Thursday, September 28, 2006

Daterra Sweet Collection (Brazil)

About the coffee: The Daterra sweet collection certainly has a reputation to live up to. From memory, coffee from this cooperative has been an ingredient of the winner's World Barista Competition blend in each of the last three competitions. Klaus Thomsen, this year's WBC, certainly used it as part of his two-bean blend (the other was Costa Rican Hacienda La Minita). Various Daterra coffees also get the stamp of approval from at least three Aussie coffee roasters who I respect a great deal; Mark from St Ali, Peter from Veneziano and Tony from Rio in Adelaide, who has used some Daterra stuff in Mecca Espresso's blend.

The cooperative is absolutely cutting-edge. Rather than waxing lyrical about their sustainability, research and education programs, I'll just direct you to the Daterra webpage to have a look around. It is very succinctly written. Go ahead. I'll fix myself a coffee while you're gone.

The image to the right is of a blacklight being used to screen for fermented coffee in the Daterra labs. Click on the image to go to Tom's gallery at Sweet Maria's, where the image came from.

Back? Hope that was a good read.

OK, so Andrew and I were desperate to get our hands on some of this. Luckilly, Ozgreens had laid their hands on a 24kg box and Ed and Graeme from Greenguys were able to organise for us to grab one of the two 12kg foil bags to ourselves. Hehehe. Daterra packaging is awesome.

The roasts: I have roasted this twice for espresso. The first roast, on the 31st of August, seemed to be inordinately slow. I stopped it at what I thought was the first signs of second crack. For the second roast, on the 15th of September, to avoid tempting fate, I asked the guys what setting they were using for their mogiana pulped natural and used that. Of course, I really should take better notes, including actually timing the roast properly ... one of the aims of starting this blog in the first place!

Nicely processed, very even screen size, guaranteed 11% moisture content ... not hard to see why roasters like this coffee! It even seems to photograph easily ...

Tasting Notes: 31 August roast

This turned out to be rather unimpressive. I suspect that I plain and simple under-roasted it. On the 8th, I was unable to find a combination of variables to reach a decent extraction. It was either thin, with pale crema and slightly sour, or developing some ashiness at an extraction designed to achieve a richer mouthfeel and tone down the sourness. With an extraction at the better end of the spectrum, as a double ristretto in a 170mL cup it was unable to overcome the Pura Cafe milk that I was using ... don't ask.

Tasting Notes: 15th September roast

Usually, increasing the brew temperature seems to bring out more sweetness in beans, so I began my exporation of this roast with an extra 15 seconds of heat added by flipping the steam switch. Shots pulled this way were universally unbalanced. Then it occurred to me that the whole point of having a coffee selected based on its sweetness is to not have to go to great lengths to increase the sweetness in the first place. Unsurprisingly, shots pulled at a normal brew temperature were much more balanced, and quite sweet.

At seven days of age, I hit the jackpot with this roast, getting a ristretto extraction that not only brought out the sweetness that I was looking for, but also brought out the marzipan/almond aroma and, to a lesser extent, flavour that I had tasted in other roasts of this bean (read: roasts by people who know what they're doing). Unfortunately, the shot was slightly burnt, as well. Speeding up the shot got rid of the burnt flavour, but got rid of the unique almond/marzipan sensation, too. (Sidebar; my burrs might need replacing) Using normal pura milk this time, caramel and hazelnut flavours came through in a cappuccino, but it was no tour de force.

I made one french press and the notes for that read "sweet, sweet, sweet ... I think I have diabetes."

Conclusion: A fantastic coffee, deserving of a better roaster than I. Although roasts of this stuff from St Ali have made great SO espresso, every single espresso that I have had with Daterra Sweet has been low in body and has had difficulty cutting through milk. Given Illy's involvement in setting up the amazing Daterra facility, I wonder if this is what fresh Illy is supposed to taste like?

I can really see using Daterra Sweet in an espresso blend, maybe even up to 30%. It would superbly complement a more 'bass note' coffee that adds syrupyness and cuts through milk. This coffee would also be great in lower pressure brewing methods, such as french press, vac pot and aeropress.

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8 Comments:

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Jason Haeger said...

Dude, I just discovered your blog, and I love it.

I hope you don't mind my linking to it on my blog.

-Jason "Jasonian" H.

 
At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Luka,

I'm John's friend in Bahrain. John recommended reading your blog. I was wondering is there is any art in using a french press, also is there a type of coffee that works best with a fp?

Your blog is nuts; I enjoy it.

-Lyna

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger Luca said...

Hey Jason,

Link away. We really need something like jimseven's blogroll!

Hi Lyna,

Can't believe that John actually mentioned this blog to anyone ...

FP is a great device; it's really simple, easy to clean and probably the most no-fuss brewing method around ... MUCH easier than espresso! There are, certainly, a few things that you can do that will make your FP coffee really shine. The most important things are:

(a) Use freshly roasted coffee. Usually, the best range for FP is something like 1 to 7 days after roasting.

(b) Grind the coffee that you want to use immediately before using it, using a burr grinder that is capable of producing an even grind.

These two principles apply to any method of brewing. Immediately after roasting, coffee seems to produce a lot of gas on the addition of hot water. Letting it settle for a little bit makes it much more manageable. Coffee, and, indeed, all other food, is constantly oxidised by contact with oxygen. After a certain amount of time, there is a marked increase in bitterness. When coffee is ground, the exposed surface area that can be oxidised by atmospheric oxygen is increased many thousands of times, bringing about an increased oxidation speed. So whilst coffee in whole bean form can remain fresh for a week or two, ground coffee will deteriorate rapidly after a matter of minutes. So, basically, FRESH = BEST!

FP actually gives you great control over variables! For example, if you want to go for a richer, more syrupy cup, you might use a coarse grind setting, use more ground coffee and allow it to steep for four minutes or so. If you want to bring out more of the acidity and unique, fruity flavours of whatever you're drinking, you might use a finer grind, a more standard dose of coffee and allow it to steep for less time (like two minutes or so). So I guess that from that you would pick up that (a) an increased dose will increase the concentration of the resultant brew and (b) a decreased particle size will result in a faster extraction (again, I suspect that this is related to the increase in surface area). Of course, if you have an uneven grind, such as might be produced by a blade grinder, the fines produced will overextract before the bulk of the coffee has extracted properly. So steer clear of blade grinders!

It would be worth your while making a few fps in a row with different combinations of the above variables, just to see what you like. Then you can settle on something standard, which will make it easy in future.

The final tips are to do with temperature management. Brewing coffee at too cold a temperature can fail to extract a range of unique flavours and result in a sour brew. Brewing it at too high a temperature can result in ashiness, bitterness and/or a really cutting acidity. Fortunately, it's realatively simple to manage this with a FP. The problem is that pyrex PFs will lose heat rapidly to their environment. A solution is to preheat the FP with boiling water, tip it out, then add your grounds, then pour boiling water on them. It seems to me that it is very difficult to overheat your FP. When the temperature is in the zone, the crema/foam/bloom produced will be darker in colour than if the coffee is cold (however, stale coffee also produces a light coloured crema). Wrapping the FP in a towel can, supposedly, help. I haven't really experimented with it, but my friend hazel (www.coffeealchemy.com.au) seems to think that it is a good idea. Again, it is worth your while experimenting with different temperatures whilst holding the brew constant. You could add boiling water and then 60mL of cold water, for example.

Two decent FP guides are:

http://www.coffeegeek.com/guides/presspot

and

http://www.sweetmarias.com/brewinstr.frenchpress.html

They basically say what I have said here, but more eloquently. And the first one has pictures!

In terms of best coffees for FP, it really depends on what sort of flavours you are looking for. For example, the daterra sweet collection from brazil is, unsurprisingly, very sweet (which manifests itself partly as a reduction in bitterness). Kenyan coffees tend to be very, very acidic. If you wanted something with heaps of body, a sumatran mandheling ground coarse and dosed up would deliver. ... and, of course, there are many, many more! I'll try to bold my FP cupping notes so that you can see what I think of future coffees that I review. There are heaps of great tasting notes linked on the right-hand-side of my blog. Most of these come from the "cupping" technique that roasters employ in order to decide whether or not they should buy coffees ... the flavours that come out are a lot more similar to french press than espresso.

Hrmmm ... that response probably merits being turned into a separate blog post ...

Cool, hope that helped some. If you and John have a grinder, in a week or two I'll roast some stuff for you and send it over.

Cheers,

Luca

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Alethea said...

Hey Luca,
just a note of appreciation of for blog...will be a regular reader
xo Tills.

 
At 7:33 PM, Blogger tiklod said...

Hi Luca,

This is Claude from your fan base here in Bahrain.

I like that bit about Daterra. Coming from the Caribbean (Haiti), we're very proud by our blue mountain coffee (so are the Jamaicans who are better at commercializing it).

How good is blue mountain actually? Seemed to be a bit overpriced.

Just seeking your opinion.

Claude.

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Heya Tillz, word up?

Heya Claude,

Glad to see that I'm keeping y'all amused! I have to agree with you that the Jamaicans are fantastic at commercialising their coffee!

I think that JBM really gained popularity through the nearby US market, which is very significant because the chief method of coffee consumption in the US is drip. Personally, I think that drip is utter swill - the temperature is almost always way too low and it seems to extract all of the flavours that I hate. JBM is a very well processed, mild and delicately-flavoured coffee that I'd imagine would perform very well in drip.

The Australian coffee market is quite anomalous, in that it is nearly 100% espresso-based. The only place where you really see a drip brewer is McDonalds and, even then, they have all recently given in to the market pressure to put in an espresso machine. Although many of the pros that I speak to here have good things to say about JBM, they all seem to agree that it just isn't great as espresso. Every single espresso that I have had with JBM has been disappointing. In fact, I remember shelling out something like four or five Euro for a shot at the famous "Tazza D'Oro" in Rome! The reason is, simply, that the cultivar just seems to be incapable of producing anything other than watery espresso.

So there you go; two different culturally-biased perspectives on JBM ;P

Personally, I'd never shell out the money for JBM. Owing to the misinformation and lack of information that coffee roasters across the world seem to perpetuate, I don't think that that many people are aware that JBM root stock was used to found a number of farms in PNG. In fact, one of the top espresso bars in australia bases their blend on PNG sigri ... and I still think that it's watery ;P Well, at least it doesn't cost as much as JBM!

Even for drip, or, better still, french press, there are a lot of island coffees that are similarly well processed and high in density that I would prefer over JBM. If I'm in the mood for something expensive, the Yauco Selecto from Puerto Rico wins hands down. Juicy, with starfruit, marzipan and rosewater flavours. (http://pourquality.blogspot.com/2006/08/yauco-selecto.html) The other one that I'm loving at the moment is PNG Kimel plantation, which uses a different cultivar. That said, both of these are fantastic as espresso, too!

Hmm ... Haitian coffee intrigues me. Presumably it gets snapped up by the US and Japan - I can't recall seeing it around these parts ...

Cheers,

Luca

PS. My first stop for coffee reviews is always Sweet Maria's (http://www.sweetmarias.com/). Comprehensive, well-written and Tom Owen has a sensational palate. You might be interested in what he had to say about JBM: http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.islands.jamaica.html

 
At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Luca,

Thank you so much for your reply. I was worried you would laugh at my question.

How did you learn so much about coffee? Keep it up-- you're fan base has expanded to Bahrain thanks to John.

We have a grinder here. It's called the "walk to the corner cafe and ask them to grind our coffee for us" but once we get one for our apartments I'll let you know.

Thanks again.

-Lyna

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger cing said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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