I first reviewed Case Study Coffee Roasters’ (Portland, OR) Deviation Blend in February 2015 and I loved it. Deviation is their standing espresso blend (although I’m sure it’s tasty as a drip, too, when life gives me espresso beans, I make espresso…) which can usually be found on bar along with at least one single origin coffee at any given time. In conversations with Case Study’s Eli Johnston, I learned that their “philosophy” concerning Deviation is that it should be a “trail mix profile: chocolate, nuts, and fruit sweetness.”
Eli elaborated that,
The details depend on what particular beans go into it, of course, and that’s part of what keeps it interesting, I think – sometimes it’s pecans and blueberry and milk chocolate, other times it can be walnuts and strawberry and dark, almost bittersweet chocolate.
I never really thought about it before talking with Eli about what goes into Deviation, but it only makes sense that the composition of a blend will change throughout the year as the coffees that are used to achieve that profile come in and out of season or availability. The previous iteration of Deviation I reviewed was 2/3 El Salvador Chalatenango (a wet-processed/washed coffee) and 1/3 Derar Ela, a natural/dry-processed coffee from Ethiopia.
I found that version of Deviation to have nice strawberry and raspberry tartness and a solid bittersweet chocolate bass note throughout. Yum, in other words.
The current Deviation Blend is now 2/3 Peru Apu Cenfrocafe (wet-processed) and 1/3 Ethiopia Aricha (natural). For some reason this coffee gave me some fits in getting my extraction right, running through my Gaggia way faster than other espressos. I am usually able to keep my Hario hand grinder set at the same fineness all the time and get consistent weights and times in the output, but this blend ran super fast, so I had to bite the bullet and tighten up my burrs a bit!
With one of my shots I got a lot of black cherry with a bright, lemony finish and there was a nice undertone of bittersweet chocolate throughout. It was tasty! On another, using 2g more espresso than the previous shot, it was smoother with a little less tartness and still had that cherry fruit flavor, but overall I just found it more mellow.
Other shots, after about a week of age, yielded nice strawberry flavors, hints of almond and a touch of lemon brightness.
It’s hard to make direct comparisons over coffees separated by months of time, but my overall impression is that both of these Deviation blends hit the mark for the “trail mix profile” and, as expected, in different ways. My memory of the previous Deviation was that it was more tart and more aggressive than this one, which just seems “smoother” and more “mellow” but I found them both delicious and enjoyable. I’m a straight espresso drinker but for people who like milk drinks, there’s a reason Case Study keeps Deviation on bar year around and I can only imagine it’s fantastic with some steamed dairy goodness!