Uncovering the details of an Ethiopian coffee’s origins can be a little like detective work. This floral, classic Yirgacheffe coffee gave us quite a run for the money in this regard!
Last year, we purchased coffee from a private company called Sengage, who operated this washing station, called Idido, located in the Gersi kebele (neighborhood) of Yirgacheffe. This year, the coffee comes from the same washing station, but it has been taken over by the Edido Cooperative, a member of the YCFCU (Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative Union). Edido coop has been around since 1975, and currently has a little over a thousand members.
Cooperatives in Ethiopia benefit from the strong organizational structure of their umbrella union organizations, as well as improved access to market information through the ECX, Ethiopia’s Commodity Exchange marketplace that sets the price for both export coffee and cherry.
Yirgacheffe, the woreda (district) where Edido’s washing station is located, is a bit of a coffee icon, and oftentimes its name becomes synecdoche for the entire Gedeo region. Yirgacheffe roughly translates to “water town” so it’s fitting that the region became famous as one of the first places where fully washed coffees were produced. Yirgacheffe coffees continue to be associated with exceptionally clean profiles exhibiting floral aromas the likes of which are found nowhere else on earth.
Like many cooperative coffees from Ethiopia, the washing station employs a secondary underwater soak after fermentation, sometimes referred to as “double washing.” Not only does this help remove any leftover pulp on the seeds, it also triggers the seed to begin germinating and it’s speculated this can improve the flavor.
Ethiopian coffee has been arriving very dry this season, and this coffee is no exception. Our CEO, and Ethiopian coffee buyer, Max, had a theory. He seems to believe that the dryness is less related to ongoing drought in Ethiopia, but more related to a cold snap back in December/January, where there was even frost in some areas in the south. Most coffee would’ve been off the trees at this point, drying on the tables.
There are, in my opinion, substantial difference between wet coffees with high water activity and dry coffees of similar sensory quality, like this one. If overly dry coffees exhibit off flavors due to dryness, rapid drying, or both, it will be evident immediately – this is not a flavor characteristic that emerges over time; the damage is done, and it shows. Dry coffees with good flavors are likely to retain those good flavors; the risk of over-drying is past once the coffee has landed. However, improperly dried coffees at higher moisture and/or water activity may not immediately display resultant off-flavors, but they will almost certainly lose sweetness and character over a shorter period of time. Dry coffees that taste great, like this Idido, in my opinion, can be trusted to retain their character for a long time. Their volatility is quite low and their composition stable.
It is not uncommon to see Ethiopian coffees that are very dense and have low moisture content like this coffee, but I was a bit nervous about the very low water activity and if it would affect sugar browning. My first roast of this coffee was rather short and I feared that it may have been a tad underdeveloped. The coffee roasted evenly and predictably, gaining heat and momentum through the Maillard stages and finishing with less than one minute post crack development time. To compensate, I may have been slightly heavy handed with the sugar browning. Using a slightly higher charge temperature and applying heat much sooner during the roast, I was able to dramatically reduce the drying stage time by 30 seconds. I also decided to reduce the heat slightly during Maillard stage so that the coffee would take heat on a bit slower than roast one, and I was able to double my post crack development time. The difference in flavor was quite dramatic. Roast one was bright and very floral due to its lower end temperature and shorter overall roast time, while my second roast was slightly bitter and even roasty in flavor. I recommend letting this coffee roast fast, like it wants to do, but keep a close eye on it after Maillard begins to avoid it running away from you.
I shot for the lowest roast loss percentage I could muster on this beautiful Ethiopian coffee, and I think we were all rewarded at the cupping table. Plenty of tropical fruit juiciness and a clean, sparkling finish resulted. Just one minute of development time left most of the flavors inherent to this coffee intact and eminently quaffable. This may be my favorite roast on the Behmor to date! It helps to note that this is one of the cleanest, most stable coffees this year (so far). If you’re looking for a crowd pleaser for some time to come, give this coffee a try.
I took this sunny Yirgacheffe for a spin in a pair of Chemex brewers on a foggy summer morning, and it was easily the brightest thing in the office. Lush and juicy with lots of stone fruit and floral notes, it’s also completely unchallenging and easy to drink.
Expecting the usual high solubility of Ethiopian coffees, I dialed my grind a half-step coarser than usual. Resulting brews landed in the 21% extraction range. Note that Jen’s second, darker roast took less time to brew, but had a lower TDS.