Recent sampling of decaf offerings as espresso

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
walr00s
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#1: Post by walr00s »

I've been struggling to find a decaf that is anywhere near as enjoyable as the caffeinated coffees I've been brewing since I got my machine near the beginning of the year. This is probably at least in part due to my palate...I very much do not enjoy darker roasts coffees and would prefer to drink just about anything else than generic tasting, "bold" coffee in any format.

But since I've been experimenting with lots of different roasters' offerings, I figured I'd share my findings in the hopes that others will share theirs. So here's the list:

Levercraft Colombia Decaf Huila: One of the first that I tried and also one of the best. It's got some fairly standard tasting notes of "brownie, chocolate, citrus" and I was able to get these notes with a ~2:1 in ~35s (19g in 36g out, 10s preinfusion). At the time I was drinking it, I didn't fully appreciate that it tasted mostly like a pretty decent lightish-medium caffeinated with very detectable sweetness and pleasant acidity.

Kuma Costa Rica El Poeta Decaf: I never found a sweet spot with this coffee. Tried it at the 4, 7, 10, and 14 day marks. In the 10-14 day range, I did get a hint of citrus and a slightly sweet finish with a long brew ristretto (19g in 25g out, 55s w/ 15s preinfusion), but with plenty of other flavors I did not care for...and none of it stood up to milk, where it turned into a very generic coffee taste.

Camber Coffee's Goodnight Moon Decaf blend: Got this one from a decaf sampler pack from crema.co. The first 4 oz sampler I got was easily my favorite of all the decafs I have tried. The tasting notes were pear, graham cracker, and milk chocolate. The beans were visibly light roasted. The finer I ground my coffee, the stronger the flavors (I got apple more than pear, but splitting hairs) were. It shone in milk. Since, I have ordered 2 separate 1lb bags and was a bit disappointed to find the tasting notes had changed (berries, milk chocolate, citrus) and the beans were visibly darker roast. The graham cracker flavor is still present, but the pear has been replaced by a more rich, roasty flavor. Still one of the better decafs I've tried, but not nearly as noteworthy as my first go with it.

Onyx Decaf Colombia Huila: This coffee had some intriguing tasting notes, unfortunately I don't recall them exactly, but I remember being excited by floral and fruity promises. Sadly, it delivered an unmemorable experience, much roastier tasting than I had hoped. There was nothing wrong with it and it did have a caramel finish, but it wasn't for me. To be fair to it, it was the first decaf I tried with my new setup and I may not have done it justice.

Figure 8 Colombia Valle Del Cauca Decaf: Another Austin roaster that regularly produces coffee that I love both in the cafe and on my home machine (their Ethiopian Dari Hambela is like drinking a raspberry). My experience with this particular bean was confounding. I bought it here just after Uri came through and shut everyone down for a week. It had been roasted the same day. Two days later, I opened the bag to find somewhat greasy looking beans and a funky smell. I waited another day before giving it a shot and received a jammed grinder and some truly sour coffee for my efforts. I let it rest for another few days before giving it another shot. This time I was rewarded with a rich chocolate graham cracker, and from days ~7-11 that mostly remained true. After the 11th day, I tried it several times, getting very thin looking extraction and unpleasant bitterness, so the coffee went in the trash.

Cafe Medici Decaf Blend: Again another Austin roaster, though not one I frequent. The bag said medium roast, the beans said dark-dark-dark roast, the taste said dark-dark-dark-dark roast. I gave them to my parents who are more Italian style espresso drinkers.

Nossa Familia Brazil SWP Decaf: Another one that was immediately detectable as too dark for my tastes. I got more chocolate/caramel sweetness out of this one, but still not something I enjoyed drinking. Definitely closer to medium than the Medici, but still too bold for me.

Upper Left Decaf Blend: I only got a sampler of this one, and I really struggled with it. It came out super thin and while I got a hint of graham cracker and sweet fruit, I mostly got punched in the face with bitterness. Unfortunately I didn't have enough beans to fix whatever I did wrong here and get a valid impression.

Still on my list: Four Barrel decaf offering. Old Soul Colombia Decaf Aponte (honey process). Peixoto Sugarcane Decaf. Onyx Colombia Aponte Village Decaf. Completely open to suggestions!
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pizzaman383
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#2: Post by pizzaman383 »

I will add my perspective. Basically, try to live on the other end of the decaf spectrum. I was seeking well balanced classic darker roast (classic Italian style) decaf espresso that tasted good very consistently. I didn't want overly burned, bitter, or sharp tastes.

I have found these espresso blends work for me with very little change in temperature, grind, dose, and brew ratio using my lever:
- Miscela D'oro Espresso Decaffeinato
- Lavazza Dek
- Essse Caffe Selezione Decaffeinato
- danesi Espresso Italiano Naturally Decaf
- Caffe Vicere Decaffeinato
Curtis
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milehi

#3: Post by milehi »

This topic has a few threads that may be of help:

Decaf Coffee Suggestions
Decaf Coffee Suggestions Revisited

Good luck with your search and thanks for the report on the coffees you have tried.

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Willinak
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#4: Post by Willinak »

walr00s, I'm curious if you have tried any of the Ruta Maya coffees. I really like their full caff medium roast, and for milk drinks, with just a touch of their Café Jiguaní™ mixed in. Unfortunately they only offer one dark roast decaf, and I haven't tried it.

I share your opinion of the Camber Coffee's Goodnight Moon Decaf blend. Out of the four Crema.co decafs, it was by far the best.

I have some Levercraft in the mail, so anxious to give that a try.

walr00s (original poster)
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#5: Post by walr00s (original poster) »

milehi wrote:This topic has a few threads that may be of help:

Decaf Coffee Suggestions
Decaf Coffee Suggestions Revisited

Good luck with your search and thanks for the report on the coffees you have tried.
Thanks! I'll make sure to check those threads out. Maybe I should have posted there but it seemed like resurrecting the dead a bit.
Willinak wrote:walr00s, I'm curious if you have tried any of the Ruta Maya coffees.
I haven't! Their website seems a little bare bones. There's no tasting notes on any of the coffees?

dreadnatty08

#6: Post by dreadnatty08 »

I always enjoy a rehash of this topic. I'm forever looking for a solid decaf. Currently I'm enjoying some from Monogram Coffee in Calgary; the Burka Gudina. It's pretty light on the roast which is a nice change from the usual over roasted bunch I generally get. I'll have to look into a couple you mentioned.

My favorite to date is by far the Four Barrel Decaf Espresso.

lessthanjoey

#7: Post by lessthanjoey »

Thanks for bringing this up walr00s!

I'm on a bit of a decaf hunt too and similarly generally prefer lighter coffees (I rarely drink anything medium anymore, mostly light to very light) so decaf is always a bit of an outlier and it's hard to find something I like.

I have some Levercraft Decaf incoming too so was happy to read your notes on it!

A couple of others I've had recently:
Brandywine DECAF - ETHIOPIA - YIRGACHEFFE - SWISS WATER DECAF - NATURAL
The tasting notes really are bang on. This is orange marmalade on a pile of yeasty bread. It's evocative of croissant like they say, but it's quite strongly yeasty to me so beware if you're not sure on that front.

Luna EA Decaf - Pink & Yellow Bourbon from Huila and Magdalena, Colombia
This is really pretty good! It's quite bright and I get tropical fruit and floral notes from it. It's still not as good as good caffeinated coffees with those notes, but it's very enjoyable. However it's currently out of stock, and who knows if it'll be different if/when it comes back.

Counter Culture Slow Motion
Not medium or light at all, this is pretty dark and I don't like it as espresso. In milk however, I enjoy it as a chocolate milkshake and my wife loves it. It's not our usual style but it punches through milk in a pleasant way that most of the lighter decafs don't.

Savorista Kenyan Sunset Decaf
This one was a few months ago and also is no longer in stock but I really disliked it. I was excited since Savorista focuses on decaf and half-caf but I thought it was awful. Bitter with no balancing notes no matter what I did with it (short/long ratio, high/low temps). Thin, and bitter.
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Cyberness

#8: Post by Cyberness »

I was using their dark roasts for French Press, but it appeared to be so bitter and oily that I had to literally cut a dosage by two to make is drinkable (I'm not a fan of bitter and harsh coffee).
Tried that once for espresso, same thing, way to bitter for my taste. Didn't try medium though.

walr00s (original poster)
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#9: Post by walr00s (original poster) »

lessthanjoey wrote:Thanks for bringing this up walr00s!

Brandywine DECAF - ETHIOPIA - YIRGACHEFFE - SWISS WATER DECAF - NATURAL
The tasting notes really are bang on. This is orange marmalade on a pile of yeasty bread. It's evocative of croissant like they say, but it's quite strongly yeasty to me so beware if you're not sure on that front.
Am going to include my notes on other coffees I've tried, but the highlight is that this one is probably my go-to for the foreseeable future. In a small amount of milk, it's like a creamy chocolate cherry croissant...truly magical. Lots of fruitiness, a really interesting breadiness that I've come to associate with good (usually SO) decafs. I think that I may have originally found it through another post by you, responding to questions about lists of best roasters, so cheers! And as an aside, I also got the Honduran Royal Reserve and the Ethiopian Guji Decaf from Brandywine and they are both wonderful as well.

SEY - Edison Rodriguez Decaf - Very similar to the Levercraft and some others I have tried, caramel, slightly nutty, mostly sweet. Good coffee but not exactly what I was looking for.

George Howell - Decaf Jardin Espresso - The website said medium roast, but I'd say dark. Maybe it's the darker side of medium...in the end though this tasted like roast. I'm sure it's a high quality roasty flavor but uhhh...yeah, I was real disappointed given the roaster's reputation for light roasting.

George Howell - Decaf Columbi Los Idolos - The website says Light roast...it certainly looked and tasted closer to medium. It was similar to the Levercraft but slightly roastier and also I could never get it to flow nicely without a very long preinfusion, which frankly brought out some gross flavors in these beans. Again, very unimpressed by George Howell's decaf offerings relative to their rep.

Barret's - Decaf Blend - Local Austin roaster. I've enjoyed their Crestview blend on occasion, though it is muddier than I normally prefer. The first 1-2 seconds I had this coffee in my mouth, it was clearly dark but still somewhat tasty, and then suddenly I had the very visceral sense that my mouth was filled with motor oil and I involuntarily coughed it out. My mouth continued to feel like it was lined with motor oil for more than a day afterwards...no idea what happened here but it was extremely unpleasant.

Old soul - Decaf Columbia Aponte Honey - Despite the honey process, I failed to detect much of a difference between this and the Levercraft. Don't think I could pick them apart in a blind testing tbh. Levercraft gets the hometown win for me so if I'm looking for this sort of caramely experience, I'll stay local. This was good coffee, just similar to what I already have available to me.

Brandywine - Decaf Ethiopian Yirgacheffe - It's fruity. It's bready. The tasting notes are very accurate, to my palate. I could drink it forever. Think I'm averaging 3 shots of this a day right now. It's better than that first batch of Camber that I loved. Big thanks to the forum member that recommended Brandywine in one of the roaster rating threads.

Brandywine - Decaf Ethiopian Guji - Like a toasted gram cracker with candied orange on top. There's a slight bit of acidity here, and very faint fruitiness, along with a somewhat spicy breaded taste. Wow. Very similar to my first experience with Camber's Good Night Moon. Another big win.

lessthanjoey

#10: Post by lessthanjoey »

Thanks for the update.

I actually came to dislike the Brandywine Yirg Decaf after getting more used to it. I dunno, that yeasty flavor got to me after awhile. I'm glad that you're enjoying it though!

I've also tried Levercraft and Regalia Colombian EA decafs now, and I guess I didn't mention it before but I'd also had the George Howell Los Idolos decaf. I find all of the Colombian EA decafs very similar in flavor profile with the exception of Luna which was much brighter and still by far my favorite.

I agree the George Howell is a little more difficult to make "look nice" although I get reasonable results from it.

So far for Colombian EA I like Luna >> Levercraft = Regalia > George Howell but other than Luna I find them quite similar.