Courtesy of my pals at Manzanita Roasting Co. in the San Diego, CA area (located on the grounds of the lovely San Bernardo Winery!), this morning I have a special selection of coffee from the famed Don Isidro called “the Reds.” Check out the links below and let’s see what the Reds are all about!
MANZANITA ROASTING CO. NICARAGUA DON ISIDRO “THE REDS”
I’m always excited to receive Central American coffees from my friend, Weston, at Manzanita Roasting Co. I’ve had enough of his coffee to know that it’s going to be good, and he is particularly adept at coaxing all the sugars and sweetness out of this region! Today’s coffee is a lot called “the Reds” from the farm of the famous Don Isidro near Jinotega, Nicaragua. I’ve been enjoying the heck out of all the Nicaraguan coffee that has been coming my way the past couple months, so I am excited about this one for that reason, too! Don Isidro uses mostly organic and sustainable (if not completely) farming practices, growing his coffee in the shade of macadamia, avocado and plantain trees (I want to go there, now!). He has a shadehouse full of beautiful orchids and other flowers that he grows for fun and the town of Jinotega is located in a mountain valley between two natural reserve parks. It sounds absolutely beautiful and the coffee from this farm seems… happy! Before I continue, a shout out is in order, too, for the gang at Gold Mountain Coffee Growers. These guys are fostering relationships with small farms in Nicaragua and making their coffee better and more available to us here in the USA and for that, I am grateful!
Don Isidro grows various varieties of Arabica coffee on the farm, including Red Catuai and Red Bourbon as well as Yellow Caturra. This year they separated the red varieties from the yellows and sold them to roasters as, you guessed it, “the Reds” and “the Yellows!” I believe I had some of Don Isidro’s Reds from S&W Craft Roasting a short time ago and I really enjoyed their roast on this coffee, too. This is a washed coffee grown around 1500 meters above sea level. The label on Manzanita’s bag says, “SOE” which is coffee-speak for Single Origin Espresso, but I couldn’t help but try it out as a pourover, too. Let’s see both!
I used my standard 1:16 ratio of 28g coffee to 450g water in a notNeutral Gino pourover with Kalita 185 filters. I use a relatively fast extraction of around 3:00-3:15 including the 30 second bloom. This seems to be a great starting point for most coffees.
Weston is able to pull a lot of sweetness and balance out of Central American coffees and he worked his magic on the Reds, for sure! The result is a delicious, clean, balanced cup that is super easy to drink. Coffee gold! Weston gives us flavor notes of, “peach, caramel, chocolate” for this coffee. Prepared as a pourover, there is a lot of sweetness and the peach notes are definitely strong in this one. Peach is one of my favorite flavor tones to find in coffee, so I’m pretty damn happy anytime I taste peach! There is a little hint of tartness that comes with peach, too. It’s mostly sweet, but there’s that tiny tart tang of the fruit, too, and I picked up on that note in this cup as well. It gives a nice dimension of complexity and freshness to the cup and I really liked finding that little nugget! There is some apple juice-like malic acidity to the cup, but it’s really there for balance more than anything else. This is a spot-on sweet, delicious coffee as a pourover! Now let’s head to ye olde espresso lab!
After a couple dialing-in shots (all my equipment is listed after the review below, coffee geeks), I was making well-behaved espresso in no time! I ended up using 20g doses with a 35g shot pull in 30 seconds. To give a bit more detail, I was shutting the pump off on the machine at 30 seconds and this was giving me around 30g of coffee in the cup. The residual amount coming from the portafilter as the pressure dropped added up to close to 35g shot total in 30 seconds. I was able to pull sweet, decently balanced coffees this way. Body is pretty heavy for a single origin espresso (SOE) and the crema was pretty substantial, too. It’s almost always better on a blend, but this was a pretty good looking shot for a SOE, which can sometimes run a little watery and a little thin. I got some bittersweet chocolate notes and a lot of tart cherry notes out of this cup. I also noticed something sort of “herbal” in there that I didn’t love, but it wasn’t overly distracting from the flavors that were nicely presented in these shots.
At the risk of being over-caffeinated for the day I also made a small capp/flat white with a teeny, tiny heart (hey, at least it’s in there!) and this coffee played really nicely with milk. All I had on-hand was 2%, but it brought out the cocoa-y side of this coffee while still retaining a little bit of that cherry note. It was nice. Not the most coffee-forward flat white I’ve had, but then again, I didn’t get any sour notes like a brighter espresso can create in a milky, so that’s happy news!
All said and done, this is an enjoyable and versatile Swiss Army Knife of a coffee! That peach note in the pourover was killer, so at the end of the day this coffee as a pourover was my favorite for the three preparation methods, but what a great selection from Don Isidro and Manzanita Roasting Co! Woot!
*For the real geeks… espresso nerdery:
I use a 30-year old, ultra-rare Gaggia 2-switch Old White Coffee with factory orange paint (I’ve never seen another one). Yeah, it has some challenges, but it does pretty good! Grinder is a stock Rancilio Rocky that sees espresso use exclusively. I used an aftermarket naked portafilter with a Decent Espresso 20g precision basket and Decent Espresso’s made-to-fit precision 25g calibrated tamper. Milk is generic 2% from the local grocery and I also heated it to 140-145F using a Decent Espresso milk thermometer. Espresso shot cup is a classic ACF large espresso cup/probably macchiato cup. The flat white is poured into an Acme cup that was custom-made for Acaia’s Weigh-to-Brew program.