The Fate of a Classic: Washed Central America Coffees

Road leading to coffee farms in the highlands of western Honduras near Santa Barbara National Park.

For decades, the classic washed or wet-processed coffees of Central America and Mexico have constituted one of the world’s great go-to coffee types. Usually clean-tasting, usually sweetly-tart, with a shifting array of fruit notes – always stone fruit, typically some citrus and flowers, always notes ranging from nut and caramel to full-on dark chocolate depending on the coffee and roast. And most likely some aromatic wood, from the sweet-pungent odor of fresh-cut cedar to scorchy pine in darker roasts. The details might differ by farm or origin — Panama was particularly known for clean, soft versions of the type, Costa Rica for equally clean but brighter, more forceful versions, Guatemala for more depth and intrigue, not always so clean, perhaps, but with unexpected sensory surprises arising from less predictable coffee varieties and local variations Read more

Minding the Grinds: Our Approach to Sampling and Judging Grind Consistency

Closeup of coffee grinder burrs. Photo by Howard Bryman.

There were a number of ways we could have approached the evaluation of the four grinders reviewed this month with regard to producing consistent particle size. We could have judged the machines based on the results of brewing with the grounds they put out, or simply through visual inspection of the grounds, or by manually sieving each sample to separate particles by size.

Instead, we decided to send samples of coffee ground by each machine to our friends at the Horiba Instruments particle science lab in Irvine, California, for particle size distribution analysis using laser diffraction equipment, because that appeared to represent the clearest, most objective route to evaluating the grind consistency of the four machines reviewed in this report.

Yet even with that decision made, there remained a number of ways we could have gone about selecting the samples, as … Read more

Equipment Report: Four Mid-Range Burr Coffee Grinders Tested & Reviewed

Four burr coffee grinders, from left to right: Oxo Conical Burr Grinder With Integrated Scale, Baratza Virtuoso+, Breville Smart Grinder Pro, and KitchenAid Burr Grinder. Photo by Howard Bryman.

Grinding whole beans immediately before brewing is one of the single most powerful upgrades you can make to the quality of the cup you brew at home. No matter what grinder you own, it’s better than owning no grinder at all. Yet when examining the differences from one coffee grinder to the next, and contemplating the sheer variety of products available on the market, it quickly becomes clear that what we ask grinders to do, and evaluating how well they do it, is neither simple nor easy.

For this report, Coffee Review thoroughly tested four popular burr coffee grinders: the Baratza Virtuoso+, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro, the KitchenAid Burr Grinder, and the Oxo Conical Burr Grinder With Read more

RTD Rising: Single-Origin Cold Coffees Elevate the Game

Four Barrel Coffee canned ready-to-drink black coffees.  Photo courtesy of Four Barrel Coffee.

It was only two years ago that Coffee Review last explored the landscape of cold black coffees offered in ready-to-drink (RTD) format. In the 2018 report, we celebrated some excellent samples, but the majority of the submissions were produced from blends of various anonymous green coffees, as opposed to single-origin coffees from identifiable farms, mills or cooperatives, the kinds of coffees that, on average, offer more refined and individualized sensory experiences than blends.

Editor Kenneth Davids’ takeaway for the 2018 report was that “Cold brewing generally produces a somewhat different beverage than hot brewing does. The long, slow extraction tends to encourage a cup that is delicate and lightly syrupy in mouthfeel with a softer structure than produced by conventional hot brewing. Both acidity and bitterness tend to be muted. Flavor notes may be subtler in … Read more

Two Centuries of Enslaved Labor: The Contributions of Blacks in the Early Americas Coffee Trade

Woman working on farm in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Photo by Danielle Seréjo.

 

Introduction by Kenneth Davids, Editor in Chief

Phyllis Johnson, longtime president of green coffee importer BD Imports, has emerged as an eloquent spokesperson for acknowledgement and change at a time when specialty coffee is searching for an effective response to systemic racism in the U.S. Her writing and speeches have rallied the specialty coffee community and she has created an outlet and focus for action by founding the new Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity. 

When we decided to focus this month’s issue of Coffee Review on Black-owned American coffee roasters (see August 2020 Tasting Report: Recognizing Coffees from Black-owned Coffee Companies), we asked for Phyllis’s help in organizing our report. She recommended this month’s impressive co-cupper Alicia Adams, for example. We also invited Phyllis to write a piece on any subject she chose to appear with Read more