By Isabella Vitaliano, Lab & Education Coordinator
Edwin Noreña is an agro-industrial engineer, biotechnologist, and coffee producer based in Colombia. It’s an impressive list of attributes and the coffees he produces follow suit. His strict academic background is contrasted with his trailblazing processing technique: co-fermentation. Co-fermentation is largely considered an outcast in specialty coffee. A processing technique that can be overlooked, particularly by purist coffee roasters, who aim to serve coffee that is a true reflection of the plant and the terroir that accompanies it. Noreña is not one to let these limitations stop him from experimenting and creating fascinating flavors in his coffees.
When his co-fermented lots first hit our cupping table I was immediately fascinated. We received Colombia Double Carbonic Galaxy Hops Mossto Fermented Honey Gesha and Colombia Double Carbonic Chili Mossto Fermented Honey Bourbon infused lots. The hops-infused coffee bent toward a bouquet that exploded in the mug and the chili-infused lot was reminiscent of a chili chocolate bar. And while these coffees stood out on the cupping table, I couldn’t help but wonder how the volume would turn up on espresso. I’ve been patiently waiting until the team was done with their analysis to get my hands on this coffee. And as I waited, these questions were burning in my brain. Would I get a lavender espresso? Warming ginger? A spicy hot chocolate?
On the cupping table, I thought the most exciting notes from our chili-infused coffee were lime juice, chili flakes, cacao powder, fresh ginger, and paprika. The punch of ginger and lime was balanced with warmth and sharpness. I envisioned that I would get an espresso version of a Mexican hot chocolate. But alas, as many of us know the transition from the cupping table to the bar lend to some deviation. Before I began dialing in Josh, our Tasting Room Manager let me know that the co-fermented coffees were running a little fast and tasting better on a lower dose. With these amped-up flavors from processing, it was best to keep a lower profile for the final cup. We wanted this to be interesting but drinkable. We aim for a 1:2 ratio here at The Crown. With the coffee coming up on two weeks off roast I started at dose of 18 grams.
Time: 24 sec
With the shot pulling a little fast, it lacked the body I was looking for but had nice flavors of warming ginger tea, lemon zest, and lime and a ton of anise and cinnamon. A lot of spices but no heat or chili insight. I fined the grind to punch up the body and get some more sweetness.
Time: 36 sec
The spice came out to play! Not hot spicy, more like winter spice. The anise was amped up and there was some allspice that made for a surprisingly warming espresso. I lost the nuance of ginger but the lime tang was front and center with hints of watermelon. I went ahead and made a cappuccino with this espresso. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this; it reminded me of a spiced gingerbread cookie: warming spices and soft cocoa with a hint of cranberry. While I enjoyed this espresso, I know I could make it better. The lime didn’t feel as balanced as I wanted it to be, and I thought I could make it fuller and sweeter. I upped the dose and loosened up the grind a tad.
I was surprised by the final expression of this coffee but impressed nonetheless. This shot took a turn for the fruity side. A sweet syrupy cranberry and cherry body came out with the higher dose. There was some chocolate in this dial that was very reminiscent of a cherry chocolate bar. Nuanced flavors of hibiscus and black tea emerged as well. I was very happy with the result of this coffee. I decided to make a macchiato out of this shot and it was particularly lovely. While the espresso did not enter the world of spicy hot chocolate, I enjoyed the final product. More approachable flavors of cherry, cranberry hibiscus, ginger, and lime made this an extremely versatile coffee. I am not sure if I am subconsciously influenced by the change of season, but the notes here are perfect for the wintertime.
Next up is our galaxy hops-infused coffee. And what an out-of-this-world coffee it is. A Gesha? With hops? Feels like Noreña is just showing off, no? Grandiose and vivacious, this coffee is saying a lot, and loudly. The Crown team pointed out notes of ginger, pine, eucalyptus floral and lavender, tangerine, cedar, and coriander. A bouquet bomb of florals and hops, Noreña did not go a subtle route on this one. Let’s see what this turns into on espresso…
Time 25 s
After playing around with the dosage from 18 to 16.5g, I decided to utilize the 1:2 coffee-to-water ratio and keep the dosage at a nice medium of 17g. This shot was very syrupy, and the lavender was present along with some ginger, candy apple, and mandarin. It had some nuanced flavors of watermelon, lime, and cedar to accompany the florals. It was an interesting shot but maybe not as approachable as I would like. Given the sour faces of the baristas at the bar who tried this – maybe it would be better to take the approachable route. I will say, this paired with milk tasted like a light lavender cappuccino. I went with upping the water-to-coffee ratio.
I think we have the sweet spot. This was approachable but distinct. With the lavender balanced out with the citrus and woodsy cedar and pine notes, we have a winner! There is still a little limey punch to this one. I will say, this coffee is extremely prone to channeling and puck breakage. It is ironic it needs a gentle hand considering how loud it is. This coffee is not for the weak-hearted – if you are looking for a floral stand-out coffee, this is the one!
Now the question remains, should roasters reserve the right to demand for purity when baristas on the bar get to modify and manipulate flavors as they please? Infused syrups and drinks dominate the specialty coffee industry and even play a part in coffee competitions. Is there a lack of autonomy for producers to creatively express themselves through the plant they nurture and tend to on a daily basis? As with any processing technique, there needs to be refinement in production processes. This is not an experiment gone wrong; meticulously thought-out, Noreña and his team are creating intricate flavors with these coffees. You can see his rigor displayed but also his creativity and I would argue – playfulness. You will have a blast dialing in these co-fermented coffees. Grab a Crown Jewel while these last! We would love to hear your take. Email us at email@example.com.