I’m Drinking…… Stumptown Coffees


This is like part two of my previous post, because taking advantage of my parents trip to the USA I also ordered some coffees from another famous coffee roaster, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, originally of Portland, Oregon. Stumptown have 4 coffee shops in Portland itself and another 2 in Seattle. As a bit of a coffee nerd, I had naturally heard of Stumptown through scanning many coffee websites. However, I had never ever tasted any coffee roasted by them, until about several months ago (see my post of 23 July 2008 if you are serious) when I was given the privilege of tasting some Kenyan peaberry arabica coffee beans from them – Wow ! it was really special. So based on that experience I had to try their coffees again. I also like the way their coffees are packaged, nice brown bags with these really cute card inserts describing on one side where the coffee comes from and on the other side the types of tastes your tongue should encounter, if brewed properly but of course. 

First up is one of their most popular coffees, the Hair Bender – interesting name. For some unknown reason it was difficult for me to get a consistent grind, so it was a bit of a …. wait for it… hair bender…. trying to get the right grind, meaning that as a bit of a perfectionist, I wasted more than I would have liked trying to get my 25 second espresso. In any case, when it did it come out, and I gave it a good stir, it displayed this S sign….. kinda wierd, but I guess the coffee knows who roasted it, S for Stumptown… hmmm !


Say S for Stumptown
Say S for Stumptown

I must admit, I preferred the Hair Bender with milk based espresso drinks as I detected that milk chocolate caramel taste in my mouth.

However, for me, the Costa Rica Don Mayo, was really special. Oh ! look at those beans waiting for the grind… the excitement beckons.

I describe Don Mayo as a bright and sweetish brew – one of those really special coffees. You don’t really need sugar with this coffee, it really is that sweet and poignant that it just hits you with a sweet sharp taste as it glosses your tongue.

I shared the coffee with one of my colleagues, who is beginning to really appreciate coffee and she instantly mused “Wow ! this is one of the best coffees I’ve ever tasted”. I loved it as a French Press coffee and you can tell its freshness by the display of what I call “French Press Crema” sitting on top, nice and foamy.

For the last bag, I have to thank the roaster, Shari, who when I was ordering, thought it very amusing that I was taking advantage of my parents being in the States that I was ordering coffee. We had a good chuckle and then she mentioned that they had a really clean tasting Kenyan arabica coffee. I couldn’t really afford to buy anymore, but when I got the package I saw that Shari had kindly included a free 250g bag of Kenyan Ngunguru. The description on the bag was interesting “strawberry, rhubarb, watermelon and cacao”. Now I wasn’t sure about the first three, but when I brewed it for French Press, I was able to detect watermelon on the outside edges of my tongue… hmmm ! interesting. I failed however to get the others. In short, the coffee is what I call an afternoon coffee, earthy and bold and good after a heavy lunch. I also got with a bit of some experimenting and blended the Costa Rica Don Mayo and the Ngunguru and I found it quite pleasant – the contrast between the bold and earthy Ngunguru and the sweet, clean and high acidic Don Mayo. I shared it this time with a Costa Rican colleague, who was very thankful, especially after the lovely aroma had glossed his nose, inviting his secretary to comment “why don’t you share coffee with me?” I quietly walked out.

Anyway, I definitely recommend buying coffee from Stumptown and if you are lucky enough to live in the USA, you can order online, freshly roasted to order.


Spilling the Beans

Spilling the beans – that’s right – I want to “spill” the beans on some coffee bean secrets, known to the experts but not to us minions (i.e those who do not know) but of course until now.

First, don’t be deceived by size – size matters but not in the way you think – La Rosa Costa Rica beans are advertised as low in acidity and are tiny in relation to your normal coffee bean, BUT I was puzzled, when I grounded these beans using the same timer setting on my coffee grinder when more coffee came out.

Usually with normal beans, I have to grind two and half times, but with this bean, two times was more than enough. Still puzzled, I tried crushing the beans between my finger tips and found it a bit tough – it was dense all the way through, which means that there was no air – the beans were “full of beans”, tee hee..

Second, still on size, smaller beans like the La Rosa above actually have lower acidity and surprise, surprise, these beans were tagged as “low acidity”. Now in coffee, acidity is actually what you are looking for and these are typical of much prized Central American and Kenyan coffee beans. So, in summary, smaller beans usually have a lower acidity than bigger ones, but of course, there are exceptions.

Third, coffee beans even from the same farm don’t necessarily have to be the same size – WHAT !!! Yes ! I just found this out when I bought Los Luchadores Pacamara beans from El Salvador, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London.

I was studying the beans like one does before they grind them and thought, “that’s odd, why are some beans bigger than others ? Have they mixed another set of beans with what I ordered – that’s it I’m calling them to sort this out…”. So I quizzed the roaster, Anette from Square Mile Coffee, and she explained to me that this is normal and one way to test this, is to actually painstakingly separate the larger beans from the smaller ones and take a tasting test – they will taste the same. As she is a WBC Judge, who am I to argue, but to learn.

Fourth, and perhaps not that exciting for some of you caffeine junkies, is that when making coffee that needs a longer contact with water, like filter coffee (4 minutes and more) or French Press (4 minutes), you should ideally get a stronger coffee so that you get the real taste, rather then a watered down one. I also have to point out for those of you who have not visited the main website – shame on you – that the longer the bean has contact with water the higher the caffeine content. What does this mean ? Making coffee using a cafetiere/French press or a filter system means more caffeine than for instance making espresso. I just wanted to mention this again, because whenever people see you drinking espresso, they always say “isn’t that really strong ?” But of course I am always glad to explain that it isn’t and they look at me like “really ! are you really into coffee ?” Only if they knew.

Beans, beans, beans – there’s so much more to know about you.

I’m Drinking Square Mile Coffees

Yes ! It’s finally here, after several months of waiting, Square Mile Coffee Roasters have now started roasting specials coffees for sale. OK ! a brief history as to why I’m excited by this particular coffee roasters – the 2007 and 2008 World Barista Champions, James Hoffmann and Stephen Morrissey respectively together with another lady – I think her name is Anette – teamed up and because of their love of coffee, I guess, decided to take this to the next level and opened up a coffee roaster in London. They do mail order all over the World, which suits me fine, because with the current currency crisis, it is now about the same price for me to order coffee from London, including postage and packaging as it is for me to buy my current 1.2 kg monthly consumption of coffee in Vienna. On coffee sizes, Square Mile sell a minimum of 350g sizes and on my first order, I was able to order my monthly supply in 3 bags, which took a very impressive 3 days to arrive.

They also roast twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, so try and place an order about one week before you want to drink it, so that when it arrives, it has “de-gassed” for a recommended one week before you start extracting it. For more about Square Mile Coffee Roasters, please visit their website on http://shop.squaremilecoffee.com/ or just click on my blogroll to the left.

Now to the coffee. I’m not going to go into too much detail but I will just give you a taster of my experience and in a move away from tradition, use some wonderful shots of the stuff to reflect my tasting experience. My first experience was actually at Flat White in December 2008 during my last visit to London, as Square Mile now supply the coffee for Flat White. I bought a 350g bag for me to take back to Vienna, which I think contained some Central American coffee (secret blend, which Square Mile were not disclosing when I asked naturally). Why Central America ? Well ! from my experience I find Central American coffees really blend with well poured milk based espresso drinks.

Still with blends, Square Mile naturally have their Winter Espresso blend, but not wanting to hide anything and I must confess, this is the first time I have seen a roaster disclose the composition of their blends, they show you right on the packet what’s in their blend.


Winter Espresso Blend
Winter Espresso Blend

Naturally, it’s nice, clean, sweet, dark and rich espresso, with complex tones for me, and during the last big snowfall, I was inspired to rush out and take this pic, naturally called Winter Espresso “Blue” – the blue is for the wonderful blue sky that reflected on the snow white of the cup and the snow.

Now, a coffee that features rather little in the Winter Espresso blend is the Muchoki Peaberry from Kenya, which had a tart cherry taste for me when brewed as an espresso. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and recommend this coffee for filter or Cafetiere style coffee as the strength can be minimised by having a longer contact with water. In any case, to show off the lovely dark colours of this coffee, I took this pic in my new Bodum cup.

Now, off to the other part of the World, Central America, which by going through the coffees on sale at Square Mile, is their favourite pat of the World to get coffee. I’ll start with a mouthful, which I love saying to myself, El Molino de Santa Rita El Salvador. A “nutty” taste for a cappuccino. Still in Central America, we move to Costa Rica, for some the best coffee resides here with high acidity, a clean taste and with complex flavours. I tried two from Square Mile, the first, La Rosa, which unusually has low acidity and one I favoured for cafetiere style coffee after lunch at work.

However, in following with a family tradition, one which my daughter seems to have picked up when eating her favourite food, I’ve saved the best for last and it is…. El Portillo Cup of Excellence – wow !

I haven’t been this excited about a type of coffee for for a while. So, in order to get a really good feel for this coffee, I cleaned out my grinder, studied the beans, which look lovely close up.


El Portillo Beans
El Portillo Beans

Got out my La Marzocco Bottomless filter not to miss a moment


El Portillo Naked
El Portillo Naked

OK! I’m beginning to sound a little bit OTT here, but life is short and sometimes you’ve just got to be bothered and committed to going all out. I extracted it into my espresso love cup, newly bought for me by my darling wife, just to capture the love of this very special bean.

El Portillo Espresso Love
El Portillo Espresso Love

I liked it so much that as someone that tries to share lovely experiences, took it to work and shared it with colleagues. What was amazing, was that one of my colleagues, who doesn’t really drink speciality coffee, but tastes wine, described the coffee almost to a “T” as described by Square Mile on the package, toffee, caramel, heavy mouth feel and complex. It’s really versatile as a coffee and I mixed it with another Square Mile coffee, Los Luchadores Espresso Pacamara– El Salvador, which made a nice cappuccino and inspired me to pour this little flower.

El Portillo Cappuccino
El Portillo Cappuccino

For me, no doubt it is really special brewed in a cafetiere, which is what I’m doing with it now, after every lunch time. I noticed that it smells like toffee and tastes like caramel and the aroma just permeates my room so much so that any of my colleagues coming into the room notices the lovely aroma. I’ve just checked on Square Mile’s website, but this lovely bean is no more…. all good things must come to an end boo hoo, but I trust that the guys will find a suitable replacement. Buying coffee from Square Mile is highly recommended by moi.

I’m Drinking Mocca Mocca…

Mocca, Mocca – reminiscent of the original mocha from Yemen, which I am glad to say that my experience of drinking this type of mocca was absolutely amazing and delicious. Alt Wien in Vienna have just started stocking a bio or organic version made up of a mix of coffees from Central America from more than one region, which I guess must be a mix from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua but they were not divulging. At first I was a little bit sceptical wondering what kind of taste I was going to get and was swiftly rebutted by the smell and versatility of the bean as it was quick to find the right grind. Here ! I’ll share a really quick way to find the right grind, so that you don’t waste loadsa (English cockney slang for lots of) coffee when trying to find the right 23-25 second grind for extracting espresso. See the pic below;

I noticed that the granules should not be completely flat and linear – there should be a little bit of “clumping”. If you grind and the machine spurts out too quickly, then you will get lots of powder everywhere – that’s your first warning. Counter this by making the grind a little bit finer until you see some clumps. I am aware that this is ideal for my less than $300 machine, but perhaps for the $1,000 stuff, this might be different as the granules should be completely uniform to get all those wonderful tastes in a cup of coffee.

As an avid drinker of espresso, although I naturally found the Mocca sweetish, it was not as bold as I would like, but when mixed with milk, it was scrumptious. Also, the smell and the colours are so rich, they just typify coffee to the max, see below for colour but not smell…..

Still on the coffee style, the crema was just amazingly thick and I took a few shots to show you how wonderful it was from the top. The sugar took well over 10 seconds to drop through the crema cloud

This coffee bean refused to sink and I had to remove it before drinking. I think the colours are just amazing and this is the thickest crema I’ve got so far this year.

And of course, as it is ideal with an espresso milk based drink like cappuccino, the velvety smooth micro-foam milk just worked and was visually pleasing to the eye.

Here, I’m just trying something different to make my cappuccino look good before it makes contact with my lips and tummy.

Anyway, if you can find it, try a mocca coffee. They are still very rare and upon my return to Alt Wien to buy another 500g bag, there wasn’t any, sadly to say, but I was promised that more would be in the following week.

Mocca Ciao !

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