Counter Culture Coffee - Free Summer experiences

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.

#1: Post by mattwells »

I have now been through my pound of coffee from CCC and thought (with a little prompting from Dan) that I would write up my responses as part of the 1,000,000 message views countdown contest.

As my reward, I chose the Toscano 2005. The website describes it as: "A wonderful espresso roasted and blended in the Italian caffe dolce or "sweet coffee" tradition. Sweet and mild, with notes of caramel, hazelnut, and dark chocolate." It is a blend of: "Brazil Fazenda Ipanema "Dulce" ° Sulawesi Kalossi ° Sumatra Aceh."

My caveat to this review is that my palate is not as refined as some, although more refined than others.

About my tastes: I tend to like a sweeter espresso blend (although I am looking at trying SO's in the near future), which this promises to be. I will be trying it as straight espresso, americano, and in a latte, although my inability to properly foam milk will definitely effect that. My wife drinks americanos and lattes and I will try to gauge her reaction as well.

I have been having trouble getting nice microfoam, so I will probably try to stay away from the milk drinks for my evaluation on taste.

I really liked this blend. Although I did not get notes of 'hazelnut' you could definitely taste caramel upon first hitting the mouth and then a dark chocolate flavor that lingered on the palate. It is not an overly-complex blend, but is very pleasant for what it is: sweet espresso.

As a straight espresso I liked it best, although it took me a while to get to the right brew temp for it. I found that it liked to be a little cooler than many of the other blends I have tried. Once the temp was right, it took most of the bitter out of the front end of the sip and any bitter that was left was quickly overtaken by other flavors. I tried a few different extraction times and liked it better as a longer pull (28-35 seconds I think) when I could get the grind to hit there, it seemed perfect.

As an americano it was still very good. I have to let my americanos cool before drinking, but I still enjoyed it. My wife did not think it was as good as some of the others we had tried, but could not remember a blend she liked more, so she enjoyed it as well.

In a latte, well...with steamed milk, my wife really liked it. I don't think she would care what was in her latte though as long as warm milk was included. I thought it was okay, but the poorly foamed milk had me too distracted to make a judgement.

As a side note, this blend was the nail in the coffin on the 'should I upgrade my grinder' question. I really needed micro adjustment for it. I ended up putting the Rossi about halfway in between two notches to get a decent pour. I had two shots that were extremely good and they were 29 sec. and 33 sec. On the notch above, I had a blonde gusher and on the notch below I didn't choke the machine out, but you were looking at a minute for 1.5 ounces. It was hell, but worth it when it worked right. Now I have to decide which infinitely adjustable grinder I would like.

My .02, take it with a grain of salt, YMMV, etc.

Matt Wells

LMWDP #160

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#2: Post by jesawdy »

I too have received the first two coffees from CCC.

Last week was the Espresso Toscano 2005 which is about gone (and I was sick several days and had no coffee). This is everything that you have read here and elsewhere. Absolutely excellent. I have been enjoying this nice light Northern Italian style roast as a straight espresso, in Cafe Americanos (my beverage of choice) and several macchiatos. This is my personal preference for style and roast at the moment. The Toscano has also been pretty forgiving.

This week is the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Ambessa which arrived last night. Yirgacheffe is my favorite SO coffee. I've dabbled a little in SO espressos and for right now, this one is a little too wild/bright for my palate as an espresso, but perhaps after some rest it will calm down. I've pulled two so far, one last night and one tonight, and I am not dialed in on the grind yet. A little too fine last night, and a little too coarse tonight. I sipped each as espresso and then diluted down to an Americano. Nice floral and citrus and really enjoyed it after dilution with a dab of honey. I will have to take this one into work and try in on the superautomatic. I've found several SO's that I enjoy as an espresso in the superautomatic, that are just too crazy from my Silvia at home (for my current palate at least).

I want to add a few comments... first I've had some good conversation with MarkO at CCC via PMs. Secondly, the packaging is marvelous. The shipping box alone is a thing of beauty, nice size/shape/construction and a very sharp print on the box. The coffee bags are plastic and foil-lined paper bags with a valve, and a nice logo sticker and description on the bag. No roast date on the bag, but I am going to assume it is roasted and shipped on the same or next day. This week's shipment included a nice two page color print from the Origins newsletter describing the coffee and a trip to Yirgacheffe... nice touch.

Thank you Mark and Counter Culture Coffee (and, of course, HB as well). It's going to be a great summer.



#3: Post by MarkO »

Hey Amigos,

Great to know that beans are arriving safely and you're enjoying the contest booty.

jesawdy -- I'm a little concerned that you didn't see a roast date on the bag. Just to make double sure, if you still have the bag, would you mind checking the very bottom (in the fold)? Your coffee was roasted and shipped on the same day and we have a STRICT policy to indicate so on every bag. Just want to make sure.

On a side note about Toscano, expertly pulled shots of Toscano by DC-based murky coffee provided my first introduction to CCC, and that caramely sweet, lingering taste will always bring back fond memories. When I was visiting there last weekend, Ryan Goodrow and I pulled lots of shots of the Yirg Ambessa. You're right -- a wild one! Once Ryan (an INFINITELY better barista than me) dialed it in, he got more sweetness out of it than we expected, resulting in a flavor not unlike Lemonheads candy.

And you're right, I'm learning more and more about how much difference the grind can make. It's part of why pulling that one great shot is so rewarding -- so many precise steps must be well executed in the proper sequence to create cup quality. And truly, those steps begin on the farm, carry through picking, milling, exporting, storing, roasting, packing, etc. until it arrives on your doorstep. Then it's all you!

PM me anytime with special requests regarding your winnings. The latest is on the way.


Mark Overbay

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#4: Post by jesawdy »

MarkO wrote:I'm a little concerned that you didn't see a roast date on the bag. Just to make double sure, if you still have the bag, would you mind checking the very bottom (in the fold)? Your coffee was roasted and shipped on the same day and we have a STRICT policy to indicate so on every bag. Just want to make sure.
I will have to look more closely then, I was anticipating a stamp or sticker near the label. I'll let you know.

UPDATE - Yes indeed, both bags have a roasted on date stamped on the bottom of the bag at the fold.



#5: Post by MarkO »


Cool, thanks for checking.

Hot tip: The brand new crop of Mexico Pluma La Trinidad, or 'La Trini' for short, just hit the roasters. We'll officially open web sales on Monday 6/19. This classic coffee has serious chocolate with a nice body. I've cupped it the last three days and this new crop is really winning me over. I'd like to hear what some H-B's think of this coffee as an SOS. Just something to think about as you decide on your next bag. And of course, I'm always happy to surprise you.


Mark Overbay

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#6: Post by jesawdy »

OK, give me another week with this Yirgacheffe, and I will try the 'La Trini' next. I'll probably be ready for the Toscano or similar espresso blend after that.

Okay, more notes on the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Ambessa:

Since my last post, I had a chance to have a small press pot and another double espresso. The presspot was very good and very complex. I kept thinking to myself that this cup reminded me more of the experience of drinking a tea rather than a coffee (if that makes any sense).

Just now, I managed a great pull of the Ambessa. 16.5g in a LM ridgeless double basket, 2 oz. in 25 sec. The basket was not heaping, so I am glad I took the time to measure the weight of the beans. I am using a PID controlled Silvia set at 228.5F, which with a foam cup and a frothing thermometer I am measuring 200F to the PF (no PF attached) and about 195-196F to the cup (PF attached, no coffee with either). Okay, it was lemony for the first few sips, but not sour, smooth no bitterness as the cup progressed and less lemony. The very last sip had gotten cold (as I cruised the HB forums) and was in fact sour at this point. Found the whole thing enjoyable and look forward to some more espressos from this SO. The roasted date was 6/12, so it is 5 days out now. I will use the Ambessa all next week and see how it fares in other espresso drinks.

I have been finishing up the Toscano (and my other espresso beans that I had before winning the contest) , and I probably have one double left of the Toscano.... that'll be gone later today.



#7: Post by PeterG »

Okay, more notes on the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Ambessa: ......I kept thinking to myself that this cup reminded me more of the experience of drinking a tea rather than a coffee (if that makes any sense).
Great observation. The tea-like characteristic is one of the most commonly observed, yet little talked-about, characteristics of the majestic Yirgacheffe.

I think it is what tasters call a "fantasia" flavor: the lemongrass notes, along with the jasmine fragrance, combine with the slightly tannic body of the coffee to create a very tealike experience.

Well done, and I'm glad you liked it.

counter culture coffee

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#8: Post by jesawdy »

Earlier I reported on my first two shipments of my Free Summer of coffee from Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, NC. Below are my more recent experiences.

Shipment # 3

Organic Mexico Pluma - La Trinidad
From the famous Pluma region in Oaxoca, Mexico comes this wonderful, Fair-Trade, organic, shade-grown coffee. Our relationship with the La Trinidad coopeative growing group allows us access to the very limited production of this coffee. A lush and velvety bosy support notes of chocolate and cherry - a perfect example of one of the most famous coffee styles in the world. Easy to drink and accessible, perfect for all day sipping.
Okay, this one I did not get to have much as an espresso, I enjoyed most of this bag from a drip pot while on vacation with a less than stellar grinder. It was my experience that milk or cream really made this coffee pop! By adding a little half and half to this coffee, the sweetness was GREATLY accentuated. There was a lot more sweetness than the milk would possibly add. Upon my return from my drip pot bound vacation, I enjoyed the rest of this coffee in cappuccinos. Let me say here that this was an excellent coffee for cappuccinos. Again, very, very sweet with the addition of the steamed milk. You would have sworn that sugar or syrup had been added. If you like cappas, check this one out.

Shipment # 4

Counter Culture Coffee Espresso T-shirt
Who doesn't need a nice espresso shirt? The Counter Culture espresso logo in orange on a black shirt. T-shirt is a great quality Hanes Beefy-T. If you'd like a nice coffee related T-shirt, check them out.

Shipment # 5

Espresso Aficionado
Roasted in the classic Northern Italian style, Espresso Aficionado creates a sweet, complex espresso experience. Delicate, with a long, soft aftertaste, this blend is perfect as a straight shot or in a classic Italian cappuccino. Aptly named, this coffee is a favorite among old-schoolers and well-traveled home baristas.
I of course want to try all the espresso blends. This one has been used mostly as straight espressos and Americanos, with an occasional milk drink. As a straight espresso, this one has a little chocolate, a little red wine and some spice. It is good, but I would say that I prefer the Espresso Toscano (which will be revisited).

Shipment # 6

Spreading the love a little bit. Had MarkO send a bag of the Espresso Toscano 2005 to my brother in Ohio. I am awaiting his comments.

More later.


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#9: Post by cannonfodder »

jesawdy wrote: Spreading the love a little bit. Had MarkO send a bag of the Espresso Toscano 2005 to my brother in Ohio. I am awaiting his comments.

Ohio, where in Ohio?

When the tamper road show makes its way to me in Dayton, I would love to have a couple of other people put hands on them for an opinion, but I know NO one local that has ever made an espresso. You/He/She/It would get a chance to fondle several hundred dollars worth of tampers and pull shots in my Isomac, Faema and Gaggia lever machine if interested.
Dave Stephens

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#10: Post by jesawdy »

cannonfodder wrote:Ohio, where in Ohio?
He is in Columbus. Wheter he could get away for a day or not may be the question. He is in his last year of vet school (clinicals) at Ohio State University. I'll send you his contact info in a PM.