Black Rifle Coffee Company Thin Blue Line—A regular all day blend… or is it?

After reviewing Gunship, the fantastic ”Light roast” Colombian from Black Rifle Coffee Company, I’ve been enjoying Thin Blue Line, their ”Medium roast” Colombian.

As always, the BRCC bag description is brief and to the point. They state: ”Ingredients: 100% Arabica coffee. Tasting notes: 100% Colombian coffee roasted in support of the men and women of the thin blue line. A portion of sales will go to law enforcement charities. Medium roast. Best method for brewing: Any.”

Again, the roast is darker than the average Scandinavian light roast. The BRCC ”medium roast” is a lot like any Finnish dark roast (around 4,5/5). I like that!

Since Thin Blue Line appears to be a sister blend of Gunship, I decided to brew it using the same methods: my 3 cup Bialetti Moka and AeroPress.

As I brewed it in the Moka pot, I got a very nice cup of strong black coffee. It didn’t punch me in the face, really, but it definitely did wake me up. While I totally enjoyed it, I found myself thinking that somehow the full potential of this blend was not released.

The AeroPress got the best out of this coffee. All the different nuances were much more apparent. In a way, the blend came alive.

By the way, I probably should have tried Thin Blue Line in my basic filter coffee maker as well. But I enjoyed it so much the AeroPress way that I forgot about it. Anyway, I think that the blend would work perfectly in a Moccamaster or any regular coffee maker.

Here’s what it tasted like. After my first cup I went: ”OK, Colombian coffee, roasted dark or medium-dark. That’s about it!” Yes, I immediately noticed the familiar nuttiness of Colombian beans, and the soft bitterness of the dark roast. That said, there was absolutely no raggedness around the edges. Quite the contrary, the mouthfeel was very smooth and enjoyable. I got the impression that Thin Blue Line is all about your middle-of-the-road working man’s coffee in the best sense of the word—you know, something that could be enjoyed at any time of the day without having to think about it too much. I thought this would be the perfect companion while working at your desk, in the workshop—or at the police station!

But then: ”Oh wait, there’s more.”

The finish. Yes, the finish! For me, this was the best part. It was a combination of a round nuttiness (walnuts?) and the sweetness of dried figs and raisins. It made me think of those classic Danish burley-forward pipe tobaccos. Plus it stayed with me for a long, long time.

All in all, Thin Blue Line was a lot like the other BRCC masterpieces I’ve tried: It offered a no-nonsense coffee experience that would satisfy any seasoned law enforcement officer, and yet it had that little extra something to it, the finesse that would spark the interest of the gourmet coffee specialist.

Thin Blue Line is yet another prime example of what is so great about Black Rifle Coffee Company: They are able to take a very basic concept and turn it into something amazingly good.

Black Rifle Coffee Company Gunship—dark, exquisite and powerful

I hate procrastination. I want to get things done.

However, this blend made me think. For two weeks, I was trying to figure out how to phrase it. – Phrase what? you ask.

How fantastic it is.

How awesome it is.

How powerful it is.

How nuanced it is.

What else could you expect? I mean, this blend was made by one of the greatest coffee companies on the planet.

Gunship from Black Rifle Coffee Company, the United States of America.

Ever since my author friend—a coffee lover whose husband is a real American gunship pilot—pointed me to this blend over a year ago, I’d wanted to try it. I’m so happy I finally got to do so!

The bag description was limited to the essentials:

  • Ingredients: 100% Arabica coffee.
  • 100% Colombian coffee roasted to a smooth, nutty flavor.
  • LIGHT ROAST
  • Best method for brewing: Any

The information about the roast made me smile. Up here in Northern Europe, a roast like this would usually be called dark, maybe even very dark (around 4–4,5/5), but for the BRCC veterans, this is ”light roast”. I like that!

Since they say that this blend can be brewed using ”any” method, I decided to try it in  my favorite ones: Inverted AeroPress with a steel filter, and my Bialetti Moka pot. It was clear right off the bat that the flavor profile was similar either way, only the Moka pot obviously made the experience more intense.

So how did it taste like, then? This is where it got a little tricky for me. Gunship was such a complex mélange of all these fantastic flavors. Think of

  • the nuttiness and chocolateyness of Colombian coffee, just roasted to the point where it all starts to get slightly bitter in a good way
  • pleasantly sour light cigar leaf
  • a tiny hint of rootiness

In addition to this, there was a touch of intense sweetness that reminded me of condensed milk—even if I didn’t add milk to my coffee. And while I say that the sweetness was intense, I don’t mean to say that it was overpowering in any way. Quite the opposite: The sweetness stayed ”within” the overall flavor profile, or ”mixed in” with the other elements, if that makes sense. It let the nutty, cigar-like rootiness take center stage. But at the same time, it made the black coffee goodness feel extremely creamy and smooth in the mouth.

Very pleasant.

Gunship was exactly like all the other BRCC products I’ve tried so far: On the one hand, it was highly sophisticated and exquisite. On the other hand, it made me want to load the barbell with 245 lbs and aim for my personal record on the bench press.

I don’t need to repeat myself. Gunship is just fantastic. You should get it as soon as you can. You can do so here.

Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—a good introduction to Greek coffee

I usually wake up pretty early in the morning. I love the quiet moments when everyone else is sleeping. I get to prepare my breakfast in complete silence. I get to read a good book and enjoy a cup of great coffee, maybe even two.

But waking up early can also be a challenge for the coffee enthusiast. I mean, especially on days off, when the other people in your house want to sleep late, you don’t want to wake them up by using the coffee grinder. That’s why I try to have some pre-ground coffee around at all times.

Actually, in these past months, many Saturday mornings have been saved by the finely ground Turkish coffee (”Sade Dibek Kahvesi” from Artukbey) I got from my Iraqui friend. This fine product has also made me want to learn more about Turkish and Greek coffee.

Recently, I was delighted to discover Gran Delicato, the stylish Greek café, deli and restaurant in Helsinki. After enjoying a delicious panini and a big cup of their fantastic coffee, I noticed that they also sell Greek coffee. Since I’m still learning about these things, I wanted to buy a good, basic Greek coffee blend. As I was looking at the options, I noticed that on the Loumidis Papagalos bag it said Ο παραδοσιακός ελληνικός καφές (o paradosiakos ellenikos kafes). Now, I do not speak modern Greek, but in my work I do read 1700–2400 year old texts written in ancient Greek dialects. So I guessed that the bag said ”the traditional Greek coffee”. Brilliant! Exactly what I was looking for.

Then I got home and started looking for my scissors. I was expecting to smell that peculiar, funky aroma that seems to be common to some Greek and Turkish coffees. You know, the one that some people associate with raw licorice, others with the musty, moldy smell of an old wooden house. However, as I finally got the bag open, I was greeted with the familiar aroma of good Arabica-based grocery store coffee. It even reminded me of some of the better Paulig blends. There was a tiny hint of the ”Greek” funk in there as well, but it definitely stayed in the background. Quite delightful!

The coffee itself was very easy to work with. While the ground product looked almost identical to the Artukbey powder I’ve been enjoying, it was a lot easier to mix with water than it’s Turkish sister blend. It produced a nice, uniform crema, too.

The taste was very much like the bag aroma. Good, basic Arabicas were the star of the show. There was also a hint of that traditional Greek ”thing” that is so hard to describe. However, it never got as strong as in, say, ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΙΑΚΟΣ / Traditional Blend from Coffee Island—another Greek blend I like very much. All in all, it felt like I was having a good, basic grocery store Arabica with a Greek twist. Well, that’s exactly what this blend is about. I found it to be a very good pick-me-up in the morning.

Obviously, Loumidis Papagalos is not a high-end gourmet blend. But what it does, it does really well. Also, it is ”normal” enough to be enjoyed by anyone, and yet ”Greek” enough to give you a good picture of what traditional Greek coffee tastes like.

I’m definitely going to get some more from Gran Delicato! Maybe, as a consequence, my kids will get to sleep longer as well.

Drop Coffee Roasters La Linda—black tea and jasmine

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you are doing well!

Today, we were enjoying a slow New Years Day at home. As we took a little walk outside, we happened to meet our friends who live next door. They were kind enough to invite us over for a cup of coffee. As the ladies were enjoying their Japanese genmaicha, we guys concentrated on what we love so much: high quality coffee.

Man, what they offered me was truly high quality stuff: ”La Linda”, a Java varietal from Drop Coffee Roasters, Stockholm, Sweden. I got a peek at the label: ”Elegant cup with light-medium body. Notes of nutmeg, bergamot, black tea with a hint of jasmine.” Oh yes, the bag aroma was really amazing: somewhat fruity, maybe, but mainly herbal, even floral.

My friend is a very skilled pour-over man. It was a pleasure to watch him work his magic on the Hario setup. He revealed some of the details:

  • 6,5 g of coffee/100 g of water
  • water temperature: 95°C
  • blooming: 30 sec with 35 g of water
  • total brewing time: 4 min

The results were fantastic. In my opinion, the black tea and jasmine were the most prominent flavors. There was some bergamot and other spices as well. Also, when my friend made another pot with a slightly longer brewing time (5 min), a upper midrange sweetness appeared. Caramel, perhaps? I really liked it!

This was a very nice way to start the new coffee year! Thank you so much!

Today’s lesson:

  1. It’s amazing to have friends!
  2. It’s fantastic to have friends who know their coffee!
  3. Check out Drop Coffee Roasters! They really know their trade.

Top 10 coffees of 2019!

Top10coffees_2019.001

This is my last post for this year: the Black Coffee Journal top 10 coffees of 2019!

During the past year, I finally managed to get better acquainted with some of our local Finnish artisan roasteries. I did get to enjoy at least 74 different coffee blends or single origin coffee products from 9 different countries and 28 companies, but our domestic roasteries swept the board. Their offerings were just so good! That said, two blends from abroad made the ”honorable mentions” section.

Just like last year, all of the products that made my top 10 list were high-end coffees with no detectable added flavoring. This time, however, they were so different from each other that it wouldn’t have been fair to try to compare them with each other. Therefore, instead of ranking the coffees, I decided to organize them into three categories according to the approximate roast level (light, medium and dark) and present them in alphabetical order according to the company name. The resulting list can be best thought of as a pool of fantastic coffees, from which you can pick any product you want and end up enjoying a truly memorable experience.

One last thing before we get to the actual list: I used two different methods to brew these coffees. The ones that were intended for espresso were brewed in my three cup Bialetti Moka. Those that were intended for other brewing methods I prepared in my AeroPress, with one of my favorite inverted methods and a steel filter. Also, I enjoyed all of them straight, with no additives.

So here’s my top 10:

Light

Medium

Dark

Honorable mentions

  • Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲) Blend 3 Original (the best grocery store coffee, Japan)
  • Pascucci Colombia (the all-around morning blend, Italy)

You could not go wrong with any of these coffees. Also, you would do well to check out any products that these great roasteries provide. They really know their stuff!

Extra special thanks to everyone at Cafetoria Roastery, Kaamos kahvipaahtimo, Kahiwa Coffee Roasters, Kahwe and Turun kahvipaahtimo! Also, many thanks to all of my friends who gave me all kinds of coffees to try!

I’ve already got some fantastic coffees in store for 2020. I can’t wait to tell you about them!

Lion Hazelnut Coffee—just in time for the holiday season!

Our dear friends in Kobe, Japan, were kind enough to send me this treat: ”Hazelnut Coffee” from Lion Coffee, the company based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Thank you so much!

As the name would suggest, ”Hazelnut Coffee” is topped with a hazelnut flavor. On their website, the company tells us that this is ”a special blend of International coffee beans with a predominant Hazelnut flavor and subtle background notes of coconut.” On the bag, they also state that they have used beans from Colombia and Brazil, and that this is ”100% Arabica coffee. Flavored with natural and artificial flavors.” Also, the roast is said to be ”Light-Medium”. Overall, the whole product is described as ”light” at 1/5. Whether this figure points to the roast level or strength, we don’t know.

As I opened the bag, I immediately noticed the added flavoring. The hazelnut aroma was really strong and sweet. Quite pleasant, actually! I did smell the coffee, too, obviously, but it was overpowered by the topping, to the extent that without reading the description on the label, it would have been impossible to identify the beans that have gone into this product.

The coffee was pre-ground (medium size), so I decided to brew this in my AeroPress (inverted, steel filter).

In the cup, too, the hazelnut flavoring was the main player. The actual coffee provided a nice, medium-light base for the topping, but it never took center stage. I could tell that the coffee had a toasted, slightly bitter feel to it—pretty nice!—, but because of the added flavoring, I couldn’t analyze it any further. It was apparent that in this coffee, the hazelnut thing was meant to be the star of the show. In this respect, the Lion approach seems to have been pretty different from that of, say, Galliano, whose flavorings are a lot more subtle. Here, the flavoring had a natural, nutty vibe to it, but there might have been a tiny hint of something artificial to it as well, something that made me think of those glycerol-like aromas I’ve smelled in my friend’s sweet vape juices. Maybe that was the coconut? Also, the mouthfeel might have been slightly goopier than that of your regural unflavored Arabica. But I didn’t mind! This was not supposed to be a natural coffee product anyway.

Now, I personally never crave for anything sweet, ever. I drink coffee for the coffee flavor. That’s why I usually prefer unflavored, natural coffee products. However, sometimes it is fun to try a ”dessert” coffee with an added topping. Even though the company describes Hazelnut Coffee as ”tropical”, ”A wonderful taste of the [Hawaiian] islands”, I found it to be very suitable to the cold, Scandinavian Christmas season as well.

In my opinion, Lion Hazelnut Coffee would be a great option for anyone who likes to add sugar or other sweeteners to his/her coffee. It could also work well for anyone who is just getting into coffee, and who is not accustomed to strong coffee flavors just yet. For instance, my good Wife is more of a tea person, but she absolutely loved this blend.

Give Hazelnut Coffee a try! I think you might like it!

Cafetoria Gran Palomar Espresso—extremely delicious and flavorful

Here’s my review of ”Gran Palomar Espresso”, the fantastic espresso blend I recently received from my favorite Finnish roastery, Cafetoria.

Now, Gran Palomar is a blend of Caturra, Catimor, and Gesha from the Palomar Cooperative, Canchamayo, Peru. Previously, I had had the lighter roasted version, the ”regular” Gran Palomar—having said that, there’s nothing regular to that particular blend: it’s one of the most delicious and flavorful coffees I’ve ever had!

But this one is the darker, ”Espresso roast” version of the same blend.

On the bag, Cafetoria states: ”We sense: Chocolate, nuts, honey. The flavour and aroma of the Andes.” Absolutely! That’s precisely what I sense, too. I would also say: almonds! What is more—and this is hard to explain—, as I tried to tease out all the different flavors, I had a feeling that this is the sort of coffee that could have some natural sweetness of dried fruits to it as well. I only didn’t detect any at first. However, by the time I got to the (looong) finish, it hit me: fried figs! I knew it. Just perfect!

Exactly like its lighter, ”regular” sister blend, Gran Palomar Espresso is an extremely delicious and flavorful, high quality coffee blend. It is not earthy or bitter like many Robusta-forward Italian espressos. Rather, it is nuanced and sophisticated, and yet quite full-flavored.

I totally love it, and I strongly suggest that you hurry to the Cafetoria website or their great coffee shop (Runeberginkatu 31, Helsinki) and get yourself some!

Many thanks to Ivan, Levi and everyone else at Cafetoria! It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to check out these four fantastic coffees. I’m already planning my next trip to Helsinki, to stock up!

Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲) Blend 3 Original—the quintessential Japanese coffee

I recently received this coffee as a gift from a Japanese friend who lives in Kyoto: ”Blend 3 Original” from Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲).

On the bag, the Kyoto based company states this (my translation): ”A mild/mellow aroma and a light taste.” ”A blend that makes the best use of the characteristics of coffee beans from three areas, Central America, South America and Southeastern Asia.” In addition to this, the company indicates that the beans come from Brazil, Indonesia and ”other [places]”. They also provide a nice graph, which can be interpreted as follows (1 = weak, 5 = strong):

  • aroma: 3/5
  • bitterness: 3/5
  • acidity: 3/5
  • richness/body: 2/5

The coffee comes pre-ground.

In my estimation, the roast was dark, around 3,5/5. The grind size seemed perfect for the AeroPress, so I decided to use that particular device for brewing.

Now, this is coffee with a capital C. Blend 3 Original is nutty, chocolatey, bold and dark. At the same time, there’s nothing too pronounced or ”in your face” to it. Rather, it is an extremely smooth, mellow and well-balanced blend, and yet it is full-bodied enough to satisfy the black coffee enthusiast. Granted, it did not have all the different nuances to make me go wow. Instead, it gently woke me up in the morning, and helped me concentrate on my writing during the day. It was one the most comforting blends I’ve ever tried.

You know, it’s a little like those Japanese cars that are sold here in Europe. Take your regular Toyota Corolla, for example: It might not be like the most expensive, high-end Audi or BMW, but it does exactly what it was made for, and it does it really well. I actually think that’s kind of cool. (I’m a die hard Toyota fan.) In a similar fashion, Blend 3 Original is not like the most spectacular gourmet coffee out there, but it does the thing it’s trying to do really well. For me, it just hit the spot every single time.

In my opinion, Blend 3 Original is the quintessential Japanese coffee—exactly what you would expect from a great Japanese company like Ogawa Coffee. It is the perfect example of what an all-around, middle of the road coffee blend should taste and feel like. I only wish the big European coffee companies we able to create something as good.

If you happen to find it, try it out!

Cafetoria Perlamayo—naturally fruity, herbal and delicious

Here comes the next one from my favorite coffee company, Cafetoria Roastery: ”Perlamayo”.

This is a blend of organic Typica, Bourbon and Caturra from Perlamayo, Peru. The roast is medium, 2/5. According to the company, the blend brings us ”Fragrances of the high Andes”. As for tasting notes, they suggest the following: ”floral, fruit stones, caramel, red apple”.

As you could expect from a Cafetoria product, you get exactly what they promise. The stone fruity aspect was there, as was the apple-like soft acidity. However, these two flavors melded together to create this delicious, mellow fruityness. The florality was detectable as well, but in my opinion it wasn’t ”flowery” like, say, Metaxa can be described as floral when you compare it with other brandys. I would say that the overall feel was more ”herbal”. Honestly, I didn’t pick up the caramel, really, but I guess the overall midrange body could be described as caramelly.

Having said that, the different aspects of the flavor profile did not feel overly independent or separated from each other. Rather, they formed a harmonious union, while still retaining their respective characters. In my experience, the same can be said of many other Cafetoria coffees as well. It’s a quality I really like about their products.

I found myself comparing Perlamayo to Cafetoria Finca la Flor. While these two coffees are not identical, obviously, they are pretty similar. Both are medium-light in body, naturally fruity and acidic but soft, nuanced and delicate. At the same time, they have a ”masculine” or ”no-nonsense” vibe to them. With Perlamayo, you also get to enjoy this delicious herbal vibe.

All in all, Perlamayo is very good! Check it out at Cafetoria Roastery!

Cafetoria Finca la Flor—naturally fruity, juicy and delicious

Next up: Cafetoria Roastery ”Finca la Flor”, the ”Vibrating & Emotional” coffee that’s made of Bourbon, Typica Organic beans from Huabal, Peru. The roast is ”medium”, 2/5. As for the flavor profile, the coffee masters at Cafetoria offer the following description: ”Candy, red berry, apricot, grapefruit, strawberry, sparkling acidity.”

Now, that sounds very accurate. Brewed in my AeroPress (inverted, steel filter), Finca la Flor was extremely fruity indeed. Very juicy. In the cup, it even looked like pink grapefruit juice! All the flavors they mention were there. However, none of them got to sing the coloratura soprano part, if you will. Instead, the voices were kind of soft and natural. Together they achieved a beautiful choral sound. OK, perhaps the grapefruit sung a short solo or two, accompanied by the apricot and the berries. Also, even if the flavor profile was mostly about fruity and berry-like flavors, Finca la Flor was not overly delicate or sweet. I even detected I bit of hoppiness here and there, which probably added to the acidic feel. And while this acidity was ”sparkling” indeed, it felt kind of soft as well. Very, very pleasant.

In this way, Finca la Flor felt quite multidimensional, but kind of uniform at the same time. It was fruity and somewhat berry-like, but kind of… I don’t want to say ”robust”. Full? Honest? Let me put it like this: It was nuanced and sophisticated enough to work very well as a dessert coffee, but simple and straightforward enough to be enjoyed any time of the day. Actually, this is a quality I really like about many other Cafetoria products as well.

So, if you want to enjoy a naturally fruity and juicy coffee that is not too sweet, but not too acidic, either, you have got to try Finca la Flor from Cafetoria Roastery. It is extremely good!