I was really lucky that in late 2014-early 2015 I got to travel to Portland, OR for work a handful of times and while I was there I managed to cram as much coffee “stuff” in as possible (no easy feat with my work schedule!). One of the roasters I was fortunate to meet was Mark Johnson, who does business as Intent Coffee Roasting. This was my first look into the business that has become Aspect Coffee Collective, a unique coffee incubator that allows roasters access to storage space and a Probat production roaster for a damn good hourly rate. I was fascinated by the business model as well as the fact that some of my favorite Portland roasters like the Red E Cafe, Case Study and Tanager were all roasting out of this same facility.
I reviewed a bunch of Intent’s coffees in the spring, so make sure you check those out. When I put the call out for dark roasts to share with you for Dark Roast December, Mark reached out to send me some of his House Blend. You can buy this coffee for $13/12oz bag. I’m not sure what the composition of the blend is, but Mark gives tasting notes of, “full body, chocolate, lingering finish.”
In the bag this coffee is black, but with just spots of oils peeking out onto the surface of the beans here and there. While grinding this one I did notice a pretty apparent fish odor on it, which is not uncommon with coffee, generally, and dark roasts particularly. It was nothing like the bag full o’ fish I’ve smelled from Peet’s and other roasters, but it was definitely there. The fish smell you sometimes get from coffee has to do with some of the caffeine going through molecular changes during roasting, converting it into other amines, a class of chemical you find in foods of all sorts. Some amines give off that fishy odor. I can say that even the fishiest coffees (think rooting around in the bag sure you are going to find a fish head in there somewhere) off-gas that odor readily and I’ve never caught even a hint of it in the cup, so it doesn’t bug me anymore (now that I know what it is! LOL).
So, yeah, a bit of fish odor, but not like some I’ve smelled. I used my trusty 1:15 Gino pourover for this coffee and it bloomed up beautifully. One word of warning, this is a really light coffee in the pourover and my 495g of water went through it fast. That being said it was tasty, so I wasn’t too worried about it. You may have to play around with how fast you add water and maybe even your grind settings a little to slow down the extraction, but at the same time dark roasts do extract more easily than lighter ones, so even though my brew time was super fast it tasted good.
As far as flavors go I was getting a lot of chocolate, also in the aroma. There is a bit of roasty bitterness but for how dark this coffee looks the amount of “drum roaster” (a kind of dry, metallic flavor to my palate) on this coffee is almost negligible. It’s sweet but there is a bit of malic acidity (can give an apple juice like quality to the mouthfeel and flavor) that brightens the cup up nicely. This is definitely a heavy bodied coffee with a long finish. It has a pretty sweet finish without being cloying, and the aftertaste is chocolatey with a bit of caramel.
What’s great about Dark Roast December (my intent was to fill the whole month up with them, so next year I will have a more consistent line-up ready!) is that all of the roasters who’ve sent beans are proving that dark roasts can be done well. It’s not just about annihilating the beans in the roaster. There is a lot of skill that goes into dark roasting coffee well, and so far each roaster who has contributed has proven that Peet’s and Starbucks are not what dark roasts have to be. Well done!