Alaka, among the many collection and washing sites at the vast Hambela estate in Guji, is perennially among our favorites from Ethiopia. It’s made an appearance before as a Crown Jewel, and this iteration is an elegant, clean washed coffee with notes of sweet tea, hibiscus, chamomile, honeydew melon, pear, and plum. It’s on the softer side, not a screamer, but so very sweet and delicious, easily one of the most chuggable Gujis that have come through our doors this season.
The name Hambela has emerged as a recognizable denomination of origin in recent years, largely due to the efforts of the Adinew family. While Hambela Wamena is the name of a district, it is the Hambela farm, run by Aman, Michael, and Tariku Adinew, that stakes the claim as a center for exceptional coffee production.
The estate was part of a gift of land during the time of Emperor Haile Selassie to Muluemebet Emiru, the first African female pilot. It is her grandchildren that now manage the farmland and the METAD Agricultural Development company. Among the many important pieces of work undertaken by METAD are their commitment to equal employment opportunities for women and education opportunities for the youth of the coffeelands, their early partnerships with Grounds for Health, and their development of Africa’s first SCAA certified lab.
Pretty classic stuff here in terms of physical analysis for this Hambela Alaka. Relatively dry with a stable water activity, the beans are small with an even distribution between 14-16. They are, surprisingly, not all that high in density, given their origin.
Ethiopia’s genetic diversity of coffee is no secret, but increased attention is being paid to distinguishing cultivars and varieties, thanks in part to the work undertaken by Tim Hill and Getu Bekele. Established in the 1960s, the Jimma Agricultural Research Center was instrumental in selecting, breeding, and distributing scores of cultivars throughout the country in the decades following Haile Selassie’s downfall. These have included region-specific varieties, specialty cultivars, and hybrids and wild selections made for disease resistance.
Using the newer open setting on our Ikawa Pro v. 2, I’ve been working to adjust our older profiles to make them compatible with the higher fan speed in the recent firmware update. For this washed coffee, I took my old Ethiopia profile and tweaked the airflow a bit, raising it significantly at the beginning to drop the turnaround temperature and extend the drying stage.
This Hambela Alaka handled the steep rate of rise admirably, popping just a little later than I’d hoped right at 5:00 giving just about 30 seconds development after before the end of the roast. The coffee is an elegant one with a lot of melon and white wine like characteristics, elements easily overshadowed by a heavy hand in the roast.
For coffees like this I tend to follow the long drying stage with a steep ROR during Maillard. Right as I enter crack, I back off the heat and with the Ikawa I can gently increase the airflow to whisk away any smokiness. Slower roasts will likely bring out more of the melon and viscosity, but may mask some of the subtler Sauvignon Blanc and bergamot notes present in the profile show here.
View the profile on your mobile device, and download it to your Ikawa library here: CKornman Open AF Aug 2018
With the addition of a ET probe that I can log with Artisan, I feel like I’ve really hit my stride with the Quest this week. The added confidence I get from seeing temperatures tracking in real time really helps. This week, I started all my roasts at a 390F charge temperature with the back closed to allow some airflow from the beginning of the roast. I kept all my roasts at 9A throughout the roast cycle and used the fan to modulate temperatures.
The two roasts I performed on this coffee give a great example of working with the Quest as it warms up. In the first roast of the day, you can see my ET probe was reading a much lower temperature. This had a definite effect on my roast overall. My first roast clocked in at 11:48, while the later roast was a more standard 10:12. This is the result of roughly 50F difference in ET temperature, though both roasts go by the same reading from the BT probe for charge temperature – 390F. Make sure to warm up your roaster thoroughly!
I knew something was not right right off the bat, considering how slowly temperatures were rising. I didn’t end up engaging the fan to 3 until 5:10/288F – the temperature should have been climbing much higher considering the time. I didn’t feel comfortable turning up the fan to 6 until 9:45/370F. Crack wasn’t achieved until 10:21/382F, though there were quite a few lone wolf early pops. Crack was soft, and I was pretty sure I had baked this coffee right out. On the cupping table we found some green flavors like cucumber and green tea, and the coffee actually seemed a bit underdeveloped. Not ideal.
For the next roast, my ET temperature was 50F higher and the machine was all warmed up. I was already achieving more acceptable temperatures, and I increased fan speed to 3 at 4:50/300F. Everything was working swimmingly, though you can see that rate of rise seems to keep steady for a bit when increasing fan speed. At 7:40/360F I increased fan speed to 5 and prepared for first crack, which happened at 8:53/384F. Again, I experienced some early popping with this coffee, so be sure to not get faked out. Real first crack on this coffee was very obvious in comparison. I dropped the batch at a reasonable 10:12/403.7F.
On the cupping table, this coffee was significantly juicier. Again, we experienced some concord grape and black tea, but with much more distinct sugars, and a lack of any vegetal characteristics. Much, much better.
I started brewing this incredible washed coffee from the Hambela farm with my standard recipe: 8 on the EK43, a 1:16 ratio, and 100g pulse pours. This created a cup full of crisp sweetness; although our notes reflect a lot of acidity, it was all incredibly sweet. Rather than just citric acid, this cup tasted like key lime pie and pistachio ice cream. Pear, lemon lime soda, and finger limes all made it into the cupping notes but again these were not overwhelmingly acidic. Sugar cookie, honey, and pear blossom rounded out the brew. Still, my TDS was on the high side.
Having already brewed a number of similar coffees that day I decided to make a significant change and adjusted my EK up a full notch coarser. This second cup, which had a significantly lower TDS, had much more fruit sweetness: pear, apricot, honeydew, raspberry all made appearances. The sweet citrus notes found in the previous brew remained, this time appearing as lemonade, bergamot, tangerine, and mint.
In all seriousness, when I first started writing this analysis, the first thing a wrote was: “Yum yum yum this coffee is yum”. Although not the most eloquent statement, it rings entirely true. This coffee is yum.