Manzanita Roasting Co. Panama Don Pepe Estate

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Manzanita Don Pepe espressoManzanita Roasting Co.’s roaster and co-owner, Weston Nawrocki, roasts their origin coffees for both pour over/filter and espresso use. Single origins coffees that work as “dual-use” coffees are not all that common, but this one hits the mark, for sure. Today’s coffee is Manzanita’s Don Pepe Estate, a washed coffee from Panama. The Don Pepe estate is located on the slopes of a volcano, in the humid forests near the town of Boquete, and lots of coffee is grown in this area. Coffee started in the Boquete area in 1898 when one of the town’s founders, Don Enrique Vasquez, started planting. This particular estate has Typica varietal growing at 1650-1800masl. You can buy this coffee directly from Manzanita Roasting Co. in San Diego, CA or online for $16/12oz bag.

Manzanita Roasting Co. is a new venture from Weston and his wife, Sam. Weston is a sommelier and classically trained chef while Sam runs the marketing efforts for her family’s San Bernardo Winery, in the family for 125 years! They offer tasting suggestions of, “Toffee, hazelnut and lemon curd” from filter with the addition of jasmine in espresso.

I tried this coffee using both methods, and it’s good. I found Manzanita’s Guatemala from last week to be a bit light for my tastes, but this Don Pepe offering is right in the sweet spot for me! It’s still a light roast, for sure, but this one has the perfect balance of sweetness and brightness, for me. For my filter samples, I used my trusty notNeutral Gino pour over dripper with white Kalita 185 filters and a 1:15 ratio of coffee to water. After a good 30-second bloom, I was getting a 3:35 brew time using 30g of coffee and 450g of water. For espresso, I followed Weston’s suggestion and went for a 1:2 normale shot with a 30 second brew time. I was using 19.5-20g of espresso in the portafilter and pulled shots around 36-38g in 30 seconds. If I’d had more coffee to play with (I gave half of the bag to my coffee geek pal, Stacey, whose blog you should be reading, too!) I think I would’ve tried a few shots at a bit tighter ratio to dial down the brightness a hair, but honestly, this coffee is awesome both ways.


From the filter, this coffee is sweet, sweet, sweet, with a medium body and a nutty finish (but not peanuty, more walnut/pecan territory for me). There is plenty of malic brightness in this coffee, too, which is just beautiful and juicy. Malic acid is the type of acidity you’d find in an apple, so this has really crisp, juicy Honeycrisp-like apple brightness. It’s sweet, juicy and clean and you can’t ask for more from a Central American coffee! The body is silky and the coffee has a light finish and aftertaste. We woke up to nasty freezing rain on Easter morning and this was the perfect cup to get the day started, but this is definitely the kind of coffee that would work as an all-day drinker, for me.

As espresso, this coffee ramps up in the brightness category, especially with the 1:2 ratio. It has nice body, especially for a single origin coffee, and the crema as you can see in the photo at the top of the page, is nicely formed. Even with a good stir, after I shot that photo, the crema retention was good. I got a ton of sweet lemon candy in this cup. It’s bright, for sure, at that ratio but the coffee had nice body and was pretty well balanced with the inherent sweetness Weston developed during the roast. This definitely qualifies as a West Coast style shot, with lots of acidity and brightness. I’ll bet landing the ratio a little closer to the ristretto (1:1) ratio would restrain the lemon flavors some, but it definitely wasn’t too bright as is, either.

This coffee landed perfectly for me. It has everything I like in a Central American cup… sweetness for days, clean flavors and structure, beautiful malic acidity and a juicy, crisp and sweet profile that is a joy to drink. The fact that it can double-down as espresso is the icing on the cake, and I love that it works really well as both. What a great coffee!