River City Roasters Yirgacheffe Aricha

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River City Roasters is a roaster and café in Wheaton, Illinois, basically a western suburb of Chicago. You can buy coffee directly from them as well as through the Roasters.co (how I learned about them) one-stop shop or my curated subscription service. Today’s review is of River City’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Aricha.

This coffee is a natural processed Ethiopian, which is one of my favorite origins. I am crazy for all those berry flavors! Ethiopian coffee is sold on an exchange in lots that are mixed up from different small farms that use the same processing station. This one comes from the Aricha mill near Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. Altitude for these beans is in the 1800-2100masl range and because Ethiopia grows some 4,000 different varieties (like types of apples, only for coffee) of Arabica coffee they are listed as “heirloom” because no one is going to name them all!

Natural coffees are picked, sorted and then dried on elevated beds with the cherry still intact around the coffee seeds (what we call “beans”) inside. The result tends to be a lot of sweetness and fruit flavors, often leaning toward berries, in your cup.

River City Roasters’ labelling states that this coffee will have “strawberry, apricot, floral” flavors and they recommend using a Kalita Wave or a Phoenix pourover brewer to get the best results with it. I used both a notNeutral Gino dripper (basically a glass version of the Wave, using the same filters) and I also had a couple times through my AeroPress. For me, the AeroPress was the better version.

Because I use manual hand grinders for most of my coffee grinding, I really noticed how hard and dense these beans are. They are high-grown, so they will be dense, but how hard they are to grind is also a function of the roast development. The beans themselves looked quite light and had a reddish hue (probably from the natural processing) that was even more apparent when ground. There wasn’t a lot of aroma coming off the grounds or in the cup, for me.

I used an inverted AeroPress method (all my brewing methods can be found here) and that seemed to result in brighter flavors for me that the Gino pourover did. While there wasn’t much going on in the aroma for me, the strawberry flavor was very apparent in every sip and was the dominant note even as the cup cooled. I didn’t catch any floral notes and I could kind of get the apricot from the label, almost more as a slightly sweet-tart mouthfeel more than an actual flavor component… in other words, I got the “feeling” of eating an apricot more than I got the flavor of it, if that makes sense.

One complaint some people will have about naturals is fermentation flavor coming through, which I didn’t get, and also too much cloying sweetness, which I also didn’t get. This is a light-bodied coffee, especially for a natural, so the aftertaste was short and the mouthfeel was on the dry side. The strawberry flavor was a nice departure from the blueberries that come through in so many Ethiopian naturals.

My favorite coffees that have strawberry fruit flavors also have good acidity, usually lime or lemon, to brighten things up and temper the sweetness a bit. I was hoping this one would open up some as it cooled down, but it really didn’t. The strawberry notes were pleasant, but I found this coffee to be a little flat and one-dimensional.

As a Gino pourover, I got the same basic profile, but dialed back about 25% with less strawberry in the cup and less sweetness, so I won’t labor over it. I’ll definitely be AeroPressing the rest of my bag!

I usually don’t say this about natural Ethiopian coffees, but I wonder how this one would taste with a bit more roast development. I got the sense from the clues the coffee was giving me that this one was just a little underdeveloped and I’d also be curious to see the temperature curves from the roast to see if there are any clues there about the slightly flat flavor.

In any case, this is a decent example of a natural Ethiopian coffee. Ethiopians have been a bit hit or miss this year. Assuming you AeroPress this one, I think there are pleasant flavors to be had from this coffee and the strawberry is quite nice. It’s an easy coffee to drink, but if it had just a bit more dynamics and acidity in the cup, or if were more developed to pick up some chocolate notes to go with the strawberry, it would’ve been spot-on for me.