Written for the Aldea Staff by Aldea's Head Coffee Roaster, Scott Dorsch.
- Dec. Features
- Intro: Reflections from the Roastery
- Releases and Runouts of December
- Walberto Alvarado Release Notes
- Introducing the Roaster’s Pick Line and The Downshifter
Fun Fact of the Month
Did you know that the mocha is named after the port, Al Mokka, in Yemen? Yemen was the first country to cultivate coffee plants for commercial use all the way back in the 15th century (though wild origins of coffee were found much sooner in Ethiopia and what is now the Republic of the Congo.). One of the common coffee varieties shipped the world over from that famous port of Al Mokka was a particularly chocolatey bean known as the “mocha bean.” Hence the use of chocolate in this popular espresso drink.
Intro: Reflections from the Roastery
It’s been awhile, y’all! Sorry for the radio silence. It’s been an awesome and active Fall at the roastery, and I’m excited to share some new things with you.
With a rapid decrease in ambient temperature and relative humidity comes some fun tweaks and experiments at the roastery. The roaster now takes about 30% longer to get up to temp and the beans want to roast faster than usual with the lower humidity (I recently learned that this leads to a more extractable coffee.). In other words, there’s never a dull moment roasting in West Michigan.
Meanwhile, and it may be hard to imagine while it is snowing buckets here, but many of the coffee producers we partner with are either just starting their harvest seasons, like in Honduras, or are just finishing up, like in Tanzania. Thus, we are neck deep in sampling green coffee and forecasting for next year’s green orders (Yes, we generally place our estimated order now-ish for Honduran lots and it is delivered about 4-6 months later after all the processing is complete). Can be stressful to think about ordering a year’s worth of coffee 6 months in advance (especially when you consider that it can be stuck at port or lost in a railyard somewhere), but Jeremy & the team have mastered the fine art.
In all, stoke is high despite the cold.
Releases and Runouts in December
This is likely old news, but Gilberto’s coffee, save for some bulk left at the cafes, is done for this year. We can all wait in excitement for his 2024 harvest sometime next August.
Carlitos Heins (Washed)
The last of Carlitos’s coffee is now at the cafes. Get it while you can! Carlitos’s Natural processed coffee will join the retail party in March-ish.
Releases and Rereleases
Walberto Alvarado, Washed, A Debut
This may also be old news, but we’re all very excited to have Walberto’s coffee available at both cafes and online. You might recall that his coffee was the mystery farmer coffee back in August. I first tasted the coffee when it arrived this summer and was blown away by its inherent sweetness (I remember running into the kitchen and making Beck try it. Someone else needed to try it! It was just, wow.). There’s a full write-up on Walberto’s release on our blog at aldeacoffee.com (found here) that you can read to get up to speed. This coffee will be featured on drip for the month December.
Yep! He’s back. Soon. Like, second week of December, and will be replacing Carlitos Washed on the shelves. It’s another great year for Marlon’s coffee: a little chocolatey and citrusy, and nutty as always. A very balanced coffee with a great mouthfeel. Once it’s on, we will be switching it to the pour over feature for a limited time.
The New Roaster’s Pick Line
I’ve been busy at the Roastery.
It’s difficult to find time outside of daily production to play around. But a scientist is only as good as their experiments; the result is only as good as its process. So, I found thirty minutes here and there to wander the wilderness of coffee roasting, and I have been finding some cool things along the way.
In the last year, I’ve been experimenting and tweaking our coffees and playing around with different blend options. A little bit of this, a lot bit of that, tasting coffee constantly. This led to many wild and jittery afternoons. But it also led to some exciting things, like the Dawn Chorus Blend, released earlier this year. It also made me a much more confident roaster by learning how our coffees perform in our Diedrich IR-12 with different charge temperatures and finishes, different roasting approaches (hot and fast v. low and slow), and different components in blends.
These experiments were often done in very small, 100-gram batches in our Ikawa sample roaster. Only when I felt really good about the result did I up the batch size. Tweaks in the larger roaster were only ever minor. I wasn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, per se, just to true the wheelset.
I’ve also received coffee samples from like-minded coffee importers like our friends at Coffee Quest, who supply us with our EA Decaf. This led me to drink even more coffee, which can only ever be a good thing.
In total, it all led to some awesome discoveries. And, I’d like to share some of them with everyone.
Introducing the Roaster’s Pick Line
Our new Roaster’s Pick Line is for those wanting to try something new, and often. It’s the small, good things I found and will find along the way in my experiments. There will not be a consistent release date, but they will be released when ready (with the first of the line coming out real soon!).
Here’s how it will work:
- The Roaster’s Pick will vary—sometimes a blend, sometimes a small lot from a single producer, sometimes they will be lightly roasted, sometimes dark, sometimes they will be iterations of a coffee you may love (like Ramon Enamorado’s coffee, but roasted light).
- All Roaster’s Picks will only be available for a short time, with 30-100 lbs produced per run, and may never return. Get them while you can!
- Roaster’s Picks will only be available in one-pound bags at our cafes in Muskegon and Grand Haven (but may appear as a Roaster’s Choice option online)
- They will always have a description on the bag and be released with a blog that tells the story behind the coffee and my process along the way
Excited? I hope so. Here’s our first release:
The Downshifter Half-Caff Blend
While at the Coffee Roaster’s Guild Retreat back in October, a roaster from St. Louis (Hey, Brian!) gave me the idea to try a half-caff blend—equal parts decaf and a fully caffeinated coffee. He personally loved them as a midday cup and said that many of his clients liked the option as well. I immediately thought about our amazing EA Decaf from Colombia and its incredible sweetness. It would be an amazing blender, I thought.
As it turns out, it certainly is.
After a bit of experimenting, I developed an accessible and crowd-pleasing half-caff blend: The Downshifter.
It is a post-roast blend of the two coffees we get from Huila, Colombia: The EA Decaf and the communal lot we use in our Espresso. I kept the Decaf profile the same, but used our Ikawa Pro100 sample roaster to experiment with the Colombian communal lot at different roast temps.
Although I did enjoy the blend using a lighter roast temp on the communal lot, I found a more developed roast helped balance out a bit of the sugary sweetness of the decaf, giving the blend more of toasted marshmallow quality, rather than brown sugar. Raising the roast temp also mellowed the usual citrus notes to that of cherries.
Like a cyclist downshifting gears to get up a hill, sometimes we need to downshift to get through a busy day. The Downshifter is a Half-Caff Blend for those needing to take their caffeine intake down a notch. It’s a beautifully balanced dark roast with notes of toasted marshmallows, nuts, and dried cherries.
Having these two coffees highlighted together is special, and their flavors will always take me back to the Coffee Quest dry mill where we first tried them. I hope you enjoy it as well!
I’m only making 30-60 pounds of this blend to start, so definitely a very limited release. The Downshifter will be released the first week of December.
(If you wish to read the full blog about The Downshifter with a little background about the green coffee, our trip to Colombia, and some extra info regarding EA processed decafs, click the link here.)
That’s all for the December Newsletter. Thanks for reading!