A couple months ago I put the word out to roasters that I wanted to feature dark roasts for December because, well, it’s dark and dreary most places and the first snap of cold, nasty weather makes you want to stay in and drink warm drinks and etc etc. You get the idea. Other reviewers do a good job with holiday shopping lists and special yuletide blends and all that, so the idea struck me to focus on the red-headed stepchild of the third wave coffee world: the dark roast. Only H+S Coffee Roasters have sent their Dark Roast December contribution so far, so hopefully I’ll have more than a couple dark roasts to share with you!
My kickoff selection is H+S Coffee Roasters’ Double Diamond, which they bill as their “darkest roast” and features a profile of, “baker’s chocolate, gigantic body, bold.” You can buy this coffee directly from H+S for $13.50/bag and the description on their website reads:
Darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night. Really. How does it get darker than dark? Our secret: we roast it twice as long as our other offerings. This coffee is not for the meek. A gigantic body and baker’s dark chocolate await those who take the plunge.
A couple of caveats here… H+S Coffee Roasters is a solid third wave roaster. I have reviewed several of their coffees in the past and they are top notch, lovely coffees and the gang usually roasts in a way that highlights the origin, so please do not expect that they nuclear roast all their coffee just because they offer this bad boy in their repertoire!
I appreciate the fact that H+S recognize that there is a sizable segment of the coffee drinking population who craves dark roasts and makes coffee available to them. I know my early coffee drinking days were from the perspective of, “the darker, the better” and even now I can certainly appreciate a nice dark roast.
On to the coffee… I know nothing of origin or whether this is a blend or what, and, frankly, it doesn’t really matter because the highlight of this coffee is the roast, not the origin! In the package the beans were super oily and black, living up to the name and the description that says they are roasted fully twice as long as H+S Coffee’s other offerings! These beans took me right back to being 10 years old again and smelling the bins of beans at the shop in the mall with my dad who taught me that the more oil you see on the bean, the better. But, hey, that was 30 years ago!
These beans went quietly through the grinder compared to the rock-like light roasts I usually feed it, and I literally laughed out loud when I saw the grounds! They were dark, black. My photos didn’t do the grounds justice but imagine grinding the cookie part of an Oreo and that’s what I had in front of me. And the volume! I would say 30g of this Double Diamond was easily 75% more volume than the typical coffee I drink. It filled my Gino dripped about 3/4 of the way up. These are some lightweight beans after their roasting!
I was pleasantly surprised to not get any fishy fragrance or aroma out of this coffee. A lot of dark roasts have it, but so can light roasts that get too much heat too early in the roast, and the fishy smell you can find on coffee comes from caffeine being converted into other amines that smell like fish due to heat. None of that here, but it smelled like carbon, bitter chocolate and also reminded me of a freshly sharpened pencil. All the hallmarks of a dark, DARK roast!
Again, this coffee is about the roast, not any origin profile. The aroma is pure roast, as is the flavor. The body is huge, aftertaste lasts for days and there is some nice sweetness in the cup. The perceived acidity is minimal but I was surprised that for such a dark coffee the roast bitterness is controlled, the sweetness is nice and the finish is just a touch dry but not anything close to that chalky mouthfeel you can get from a really carbonized cup.
If you’re a fan of Peet’s or Starbucks then this coffee would be right up your alley. When I was traveling a lot for work I was putting down a lot of Starbucks in airports and hotels and this coffee is better in every way. It smells better, it tastes nicer and it has a better mouthfeel and finish and is “smooth” and lacks the hard edge I find in all Starbucks coffees. It is an artisanal approach to these second wave black roasts and I can appreciate that. It’s no secret that a lot, if not most dark roast fans probably add something to their coffee, so I had a bit of heavy cream in the fridge because of Thanksgiving. I’m not even going to insult you readers by adding sugar, too, because, come on, but milk of course works great with this coffee. The coffee cuts through the cream, easily, but leaves the bittersweet baker’s chocolate and some nice smokiness behind. It’s frickin’ delicious, as expected.
Am I going to give up all my Ethiopians and Kenyans and Colombians and other origins and convert back to Double Diamond as my daily cup of coffee? Of course not, but for a super, SUPER dark roast I think this is masterfully done and it fires on all the cylinders that people like in a dark roasted coffee. H+S Coffee Roasters show a lot of versatility in their roasting by being able to suss every nuance out of a Kenyan with a great profile while also being able to produce this coffee without just scorching it to death like the big boys. Well done! H+S sent me their Sweetwater Blend, too, which is a more restrained darker profile, so I am looking forward to getting into that soon! I will probably save the review for next week…