Rwanda Nyamasheke Karengara

African Coffees
African Coffees
Sourced from Sweet Maria’s.

This name, and a lot of them, can be read like a postal address but in reverse. Rwanda is the country, Nyamasheke the district, and Karengera the particular washing station or processing mill, which serves a certain local group of growers.

This is actually one of my all time favorite coffees. It’s a high quality coffee but not particularly flashy. There’s no unusual standout character to it. It’s just really wonderful coffee in the cup. I’ve roasted this one light (City+), dark (Full City+), and ultimately as a melange (mixture of dark and light roasts). I’ve had the experience of sitting sipping this coffee and just being bowled over by it. It’s also been a favorite with a number of customers.

From Sweet Maria’s cupping report:

Floral, honey-like aromatics permeate the flavor profile of Karengera. The dry fragrance has sweet butter and honey with honeysuckle flowers. Adding hot water, the same sweetness persists with hibiscus as the dominant floral note.

Full City roast features more cocoa-like aromatics, with brown sugar and caramel cookie in the wet aroma. The cup taste is in line with the aromatics. In light roasts, the brightness and flavor lean towards hibiscus with a tart but sweet flavor.

Darker roasts have a more developed caramelized sugar character. Brown sugar and sweet cacao bring the sweetness together before finishing buttery and macadamia-like.

Photo: Dennis Tang on flickr, adapted/changed, License SA-BY-2.0

Guatemala Finca Candelaria – Lote Cedro

Guatemala
Guatemala
I find Lote Cedro to be a very enjoyable example of a Central American coffee. The dry fragrance ranges from toasted nut, and a honey sweetness, to a more fruited fragrance in darker roasts. The cup has a pleasant but not excessive brightness, which continues into darker roasts as well. This current batch is a melange, or mixture of dark and light roasts.

Finca Candelaria is a large, older farm, which had been neglected but is currently being restored and revitalized. This lot is a typical wet process Central American coffee, and was put together from day lots selected by the buyers at Sweet Maria’s.

Photo: Francisco Anzola on flickr, adapted/changed. License: CC-BY-2.0

About Us

Hayes Home Roast is two brothers with extensive experience roasting coffee at home for ourselves and a few friends. We decided to expand that activity into a small business, catering to a select group of coffee drinkers, and duplicating the unique experience of home roasted coffee for them, without their having to roast it themselves. If you’d like to try our coffee you can either buy a bag of our coffee, or try a free four ounce sample.

Probably the main thing we learned as home roasters was the importance of freshness for great tasting coffee. Fresh coffee is like fresh bakery bread. Freshness in bread is measured in days, freshness in coffee in weeks. After a week to two weeks coffee is no longer truly fresh. Unless you get your coffee at a local roaster, you may never or very seldom have experienced fresh coffee. We’ve dedicated ourselves to delivering truly fresh coffee to our customers. This is why we prominently feature the roast date and a best before date on our labels. The age of your roasted coffee is the single most important factor in good coffee taste.

Unless coffee is fresh, other considerations of quality are comparatively insignificant. What makes one coffee different or better than another is mostly the result of components of coffee which literally evaporate within the first week or two.

Evaluating coffee quality is done through a process very similar to wine tasting, and many thousands of samples must be tried in order to assemble even a short list of superior coffees. We rely on the people at our suppliers; Sweet Maria’s, their wholesale arm, Coffee Shrub, and InterAmerican Coffee, to do the preliminary selection.

We then choose our coffees from their selections,through our own tasting, and through feedback from a selected group of coffee drinkers. Part of this process is trying the coffee available from other roasters. I can honestly say that while I have had other roasters coffees as good as ours, I really haven’t found any that I would say is better. Please see for yourself either by buying a bag or getting our one time free sample.

Brasil – Carmo de Minas

What we’re roasting and shipping this week

Brazil Carmo de Minas Dry-Process Peaberry

Carmo de MinasThe current trends in coffee seem to be toward more aromatic and acidic coffees. Even Indonesians, traditionally known for their funkiness and body, are beginning to appear in brighter guises. This is fine.

Still, I’ve been finding myself hankering for the older style flavors, usually characterized by descriptives like nutty, chocolatey, or caramel. So I’ve selected a few coffees with this sort of flavor profile to offer.

This week I’ll be roasting a dry-process Brazilian peaberry from the Carmo de Minas region. A lot of Brazilian coffee is low altitude, and Robusta. This is a high grown Arabica, the basic requirement for high quality coffee. Dry processing tends to accentuate the syrupy, nutty flavor qualities present in this coffee. This pick is part of an effort on my part to complement the bright wet process Ethiopian and Central American coffees I’ve been selecting and roasting lately.

Peaberry refers to this being a selection of spherical, rather than the normal hemispherical beans. This probably alters roast characteristics somewhat, but there’s no evidence it has any recognizable effect on flavor.

Image: Véu de Noiva waterfall, from Wikimedia

What is Good Coffee? Part Two

Use enough coffee!

“Waiter, if this is coffee, bring me tea. If it’s tea, bring me coffee.” Serious coffee drinkers get the joke, we’ve all been subjected to weak coffee in restaurants. It’s not the worst, I would nominate late night long ago brewed convenience store Maxwell House for that honor, but it’s pretty bad.

This is fundamental. The basic thing here is that it’s much easier to use too little coffee than to use too much. Unless you’re quite sure your coffee is strong enough, try adding a scoop more to your ground coffee and see what it’s like. Actually try adding an extra scoop anyway. My own experience of this is there’s a fairly clear point at which the resulting brew is no longer weak, then a fairly extended range where your coffee is strong enough, and finally a point at which it becomes, to some palates at least, too strong.

Tastes will certainly differ, but most people seem to agree on the lesser quality of weak coffee. I find restaurant coffee is generally on the weak side. With high quality, expensive coffee, not using enough coffee is just a waste.

I’ve recently set up a small kitchen scale right next to my grinder, and have started weighing my grounds and water. When I start to get a feel for what’s what, I’ll share my experience here.

Perfect coffee

CupIs there any such thing? I’d say no. There are numerous ineffable coffee drinking experiences, of which you can have your share if you’re willing to observe certain fairly simple practices. Really good coffee isn’t some sort of unattainable goal, we are after all talking about a breakfast beverage here!

The fact that good coffee is almost nonexistent in practice has as much to do with volume and profit as it does with how hard it is to produce. The chief issues are due to the fact that coffee is actually a quintessentially local product, because once roasted it has such a short shelf life. In this case local means locally roasted, not grown, but the time between roasting and brewing is the critical point, when considering proximity. Processing and storage can greatly affect coffee’s quality, and improper handling in brewing can kill it just as surely, but most readily available “specialty” coffee dies on the grocer’s shelf.

Photo: Olga Pavlovsky on flickr, adapted. License: CC BY-2.0

Freshness

Freshness is probably the single most significant quality distinguishing a really extraordinary coffee drinking experience from what you get drinking merely good, but old, coffee. There’s a very narrow window when roasted coffee is at its peak.

Think of the difference between fresh baked bread, and day old, except the fresh period for coffee is a bit longer than for bread. This fresh period varies somewhat with the coffee, mostly relative to the degree of roast, but basically starts directly after roasting, reaches a peak a few days later, and then, roughly seven to ten days after roasting subsides into essentially stale coffee, not bad, or rancid, but missing the aromatic high notes, which are what distinguish one good coffee from another, and fresh from old.