Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: El Salvador Honey Processed Bourbon Cajamarca Single Estate

Green and roasted coffee beans

This coffee from El Salvador has been one of my favorite coffees for the last 6 months or so. The coffee has one of the most complex sweetnesses I have ever tasted, which tastes both like honey and sweet chocolate with a citrusy finish. But what really blows my mind is the coffees viscosity, which when roasted just right is almost like butter.
The coffee is honey processed, which is a process where the coffee beans isn’t washed clean before drying in the sun, it is thus dried with part of the pulp still on, which produces an instance sweetness in the coffee. This process is also known as semi-washed coffee.

This video shows the drying process and you can clearly see that some of the pulp is still on the coffee.

As you can see on the greens pictured below, this process makes the coffee slightly more yellow.
Green semi-washed / honey processed beans vs. washed beans
El Salvador semi-washed to the left and Ethiopian washed to the right 

For me this Salvadoran coffee has the perfect taste balance when roasted just right, a lot of coffees have a sweet and round body, but without the citrusy punch at the end, thus making them kind of boring, like a typical Brazilian coffee which is used primarily in blends. It would be a shame to blend this coffee and in my opinion all good coffees shouldn’t be blended at all. Blends are often a way to sell boring and noncomplex coffees.
I have tasted the coffee both professionally roasted by Kaffemekka and roasted by myself. And I must agree with them in that it is a very difficult coffee to roast. The window of success is very small. If you roast the coffee to much all the citrusy notes will disappear, roast it too little and the citrusy taste will take over and make the coffee too sour. When I’m roasting it in my Behmor roaster, I drop the temperature at first crack by opening the door a bit, thus extending the time between first and second crack. I never take the coffee to second crack but try to hit a city+ to full city (right before second crack begins). This gives the coffee a slight bitter chocolaty and nutty taste, but still keep the citrusy notes in the aftertaste.
I haven’t experienced much with other brewing methods other then espresso, though I have tried it in aeropress, but the notes didn’t come through like in the espresso. After roasting the coffee it needs to rest for at least 5 days, before that the CO2 masks too much of the body and doesn’t let the sweetness and bitterness come through, leaving an overly sour and earthy taste in the cup. Because it’s a relatively mild coffee with delicate notes and a complex sweetness and while it's not roasted into second crack, I keep the brew ratio pretty high to concentrate the tastes even more and maximizing the sweetness. I keep the brew ratio at 70-85 percent making it almost a ristretto by the terms described in the brew ratio post. I keep the temperature pretty high to keep the sourness at bay, but it depends on the roast level. When it's pulled of just right the espressos viscosity becomes almost like butter in the mouth. Viscosity refers to a liquids "thickness", water has a low viscosity, but oil has a high.
Though I really like the coffee it doesn't seem to work in cappuccinos for me, the sweetness of the milk dolls the natural sweetness of both the chocolate and the fruit, and you are left with a very mundane experience. So keep the milk away from the espresso and enjoy the perfect balance of sweet, sour and bitterness. If you like a new school espresso with more sweetness and sourness then bitterness, I really do recommend this coffee.

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