Robert Paulig Roastery Tuokio—smooth and simple, all day

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Here’s a nice coffee that I recently received from my friends: Tuokio is a filter coffee that is blended and roasted by Robert Paulig Roastery for Partioaitta, the outdoor store chain.

This coffee appears to be made with the outdoor enthusiast in mind: The presentation is classy, but there are no bells and whistles to speak of. The description on the label is short. It says that this coffee made of ”responsibly produced” beans from Brazil, Colombia and Kenya. The taste is said to be chocolatey and nutty. The roast level is 4/5. That’s all they say about it. Also, the coffee is pre-ground for ease of use.

I noticed that the grind size was perfect for the AeroPress, so that’s what I decided to use for brewing this coffee. I am not a big filter coffee guy, anyway.

However I chose to brew it, Tuokio was all about simple and straightforward, dark roasted Arabica. It certainly was nutty and chocolatey—medium dark chocolate with some natural sweetness. It was medium full-flavored, but not super nuanced. There was just enough bitterness to make it interesting for the black coffee man. However, the overall experience was quite smooth.

The blend was reminiscent of some of the Japanese grocery store coffees I’ve enjoyed in the past. I found myself thinking of the Marufuku Coffee blends I had last year. Perhaps Tuokio was slightly fuller in body, though. I also think that many Scandinavian ”dark roast” enthusiasts would appreciate the flavor profile.

Perhaps Tuokio is not a mindblowingly sophisticated blend, but then that’s not what it was made for. I found it to be a very nice all day blend that I could enjoy cup after cup while working, without thinking about it too much.

If that’s what you like, check it out! You can get it from the Partioaitta stores.

La Torrefazione El Armadillo—syrupy but sharp

IMG_20191118_090827Here’s another one from La Torrefazione, the Finnish coffee shop chain. As was the case with Pachamama, which I reviewed a while ago, El Armadillo is blended and roasted for La Torrefazione by Kaffa Roastery, Helsinki.

El Armadillo is a blend of washed Caturra and Bourbon from Finca la Bolsa, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. The roast level is 3/5. On the label, the company calls this coffee ”syrupy and smooth”. They also say this:

  • fruitiness: 3/5
  • body: 4/5

As usual, I tried brewing this coffee in both the AeroPress and the Bialetti Moka.

With the AeroPress, I couldn’t quite find the essence of this coffee. Even if I tried several different recipes, it was hard for me to say what it was supposed to be about.

In my opinion, El Armadillo worked better with the moka pot. Both the bouquet and the room note were caramelly and sweet, like brown sugar. Very pleasant. However, I found the actual taste to be kind of nondescript. I did notice that the mouthfeel was full and syrupy—which was great. But rather that being ”smooth”, I found the overall experience to be quite acidic and sharp. I’m not saying it was bad by any means. I just didn’t enjoy it very much.

This was a little baffling for me. I mean, I usually like everything that comes from Huehuetenango. For instance, last year I absolutely fell in love with the Finca Bella Elisabeth coffees I got from Kahwe. For some strange reason, this one didn’t do it for me.

La Torrefazione Pachamama—the fruity Colombian

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Next up: Pachamama from La Torrefazione, the great Finnish chain of coffee shops. Actually, this coffee is blended and roasted for La Torrefazione by Kaffa Roastery, Helsinki.Pachamama is a blend of washed Caturra and Castillo from San Lorenzo Colombia. The roast level is 3/5. The company gives us the following tasting notes: ”Tones of cherry and pecan, a complex acidity and a chocolatey finish will complete this sustainable experience.” They also say:

  • fruitiness: 3/5
  • body: 4/5

First, I tried brewing this in my moka pot. I got a pleasant acidity of fresh cut fruits, something like kiwi. The other thing I noticed was the midrange nuttiness. Only then did I look at the label on the bag. According to the company, it was not supposed to taste like fruits, but cherry. OK! Be that as it may, I found the flavor profile to be a delightful combination of two different aspects, fruit or berry-like high-end, and the nuttiness in the middle. The mouthfeel was nice and juicy.After several cups, I decided to this it in the AeroPress, too. I used my favorite inverted method, only this time with a paper filter. All of the fruitiness/berriness was there, but this time a delicious milk chocolate flavor was added to the nutty midrange. I started to recognize some of the familiar characteristic of many Colombian coffees. Maybe the chocolateyness of the midrange was emphasized due to the fact that the paper filter tends to tame that high-end sharpness somewhat, who knows?If you happen to visit Helsinki, be sure to check out La Torrefazione and Kaffa Roastery. They really know their trade!

Rob Beans Coffee Chiapas Mexico—I was left craving for more

I recently received a generous gift from Rob at Rob Beans Coffee: a bag of his Chiapas Mexico beans. Thank you so much!

The company website offers the following information on this coffee:

Fair Trade and organic beans from the Chiapas region, an area renowned for its great tasting quality Mexican coffee. These beans were washed and sundried processed, and grown at a high elevation 900-1100 meters.

Flavor profile: Medium Body, light to medium acidity, dark chocolate, nutty notes

All orders are roasted to order, and shipped within 24 hours of roasting.

– Single Origin

– 100% Arabica

– Roasted in Glendale, California

Some of the beans were a little lighter in color than others, but overall, the roast appeared to be medium or medium light. The aroma made me think of berries and vegetables. Very nice!

I tried brewing this in several ways.

Both the moka pot and my favorite AeroPress method—inverted, with steel filter (I will describe the method in greater length in a future post!)—brought out this ”edge”, if you will. I really struggled to find the right way to describe it. Let’s just say that while the coffee did not feel harsh or acrid in any way, and was perfectly enjoyable, it was a little too ”hard” for my personal taste.

But then I put the moka pot aside and switched my AeroPress steel filter to the regular paper one. I also tried the most basic brewing method suggested in the AeroPress manual that came with the original package. You know, use the AeroPress the right-side up, put one scoop of coffee in the chamber, add 175 F hot water to ”2” on the chamber, stir for 10 seconds, press for 20–40 seconds.

In my opinion, this simple method brought the best out of Chiapas Mexico. The coffee was exactly what was promised on the website, and more: medium bodied and pleasantly acidic, with some delicious berry-like notes in the high end of the spectrum, and some organic rootiness and nuttiness in the midrange, maybe a hint of that chocolate, too. Very, very pleasant. I was left craving for more.

I truly enjoyed Rob’s Mexican beans. I also discovered another favorite AeroPress recipe in the process! Thank you Rob, you really know your stuff!

You coffee enthusiasts out there, I strongly suggest you check out Rob Beans Coffee!

Black Rifle Coffee Company Freedom Fuel—Coffee with a capital C

Are you the kind of person who isn’t particularly interested in all those different nuances and flavor profiles that coffee enthusiasts talk about? You just want to have a cup of honest, dark roasted straight Arabica to kick start your day, right?

This one is for you: Freedom Fuel from Black Rifle Coffee Company.

This is what they say about it:

  • Ingredients: 100% Arabica Coffee
  • Dark roast
  • Heavy bodied roast with a kick of freedom.

The beans were pretty dark (roast level 4,5–5/5?), and had a beautiful, oily appearance.

The AeroPress brought forth a deep, rich Arabica goodness that was somewhat bitter and chocolatey (think of unsweetened dark chocolate), but very smooth.

When I brewed this in my trusty old Bialetti Moka, the upper register was a little more pronounced. It had a floral, menthol-like feel to it. At the same time, these higher notes never covered up the familiar lower-midrange tones of the dark roasted Arabica. The balance was perfect.

There was nothing fancy about this blend, but then that’s not what it was made for. For me, it just worked every day, all day, cup after cup. It also gave me a nice kick—a rare experience for someone who has a pretty high tolerance for caffeine. Fantastic.

Freedom Fuel = Coffee with a capital C. Get it from Black Rifle Coffee Company.

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.

Top 10 coffees of 2019!

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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!

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!