The return of S&W Craft Roasting! I looked at a bunch of their coffee last year and was uniformly impressed, so when the gentlemen from Coatesville, IN (a small town to the west of Indianapolis) sent me some new coffees to try I knew I was in for a treat! S&W were the original roasters to reinforce two very important lessons for me: 1) Great specialty coffee doesn’t have to come from roasters in big cities and 2) Don’t judge a book by its cover (or a coffee by its bag, in this case). I think KCcoffeegeek.com has gone a long way to prove #1 is true, and S&W have taken care of #2! Read on!
S&W CRAFT ROASTING NICARAGUA DON ISIDRO MICROLOT
Today’s coffee is a Microlot from the farm of Don Isidro, located near the town of Jinotego in northwest-central Nicaragua. Don Isidro uses mostly organic (if not totally) methods, growing coffee under the shade of plantain, avocado and macadamia nut trees and also cultivate orchids and other flowers in a shade house he built. Jinotega is tucked into a mountain valley with the Reserva Natural Cerro Dantali El Diablo on the east and the Reserva Natural Volcan Yali to the north. It’s probably beautiful there!
This particular lot of coffee consists of Red Catuai and Bourbon, according to S&W’s label. I’ve seen some references to Don Isidro’s “the Reds” lot, which is Red Catuai and Red Bourbon, and I’m not sure if this is that lot or something different. In any case, this coffee grows at 1500+masl and most likely comes direct trade from the good people at Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, who, as far as I can tell, are like Nicaragua’s version of La Palma y El Tucan in Colombia or Long Miles Coffee Project in Burundi. Gold Mountain are the people with boots on the ground in Nicaragua, fostering relationships with coffee growers and making that coffee available to roasters like S&W. Spend a few minutes on their “About” page to see what’s cool about Gold Mountain Coffee Growers and check out this short video on Instagram showing Gold Mountain employees sorting for defects, by hand!
Let’s check out this coffee before I bury the lead any further! S&W tell us that this is a City roast level which is relatively light in the spectrum of roasting. Visually, I would call this a “medium” roast, but there is a lot more to coffee roasting than what the eyes can pick up on. When roasting coffee, one of the most important steps is first crack, when the coffee expands enough to rupture and audibly crack, like popcorn. City roasts are dropped out of the roaster to cool down after getting through first crack but not getting into second crack at all. This roast level tends to offer a lot of origin character along with some pretty good sweetness.
I used my usual 1:16 pourover ration of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino with Kalita 185 filter. This made some nice cups. What surprised me the most about this coffee is how many “natural” characteristics I was picking up on being that this is a washed coffee. It had some fruity elements but a little ferment, too, that I’m not used to tasting in washed coffees. I know that ferment that comes with naturals can be a turn-off for some coffee drinkers, but I personally love it, even when it is taken to insane levels like in the famous Funky Natural from another farm in Nicaragua! This is slight, but it’s there, and in a blind tasting I’d probably guess that this was a honey or even a light natural coffee.
The cup is really sweet with a creamy mouthfeel and a medium to heavy body. It hits the palate pretty heavy, yet it’s also simultaneously a somewhat gentle cup. S&W suggested a lot of lemon and bright liveliness in this coffee, but I wasn’t getting that so much. For all its sweetness it has nice balance, too, but I was finding red apple acidity (which I find gentle and sweet, too) with a little kick of more tart green apple in the middle of the sip. Nonetheless, this really complemented the coffee well and balanced it out perfectly. The aftertaste was caramelized sugar, like toffee, and I got some nice butter notes in the sweet finish and aftertaste, too. Also a little warm baking spice-type of notes in the far aftertaste, too. This is absolutely delicious and super drinkable.
This coffee is KILLER! I really enjoyed this one. It checks every box for me for a Central American coffee and, as always, S&W’s pricing is a super value. Now, here’s my word of “warning,” dear readers. S&W puts their efforts into their coffee, not their branding, website and packaging. I’ve ribbed them about this in the past and I cannot disagree that what their doing works great because they are able to source great coffees, roast them very nicely, and sell them at an awesome price to consumers! Just trust me, don’t worry about the dated look of the website or the plain bags. If you like the way my review sounds you will absolutely love this coffee, no matter how fancy the labels are!