This 12oz bag of coffee arrived on March 31, and I sampled it for this review April 1 and 2. The bag was clearly labelled with the roaster and coffee, so obviously my review is not blind.George Howell's Ethiopia Reko
Liner notes indicate this is is a washed, high-grown Ethiopian Kochere, from the Yirgacheffe region, harvested in 2014 and roasted for espresso on March 27. I would characterize the roast as medium. The beans are peaberries, evenly roasted and beautifully culled. There were essentially no broken bean fragments, quakers, or scorchers in the bag. None.Clean beans!
Either my nose is on the blink, or this roast exhibits an uncanny lack of aromaticity. I was unable to identify any dominant aromas in either the whole beans or ground coffee.
To start, I sampled the coffee in an Aeropress at a 1:15 brew ratio. This produced a clean, mild, balanced, tea-like brew with modest orange flavors.
I then sampled it as espresso on my Spaz S1. Coffee was ground on a dosered Robur, and dose was held constant at 15g (comparable to 18g on a 58mm basket). Brew temperatures were tested from 88C to 94C, brew ratios varied between 1:2 (50%, normale) and 2:3 (67%, modest ristretto), and brew times ranged from 25-30s. Coffee tasting was done first as straight espresso, then with sugar, then with sugar and a small amount of milk.
This coffee was relatively easy to dial in a standard grind and brew settings, although it blonds early.Crema color tends (coincidentally) to orange hues.
My espresso notes echo those from the Aeropress: clean, balanced, mild, tea-like, with a taste profile that is predominantly orange: orange aroma, orange juice, orange rind. There is essentially no chocolate, nuts, leather, tobacco, liquor aromatics. Liner notes state apricot and date; perhaps there is a hint of stone fruit, but I cannot taste date, raisin, or other dried fruit. This coffee is mild enough to enjoy as a straight shot, but also works well with small amounts of sugar and milk. At 5-6 days post roast, there was still a hint of effervescence. I suspect it is optimal for espresso after at least a week of rest.
I liked the Reko best when brewed at 92-93C. It is drinkable throughout a wide range of brew temperatures, but high and low temperatures emphasize sour acidity and/or orange rind bitterness. Slightly shorter pulls (25s) seemed to produce a more balanced flavor profile. Normale brew ratios (1:1) yield a light, tea-like shot, whereas modest ristretto brew ratios (2:3) enhance the syrupy mouthfeel.
I have never jumped on the 3WOJ* espresso bandwagon, preferring medium roasted espresso blends with a balanced taste profile to intensely fruity/acidic/sour light roasts. This coffee, with its citrus taste profile, could certainly be classed as 3WOJ. But it's a very enjoyable example of that category.
Who should buy this coffee: those looking for an exceptionally clean, light cup, dominated by citrus fruit flavors.
Who should not buy this coffee: those who prefer a classic Italian or west coast espresso blend, darker roasts, chocolate/nut/leather/tobacco taste profiles.
* Jim Schulman's wonderful acronym: third wave orange juice