Segafredo Zanetti Espresso Casa—the Italian powerhouse

I love Italian coffee. I’ve always had a special affinity for Segafredo Zanetti products. In 2010, as I was just starting to get into coffee, their classic Intermezzo was the first espresso blend I truly fell in love with. Soon after that, I tried their Espresso Casa. I remember liking it a lot, but the huge caffeine kick was the one thing that really stuck in my mind.

Recently, I noticed Espresso Casa was available at my local supermarket. I wanted to find out whether I would still feel the same way about it. I was kind of suspecting that now, after all these years of drinking coffee, it would feel like any regular espresso blend.

Man, was I wrong.

First, it was delicious. Of course, Espresso Casa is not gourmet coffee. But it was really good. The Arabicas were nutty and slightly sweet. The Robustas were earthy and bitter, but not overly so. They were slighlty floral and vanilla-like, but not so much as in, say, Lavazza Crema e Gusto. The whole thing was reminiscent of Intermezzo, but it was not as earthy and dry. It was full flavored, but very creamy and smooth. All the different flavors were in perfect balance.

Man, it was almost as good as my beloved Pascucci Golden Sack.

Secondly, the caffeine. Oh boy, the caffeine. I’d like to think that I have a pretty high tolerance for caffeine. Even then, two moka pots of this after a big breakfast made my head spin like no other blend.

If you want some hair on your chest, this is the deal.

I really like Espresso Casa. In my opinion, it is one of the best Italian espresso blends you can find in your local supermarket. That said, I don’t think I could have it every day. It is just too strong in the caffeine department. But if you need a quick pick-me-up in the morning, or if you want to feel like Marlon Brando, this is the perfect choice.

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.

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!

Arvid Nordquist Molto—big & bold!

If you like your coffee dark, big, bold, intense, pungent and full-bodied, ”Molto” from Arvid Nordquist would be a good choice.

Nordquist markets ”Molto” as an espresso in the Italian style. It is made of 100% organic Arabicas from South and Central America, Indonesia and Eastern Africa. The company describes the blend as ”balanced and gentle with notes of cacao.” They also say that it has a ”sweet aroma of almonds that develops into an intense dark flavour with discreet hints of licorice root.” On the bag, you can also find the usual ”Nordquist” categories:

  • Roasting: Espresso (10/10)
  • Acidity: Discrete (4,5/10)
  • Spiciness: Sweet (5/10)
  • Body: Rich (6,5/10)
  • Fruitiness: Berry Like (5,5/10)
  • Nut Chocolate: Roasted Almonds (5,5/10)

OK, what did I think of it?

Was it balanced? In my opinion, yes. Gentle? In a way, yes. There was no harshness whatsoever. Rich? Absolutely. Sweet? Maybe a little. At least it was not as earthy as some ”real” (read: Italian) espresso blends. That would be understandable: there is no Robusta in this. What about the licorice root or the ”Berry Like” quality? At least I didn’t detect them. Also, for me the ”Roasted Almonds” thing was almost nonexistent.

I kept saying to myself: ”Dark, bitter chocolate. That’s all I can think of.”

All things considered, I don’t think ”Molto” is very similar to most Italian espressos—there is no Robusta in it, and it is roasted a lot darker. Actually, in my opinion, the darkness of the roast covers up many of the nuances that the company talks about. This makes ”Molto” a pretty staightforward and ”one note” type of blend. But that’s fine. If that’s what you want in your cup, try it! You might like it!

Revisited: Arvid Nordquist Reko—I still like it a lot!

Recently, someone asked me: ”If you had to buy one pack of coffee at the supermarket, what would you get?” I immediately replied: ”Arvid Nordquist Reko.”

This is a blend that has gained massive popularity among Finnish coffee drinkers. I have also enjoyed it many, many times over the years.

As I thought about it, I suddenly realized: While I had gone through several packs of the pre-ground version of this blend, I had never bought it in beans. I just had to go to the supermarket and get it.

So, without further ado:

Revisited: Reko from the big Swedish coffee company Arvid Nordquist.

As the company tells us, Reko is a ”Dark, powerful & spicy” blend (my translation), made from ”100% quality Arabica beans.” On the bag, they also provide the following information: ”A clean, nutty aroma. A full-bodied flavour with a wide acidity. A spicy aftertaste with a hint of liquorice.” They also say:

  • Roasting: Dark (8/10)
  • Acidity: Wide (7/10)
  • Spiciness: Licorice (6/10)
  • Body: Rich (8/10)
  • Fruitiness: Black currant (6/10)
  • Nut chocolate: Dark chocolat (sic) (6/10)

All of this is pretty accurate, I would say.

Flavorwise, Reko is not the easiest blend to describe. On the one hand, it’s quite simple and ”one note.” On the other hand, though, it’s pretty complex. There’s a lot going on. I can detect the following flavors:

  • dark chocolate
  • vanilla
  • nuttiness
  • (baking?) spices
  • rootiness
  • licorice
  • creosote
  • leather
  • smokiness

On the whole, Reko is not particularly sweet. There are no dried fruit flavors (figs or raisins) to speak of. (If that’s what you are looking for, check out Pascucci Guatemala!) But Reko is not particularly dry, either. It never feels as if something is missing. It’s a very solid and full flavored blend.

One of the great things about Reko is that it’s really predictable, in a good way. It does exactly what you expect. Even different brewing methods do not alter the flavor profile significantly. They do alter the strength, obviously, but even then you can always tell that it’s your trusty old Reko. And by the way—surprisingly, perhaps—, it really doesn’t matter whether you get it in beans so that you can change the grind size, or just go with the pre-ground version. It doesn’t make a big difference, if you ask me.

If you really want to find out what this blend is about, brew it in a moka pot. Beware, you will feel it. I just love it that way. I have to say, though, that since Reko is pretty bold and big, after your third cup you might want to have something lighter for a change. But then you can try it in the regular coffee maker. It just works every time. Also, it’s great with the AeroPress. Very enjoyable.

Granted, Reko is not gourmet coffee, but then that’s not what it was created for. In my opinion, it is one of the very best grocery store coffees out there. I just won’t let you down. No wonder everyone likes it so much.

Paulig Origins Blend Guatemala—very nice!

OK, here’s the last blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Guatemala.

As all of my readers must know by now, all the blends in this series are made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my recent review.

Obviously, Guatemala is made of Guatemalan coffee, but also—as the Paulig website tells us—”aromatic Colombian beans.” That’s all we get to know about the ingredients. The company calls the blend ”delicately fruity” and ”softly milk chocolatey.” Again, that sounds like something I would really enjoy!

And lo, that is exactly what you get. The body is kind of ”medium,” but also kind of juicy. The flavor profile is all about fresh cut ”yellow” fruits, mixed with semi sweet milk chocolate. Very pleasant, actually.

To me, Guatemala is a lot better than some of the other blends in the Origins Blend series. My only caveat is that the flavors are a little muted. Now, all of the flavors promised in the bag description are there, but the overall feel could be bolder, in my opinion. And I don’t mean ”bolder” in the way that ”dark roasted coffee” can be bold. I mean that I really like the flavors, and that’s why I would like to get more of them out of this. Having said that, with Guatemala this is not as big of a problem as in some of the other Origins Blends.

So, if you like a medium roasted, fruity and chocolatey coffee that is readily available (at least in Finland, that is), you might want to check this out!

Paulig Origins Blend Tanzania—Seriously?

This is the third blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Tanzania.

Like all the other blends in the series, Tanzania is made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my recent review.

It goes without saying that Tanzania is made of Tanzanian beans. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. In the bag description they call this coffee fresh, nuanced and berry-like. The Paulig website elaborates: there is plenty of flavor and aromas of red berries. OK, that sounds like something I would really like!

Uh oh.

The bag aroma was… well, it smelled like coffee. That all I could say about it, really.

If I was struggling to come up with a proper review of Paulig Colombia, writing this one was even harder. Even after several cups, I just couldn’t taste the things they promised. To me, this blend was not fresh or nuanced, but rather dull. Also, in my opinion, there was no berry flavor to it. Zero. It’s not like it tasted bad, really, but it wasn’t very good, either. Just… grocery store coffee—which this is, obviously.

Mind you, I don’t want to be hard on Paulig. I’d LOVE to support our local businesses. But I just don’t understand how even the biggest coffee company in a small country like Finland can afford to make blends like this, while the Swedish competition is cranking out far better products and selling them for similar prices. An historical blender like Paulig should know better. In my opinion.

Paulig Origins Blend Colombia—nothing to write home about

Here’s the second blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Colombia.

Like all the other Origins Blend offerings, Colombia is made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my last review.

As you would expect, Colombia is made of Colombian Arabicas. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. As far as the flavor is concerned, they call it ”balanced and nutty.”

The bag aroma was quite pleasant. When I opened the bag, I immediately got the familiar sweet nuttiness of Colombian coffee.

When I first tasted Colombia, I thought it would be a tough blend to review. I really had to strain myself to tease out the flavors. After several cups, I had to conclude that there was not a lot of flavor to find. Yes, there was some nuttiness. You could tell that it was Colombian coffee. But that was about it. Yes, it was balanced, too, at least in the sense that nothing really stood out. Was it bad? No, no. It’s just that, in my opinion, there was nothing to write home about, either.

If you want to get good Colombian coffee, get yourself some Pascucci Colombia. Now that is a great, flavorful and medium bodied blend. In Finland, you can get it from your local Ciao! Caffé shop.

Paulig Origins Blend Indonesia—a decent blend from the supermarket

I went to the local supermarket and found these: The Origins Blend series from Paulig, sold in these little 75 g (2.64 oz) ”Trial size” bags.

All of the blends in the Origins series are 100% Arabicas. Each one is named after the country of origin of the primary ingredient: Indonesia, Colombia, Tanzania and Guatemala. Also, each blend is roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

That being the case, I decided to let my Moka pot rest for a while (sob), and use my French press instead. I also decided to brew all of these blends following the same method. It’s very simple:

  • boil some water
  • add 14 g (0.49 oz) of ground coffee in the preheated FP glass carafe
  • after the water has cooled down for one minute, pour 200 g (7.05 oz) of it on top of the grounds
  • place the plunger on top, but don’t press just yet
  • let stand for 3 min 45 sec
  • remove the plunger
  • take a spoon and remove excess coffee grounds from the surface
  • insert the plunger and press
  • pour the coffee in a cup and enjoy

I tried Indonesia first. Obviously, it’s made of Indonesian beans, but has some South American in it too. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. They call it ”intense & spicy,” with flavors of wild berries, rich fruityness and hints of spices.

In my opinion, the overall flavor was on the darker side. The berries were definitely there. I detected some spice as well. On the other hand—just as promised—there was also a fruity aspect to it. While all of these aspects were apparent in the flavor profile, none of them was particularly pronounced. Take the berriness, for instance: With some other coffees you can say something like ”This tastes like raspberries.” But with Indonesia it was actually quite hard to say what the ”berries” were like. Similarly, the fruitiness did remind me of fresh cut fruits, but whether they tasted like stonefruits or something else, it was hard to tell. It’s like all the flavors were there, but the whole thing tasted kind of muted. Only the spiciness was a bit easier to understand. It didn’t taste peppery per se, but closer to that than, say, cinnamon or other baking spices.

The blend was pretty low in acidity, which was nice. The body was medium at most.

My final verdict? Paulig Indonesia may not be a gourmet coffee blend, but it is better than many other Finnish grocery store coffees. However, if I had to get a solid medium dark Arabica from the supermarket, I would certainly opt for a Swedish blend, say Reko from Arvid Nordquist, or Jubileum or Kharisma from Löfbergs.

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.