Lavazza ”Espresso Italiano Classico”—good enough for the price

So you want to make some Italian coffee, but there are no good coffee shops around? OK, you walk into the local supermarket, and see bags of Lavazza Espresso Italiano Classico. But is it good?

Here’s what I think.

It’s OK. Obviously, it is not the most flavorful espresso on the market. But what can you expect? It’s a mass produced blend that is sold in regular grocery stores. It also costs less than half of the price of better Italian espressos.

Lavazza does not provide much information on Espresso Italiano Classico. They only tell us that it is

  • a straight Arabica blend
  • roasted ”light”
  • aromatic and velvety.

They also say that the intensity is 5/10—whatever that means.

Since we are talking about a ”classic” Italian espresso blend, I just had to try making it in my Bialetti Moka pot.

Initially, it felt very smooth and pleasant in the mouth. Then, after two of three seconds, I was hit by the ”intensity”. It was somewhat acidic, and it had this piercing vibe to it which made me think of Illy espressos. But then, after another three seconds or so, it calmed down considerably. The finish was extremely well-rounded and mild—perhaps you could call it ”velvety”—, almost to the point where I couldn’t really detect the flavors anymore.

So yes, Espresso Italiano Classico seems to do exactly what Lavazza suggests. It is a decent Italian style espresso for anyone on a budget. I probably will not buy it anymore, but I do think that it is good enough for the price.

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E’s World Coffee ”Four . . . .”—The Perfect Morning Blend

This is my fourth blend from E’s World Coffee (Anchorage, AK). Coincidentally, it is also called Four . . . . On the company website, the product is described as follows:

Crafted for it’s floral aromas. This blend is a superb mix of Central and South American coffees roasted at a full city roast. It boasts, a complex range of flavors (black tea, dried fruit, brown sugar, hazelnut and milk chocolate). While having a medium overall body and delightful tastes with every sip.

The blend is roasted ”Blackish”. This is the lightest roast offered by the company. In my opinion, it is quite similar in darkness to many good Italian espresso blends. For a compact explanation of ”full city roast”, check out this article.

Since this coffee was created for the pour over/filter category, I did what I usually do: I used my AeroPress (several different recipes).

The mouthfeel was very similar to the one in the darker Three Head: extremely smooth and milky.

As for the flavors, I couldn’t have articulated it better; everything E’s World promised was there. Just like their other blends, Four . . . . provided (sorry for repeating myself!) a wonderful mélange of flavors. This time, however, the point was not to distiguish individual flavors from the whole profile. Instead, the blend was all about… well, the blend, or the collaboration of the flavors.

In my opinion, Four . . . . is the perfect morning coffee. It is moderately complex, yet simple enough to work well in those early hours when your palate has not woken up yet. It is a delicious midrange-forward mixture that will not force you to think too much. It is medium robust, yet mild enough not to punch you in the face. It provides everything I want in my morning cup. Truly excellent!

Now, show some love to E’s World Coffee and order some of their fantastic blends! You will be happy you did!

Lastly, I want to offer my gratitude to the master roaster Earnest Rawlins and his good wife for giving me the opportunity to taste these great coffees. Thank you!

E’s World Coffee ”Three Head”—solid American coffee… and more!

Oh, this is great: Another generous package from E’s World Coffee (Anchorage, Alaska)! This time, the award winning master roaster Earnest Rawlings and his wife sent me two of their lighter roasted coffees. As some of you may remember, I absolutely loved the previous two blends I got from them. One Grouphead and Two Group easily made my list of Top 10 Coffees of 2020. Naturally, I was pretty excited to receive some of their other products. Thank you so much!

So, here’s the first one: Three Head. On their website, E’s World describe this coffee as follows:

A blend of Central American coffee crafted to delight the taste buds. The flavors of cocoa and roasted almonds, hazelnut and brown sugar with medium body, rich flavor and smooth follow through. This #3, was blended for manual brewing, auto drip, French press, pour overs and Cold brew. It absolutely shines using the auto drip method. Enjoyed to be brewed as a good rounded, cup of coffee. (No milk or sugar necessary) 😉

Briefly, this is exactly what you get.

I should also mention that the blend is categorized ”Black”. As I’ve mentioned earlier, E’s World Coffee products come in four degrees of roast: ”Blackish”, ”Black”, ”Blacker”, and ”Blackest”. So, Three Head is the second lightest roast offered by the company. Even so, it is quite dark indeed.

Since I don’t really use the auto-drip machine, I tried brewing the coffee in my AeroPress. Here’s what I found out:

Yes, the body was medium. The mouthfeel was very smooth and milky.

What about the flavor? Initially, I thought that Three Head is just solid black coffee in the American style. While it was very enjoyable, it felt a lot like a straightforward all day blend—not unlike some products by Seattle’s Best Coffee or Starbucks (without the ”Starbucks note”, of course). After a couple of cups, however, I started to realize how complex it actually was. Three Head offered a wonderful mélange of flavors: roasted almonds, nuts, some cocoa, and perhaps a hint of bitter chocolate—talk about ”Central American” flavors! There might have been a tiny hint on vanilla and baking spices as well.

In this way, Three Head was a lot like some medium to dark roasted filter coffees made by my favorite Japanese coffee companies. It actually reminded me of Blend 3 Original by Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲). (Both blends are numbered ”three”!) If you ask me, Three Head might be a big hit among Japanese lovers of solid black coffee.

I loved every single cup!

Now, hurry up to the E’s World Coffee website and order some Three Head! You will be sure to feel their love for excellent coffee!

My top 10 coffees of 2020

In 2020, I got to enjoy at least 73 different coffee blends or single origin coffees from 12 different countries and 33 companies. Now it’s time to wrap up the year by listing the very best products!

While I had the opportunity to try all kinds of coffees, all of the products that made my top 10 list were unflavored high-end coffees. That said, I included one flavored coffee and one grocery store blend into the ”Honorable Mentions” category.

Like last year, the products were so different from each other that it wouldn’t have been fair to compare them with each other. Therefore, instead of ranking the coffees, I organized them into three categories according to the approximate roast level (dark, medium, and light). Of course, the darkness of a roast is a subjective matter. It is also probably not the best way to categorize coffee products. Obviously, there are so many other factors that affect the flavors. However, I wasn’t able to come up with a better way to list the coffees. So, in each of the three categories, I presented the coffees in alphabetical order according to the company name. The resulting list can be thought of as a pool of excellent coffees. You can pick any product you want and end up enjoying a truly memorable experience.

I used two different brewing methods. Espresso coffees were brewed in my three cup Bialetti Moka pot. On the other hand, the coffees that were intended for other brewing methods I prepared in my AeroPress, with my favorite inverted method and a paper filter. I used no additives.

So, here we go. My top 10 coffees of 2020:

Dark roast:

Medium roast:

Light roast:

You could not go wrong with any of these coffees. Unfortunately, some of these products might already be out of stock. If that is the case, you could check out any product from these great roasteries. They really know what they do.

Lastly, there were three blends that did not make the top 10 list but still deserve to be mentioned.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hamwi Café Classic—the best flavored coffee (cardamom) (United Arab Emirates)
  • Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—the best Greek grocery store coffee (Greece)
  • Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—the best Finnish grocery store coffee (Finland)

Special thanks to everyone at Cafetoria Roastery, E’s World Coffee, Kahwe, Mokafina, Muki, and Rob Beans Coffee for making this possible!

Now it’s time for me to take a small break and enjoy some great blends I recently received from the USA. I’ll be back in early January to tell you about them!

Happy New Year!

Paulig ”Christmas Coffee”—semi-sweet cinnamon rolls!

The other day, as I went Christmas shopping, I got this: Christmas Coffee from Paulig, the Finnish coffee giant. Nice! I had never had it before.

On the bag, Paulig does not give away a lot of information about the product. The description is pretty concise:

A delicious coffee blend, flavoured with real cinnamon and cardamom. This secret recipe, particularly for Christmas, has been perfected by our years of experience.

Other than that, the company only reveals that the roast level is 3/5. Oh yes, the symbols on the bag do indicate that the (pre-ground) product is intended for filter coffee machines or French press. Of course, I decided to make it in my AeroPress. It worked really well with my trusty plastic tube!

The bag note was very pleasant and natural. There was absolutely nothing artificial to it. The aroma was reminiscent of traditional Scandinavian cinnamon rolls and gingerbread cookies.

I could be wrong (?), but to me, Christmas Coffee appeared to be made of 100% Arabica beans (from Latin America?). That’s the way it felt, anyway. Whereas many flavored coffee products seem to be quite mild, Christmas Coffee was medium-full in body.

The flavor was naturally sweet and slightly bitter. While there might have been some midrange nuttiness to it, I found myself mostly thinking of fresh baked semi-sweet cinnamon rolls, spiced up with a hint of black pepper. The whole thing was bready, bakery-like, and somewhat spicy. I found myself enjoying it in the morning, and multiple times during the day. It was really good!

Get a bag of Paulig Christmas Coffee from your local supermarket, and see if you like it too! Merry Christmas!

Revisited: Pascucci ”Golden Sack”—My All-time Favorite Coffee

This has always been my number one favorite coffee blend: Golden Sack by Caffè Pascucci Torrefazione S.p.A (Monte Cerignone, Italy). It is a classic Italian espresso blend of 90% Arabicas and 10% Robusta.

The other day, I wanted to see if I still loved it as much as I have in the past. So I took the 7 minute walk to my favorite coffee shop, the local Ciao! Caffé, and purchased a 1000 g bag.

While Golden Sack is an espresso blend, it obviously works equally well when made using a moka pot. Of course, I am a Bialetti moka pot man through and through.

So, what did I think of it? Briefly, I thought it was fantastic.

I detected

  • dark chocolate
  • almonds
  • a hint of marzipan
  • toasted bitterness
  • a drop of cream

All the flavors were in perfect balance; Golden Sack offered the ideal mélange of the classic flavors one would expect from a high quality Italian espresso. While it was big, strong, and bold, it was also ”medium” enough so as not to punch you in the face. The mouthfeel was quite smooth, but it also had just enough of an edge to make you feel you’re having a true espresso. Exactly the way I like it.

Is Golden Sack the best coffee blend on the planet? Probably not. That said, it is everything I love about coffee. It just hits the spot every time, every day, year after year. It is truly my desert island coffee.

So, here are my instructions for you:

  1. Hurry up to your local Ciao! Caffé or Pascucci coffee shop.
  2. Get a bag of Golden Sack.
  3. Enjoy the true Italian espresso experience!

”The Friendly Cup” products—I was ripped off!

This is kind of embarrassing.

Recently, I was contacted by someone at The Friendly Cup, who claim to sell eco-friendly travel mugs and related products. Since their products looked nice, and they also offered me a discount, I decided to order two cups to try: Friendly Travel Mug (blue) and Friendly Thermos Cup (white).

I was naïve. It was a rip off.

This is what they say on their website:

The Friendly Cup is an eco-friendly wheat straw plastic that does not give off that nasty plastic sent or taste [sic!]. It is 100% biodegradable. Not only is this healthy for our environment, but it is also keeps the temperature hotter or colder for a longer period of time compared to regular plastic. The Friendly Cup allows you to drink your favorite coffee or tea in an eco-friendly cup while making the world a better place!

As someone who reads and writes for a living, I should have noticed that everything was not right. I didn’t. I was stupid.

I received the products separately from unknown Chinese addresses. There was no real packaging, just a funny, cheap plastic bag.

This is what the products were like:

  • the overall appearance was cheap
  • the drinking experience was unpleasant (Travel Mug: difficult to drink without getting air in the mouth; Thermos Cup: the threaded edge was not designed for drinking)
  • the biggest problem: neither one was watertight (I spilled coffee all over my desk)
  • in the dishwasher, the Travel Mug collected water between its two layers (ergo, no vacuum!)
  • the prices ($ 34.99 for each) were ridiculous for the quality

Ikea has better quality for 5 bucks.

The lesson:
Don’t do what I did. Instead,
1) be careful with whom you trust online, and
2) (if I may suggest) stay away from this company.

Margariti Coffee (ΚΑΦΕΣ ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ)—Another Good Introduction to Greek Coffee

Here’s another Greek coffee blend I got from Gran Delicato, my favorite Greek coffee shop in Helsinki: καφές ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ (Margariti Coffee).

On the bag, the manufacturer only states that this blend is made ”from the best varieties of BRAZILIAN coffees”, and that it delivers ”the best taste and the rich aroma.”

The bag note was very pleasant. Basically, it smelled like traditional Greek coffee: Arabicas, and some of that ”Greek” funk—I still can’t decide if it reminds me of mold or raw licorice. But there was more to it: a light aroma of unsweetened cocoa, nuts, and dried fruits. Nice!

Obviously, I made the coffee in my briki. It delivered an ample crema.

The flavor profile matched the bag note exactly. It was a very smooth combination of

  • medium mild ”Greek” Arabica flavor, with some of that ”licorice”
  • some cocoa-like undertones
  • a hint of dried fruits

Despite the fruity flavors, the overall vibe was semi-dry. There was no bitterness whatsoever.

OK, what’s the verdict? This blend will probably not surprise you in any way, but that’s not what it was created for. Instead, it is a pleasant, medium mild Greek coffee that you can enjoy all day. Along with Loumidis Papagalos, it could serve as a good introduction for anyone who wants to get into Greek blends. If you’re so inclined, get a bag of καφές ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ and a briki. (In Finland, you can get both from Gran Delicato!) Then watch a couple of tutorial videos on how to make Greek coffee (how about this one?), and you’re good to go!

Mokkamestarit Vanilla coffee—Vanilla… and more!

Here’s yet another coffee from Mokkamestarit Coffee Roasting Co. (Tampere, Finland). The name, Wanhanajan vaniljakahvi, is difficult to translate exactly. Basically, it refers to vanilla coffee as it used to be in the olden days.

So, this is coffee with added flavoring. On the their website, Mokkamestarit elaborate that it tastes like vanilla cream. They also reveal that the roast level is 1/5. Obviously, the coffee is pre-ground. Other than that, there is little information on the blend.

First, let me confess: I have no idea what vanilla coffee might have tasted like in the past. Therefore, I can only compare this product with other flavored coffees that are available now.

That said, as soon as I opened the bag, I was greeted by an aroma I remember smelling as a kid. It’s a faint memory. I’m entering a confectionery store with my mom. The mouthwatering mélange of aromas: chocolate, fresh licorice, cakes, coffee, baking spices… Lovely!

I used my AeroPress for brewing this coffee. Perhaps the grind size could have been a little coarser, but it worked reasonably well with my trusty plastic tube.

Due to the added flavoring, it was somewhat difficult to tease out the flavors of the actual coffee that went into this product. I think the basic flavor profile consisted of midrange notes of chocolate, (hazel?) nuts, and a small hint of tobacco.

But what about the added flavoring? I detected some vanilla, for sure, but there was more to it. Licorice and anise? Chocolate and cream? Obviously, it could also be that the vanilla flavor accentuated the chocolatey flavors of the coffee. I’m not sure! In addition to these flavors, however, I couldn’t help but think that there was something artificial to the topping: both the flavor and the mouthfeel reminded me of glycerol. No, I’m saying it was unpleasant. It just did not feel very natural, either.

All in all, Wanhanajan vaniljakahvi was not unlike the Hawaiian blend I had a year ago, Hazelnut Coffee by Lion Coffee. Obviously, both the flavoring and the coffee itself were different. However, the overall vibe was very similar: medium mild Arabica coffee with a generous helping of added (not only natural?) flavoring. If that’s what you like, you might want to try it out! You can get it from the Mokkamestarit online store.

Mokkamestarit ”Costa Rica La Pastora Anaerobic”—Scandinavian lingonberry pie!

As I was buying this single estate coffee, the roastery had just ran out of labels for it. But no worries, I can tell you what it is: Costa Rica La Pastora Anaerobic by Mokkamestarit Coffee Roasting Co., Tampere, Finland.

Now this one was unique! As I opened the bag, I immediately knew that I was going to get something different. On the one hand, the bag aroma made me think of semi-sweet crackers—Digestives, perhaps, or maybe even gingerbread cookies. On the other hand, however, there was this high, piercing note that reminded me of lingonberries. The whole thing smelled like a traditional Scandinavian lingonberry pie.

As always, I used both the Moka pot and the AeroPress.

The mouthfeel was silky smooth. The body was somewhere between medium or medium-full.

The flavors matched the bag aroma. In the middle of the flavor spectrum, Costa Rica had a ”brown” flavor of sweet and savory Digestive pie crust that had a hint of gingerbread to it as well. In the upper register, there was this ”red” acidity of lingonberries. In the spicing department, I detected some vanilla and light baking cocoa.

Now I think I know the reason why Mokkamestarit ran out of labels for Costa Rica La Pastora Anaerobic. It is very, very good. While it was unlike any other coffee I remember tasting, I found it to be extremely enjoyable!