Two instant coffees from Nescafé

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Let me get this straight: I’m not a huge fan of the concept of instant coffee.

Sometimes, though, instant coffee can come in handy. For example, on business trips abroad, when I don’t have access to a proper coffee maker (OK, you got me there: I should bring my AeroPress!), I’ve found instant coffee to be a good option. Even at home, on those early mornings when you don’t want to wake up everyone else by grinding your beans, instant coffee can get you going without noise.

I’ll admit it: Some instant coffees are actually pretty good. I’ve especially liked many Japanese ones, such as those by UCC and AGF Blendy. Whenever I take the trip to the beautiful country of the Far East, I make it a point to buy a couple of jars of their instant coffees.

But the instant coffee that ”everyone” knows is made by Nescafé. Obviously, I’ve got to know some of their products, too. This time, I wanted to get two of their basic blends and see how they compare. So here we go!

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Nescafé Original

The bag aroma was interesting, to say the least. The first thing I could think of was smoked meat, or beef jerky, perhaps. Add to that some charred wood, and you get the picture.

When I poured hot water on it, however, the aroma changed. In the cup, the meaty smell was completely absent. It just smelled a little smoky, and kind of dry, if that makes sense.

Flavorwise, too, Original was pretty dry and slightly smoky. It had this bitter taste of dark roasted coffee. That would make sense, since on the scale of 1 to 5, the ”darkness” is said to be 4/5. Overall, Original wasn’t too nuanced. Even after consuming most of the bag, I really couldn’t tell if there were other aspects to the flavor profile.

Nescafé Brasero

The Brasero bag aroma was a lot sweeter than in Original. It reminded me of bread and salted licorice. Sounds funny, perhaps, but it was quite pleasant, actually.

Brasero seemed to try to be a replacement for a regular ”dark roasted” coffee. And yes, it is said to be 3,5/5 on the darkness scale. Flavorwise, it had this toasted and slightly bitter vibe to it. The body was not quite as full as in the Original. That’s all I could say about it, really.

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My final verdict? Oh well, I’m not sure these two offerings from Nescafé convinced me to start having more instant coffee. I really didn’t care for Brasero. At all. And while Original was not particularly delicious, either, I found it to be acceptable as my first cup in the morning.

If I had to live on instant coffee, I would stay away from these, and get some UCC instead.

Frukt Coffee Roasters Espresso El Naranjo—berries and spices from Guatemala

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This was the first time I got to try a Frukt Coffee Roasters product. Frukt are a company based in Turku, Finland, where I was born. Also—just a fun fact for me—, they are located right next to the Arts Academy where I used to study, and where I also met my Wife many years ago. I will have to pay them a visit!

Anyway, Espresso El Naranjo belongs to the Fun line of Frukt coffees. On the company website, the coffee is introduced thus:

This fun coffee comes from Julio Cano, a second -generation coffee producer based in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. This coffee is Caturra variety grown at Julios farm El Naranjo at 1750 meters above sea level.

After the picking is done the coffee cherries are manually de-pulped and then fermented in special buckets for 48 – 50 hours. After the fermentation the coffee is fully washed and sun dried on patio for 12 days.

On the label, Frukt offer the following tasting notes: ”Prune, hazelnut, creamy”.

To my eye, the beans were ”organic” in appearance. That is to say, they were beautifully nonuniform in shape. The roast level appeared to be medium, approximately 3/5.

The ground coffee smelled fantastic. It had this sharp and sweet aroma of bitter almods and chocolate, maybe even some berries. Just the way I like it!

Since Espresso El Naranjo is (obviously) an espresso blend, I decided to brew it in my Bialetti Moka pot.

I was apparent from the first sip: The mouthfeel was definitely creamy.

Flavor-wise, Espresso El Naranjo was not quite as almondy as I expected. Yes, there was a certain nuttiness to it, but more than that, it was acidic, almost berry-like. At the same time, there was a spiciness that was reminiscent of cinnamon and pine needles. By the time I got to the finish, the nutty flavors came to the forefront as well. The long and sweet finish made me think of hazelnuts and burley pipe tobacco.

All in all, I really liked Espresso El Naranjo. I think it’s a very good espresso that offers you some of the best aspects of Guatemalan coffee, plus some very pleasant spiciness. You can get it straight from Frukt Coffee Roasters, or from Coffea, the great coffee shop in Jyväskylä. I will certainly try to get some more!

 

Friedhats Colombia El Desvelado #1—my new favorite Colombian!

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Here’s another candidate for my list of Top 10 coffees.

Colombia El Desvelado #1 Filter Coffee from Friedhats Coffee Roasters, Amsterdam. The coffee comes in a fun plastic canister. On the label, the company encourages customers to keep the canister, and return it to them for recycling.

About the coffee itself, the company states this:

Notes: Candy sweetness, blueberry jam, plum.

Variety: Caturra, Castillo, Colombia

Coop: Cafe Occidente

No. of members: 1670

Region: Nariño

Altitude: 2200 masl

Process: Fully washed

Harvest: 2019

The roast appeared to be medium, around 3/5.

The aroma of the ground beans was mouthwatering: nougat, blueberry jam, and prunes.

On the label it said ”Filter coffee”. I figured that this would work well with the AeroPress. Oh boy, it did.

The mouthfeel was juicy and jammy.

Even if the body was medium-mild, the coffee was very flavorful. On the high end of the spectrum, there was the soft acidity of blueberry jam. The midrange was dominated by the prunes. In the finish, there was some molasses, and a tiny hint of the nutty sweetness of burley tobacco. After every cup, I was left craving for more. It was that good.

In Finland, you can get Friedhats coffees from Coffea, Jyväskylä. I highly recommend checking them out—both the Dutch roastery, and the Jyväskylä store, that is. They really know their stuff!

Lehmus Roastery Myllysaari Light Roast—fruity, herbal… and excellent!

 

davThis one is going to be a strong candidate for my top 10 coffees of the year.

Myllysaari Light Roast from Lehmus Roastery. On the label, the blend is described as follows: Etiopia, [that’s how you spell it in Finnish] Anderacha, Sheka, Limu, Guji, Keffa Bourbon, natural, 1700–1900 m.a.s.l”. They also say that the roast level is 2/5, whereas the body is 2,5/5. The roastery suggests that the blend is especially suitable for filter machines and AeroPress.

Of course, I decided to go with AeroPress.

The second I opened the bag, I knew I was going to love it. It had an aroma of fresh cut (yellow?) stonefruits. At the same time, there was this herbal aroma that made me think of a very light green color, mixed with a lot of white, and just a touch of light gray.

Both of these aspects were there in the taste as well. The flavor was naturally fruity and sweet, but not too sweet. It was herbal and hoppy, but not dry, hay-like, or bitter. Also, the sweet milk chocolate flavor that I usually associate with flavor profiles like this was absent, which made the blend unpredictable in a good way. The mouthfeel was solid and creamy—as you would expect from a Lehmus Roastery product!—, but light and juicy at the same time.

Oh yes, I liked it a lot.

If you’re one of those people who have thought that light roasted coffee is acidic and nasty by default (as many traditional Finnish blends are!), and that therefore it is better to stick to ”dark roast” blends, think again! Myllysaari Light Roast from Lehmus Roastery is an excellent example of how pleasant a high quality light roasted Ethiopian can be. It’s pure bliss!

Lehmus Roastery Kanava Half City Roast—an excellent all day blend

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This is an excellent blend: Kanava Half City Roast from Lehmus Roastery, the award winning coffee company in Lappeenranta, Finland.

According to the roastery, Kanava is a blend of washed Caturra, Colombia, and Castillo Arabica from Colombia. Both the roast level and body are said to be 2,5/5. They also say that this blend is suitable to filter coffee makers and the AeroPress. Can you guess which one I opted for? The AeroPress, of course.

First, the bouquet. I detected (in no particular order)

  • vanilla
  • some chocolate
  • nuts
  • dried fruits (figs/raisins?)
  • burley tobacco

The mouthfeel was classic Lehmus. It was creamy, syrupy, and rich. And, yet it was kind of light at the same time. I just loved it.

What about the flavor profile? At first I went: ”OK, another solid middle-of-the-road blend.” But then I started to notice how complex it actually was. I detected the following (again, in no particular order):

  • vanilla
  • some chocolate
  • nuts
  • dried fruits
  • the soft acidity of fresh fruits (apples?)
  • toasted burley or dark fired kentucky tobacco

None of these flavors overpowered the others. Rather, they worked together in perfect harmony. Also, despite the multifaceted nature of the flavor profile, at no point did the blend feel too ”busy”. Actually, the overall experience was medium light and rather simple.

Like I said, Kanava from Lehmus Roastery is an excellent blend. It would work perfectly on any occasion. You owe it to yourself to check it out!

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.

Paulig Juhla Mokka—The Finnish classic

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This is the coffee review that many of my readers have been waiting for.

This is also the review that will make others roll their eyes.

What is it about? Juhla mokka, blended and roasted by the Finnish coffee giant Paulig.

This is the blend that has been considered THE Finnish coffee for decades. Every Finn knows it. Many also think that it is the best coffee around. You can read about the history of the blend on the company website (in Finnish).

On the package, Paulig tells us that this coffee is (my translation) a ”fine and full-bodied” blend of 100% Arabicas from Central America, South America, and Africa. Nowadays, the blend is available in several different forms and roasts, but the classic version of Juhla mokka is roasted light (1/5), and comes in these 500 g ”bricks”, pre-ground for filter use. The company describes the flavor profile thus:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Aroma: 4/5

As I opened the bag, the coffee smelled like a basic grocery store Arabica. The aroma was somewhat fruity, and there might have been a hint of chocolateyness as well. Quite pleasant, actually.

While the blend was pre-ground with the filter machine user in mind, the grind size seemed to be suitable for AeroPress as well. That’s why I decided to brew it using the latter.

Regardless of the AeroPress recipe, the flavor was dominated by a ”high”, sharp acidity. It was not reminiscent of fruits, berries, or anything else I could think of. It just tasted acidic. Now, normally I’m OK with some acidity, especially if the body is full enough to balance out the flavor profile. Here, however, the midrange was pretty weak. There might have been some nutty and chocolatey notes here and there, but they seemed muted and hard to detect. Overall, the coffee felt kind of weak (diluted, even?) and sharp at the same time.

Many Juhla mokka fans have asked me whether I like this blend or not. Well, let me put it this way: I do not actually hate it. That said, it’s kind of hard for me to understand why so many Finns love this coffee so much. Of course, to each their own, right? Right. In my humble opinion, however, there are better options out there. If you want to get a good, light roasted coffee that’s readily available in the local supermarket, I would suggest you try Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist.

La Torrefazione Silver Monkey—milk chocolate and dark berries!

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Here’s a blend that I liked very much: Silver Monkey, roasted by Kaffa Roastery, Helsinki, for the coffee shop chain La Torrefazione.

Silver Monkey is all about washed Red Bourbon from Nyamalinda, Rwanda. At 3/5, the roast level is around medium. On the label, the flavor profile is described as follows: ”Intense, deep and complex, with currants and plum notes, this coffee will carry you right to the heart of the Rwanda rainforest, the home of the Silver Monkey.” They also say this:

  • Fruitiness: 3/5
  • Body: 4/5

I just loved the aroma of the ground beans: milk chocolate and dark (red?) berries. I felt that this coffee would work perfectly in the moka pot, so that’s the gadget I decided to use.

In my opinion, the flavor profile was not super multifaceted, but it was definitely complex enough to keep me interested. The two aspects that I had detected earlier in the aroma were apparent in the flavor as well:

  1. the natural sweetness of milk chocolate (in the midrange)
  2. the softly acidic berry-like notes (in the upper register, but also kind of dark at the same time)

The mouthfeel was kind of ”medium”: not exaclty juicy, but not too creamy, either. Very pleasant.

All in all, I liked Silver Monkey quite a bit. I think you would do well to check out La Torrefazione and Kaffa Roastery!

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.