Lucaffé Classic—the quintessential espresso

Oh wow. I’m in love.

I’ve wanted to try Lucaffé blends for a long time. For some reason I never got around to ordering them. Until now.

The first one I got is this: Lucaffé Classic. I seems to me that this is their flagship blend. It’s made of 80% Arabicas and 20% Robusta.

This blend is so great that I’m at a loss for words. But let me at least try.

It’s

  • pungent
  • big
  • bold
  • masculine
  • full flavored
  • smooth
  • a lot of dark chocolate
  • some vanilla
  • cigar-like
  • earthy
  • bitter
  • savory, and yet
  • naturally sweet
  • even some raisins or figs (in the finish).

Lucaffé Classic is the quintessential Italian espresso, just made better than most—oh wait, it’s right up there with my beloved Pascucci blends. If that’s what you like, you’ve got to try this. In Finland, you can get Lucaffé products from the good folks at Crema. Their Helsinki store is great, and also their online service is fantastic. Now, go go go!

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Drop Coffee Roasters Samaichacha—fresh fruits and milk chocolate

Our friends moved back from Stockholm, Sweden, and brought us this: Samaichacha from Drop Coffee Roasters. Thank you so much!

Samaichacha is all about washed Caturra from Bolivia. On the label, the roastery provides the following information: ”A medium bodied cup, notes of crunchy pink apple and milk chocolate, with a floral hint. A lasting aftertaste and mouthfeel reminding of mature red wine.” The roast is medium-light at around 2/5.

As I ground the beans, I got a mouthwatering aroma of milk chocolate and fresh fruits, which made me think of some of the fantastic products from Turun Kahvipaahtimo.

I tried brewing the coffee in both my AeroPress (inverted, steel filter) and moka pot. Either way, I got a beautiful combination of juicy fruitiness (not as in the chewing gum, but in real fresh cut fruits) and milk chocolate. The fruitiness was always there, but the chocolate thing balanced it out nicely, and brought some nice higher midrange body to the flavor. Honestly, I didn’t detect any actual wine-like flavor, but the long finish did remind me of the way a good Merlot feels in the mouth.

Samaichacha is definitely a high quality product, no doubt about it. I really enjoyed it, especially in the morning. I guess I’ll have to crash at my brother’s place in Stockholm, and get some more!

Esplanad Espresso Blend—pure Italy!

If you want very good espresso, try this: Esplanad Espresso Blend from Café Esplanad, the legendary café/bakery/roastery in downtown Helsinki, Finland.

This blend brought back many fond memories from twenty years ago, when me and my Wife were studying in Helsinki. On Sundays, we would often go to Café Esplanad, to enjoy the great tea and coffee, and the huge (around 9″?!) cinnamon rolls.

Esplanad tells us that their Espresso Blend is a ”Classic espresso roast” that’s made from 50% Brazilian, 40% Colombian, and 10% Indian beans. The company also offers the following ”flavour notes:” roasted walnuts, dark chocolate.

Now, I’m not sure about this, but I would assume that the 10% Indian is Robusta. The remaining 90% must be a blend of different Arabicas. The bag note, the bouquet, and the actual flavor profile are very similar to those in Pascucci Golden Sack—which, by the way, is 10% Robusta and 90% Arabicas. This is great, especially if you consider the fact that nowadays many ”espresso” blends made in different countries do not actually seem to resemble real Italian espressos at all. For example, in my opinion, many Scandinavian ”espressos” are roasted way too dark. This one was different, though: the presentation, the roast (around 3/5), the aroma, and the flavors were pure Italy. Very nice!

At first, though, it took me some head-scrathing to figure out what this blend was about. As I opened the bag and brewed this in my moka pot, the basic flavor profile was very much like in any basic Italian espresso. At the same time, however, I detected a funny sidenote. Cardboard? Really? At other times, there was also a piercing, dark note which reminded me of raw rubber. I’m pretty sure this was the robusta. Strange as it may sound, I actually liked it quite a bit.

But after the beans had been exposed to air for a while, the ”cardboard” and ”rubber” flavors dissipated completely. After this, the blend was all about the familiar aromas and flavors of the best Italian coffees: dark chocolate, confectionery and almonds. These different aspects were in perfect balance. The overall experience was naturally sweet, bitter and almondy at the same time, just like my beloved Golden Sack.

All in all, Esplanad Espresso Blend is a delightful espresso in the classic Italian style. It is probably not the most unique coffee blend on the planet, or something that would knock your socks off. But what it does, it does really well. I can highly recommend it to anyone!

Kahiwa Galeh—light roasted excellence

I’ve been traveling a lot this week. Every time I’ve come back home, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a cup or two of this: Galeh from Kahiwa Coffee Roasters. Oh, what a treat.

Galeh is all about natural Heirloom from the Limu Kossa farm in Ethiopia. The roast is light at 2/5. As for tasting notes, the company provides the following description: rowanberry, rosehip and nougat.

I couldn’t agree more. As I’ve said before, I generally don’t eat berries, let alone rowanberries or rosehip. But I remember trying to taste those as a kid. If I remember correctly, this is exactly what rowanberry and rosehip tasted like. Be that as it may, I can say this: Galeh has two different aspects to it. On the one hand, there is this ”soft,” slightly nutty and sweet nougat flavor (yes, it’s definitely nougat, not milk chocolate). On the other hand, there is the acidic flavor of some kind of red berries. These two aspects work together perfectly. The finish is medium long and nougaty. Absolutely delicious.

As far as the strength and body are concerned, Galeh is on the lighter side. At the same time, though, there is nothing weak about it. It is light enough to be a good breakfast coffee (macchinetta or even AeroPress), but full-bodied enough to satisfy the hard core espresso man after a big meal (macchinetta/espresso).

That’s it, really. Galeh is probably not the most complex or multifaceted coffee I’ve had, but it certainly is an excellent product that I think every light roast enthusiast should try. I enjoyed every sip of it. Highly recommended!

Lehmus Roastery Lauritsala—an amazing mélange of flavors

During the past week, I’ve been having some really amazing coffee. After I finished my bag of Sammonlahti from Lehmus Roastery, I opened this: Lauritsala from the same company.

Lauritsala is a blend of Monsooned Malabar, S-795/Kent Arabica natural from India, and wet hulled Tim-Tim/Caturra Arabica from Sumatra, Indonesia. The roast level is 4/5, and is called ”French Roast.” Lehmus describes this as a pretty full-flavored blend at 4,5/5.

Let’s get this straight: I liked it very much.

At first, however, this blend really made me think. The bag aroma was pleasant, and yet it took me several days to put my finger on what it was reminding me of.

On the label it was suggested that Lauritsala would be especially suitable for filter and French press. So I tried it in my new drip coffee maker. The result was perfectly OK: a cup of high quality, dark roasted Arabica coffee. However, I still couldn’t quite figure out what this blend was about. After that I brewed it in my AeroPress (one of the inverted methods), with the same result. (Lately, I have not been a big fan of French press coffee, so I decided to leave that contraption on the shelf.)

After a little hesitation, I decided to put the blend into my trusty Bialetti moka pot, with a finer grind size. It was like a light bulb went on. Suddenly all the different aromas and flavors appeared.

Just. Amazing.

Picture yourself standing in the beginning of a beautiful forest path in mid-September. After the rain, you can smell wood, roots, turning leaves, some delicious mushrooms. Next, try to imagine mixing all that with a generous helping of molasses.

Quite a mélange of aromas and flavors.

In this sense, Lauritsala was not unlike Sammonlahti: there were several savory elements to it, and then also the sweeter, molasses-like aspect. In this blend, though, the rootiness was more prominent than the molasses. The mouthfeel was very similar in both blends: creamy and smooth, with no harshness at all.

What more can I say? Just like its darker sibling, Lauritsala is an extremely high quality blend, only more complex.

Get it from Lehmus Roastery. You owe it to yourself.

Lehmus Roastery Sammonlahti—dark, creamy and excellent

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One of my good colleagues hooked me up with this: Sammonlahti from Lehmus Roastery. 

Lehmus is a roastery located in the city of Lappeenranta, southeastern Finland. They have received many awards, such as ”The best roastery in Finland” in 2017 and 2018.

According to the label, Sammonlahti is an espresso blend of washed Robusta from Uganda, and wet hulled Tim-Tim/Caturra Arabica from Sumatra, Indonesia. The roast level is 5/5, and is called ”Italian roast.” The company also describes this as a full-flavored blend at 5/5.

As I opened the bag, I was a little surprised. Unlike many real Italian espresso blends, the beans were really dark and oily, and made me think of some Starbucks products. However, the bag aroma wasn’t like Starbucks at all. It reminded me of pine needles, or the traditional Finnish Christmas tree. Interesting!

I brewed this in my trusty old Bialetti Moka pot. The bouquet was very nice: like a dark, strong arabica/robusta blend mixed with some pine needles.

In my opinion, the body or mouthfeel was medium full. I just loved this part. It felt so creamy and smooth, syrupy, even.

What about the taste, then? This was a big, strong and powerful blend with many savory flavors, such as tar and pine needles. The tar was actually very prominent, but not to the point where the flavor reminded you of creosote (which I like a lot in a coffee, by the way). On the other hand, there were some sweeter elements to this blend as well: molasses, even a small hint of dark chocolate. These two aspects, the savoriness and sweetness were in perfect balance. The tar/pine thing stayed in the forefront, but was balanced out nicely by the molasses-like feel.

Nowadays, I usually don’t reach for really dark roasted coffee as much as I used to. That’s why I was surprised how much I liked this blend. Yes, it was super dark, but not harsh or bitter at all. Instead, it was full bodied, creamy, smooth, and very flavorful. I highly recommend you try Sammonlahti from Lehmus Roastery. It is truly an excellent product.

Galliano Caffè al gusto di Rhum—a great dessert blend

Are you looking for a good Italian style coffee with some added flavoring? Something that would work well as a dessert coffee after a good meal? I don’t think you could go wrong with Caffè al gusto di Rhum from Galliano.

I found it quite pleasant.

The coffee itself was the same 100% Arabica blend that Galliano uses as a base for their other flavored coffees. Granted, it’s not a mind-blowingly fantastic gourmet coffee blend. But it is sure to satisfy your craving for a cup of good Italian moka. The taste was very ”medium” in every sense of the word: not too dark, not too light, not particularly sweet, but not extremely bitter, either. In my opinion, however, it was more bitter than sweet. I really liked that.

On top of this, the company adds a rum flavoring. I don’t know how they do it, but in the pre-ground coffee (perfect for your moka pot) I could actually see these tiny particles of something else, like microscopically small crystals. I assume that’s where the added flavoring came from.

Now, I’m not exactly a rum expert, so it’s a little hard for me to tell whether this tastes like a quality rum or not. I could tell, however, that the topping was detectable in the bouquet, and all the way to the finish. And yet it definitely acted as an additive, not the main player: at no point did the topping overpower the actual coffee flavor. It had an alcohol-like aroma/flavor, that added a nice high pitch to the midrange tonality of the blend. It was not sweet, really, but it felt like it brought some sweetness to the overall experience, and thus balanced out the natural bitterness of the coffee. Really nice!

I drink coffee because I like the natural flavor of high quality coffee. That’s why I don’t think I would reach for a flavored blend like this very often. But if I wanted to have a good Italian style after dinner coffee, Caffè al gusto di Rhum would definitely fit bill. Recommended!

Galliano Caffè al gusto di Nocciola—try if if you dare!

Caffè al gusto di Nocciola, hazelnut flavored coffee from Galliano.

This was one funny blend.

As I opened the bag, the first thing that came to my mind was a memory from more than 30 years ago. Let me tell you the story.

When I was a kid, my dad was the parish pastor in a tiny countryside village in the archipelago of Southwestern Finland. It was a beautiful village with around 800 inhabitants, many of whom were farmers, fishermen or elderly citizens. My dad knew each and every one of these people personally (he has a brilliant mind), and everyone knew him.

When he was running errands around the village, dad—always the pastor—often decided to stop by some congregants’ houses to ask them how they were doing. Many times, I happened to be with him as he did these ex tempore house calls. Now, many of the villagers lived in those little wooden houses that were built en masse in post-WWII Finland. I always followed my dad as he climbed the crumbling concrete steps to the front door. The second the door was opened, I smelled it: the musty, moldy odor of an old wooden building, dirt from the farmer’s boots.

This was the picture that came back to me every single time I had Caffè al gusto di Nocciola. Yes, I could tell that the coffee itself was (probably) the same 100% Arabica blend Galliano uses in their other flavored products. As I’ve said before, while there is nothing spectacular about the blend, it works well enough. It was the added flavoring, however, that made Caffè al gusto di Nocciola stand out from the other Galliano coffees. The topping was not overpowering (the label tells us it’s only 3% of the ingredients), but it was there in every sip. I honestly tried my best to connect this added flavor to hazelnut, but all I could think of was that musty, old wooden house.

Not very pleasant, in my opinion. Try it, if you dare!

Galliano Caffè al gusto di Cacao—a basic Italian with a twist

I usually don’t like to add anything into my coffee. No milk, no sugar, nothing. I drink coffee because I love coffee. That’s also why I haven’t been a big fan of flavored coffee products.

Last year, however, a friend gave me a bag of vanilla flavored coffee from Galliano. I really liked it. It was not like many of those flavored coffees you can find in the supermarket—you know, low quality coffee, with tons of added flavoring to cover up the actual taste. Caffè al gusto di Vaniglia was all about the classic Italian moka/espresso flavor, with just a little hint of something extra from the vanilla.

So when I recently found some of the other flavored coffees from Galliano, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s the first one of them: Caffè al gusto di Cacao. The company doesn’t give any detailed information about the product. They only tell us that it is 100% Arabica with 4% flavoring, pre-ground for macchinetta.

That’s exactly what I smelled as I opened the bag: Arabica. Almost exclusively Arabica. Medium roast. The cocoa was there as well, but it definitely remained in the background. The bouquet was very similar, too: basic Arabica, blended in Italy, with just a tiny hint of cocoa.

The flavor was precisely what I expected: The familiar straight Arabica taste that you get from many Italian grocery store espressos. So nothing spectacular, perhaps, but a perfectly enjoyable all day every day moka flavor. In my opinion, the cocoa wasn’t integrated into the overall flavor profile as well as it could have been, but it worked well enough as an additive. Also, it was definitely cocoa, not chocolate. It didn’t taste like the sweet cocoa that kids like to drink, but more like baking cocoa. Even so, the added flavor wasn’t very deep or dark, but rather light or ”high”.

All in all, I didn’t find Caffè al gusto di Cacao quite as fantastic as its vanilla flavored sibling. But if you want to fill your moka pot with a basic Italian coffee with just a little added cocoa flavoring, give it a try! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Paulig Espresso Originale—an ”Italian” espresso made in Finland

Here’s another one from the supermarket: Espresso Originale by Paulig, the Finnish coffee giant.

The bag description reads as follows: ”Paulig Espresso Originale is our most traditional espresso blend, inspired by Rome. Carefully crafted from top Brazilian and Central American Arabica beans and spiced up with a pinch of Asian Robusta. This classic espresso offers a rich but rounded flavor and a long-lasting finish.”

There is also the following information on the bag:

”Body: 5/5

Acidity: 3/5

Flavor: 4/5

Roast level: 4/5″

The coffee was pre-ground for moka or espresso use.

First off, the bouquet: I definitely got a lot of dark and bitter chocolate—very dark, actually. But then there was that same peculiar, piercing smell that Paulig’s Parisien had. Sometimes this smell seemed less pleasant to me, but at other times it felt almost floral. I think I even got a tiny hint of vanilla here and there. OK, that’s what Robusta seems to smell like in Paulig blends.

The flavor was quite monochromatic or ”one-note”. From the first sip I pretty much knew what I was going to get. Mind you, this is not a bad thing by any means. Sometimes simplicity is exactly what you want. First and foremost, Espresso Originale tasted very dark and strong. There was some of that dark and bitter chocolate in the taste as well. In the finish I could detect a faint hint of vanilla, too.

So tastewise, Espresso Originale was not unlike some Arabica-forward Italian espressos. There was one difference, though: Considering the sheer strength—or the oomph, if you will—the blend was surprisingly ”medium” in body. I couldn’t quite agree with the bag description that promised a 5/5 body and 4/5 flavor. In my opinion, the body was not more than 3/5, while the flavor was closer to 5/5. If you ask me, I’d rather have an espresso with less strength or ”edge,” and a fuller body, something like Guatemala Mono Origine from Pascucci. But I guess this is just a matter of personal preference. Someone else might enjoy the flavor/body profile that Paulig offers in this blend. If you’re that person, Espresso Originale might be worth checking out.