Santa Rosa, CA is where I was first introduced to good coffee. There’s Susan Koshow’s Centro Espresso (the progenitor of the venerable but long defunct Western Café – Andrew Barnett’s seminal effort in the coffee biz and now with two locations: downtown and up the hill on Stagecoach Road), there’s Mr. Barnett’s subsequent venture into roasting – the highly acclaimed Ecco Café and, finally, there is the 3rd wave local coffee mini-empire that is The Flying Goat. That’s a surprising amount of good coffee for such a small town and one that has an undue, yet tenaciously held, reputation as a sort of Northern California backwater. But it was in this supposed backwater that I was exposed to what good coffee, prepared with care and skill, was all about and where I was made aware of entirely new concepts of how coffee should be and could be treated. It was coffee as an artisanal culinary ingredient, as art and craft. “Revelation” may be a strong word but certainly, it goes some way toward explaining the nature of my experience that first time I took my first sip of a latte produced by the master hand of Andrew Barnett at The Western.
And, so, when I return every so often to visit friends and family, I make it a point to visit at least one of these joints to reminisce, to get my quality coffee fix and, of course, to pick up a bag of beans. This last trip resulted in “the lab” being graced by the presence of a bag of The Goat’s organic, pulp natural, Boa Sorte Peaberry from Brasil.
I love Brazilian coffees for their nuttiness and smooth, sweet character. That this was a peaberry ((It seems as if there is more controversy about the value of peaberry coffee than I though there was. Regardless, I find them generally more roundly sweet than other coffees.)) only made me more excited over the possibilities: take a coffee noted for its sweetness and separate out the beans that promise to deliver that sweetness in an even more concentrated form. It sounded very promising. But did it deliver?
Aromas and fragrance
Sticking my nose into the bag, the whole beans gave off aromas of roasted peanuts and hazelnuts as well as a sort of milk chocolate creamy sweet character. Freshly ground, they had an amazingly powerful tang to them, suggesting a prominent acidity. There was a floral element, wet earth, loam, wood and some dried fruit (cherries, cranberries and strawaberries). The most perplexing aroma? Something I tentatively termed “aromatic root”; something like root beer or sassafras.
In the press pot
As expected – this is a peaberry after all – there was a generous amount of sweetness on hand. And it was that soft, round, concentrated sweetness you might expect. Medium to heavy body in the mouth. Richly sweet, not cloying, there were aromas of nuts and wood. There was also that same “aromatic root” component in the cup that I detected earlier, in the fresh grounds.
The acidity was surprisingly direct, both for a natural processed Brazilian as well as for a peaberry. “Melon or grape”, I wrote. It was thin, though. Not sweet and not containing much complexity or character. Probably the most disappointing aspect of the brew, really. It certainly didn’t ruin the experience; the intensity of the other flavors were such that the acidity, while prominent, was but a small portion of the overall flavor profile.
The acidity, though, took its toll on this coffee as a cold-brew. While cold-brewing reduces the harsher aspects of a coffee’s acidity, it doesn’t cancel it out. In fact, I’ve found that, if anything, cold-brewing a coffee accentuates and amplifies the characteristics of a coffee’s acidity. Is it juicy, citrusy? You’ll find those flavors utterly popping in a cold-brew. If you’re not happy with the acidity in a pot of any particular coffee brewed hot, don’t expect it to get any better after twelve hours in the refrigerator.
So, that thinly grape-y, melon-y acidity in Flying Goat’s Boa Sorte made for a less than stellar cold-brew. It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great. It had sweetness, a little berry but those flavors couldn’t drown out the coffee’s harsher aspects.
Keep it hot and you’ll have an entirely more pleasant experience.
Where, oh where…
There are only three places to get Flying Goat’s coffee, as far as I know: