Kulta Katriina ”PLUS Boost”—Seriously?

Honestly, I didn’t expect miracles from this coffee.

Kulta Katriina is one of the most basic Finnish coffee blends you can get from any supermarket. It is manufactured by Meira, the traditional coffee and spice company based in Helsinki, Finland.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of regular Kulta Katriina, I wanted to try the newer version: PLUS Boost, which boasts 30% more caffeine. The company describes the product as follows (my direct translation):

Kulta Katriina Plus Boost is a high quality filter coffee, which naturally contains 30% more caffeine than the average filter coffee. Our high caffeine coffee comes from Rainforest Alliance certified farms in Vietnam and Central America. High quality coffee varietals and the dark roast (3/5) give Kulta Katriina Plus Boost coffee a strong and full flavor.

Since I don’t use the regular auto drip machine, I decided to brew this coffee using The Ultimate French Press Technique I learned from James Hoffmann’s great video.

Based upon the experience, I’m not sure I can agree with the description.

First, despite the claim that this coffee is strong and full flavored, I found it to be rather hollow and dull. It was definitely not more than medium in body. I also found it difficult to detect any particular flavors. To me, the whole thing just tasted like inexpensive grocery store coffee. That said, there was one note in the aroma that I could put my finger on. It’s really hard to describe, though. Do you know the smell you get when you meet someone who has been drinking too much alcohol the day before? Well, that’s the only thing I could think of as I had this coffee. Gross.

After two cups of this, I got a feeling that I will never drink coffee again.

Now, that is not a good sign.

But what about the caffeine? Indeed, this blend was stronger in the C department than your regular supermarket coffee. Even so, it was nowhere near the level of, say, some straight Robustas. In my opinion, the higher caffeine content did not make up for the lack of flavor, or the disgusting aftertaste.

I can promise you this: I will never buy Kulta Katriina PLUS Boost again.

Bonus tip: If you want to get good coffee with tons of caffeine, I would suggest you purchase a pack of Segafredo Espresso Casa instead. That’s great stuff for the price, and it is guaranteed to make you light-headed.

Kahvikeisarinna ”Ritari Rohkea”—Vietnamese Robusta!

Recently, I received a message from Ms. Mei Hong, the CEO of Kahvikeisarinna, the Tampere (Finland) based company that specializes in Vietnamese coffee. She kindly asked if I wanted to test an initial version of a new 100% Robusta coffee which they were developing with Kahwe, the great artisan roastery that is known for their amazing coffee products.

Would I like to test a new Robusta coffee? Of course! I love Robusta!

Along with the beans, Ms. Hong was kind enough to provide me with phin coffee drippers and some condensed milk for the true Vietnamese coffee experience.

While I really liked the initial version, I promised I wouldn’t write anything about the coffee until they had tweaked it to perfection.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is it: Ritari Rohkea (”The Brave Knight”). It is 100% washed Robusta, cultivated by Mr. Toi Nguyen at Future Coffee Farm, Bao Loc, Vietnam. The roast is ”dark”—somewhat darker than a basic Italian espresso.

Now, I knew that brewing Vietnamese coffee in a moka pot would probably be considered unorthodox. But I just had to try it anyway. That’s just the way I seem to find the essence of any given coffee.

In the bouquet, I detected all the classic robusta notes:

  • flowers
  • vanilla
  • some earth

The mouthfeel was extremely smooth and creamy.

All the different flavors worked together in perfect harmony. I musical terms, the notes could be described as follows:

  • soprano: vanilla & toffee/caramel
  • alto: semi-dry acidity & pencil shavings
  • baritone: medium dark chocolate & some hazelnuts
  • bass: tacit

But then I tried brewing the coffee in the phin dripper. That’s when the magic happened.

The mouthfeel remained very smooth, but the initial flavors were pleasantly dry and mildly acidic. This aspect of the flavor profile was mostly about the ”pencil shavings”. Very soon afterwards, however, the flavors shifted to a semi-sweet combination of hazelnuts, toffee, and some chocolate. There was a hint of vanilla in the finish as well.

The flavor profile offered me the perfect combination of robust masculinity and gentle sophistication. It was potent enough to provide a good base for Vietnamese coffee drinks that use the sweet condensed milk. At the same time, however, it was subtle enough to be enjoyed on its own.

All in all, I found Ritari Rohkea to be an excellent product. It must be one of the best straight robustas I’ve ever had. If you like Robusta, you owe it to yourself to get some from Kahvikeisarinna. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to get a phin dripper as well!

Kudos to Kahvikeisarinna and Kahwe roastery for the fantastic experience!

Revisited: Caffi ”Etiopia Natural”—one of my all time favorites

After two months of concentrating on grocery store coffees, it’s time to get back to some high quality products.

The award winning Etiopia Natural by Caffi needs no introduction.

There’s also no need to restate my opinion on this coffee. I just wanted to remind you all that it is an amazing product that every coffee connoisseur needs to try. It is easily one of the most delicious coffees I’ve ever had.

I urge you to order some today. You can get it from the coffee experts at Caffi.

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!

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.

Lehmus Roastery ”Kettu-kahvi” w/cardamom & cinnamon!

Here’s the second offering from the Lehmus Roastery line of seasonal coffees: Kettu-kahvi, flavored with cardamom and cinnamon.

As far as I understand, this product is based on the same exact coffee as the unflavored Kettu-kahvi medium roast I reviewed a few days ago: Yellow Bourbon Arabica from Fazenda I.P., Brazil. Also, both the unflavored and the flavored versions are roasted medium (3/5 on the Lehmus scale). The only difference between these two products seems to be that this present coffee comes pre-ground, and is blended with some extra spices.

The bag note was just mouthwatering. It made me think of sweet cinnamon rolls and Christmas cookies. There was nothing artificial about it. I am almost certain that Lehmus used only natural baking spices for flavoring.

The grind size appeared to be suitable for regular coffee machines. With that being said, it worked very well with the Bialetti Moka pot. Granted, my AeroPress would have benefited from a coarser grind. Nevertheless, I was able to make some nice coffee with that particular gadget as well.

But how did it taste? Simply put, it was just delicious! I will not repeat what I said earlier about the basic flavor profile. You can read about it from my previous review. The coffee-to-flavoring ratio was excellent: There was just enough cardamom and cinnamon to give this coffee a special seasonal character. Even so, the added spices never overpowered the unique characteristics of the Brazilian coffee. The flavors of the coffee and spices worked extremely well together, and formed a unified whole.

For some strange reason, this flavored version of the Yellow Bourbon Arabica did not feel quite as strong as the unflavored version. Honestly, I’m not sure why that is. Usually, I would opt for something with a little more oomph to it—something like, say, Hamwi Café Classic, the great Turkish/Arabic coffee with cardamom flavoring. But that’s just me. For most people who want high quality Arabica coffee with some seasonal flavoring, Kettu-kahvi with cardamom and cinnamon would probably be the perfect option.

Go to the Lehmus Roastery website and get yourself some! You will not be disappointed!

Lehmus Roastery ”Kettu-kahvi” medium roast—Just fantastic!

As winter is upon us, it is good to stock up on some seasonally appropriate coffees. This time, I wanted to try out the Kettu-kahvi (Finnish for ”Fox Coffee”) line of seasonal coffees produced by the award winning Lehmus Roastery (Lappeenranta, Finland). The line consists of three coffees, all of which are made of naturally processed Yellow Bourbon Arabica beans from Fazenda I.P., Brazil.

The first one is the medium roasted version, 3/5 on the Lehmus scale. On the label, the coffee is described as soft and full-bodied. The aromas are said to be nutty and chocolatey.

Since there were no specific instructions on how to brew the coffee, I used the usual suspects, my good old Bialetti Moka and the AeroPress.

Either way, I loved it to bits!

In the bouquet, I got caramel or toffee, some sweet licorice, and nuttiness. The mouthfeel was very soft and round. There was some of that signature Lehmus creaminess as well. The body was somewhere between medium and medium full.

Now, the flavor profile was just amazing: On the one hand, Kettu-kahvi medium roast was not the most full-flavored coffee you’ll ever try. Instead, it was well-behaved and ”medium” enough to be enjoyed on any occasion. At the same time, however, it was quite flavorful. It was the perfect mix of three things: semi-bitter nuttiness, milk chocolate, and licorice. The way the chocolatey flavors were mixed with the licorice notes reminded me of the classic English Liquorice allsorts I used to love as a kid—only less sweet, and, obviously, without the coconut essence. There was also just enough acidity to balance out the naturally sweet flavors.

Even the empty cup smelled amazing: caramel and sweet American burley pipe tobacco.

Oh wow, I just loved it!

Hurry up! Get yourself some Kettu-kahvi keskipaahto (medium roast) from Lehmus Roastery. You will be happy you did!