Backyard Beans Coffee Company was kind enough to send me a bag of their coffee for Dark Roast December and I immediately enjoyed the message (above) on the bag as well as the llama logo and even the name of their dark roast coffee, “Punch in the Face!”
Backyard Beans Coffee Company is located in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. They started as many roasters do, roasting for themselves and then dipping their toe into the farmers’ market scene. Quickly, they found themselves renting commercial space and firing up a commercial Dietrich grinder! As for the name, they started roasting in their backyard, and the llama logo, it’s their initials (Laura L. Adams and Matt Adams). I just figured there were a lot of llamas in the Philly area.
The coffee in question is from the COMSA cooperative in La Paz, Marcala, Honduras. I’ve had COMSA coffees from Epic Bean as well as roasted for espresso by S&W Craft Roasting this year, so it’s a bean I’m somewhat familiar with. Backyard Bean’s offering contains Bourbon, Typica, Catuai and Caturra varietals grown from 1295-1700masl and the beans are washed/wet-processed. COMSA has organic as well as Fair Trade certifications and a lot of their profits go back into the community in Marcala. You can buy this coffee directly from Backyard Beans in full pound (16 oz) bags for just $14.
This is a dark, dark roast, my friends, which was the focus of Dark Roast December! The beans are black and oily and the grounds look like crushed Oreo cookies without the icing. I got a bit of a waft o’ fish from the grounds, which isn’t uncommon with darker roasts because the heat will convert our friend, caffeine, into other amines (a class of chemicals found in foods of all sorts) that smell like fish. I have smelled some FISHY coffees in my day and have yet to ever taste it in the cup. On the fishmonger scale of how fishy this coffee smelled after grinding, I would only give it a 3. A bag of Peet’s a friend gave me is my 10, for reference. I poured the beans into a bowl thinking I would find an actual fish head inside somewhere, so a 3 isn’t bad. Just don’t be afraid when your dark roasts are a little “of the sea” because it’s no big deal.
Anyway, like most dark roasts this coffee took up A LOT of volume in my trusty Gino dripper. Since I brew by weight, dark roasts take up about 2/3 as much space as a lighter roast, with lighter beans that take up less space. The coffee off-gassed a ton of CO2 when bloomed, too. I always love getting a giant, puffed up dome of blooming coffee with dark roasts and this one did not disappoint! And, like all dark roasts, the coffee tends to float rather than sink to the bottom of the filter, so dark roasts brew a lot faster for me than my usual 4:00 minute target time. Since their goodness is easier to get at for the water than in a harder, lighter roasted bean, the extraction still happens quite readily, so I don’t worry about the short extraction time too much.
I wasn’t that into this coffee at first, but as it cooled I appreciated it more and more. Initially, right out of the dripper, it was very “drummy” (my word for that metallic twang dark roasts can sometimes have, as if you’re tasting a bit of the roaster’s drum in the cup) and pretty harsh. It reminded me a lot of a Starbucks coffee, which is just in your face (then again, the coffee is names Punch in the Face), aggressive and carbonized.
As the coffee cooled, though, it mellowed and improved a lot, for me. The drumminess went away, for the most part, and the harshness of the cup smoothed out a lot. It picked up nicer, sweeter chocolate and a bit of caramel tones and there’s a bit of apple juiciness in there, too. The body is big, the finish is a little on the dry side and the aftertaste lasts for days. I got hints of cinnamon and ginger and a bit of pepper spiciness in the aftertaste.
Let this coffee cool down some and you’re rewarded with a nice mixture of flavors, all of which are why people drink darker roasted coffee in the first place! If you’re a milk and sugar person then this coffee is excellent and the cold milk will bring your cup into the optimal zone right away. I drank my cups black, all the way to room temperature, and it got better and sweeter as it went. Once it mellowed out this was an easy drinker, low perceived acidity, and a nice way to start the morning!