What’s this? Another coffee from S&W Craft Roasting in Coatesville, Indiana? Don’t mind if I do! I have just about come to the end of the wonderful coffee samples that S&W Craft Roasting sent me and today’s review is their Kenya Nyeri AA Gatuiri. This coffee is available for purchase directly from S&W Craft Roasting for the always-reasonable price of $14.85 per POUND (that’s right, a gigantic, full pound bag!).
Kenya has long been the model for coffee production in Africa because its sophisticated system of growing, sorting and selling coffee results in rewards for everyone involved. In basic terms, Kenyan farmers are members of cooperatives and societies, many of whom grow their crops on small plots that aren’t even an acre in size. These co-ops and societies usually use the same factory/mill to process their coffee. One of the hallmarks of Kenyan coffee trade is the use of size grading, where the general assumption is that bigger coffee beans are better coffee beans (although that’s a gross generalization).
Once sorted by size, Kenyan coffee is sold in lots in an auction format where the trading can get quite heated. They also sell more specific lots of coffee at auction and when green coffee buyers identify very special lots of coffee they can buy them directly, always at a premium, from the mill before it goes to auction. The price of Kenyan coffee is a bit higher as a result, but any system that rewards farmers to know more about their agricultural practice and rewards quality over quantity should be embraced!
This coffee from S&W Craft Roasting comes from the Gatuiri mill in Nyeri, a town in the central highlands (ground zero for coffee growing in Kenya!). It is graded as “AA,” which is the largest bean size and generally associated with higher pricing, but like all of S&W’s coffees, their pricing structure is awesome for us consumers so $15 for a full pound of this coffee is a dream!
Coffee from Nyeri grows between 1750-1900masl and this one contains SL-28, SL-34 and Ruiru-11 varietals. SL-28 is the queen of Kenyan coffee, which got its very un-romantic name from Scott Labs, who was hired by the Kenyan government in the 1930’s to catalog Kenyan coffee varietals. SL-28 is prized for its brightness, acidity and fruitiness, all the hallmarks for Kenyan coffee.
S&W’s tasting notes for this coffee describe it as having raisin, fig, black currant and allspice as well as some white grape sweetness and even caramel in the finish. I personally found this Nyeri Gatuiri to have some similarities in flavor to The Coffee Ride’s Kenya Gondo, which I reviewed recently.
I prepared this coffee as both pourover and AeroPress and liked it a lot more as an inverted AeroPress (see my recipes in the “My Brewing Methods” page in the menu). Like The Coffee Ride’s interpretation of their Kenyan coffee, the roast on this one from S&W was more developed than some of the über-light roasts that really, really, REALLY highlight that sparkling acidity in Kenyan lots. S&W’s roasting even brought out a few oil spots on the beans.
I picked up a lot of chocolate in the aroma of my brewed cup and the first sip gave me a big, full mouthfeel that immediately triggered memories of the first time I had a Mast Brothers single origin chocolate bar… bitterness (but good bitterness!), dark fruits, complexity… I mean, come ON!
Kenyan coffees can be quite bitter on my palate, like the India Pale Ale style of beer, and I like bitter flavors in food and drinks. This one did not disappoint. Big mouthfeel on this coffee and a long aftertaste. I caught hints of a minty “feeling” on my palate (a little bit of a cooling effect, I suppose) but no real mint flavors in the cup, if that makes sense.
The dark chocolate character kept carrying through as the cup cooled and my notes also read, “something herbal/spicy” so I was glad to see allspice mentioned in S&W’s own notes (which I never read until after I’m done with my own tasting)! The coffee opens up some and picks up a bit of a complex acidity as it cools, but the coffee remains balanced all the same. The acidity reminded me of something in the grapefruit to lime range but without the pithiness that grapefruit can bring. Bright, but sweet-bright. As the cup cooled I picked up on florals and perfumes from time to time in the aroma, too.
For some reason I decided to play around with the notNeutral Gino pourover and not use my usual 15:1 ratio, going instead with a 17:1. That produced a thin-bodied coffee that had some of the same attributes as what I tasted in the AeroPress, but nowhere near the same experience, so I wasn’t into it and it was totally my fault. I tried another attempt going the other direction, at 14:1, and it did better. It was still a little thin compared to the AeroPress but the flavor was mostly there. As the cup of this lower ratio Gino cooled it picked up a bit more body and some wine character, too, though!
I enjoyed this coffee. It is complex and thoroughly “Kenyan” yet focused on the darker side of the flavor profile (not char, carbon, metal roasting drum, but darker fruits, more developed sugars, etc). The nicest thing about getting a full pound bag from S&W is it gives you PLENTY of coffee to play with, and this is a coffee that begs for some experimentation with variables whether you’re AeroPressing it or pouring over. Have fun with it!