The wait is over! We just received our first bag, of many, 12 ounces freshly roasted whole bean coffee. The coffee subscription box, Mistobox, shipped it to us in two days. They choose a new bag every week for us from a wide selection of artisan roasters throughout the U.S. The first impression after opening the box was set high by such a well-designed bag, and we were even more eager to get the first brew started. Before we dive in too far though let’s get an overview of our objective.
Our goal is to discover which brew method that will deliver the most superior cup. No doubt every brew method will be good, but which one will give us a well-balanced cup that has all the notes described on Anodyne Coffee Roaster’s gorgeous bag in the box. Once we discover the best brew method, the one that crafts a superior cup, we will pair it with a dessert that will take the experience to even another level. We won’t just pair it with anything, it will be something that complements that coffee’s flavor. Even though we are just casual coffee drinkers, we want to improve our coffee knowledge and palate by becoming more familiar with all flavors in each different coffees and share everything we learn with you. And we welcome feedback from your experiences as well.
Our first coffee is from Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company, was founded in 1999 by Matthew McClutchy and Lacee Perry – a husband and wife team. The business grew enough to allow the business to move out of its initial location on Brady St. and into a new space in Bay View in 2006. Today, the company boasts 5 locations – the Bay View cafe (which now offers authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizza), a kiosk inside the Milwaukee Public Market, a 24,000-square-foot Roastery and event space in Walker’s Point, a coffee bar in Wauwatosa, and a stand inside Miller Park during baseball season. Anodyne also plans to open inside the planned Mequon Public Market. We roast on an energy-efficient Loring Smart Roaster and source our beautiful coffees from importers of the highest integrity.
Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. carefully roasted us a Malawi AA Mzuzu Fair Trade and Organic certified coffee that was sourced from the growing region of Mzuzu in Malawi and was produced by the Mzuzu Coffee Platers Co-op.
This week’s coffee overview
- Malawi, located in Africa is understood for its specific geographical indication as a south-eastern strip that is landlocked
- Malawi Fair Trade coffees are 100% Arabica whole bean coffees, with smooth, mellow floral undertones with a caramelized flavor of tangerine peels, cocoa, and spices that melt in your mouth.
- The high hills with the elevation range of 4000-6500 ft nurture the coffee beans to be matured slowly to gain its softer and creamier body as compared to the other coffee variants from neighboring countries
- The unique Malawian varieties enjoy the subtropical climate. The clay, rich in mineral contents, contributes to their smooth finish and desired floral undertones.
- The beans are harvested during the months of May through to September with the expected arrival period of December to February.
- The Malawi Fair Trade varieties are smaller beans which give the beans its ethnic character. It is the collective labor of the single-origin coffee growers to narrow sourcing them, for better traceability of the coffee origins and how they’re separated and distinguished by their geographical indications.
- The coffee beans are of washed variants, de-pulped and dried for future transport.
- Fair Trade, as the name is suggestive enough, is the fruit of cohesive efforts from different regional cooperatives and coffee importers working hard to ensure fair purchasing practices from the farmer-growers to ensure steady and long-standing supply of coffee beans. This ensures healthier working conditions of the farmer-harvesters and better climate protection.
From seed to cup, there are many things that give coffees their unique aroma and taste. A few of those is the elevation, the process method, and way it is roasted, but what we will be focusing on is a few different brew methods. Every bag that we get will have a description of notes that the roaster has identified. Our goal is to discover which method will give us the most superior cup that draws out those notes.
The Different brew methods and their recommended techniques
Exactly what really makes Chemex special and distinguishes it from all other brands are the filter systems. Chemex filters are 20-30% thicker than regular java filters which filter out there bitterness, oils, and left over brew. That means you obtain a extremely clean and clear mug of coffee. We recommend a medium to medium-coarse grind.
Making coffee with the V60 generally leads to a brighter, lighter in weight bodied cup. The V60 also offers a set of raised grooves spiraling straight down the inside of the cone. The objective of these grooves is to contain the bed of grounds a little ways away from the walls of the V60. This allows for air flow across the sides, which helps in even water circulation across the edges, leading to a more balanced removal. Done right, notes associated with sweetness and fruitiness will certainly shine through, with just a hint level of acidity. You shouldn’t expect an extremely very full-bodied cup with this particular brewer but instead something clean with each specific note easily recognizable.
Immersion style coffee is all about full contact. In contrast to pour over coffee, with immersion coffee, water, and the grounds are in complete contact throughout the whole brew. Filtering comes at the finish once your slurry has had plenty of time to steep. This isn’t always an effective way at extracting all the soluble from your coffee beans as pour over method, but it produces a far fuller-feeling, stronger-tasting cup of joe. If you value savoring the sensitive coffee oils locked in your beans (which are often the fruitier and more acidic flavors), immersion brewing isn’t the easiest method to go. Immersion is more like bathing your beans, while pour overs are like washing, which does a much better job of “pulling” the oils out of your beans.
There are many ways to test the flavors in a cup, but we will be looking at four ways to profile a cup of coffee. Our goal is to discover a well-balanced cup with all the notes that the roaster has described on their coffee bag. We will be testing for:
- Aroma (looking for a pleasant smell that is nutty, fruity, floral fresh, or smoky)
- Full Body (the heaviness and weight felt in your mouth and tip of the tongue)
- Acidity Levels (refers to the sharp, yet pleasant aftertaste)
- Natural Sweetness (the sweet sensation that’s smooth and warmly on the tongue).
To help guides us on the tasting we will be using a universal way of describing and profiling coffee. The flavor wheel can be used either in casual tasting or professional coffee cupping. In either situation, the key is to taste mindful. Prepare the coffee carefully, observing the coffee at different stages: the fragrance just after grinding, the aromas which escape the moment water hits the coffee grounds, and the flavors that fill the palate when the coffee is sipped. ‘Flavor’ is defined as a combination of taste and smell, and the flavor wheel contains attributes on the entire continuum between basic tastes (those things perceived only by the tongue) to pure aromatics (those things that only can be smelled). Most flavors, however, are a mixture of the senses: the sourness and unique aromatics of the lemon, for example, or the sweetness, bitterness, and characteristic aromatics of molasses.
Our Results and Recommendation
Of course, we are not by any means a professional cupper. We are just casual coffee drinkers that want to discover how to brew the overall best cup of coffee and at the same time improving our palettes by using the coffee wheel as a guide. Here are our results:
Hario V60-medium to fine grind
- Once we first opened the bag, we got a strong floral aroma, but after brewing it on the V60, the floral aroma was still there but not as robust. The body was quite heavy on the tongue. The acidity gave a tangy tart aftertaste that I enjoyed. The natural sweetness at the beginning of the cup was more like grape and apple but as it cooled, I got the sugar cane juicy taste. But did we get a balanced superior cup with the V60?
- The floral aroma seemed to increase quite a bit with the Chemex. We really enjoyed the light body that the Chemex gave the coffee. The acidity was more vibrant in the aftertaste. It gave it a cleaner cup. Although we didn’t get much of the honey crisp apple and grape notes, the taste of sugar cane was very apparent until the last sip. Chemex gave us an enjoyable cup but we feel that we didn’t get the full package of notes with it.
French Press-medium-coarse grind
- We were blown away with the results of the French Press! The floral aroma was very delightful. It had a medium body. Felt well balanced on the tongue. The acidity had a wonderful honey crisp aftertaste. The sweetness of the sugar cane was dialed in during the first sips and transitioned nicely into a juicy apple as I approached the final sips
The results were very conclusive between Kent and I. We both agreed that the French Press gives Anodyne Coffee’s Malawi the superior cup. If you are one of those people that love pairing a snack with coffee, we highly recommend a glazed lemon poppy seed bread. The two not only complement each other but enhance the coffee experience.
In the end, although there are many variables from seed to a casual cup of coffee, every brew method made an exceptional cup. The flavor wheel can be quite intimidating at first but it didn’t take long to learn how dead on at profiling coffee that it could be. Be sure to leave your thoughts and give us your insights on your brew technique.