Pure Bean Roasters Sumatra Mandheling

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Pure Bean Sumatra Mandheling

Pure Bean Roasters is a home-based business located in Rapid City, South Dakota. The company started in 2013 as a partnership between Mark Royalty and Nick Reid and also expanded to include a Pennsylvania “branch” of the company to better serve East Coast customers. 1 According to a story in the Rapid City Journal, Nick had been roasting coffee for about 10 years before getting into the business side of things, using Facebook and online sales as well as a few well-placed wholesale accounts in South Dakota to get the ball rolling. 2 Pure Bean are using air roasting for their coffees, a method they believe produces a superior cup for the consumer.

The gents from Pure Bean reached out to me through Instagram and sent me a bag of their Yirgacheffe as well as this Sumatra Mandheling I’m looking at today. This is a Fair Trade and Organic coffee from the Megah Bersiri Cooperative with farms in the 1400-1500masl range. This coffee is processed in the giling basah method common to Sumatra and Indonesia. This is a wet-hulling practice, which is very different from the similar sounding “wet process” or “washed” coffee process. Tasting notes for this coffee from Pure Bean read, “clean and smooth with citrus and herbs at the lighter roasts and smoky and woody at a darker roast.” They have this coffee available as a “medium roast” to 430°F and at a darker 460°F and it sells for $12.99/12oz bag.

Wet-hulled coffees are picked and then the cherry, pulp and “honey” of the fruit are removed as is the “parchment” layer around the seed (what we call a coffee bean). Usually the parchment is not removed until a certain amount of drying has been achieved in the seed, but wet-hulling is done to speed the drying of the seed in the wet environment of Sumatra and Indonesia. Coffee seeds are very delicate and they absorb flavors like crazy, so the unprotected seeds, which may get laid out to dry in dirt, on the roadside, wherever, can pick up some really weird flavors. They tend to get bagged for trading while still quite moist, too, so ferment and fungus and other undesirable things can happen to the beans, too. People who buy Sumatran coffees for American consumption cup a lot of coffee to find clean cups with the least amount of offensiveness possible, but that being said, people LOVE their wet-hulled Sumatran and Indo’s and flavors like cedar, herbals, dirt/earth, vinegar and other seemingly weird notes are not only acceptable but often sought after in these coffees! Coffees from any other region with notes like this would be passed over immediately, so Sumatran and Indonesian coffees get a lot of leeway. If you’re interested in this, reference Sweet Maria’s exhaustive article on the process, and why it’s done.

All that being said, I don’t believe in all my coffee drinking years that I have been exposed to a truly wild wet-hulled coffee because the ones I’ve had are all pretty basic, straightforward coffees that I don’t think I would be able to differentiate from a normal washed coffee. I’m hoping one of these days someone will send me a classic Sumatran that is funky as heck, but so far that hasn’t happened!

Pure Bean sent me their medium 430°F version of this coffee. One of the reasons Americans love Sumatran and Indonesian coffee so much is that they take to dark roasting quite well. As is the trend for coffees from this part of the world, this one from Pure Bean has a pretty big presence on the palate. Sumatrans tend to have a pretty solid mouthfeel and a long presence on the palate after a sip. I don’t get much from the aroma on this cup, other than sweetness and a bit of that “coconut but not really coconut” aroma that I just frustratingly cannot nail down. LOL

Again, the coffee has a nice, big, full body and its sweet with low perceived acidity. There is a bit of an herbal bitterness that balances the sweetness and adds complexity and this carries over into the slightly dry finish and aftertaste on this cup. I rather like bitter flavors, so the slightly woody, herbal finish is a plus, for me, but I could see others adding a bit of milk and sugar to this to offset that note. To each their own!

I do get a little hint of orange, citrus acidity in this cup, but it’s there for balance and is not a primary flavor in this coffee. In the fresh brewed cup (I am using my standard 1:15 Gino pourover with Kalita 185 filters… 30g of coffee, 450g of water, 30 second bloom and around 4:00 total drop time) there was a bit more roastiness than I would’ve expected but that diminished as the coffee cooled down. I think it was best at just a bit warmer than room temperature, but I know I’m a bit weird about that.

All in all, this is a nice cup. I like the body and bitterness which adds some dimension to the coffee. It’s a simple cup but inviting to drink although the downside to that nicely bitter finish is that coffees with that character, which again, I like, are a little less drinkable than something with a sweeter finish.