Sky Roast Coffee Help

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

#1: Post by spencie »

Hey all, I was recently gifted some Sky Roast Elida Catuai and I opened it today and just pulled my first shot. Visually, it is very similar development overall to something like Sey, so I would definitely suggest that the light roast description on the site fits. However, I was rather disappointed with the sorting. Below is the Sky Roast (left) next to Sey Felipe Luzon (right). You can see clearly that among the normal beans in the sky roast there is also one underripe cherry, one that was stuck and charred and never sorted, and then 2 more that are tipped and have a weird gradient to the color. I flipped those over to show the other side. Ignore the white balance for absolute roast level, what I'm trying to show here are relative differences. It's a light coffee even though the whole picture is kind of dark.

Well, I went ahead and set these suspicious beans aside and carefully sorted my dose. The shot pulled nicely at a similar grind to the Sey, April, and Passenger I have on hand. I used my Lagom P64 with SSP Redspeed MP burrs and Flair 58 pulling a nice and easy 6 bar peak, declining pressure shot. I used custom water with 12 ppm MgCl2, 8 ppm CaCl2, and 50 ppm Baking Soda mineral concentrations. This is a water I've found works well for balancing acidity and sweetness for these lightly roasted coffees. When I went to smell the coffee, I was a bit surprised. The bag smelled grainy and kind of funky, but I'd smelled scarier things before that taste great and figured it was just related to the repacked sample. Unfortunately, this shot followed the dry aroma perfectly. Grainy, savory, and overripe fruits filled my kitchen, and my purge cup smelled loosely of burnt rubber. The shot itself had a flat acidity, felt empty in the middle, and had mild notes of browned butter and caramel drowned out by overripe tropicals characteristic of funky natural coffees. The finish remains one of the most astringent I've experienced in months. After drinking the shot and letting it cool through its evolution, I guess I'm just confused what went wrong? Is there something wrong with my process for this coffee? High quality coffee like Elida has historically been very easy for me to make taste good, and my approach has worked well with other roasters, but I would never assume I'm flawless.

Or is the roast just not for me? There wasn't anything objectively wrong with it, i.e. no roasty flavors and it isn't obviously baked or vegetal/under, but subjectively this pull is not to my preference. I feel like it's a fool's errand to describe any roast as being low quality, especially since I enjoy roasts that land on the edges of being properly developed. I love very light coffees (think Manhattan, Nomad, The Picky Chemist filter roasts) where the cup is driven by acidity, there's not any trace of maillard flavors with appropriate dialing, and the resulting coffees are juicy, floral, and clean expressions. That's not a cup for everyone, but I love it. I say this to illustrate that I am a person who will try anything to get a cup I enjoy, and I do tend to enjoy everything that comes through my door. However, based on this morning, this Elida tastes more like it is trying to avoid offending anyone, and ends up being kind of middling instead to me. Because it's Elida, however, I want anyone's help to try to dial it in better on my next attempts.

Thank you all for your help and input

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#2: Post by Brewzologist »

Can't speak to your specific experience with your bag of Elida so will speak to generalities about this coffee. I roast this green and it is naturally variegated, and at light roast levels you will still notice gradations in color, so that alone isn't a defect IMO. Sounds like you've tried Elida before, and as a natural it's certainly different. I pull Elida at 2:1 with an F58 and MP burrs with 92C water. Your other concerns aside, you might try a 3:1 and lower temp to see if that helps.

spencie (original poster)

#3: Post by spencie (original poster) »

Thanks! As it happens, the roasters I frequent rarely stock naturals so I'm probably just not tuned in to what they can look like while still being totally good. I'll just sort the one or two charred beans out and the underripes and leave the rest. Appreciate the insight

I'm glad to hear our setups are so similar. When you say 92C water, you mean at the kettle right? I did a slight temp drop for this from boiling to 97C, but still preheated the machine to 3 dots. Is that where you are? This shot was a 1:2.5 so it sounds like I'm square between your recipe and recommendation.

I'll give that a try next!

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#4: Post by Brewzologist »

Yep, 92C at the kettle and with 2 lights (med setting) on the F58. I grind coarse enough to pull as a 'turbo' shot with about a 5 sec infusion allowing 1-2 gr out, then ramp to ~8 bar declining to ~4 bar over a total of 15-20 sec. That said, while I like Elida I roast it sparingly. I personally don't prefer naturals and anaerobics as much, but they are nice once in a while. Also nice to try as a filter brew.

spencie (original poster)

#5: Post by spencie (original poster) »

Brewzologist wrote:92C at the kettle and with 2 lights (med setting) on the F58. I grind coarse enough to pull as a 'turbo' shot with about a 5 sec infusion allowing 1-2 gr out, then ramp to ~8 bar declining to ~4 bar over a total of 15-20 sec.
Hey, I just about nailed this, got a pretty shot out of it too.

Some things did definitely improve. I have noticeable sweetness, a fuller body, it is much less aggressively funky to me now, and the grainy flavors are less prominent (only a subtle yeasty/roasty flavor in the retronasal). Overall, good changes. Thank you very much!

I'm still struggling to inject some vibrancy to the coffee though. The fruit flavors are adjacent to overripe, and the coffee has picked up a sawdust note now. The finish is astringent but differently; the coffee feels unpleasantly sticky to me. The acidity is less integrated and more hidden to me in-cup, alongside a less noticeable aroma. Any other thoughts from Brewzologist or anyone else? I'm close to seeing the potential of this Elida now, but I still feel like the "window" is clouded, if that makes sense.

One thing I will say is I asked my friend for the roast date of this coffee (which they ordered around 2 weeks ago), and was told that it was roasted January 22, 2023. I'm curious why the roaster was shipping such old coffee? Is this potentially part of my struggles? Maybe someone else with experience with Sky Roast can confirm or deny if their roasts respond well to age. I enjoy plenty of coffees around the 5-6 week mark but that may not work for this roast style.

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#6: Post by Almico »

The Sey Felipe Luzon is a washed coffee. Panama Elida from SkyRoast is a natural.

FWIW, naturals were fairly problematic with sorting in 2022, especially from Ethiopia.

You don't have the same issues with washed coffees because they are floated prior to milling which separates out the underripe beans.

As far as aging, Panama Elida really settles in at about two weeks post roast, especially for espresso. Anywhere from two weeks to six weeks is the best window from my experience.

spencie (original poster)

#7: Post by spencie (original poster) »

Washed and naturals do take on color differently so maybe it's not the best comparison to make, but I thought it was illustrative enough for general development level. Roasts can take many different styles beyond a color reading.

That's a good point about floating to remove some damaged cherries. The Felipe is extensively fermented following the floating step, but it's still additional sorting that cleans up the lot.

Ethiopian sorting has been poor all year from all lots I've tried save for one or two. The Wuri Zero-Zero lot stands out to me; that was great. I don't see how poor sorting from a large regional mill with lots of small producers translates to the coffee coming out of a competition Panamanian farm, however. Are you suggesting that this is a lower quality lot sold at a premium price simply because it came from Elida? Or rather that no one, not even Elida or similar, is treating naturals properly?

I am at about 5 weeks so right at the end of that window

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#8: Post by Brewzologist »

Glad those shot suggestions helped. Not much else I can say on that front. If you haven't tried many anaerobic or natural coffees you might compare others to the Elida. Your comments about overripe fruit for example, are things I note in naturals/anaerobics that are interesting occasionally, but they fatigue my palate quickly and so aren't my daily drinkers. Other descriptors I note in these coffees can be "winey" or "fermented" flavorings too. Of course everyone is different so I'm just describing my preferences.

FYI; when I roast Elida lightly I usually let it rest a good 5-7 days before bagging it. As with most coffees, time is needed to allow a coffee to start developing peak flavors, and I have some I won't touch until at least 2 weeks post roast. As I rarely buy roasted coffee I can't speak to whether Elida coffee roasted 2 weeks prior to ordering is old from a consumer standpoint. But from a pragmatic point of view I would drink it and not expect off putting flavors.

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#9: Post by luca »

Not sure how helpful this will be, but this would be my approach.

I can only see that you have tried this as espresso, which is kind of risky because the brew parameters can change stuff too much. For this reason, I'd always cup random samples that I'm given. I've had a bunch of coffees from Elida, and they aren't exactly subtle. Catuai is generally regarded as a fairly bland, chocolatey bean, when washed processed. I quite like it. From memory, it's a dwarf tree, so that's a reason why producers might like it - easier to pick. The Elida natural and anaerobic coffees tend to have a really intense fruit flavour, and you might just not like that. But I've never really had anything from them that had any sort of rough finish, unless it was a roast issue.

I think you should cup the coffee. Maybe try it at two grind settings; a finer and a coarser one, since sometimes darker roasts perform poorly at fine grind settings; they can taste pretty bad. I appreciate your diligence in exploring all of the extraction variables and really giving this coffee a chance to shine, but if it has a rough finish/grainy flavours/burnt rubber/browning notes/flat acidity, it may well be a roast issue; it sounds objectively baked. Perhaps when you cup it you could see if there are any toast type aromas (maybe that's the browning/grainy?) and see if you could describe the acidity by reference to other coffees. Catuai doesn't tend to be super high acidity, I don't think.

If you like Manhattan, Nomad and TPC, it may well be that this roaster is just not for you, and that's fine; if it were me and I had your experience, I'd probably just put the roaster on my personal blacklist and move on. There's an interesting question, really unnecessary to go into, as to whether the vast majority of "medium roast" coffees are usually baked. Of course, everyone that likes medium roasts and dislikes light roasts rails against this, and I think this is part of the difficulty in getting honest roast level descriptions out to people. But I usually get a bit of bitterness, astringency and generic toast or "coffee that tastes like coffee" type instant coffee flavours from roasts that try to be "jack of all trades" roasts, and most of the time for any roast that is recommended for espresso. People can bury their heads in the sand about this if they want; it's not helping anyone. Conversely, it'd be equally naive to suggest that Manhattan, Nomad and TPC are for everyone and are not very high acid roasts. What is much more helpful for consumers is if we can have a sensible discussion about where a coffee sits on the continuum from light, acidic and aromatic, to less acidic and baked (being a different consideration from roast colour) so that people can pick the bunch of compromises that suits them best with their eyes open, rather than relying on some roaster or reviewer's assertion or implication that a coffee is free of all negative attributes.

As a final thought that I've said before ...

Coffee roasters are like wives, not like pokemon. You don't need to constantly be seeking out new ones. As long as you have four or five that are good, you'll be pretty happy.

Anyway, that's just some thoughts from me; hope it helps.
LMWDP #034 | 2011: Q Exam, WBrC #3, Aus Cup Tasting #1 | Insta: @lucacoffeenotes

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#10: Post by CarefreeBuzzBuzz »

Coffee roasters are like wives, not like pokemon. You don't need to constantly be seeking out new ones. As long as you have four or five that are good, you'll be pretty happy.
Wait what? Are any of your four or five wives on your blacklist?

As to the OP, naturals and washed, are like college roommates, sometimes they get along and other times they don't.

In this case, you have two different processes so two different outcomes.
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