Arcaffè Meloria—a classic Italian A/R espresso

This time, I’m reviewing Meloria, an honest espresso made in the Italian way by Arcaffè (Livorno, Italy). It is a classic blend, comprising 75% Arabicas, and 25% Robusta.

Again, there’s a description on the bag:

Meloria is named after the shallows of Meloria, made of rocks arising 2 miles in front of Livorno. It’s made of estate coffees only (75% Arabica) and created for those who prefer a strong taste. It produces thick and long-lasting cream. The high percentage of unwashed coffee makes it a full-bodied blend.

The company also states that the blend is ”Strong, Complete”. The familiar graph describes the flavor profile thus:

In my opinion, these statements hold true—for the most part, at least.

As I brewed Meloria in my Bialetti Moka, I immediately detected the familiar Robusta notes: the bouquet was vanilla-y, and slightly floral.

The mouthfeel reminded me of the other Arcaffè blends I’ve had: It was smooth and creamy, but pretty light, almost juicy. Very nice!

What about the flavor profile? Despite the smoothness of the blend, there was a classic ”Italian” bitterness that seemed to ”come from within the blend”. Try to imagine a big, soft (rubber?) ball with a silky smooth surface, and a hard core, and you may get a picture of ”where” the bitterness was ”located” in the blend. (Please bear with me, these things are quite difficult to describe, even in Finnish, my native language!) Anyway, the vanilla flavor was pretty noticeable, but then there was also a deep chocolate note, accompanied with some of that florality. None of these flavors was super dominant. Rather, they were very nicely balanced.

To sum up, out of the four Arcaffè espressos I’ve had, Meloria was probably the most traditional. While it didn’t offer any big suprises, it was very enjoyable, to the point where it made me dream of my next trip to Italy.

In Finland, you can get Arcaffè blends from Crema, Helsinki. I highly recommend you do so!

Arcaffè Gorgona—An amazingly good Italian espresso

In these past days, I’ve returned to what I really like: espresso blends from Arcaffè, Livorno, Italy. This time, I’ll give you my thoughts on Gorgona, their Arabica/Robusta espresso blend.

On the back of the bag, the company states:

Gorgona, named after one of the Tuscan Archipelago’s islands located in front of Livorno, is blended with single estate coffees: two kinds of Arabica (85%) coming from Brazil and two washed Indian coffees: an Arabica and a Robusta (selected for and by CSC). it’s perfect for who prefers definite taste [sic!].

From this description one gets the impression that in addition to the 85% of Arabica, the remaining 15% consists of both Arabica and Robusta. However, on the label it says that there is 85% Arabican and 15% Robusta. Be that as it may, I’m interested in the flavor profile! And there is some information on that too:

Of course, I had to brew Gorgona in my Italian coffee maker numero uno, the Bialetti Moka.

Right off the bat, I could tell that the quality of the coffee was very high. (What else would you expect from a traditional company like Arcaffè?). The mouthfeel was smooth and creamy, and yet pretty light at the same time.

The flavor was moderately complex. I detected the following notes:

  • very nice bitterness—this is not to say that the blend was harsh in any way; rather, the bitterness seemed to come ”from within” the flavor profile
  • a tiny hint of pine needles
  • cinnamon
  • dried figs
  • liquorice

As was the case with Arcaffè Roma, here too the overall experience was quite unique: Gorgona was kind of fullbodied and masculine (well, it’s Italian espresso!) on the one hand, and light, sophisticated and almost juicy on the other. In this way, it offered the best of both worlds, and yet the whole thing felt very much ”together”. This seems to be an Arcaffè trademark; I’ve never experienced anything like it in other Italian coffees. I really, really like it! Lastly, I should also mention that the liquorice flavor was only barely detectable in the finish. So, even if you don’t like liquorice, I don’t think you would be offended by this blend.

As you can guess, I can highly recommend Arcaffè Gorgona. Like its sister blends, it is an amazingly good Italian espresso! In Finland, you can get it—and other Arcaffè products—from the good folks at Crema, Helsinki.

Arcaffè Mokacrema—smooth & full-bodied straight Arabica

Here’s Mokacrema, my second blend from Arcaffè, Livorno, Italy.

On the bag, the company describes the coffee as follows:

Mokacrema is a prized coffee blend produced by our company since 1949, made of 100% C. arabica with a high percentage of coffees coming from high ground estates of Central America and Ethiopia.

This time, the Arcaffè graph showed us this:

I think this is a pretty accurate description.

As was the case with Arcaffè Roma, here too the mouthfeel was pretty smooth and rich. Mokacrema was slightly more acidic, though—and that in a very pleasant way. The acidity was mostly apparent in the high end of the flavor spectrum, which was floral and citrusy, just as promised. But then, to balance out the flavor profile, the midrange was malty and honey-like. Even then, the overall experience was not too sweet, in my opinion. Lastly, in the lower midrange I detected a very pleasant, almost earthy and slightly bitter layer of baking spices.

At first sip, Arcaffè Mokacrema might not have been as mind-blowing as its sibling blend, Roma. However, after several cups, I started to appreciate it for what it is: a very good, smooth, yet full-bodied straight Arabica espresso, made in the traditional Italian way.

If you love true Italian coffee, you should try Arcaffè Mokacrema! In Finland, you can get Arcaffè blends from Crema, Helsinki.

Arcaffè Roma—Italy at her best

If you’re like me and love Italian coffee, you should try the espressos blended by Arcaffè, the traditional coffee company in Livorno, Italy. I recently got four of them, and here’s the first one: Arcaffè Roma.

On the bag, the coffee is described thus:

Complex
Sweet

Roma is a fusion of multiple Arabica coffees, originating from Brazil and high ground estates in Central America, Ethiopia and India. This blend has been produced without alteration (apart from wartime) since 1926.

Talk about a long tradition! I like that.

There’s also a cool graph:

The aroma of the ground beans was definitely caramelly, and cocoa-like.

The body was smooth and rich, and yet the mouthfeel seemed to be on the lighter side, ”medium” at most. Actually, Roma felt almost juicy in the mouth—an unexpected experience indeed, considering that this is a no-nonsense Italian espresso blend. And yes, the acidity was ”medium”, at least no more than that.

The flavor was medium full. The overall experience was caramelly and cocoa-like, and there was some of that natural, nutty sweetness of American burley tobacco leaf as well. All of these flavors were in perfect balance.

Even the aroma of the emptly cup was great. It evoked a memory from my childhood:

– – A cool summer evening in the Finnish archipelago. I’m standing in the garden of my friend’s house, watching his dad tend his lovely rose bushes. The sweet and caramelly aroma of his aromatic pipe tobacco. – –

Back to Arcaffè Roma: I loved everything about it! Roma is Italian straight arabica espresso at its best. It is flavorful, but very well balanced. It will satisfy the hard core espresso lover, but it will do so very gently. I can’t say how much I loved it.

If you haven’t tried Arcaffè Roma, you are missing out! In Finland, you can get Arcaffè blends from the coffee experts at Crema, Helsinki.

Italiamo Espresso Magnifico—an honest Italian espresso

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Like Caffè Tradizionale 100% Arabica, which I reviewed (and enjoyed) last year, Espresso Magnifico is part of the Italiamo line of Italian products marketed by Lidl, the German grocery store chain.

On the bag it says ”Arabica & Robusta”, ”Produced in Italy”. Other than that, there is little information on the contents. But that’s fine. Let the product speak for itself.

As you open the bag, you can instantly tell that there is Robusta in it: the bag aroma is  sweet, but earthy and pungent at the same time. The roast seems to be medium dark, around 3/5.

The aroma of the ground beans is naturally sweet and very chocolatey. Many of the classic Robusta elements are there as well—earth, flowers, and vanilla. However, dark chocolate is definitely the main feature. You get the impression that this is going to be a very full-flavored blend.

How does it taste, then? Well, it is quite flavorful indeed. Surprisingly, though, the dry earthiness takes center stage, while the chocolatey sweetness takes the supporting role. Overall, the flavor is not as full-bodied as one might expect. But then, this is not a high-end espresso blend anyway—it costs one third of the price of my beloved Pascucci Golden Sack.

So, is Espresso Magnifico ”magnifico”? Well, not exactly, but it’s definitely not bad, either. In my opinion, it is a reasonably fine grocery store espresso blend, made the Italian way. Quality-wise, it doesn’t seem to be far from classic espressos by companies like Lavazza or Segafredo Zanetti. I actually liked it better than many Scandinavian made ”espresso” blends. For me, it worked well as a dessert coffee after a big and spicy meal.

To be sure, I would prefer a full-bodied Pascucci blend over this, something like Mono Origine GuatemalaCaffè Bio, or (you guessed it!) Golden Sack. But considering the low price, Espresso Magnifico is definitely worth checking out.

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.

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!

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!

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!