
Source Analysis by Chris Kornman and Charlie Habegger
In a shipping season described as “unprecedented” and “nightmarish,” with global shipping disruptions, container shortages, and transshipment delays the norm rather than the exception, Royal Coffee trader Caitlin McCarthy-García has, in partnership with our supplier Dorman’s, pulled of the nearly-impossible. We have landed high grade fresh crop Kenyan coffee in May.
The Thunguri Factory is a smallholder cooperative washing station under the umbrella of the Rumukia Farmer’s Cooperative Society, which operates a small number of factories in Nyeri county. Processing here happens in much the same way as it has for decades, with a unique post-processing clean water soak acting as an additional washing step. This procedure has two-fold benefits, in that it can pragmatically help to delay moving coffee from the pulpery to the drying tables if there is a limitation on available drying space, and it also provides a measure of quality improvement identified by academic researchers and coffee tasters alike.
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. The economics of smallholder systems are consistently difficult, 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. However, Kenya coffees are sold competitively by quality, which means well-endowed counties like Nyeri achieve very high average prices year after year, and the smallholders here with a few hundred coffee trees at the most, plus additional land uses available and local job markets, are widely considered to be middle class.
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. Conservation is creeping into the discussion in certain places–understandably in the drier areas where water, due to climate change, cannot be as taken for granted—but for the most part Kenya continues to thoroughly wash and soak its coffees according to tradition. 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.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
The first Kenyan Crown Jewel of the season does not disappoint. It’s a delicious representative of excellent Nyeri AA preparation. The coffee is high density, well-dried, and 99% above 18 screen size. I’d wager the coffee will crave heat to press through early roast stages, but be sure to check the roasters’ notes and analysis for confirmation.
Highly specified cultivars grown in Kenya include the well-known SL28 and SL34 selections from the 1930’s and the more recent Ruiru-11 and its improved version known as Batian. In combination with idiosyncratic processing methods and terroir, these cultivars lend Kenyan specialty coffees with iconic citric acidity and flavors.
Diedrich IR-5 Analysis by Candice Madison
I wanted to submit an analysis that simply read ‘yippee’ over and over for multiple paragraphs, but since I quite like my job, let’s dive into the second of this week’s absolutely delightful offerings, this time, from an origin I know (and love) well.
I’m not quite sure how to introduce Kenyan coffee, because not only do the unique flavor profiles and, more than usually, great quality speak for themselves, they are also well-known and coveted globally. What I can say is that if I had to pick a favorite origin, Kenya would win hands down! And Ethiopia, and maybe Sumatra, and Bolivia… ok, but you understand!
To the metrics! Amazingly uniform, this coffee is extremely well-sorted, tight in its screen size distribution, and has high density, as well as a lower-than-average moisture content. All this screamed heat me hot and fast please! I know this coffee can take a lot of heat and quite a bit of aggression, at that, but I only had one batch of the coffee in hand and felt cautious enough about that to start the roast at 90% heat.
Using the airflow baffle to make subtle changes to the speed of the curve, I still couldn’t pull the coffee out of stage 1 any faster than it was ambling, so I made sure that the rate of change (RoR) was proceeding steadily and readied myself for stage two by turning the air up to 100% just before – thereby eking out the last of the 100% convective heat that I wanted to add to the roast drum. Over the course of a minute, and just before the advent of stage 2, I turned the heat down twice, to ensure a steady, slower ascent through the Maillard stage.
I would say be more judicious about coming off of the heat earlier in stage 1. I had a hard time slowing the roast down in the Maillard stage, and the stage percentage ratios indicate this. I found my footing, however, at the tail end of the stage, by anticipating the advent of first crack. In tackling this coffee again – and I get to, we have whole bag of it!! – I would adjust the timing of my heat application changes, and start this roast with 100% gas, on our machine. These changes would allow me more time to roast in stage 1, without sacrificing the deliciousness that went on as the coffee travelled through the building!
I would write down my first cupping note, but it was an expletive, the second word was just ‘purple’! This coffee is ridiculously delicious, and almost offensively diverse in the ways in which you can brew and extract it. I couldn’t believe how much it gave and kept on giving as it cooled.
Big, thick and syrupy bodied, the coffee complex flavors include blackcurrant, vanilla, hibiscus, black tea, bubblegum and pink grapefruit. It’s sweet and juicy – literally, it tastes like fruit juice – with all the traditional Kenyan hallmarks. I have currently had it on 2 different types of pour over, espresso and tomorrow morning, if I’m in the office first, it’s going on batch brew. My morning cappuccino was like drinking raspberries and silk. Now I’m jealous of myself!
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.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I forget that Kenyan coffee is so delicious, and reliably, twice a year, I’m dumbstruck while having my first few sips of the fresh crop. Then, it happens again after a few more sips. A few minutes later, I’m brewing another pot. Time to roast more Kenya!
This coffee is super dense, and super well sorted. Moisture content is middling, just a touch on the low end. I knew this coffee would need plenty of heat to get started, but I didn’t want to scorch it with a high charge temperature. I started with 225g at 384F.
For my first roast of this coffee, I remembered previous years of roasting fresh Kenya arrivals vividly, in stark contrast to my admittedly short hedonic taste memory. Meddling dopamine blasts didn’t cloud my resolve in starting this coffee off with a lower charge temperature and intense heat application. I began with full fan speed and heat somewhere above 10A; the Quest’s amperage meter stops reading reliably when you max it out, but I’d say it was somewhere around 11.5A.
Wanting to move this coffee very quickly through drying stage, I turned off fan speed a touch before Turning Point but reintroduced it earlier than usual at 250F / 3:10 due to a very healthy rate of rise. Everything else from this point was peachy keen and predictable. At 280F / 3:50 I reduced heat application to 7.5A, and at 350F / 6:00 I introduced fan speed to full. With heat reduced to 0A at crack, I rolled through for 1:24 of post-crack development, 15.6% of my total roast time.
Since my end temperature was 397F, there wasn’t a touch of smoke flavor to this roast. I would have liked to spend more time in Maillard, but heavy heat application would be needed in order to accomplish that feat – perhaps heavier than the quest could supply at my hearty 225g batch size. I would recommend smaller batch sizes for this coffee, even though I’m sure you’ll drink it just as fast as you can roast it.
This coffee is so complex and tasty, I have a hard time doing it justice in words. When it was hot, this coffee was fairly redolent of peach, nectarine, and cranberry, but as it cooled some very interesting floral notes came out. Candied violet, blackberry, and just plain purple flavors started developing. These were so hard to put into words because the flavors here just dissipate off the tongue so cleanly that you keep coming back for sips.
An excellent choice for single origin drip, this coffee is best served as a filter drip in my humble opinion. Undoubtedly it would do well as a flash brewed iced coffee as well, but I might not recommend it for full immersion methods – though it would likely still be amazing, it might not be as bright and clear as it could be. This is likely to be one of my favorite coffees this year. So incredibly tasty.
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 big, dense coffee from Kenya was exceptionally well-behaved in the Ikawa V3. On all three profiles, it changed color and cracked right on schedule, and produced a bright and complex cup, though I had a clear favorite among them. I did notice that some of the beans looked lightly scorched, and some of the profiles produced a noticeably darker flavor profile.
Though the lengthened Maillard profile and low airflow profile were not my favorites, and a touch too dark overall, they were both delicious in their own rights. The former produced a cup with lemon-lime acidity, notes of navel orange, salted caramel, peanut butter cup, dark chocolate fudge, and a heavy body. The latter produced a strong lime acidity, with notes of black cherry, coconut, citrus, honey, and dark chocolate.
Our favorite however was the hot and fast standard profile, which was essentially created for coffees like this. It had a bright lemon aroma, cranberry and lemon acidity, and notes of rhubarb, lemon, grape, cherry tomato, dark caramel, and dark chocolate fudge. This was a bright and unsubtle cup, with a bold acidity and complex flavors. Therefore I recommend a profile with a little more heat like this one to give these big, dense beans what they need to develop adequately.
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
Just like the Bolivian coffee before it, we plan to serve this coffee on espresso through the summer here at the Crown, so for brew analysis this week we dialed this coffee both on our Linea PB and on pour-over. I’m happy to report that this coffee blew me away both ways–this coffee is so bright and expressive that it tastes almost exactly like summer itself, and I can’t wait to pour shots for service.
On espresso, we dialed this coffee in with our standard dose of 18g, and ended up with a brew volume of 38g in 30 seconds, a nice voluminous shot with plenty of room for this coffee to express itself. It had a bright and almost electric lemon acidity, as well as notes of pink grapefruit, passionfruit, rhubarb, Bing cherry, and a smooth dark chocolate finish. Its body was syrupy and effervescent, and its fudgy chocolate notes balanced really well with its complex and bright fruit notes. What can I say, I loved this a lot!
On pour over, I reached for the Hario V60, and used again 18g, and 300g for total brew weight. It brewed through at 3:01, pretty much exactly on target, and showed a TDS of 1.34 and an extraction of 19.65%. In the cup, I tasted a lot of notes very similar to the espresso, though a little more subdued: lemon, red grape, red currant, pink grapefruit, and dark chocolate. It was juicy, sweet, and syrupy: a perfect summer treat. I simply can’t wait to share this coffee at the Crown!