Bright Coffee

July 13, 2016

Acidity in coffee refers to the fun, zingy, sharp, bright flavor notes that we taste in lemons or other citrus fruits, not the chemicals that burn holes in things. Some folks are scared of acidic coffees because they think this lively flavor attribute is going to be something that is going to eat away their stomach lining. Another term we use is “brightness”.  It’s the same as “acidity” and you may have noticed it on our spider charts.

Imagine a key lime pie without the key lime or a pina colada without the pineapple …pretty boring, right? It might be a stretch but it would be kind of like a song without top notes and high hats/snare drums. Acidity comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the main feature of the coffee and sometimes it’s the glue that ties together other flavor characteristics like fruit, chocolate, nuts, etc. Search on our site for “citrus” or “bright” and you will come up with 30+ results. Take your time and sort through them to find the type of brightness that you think you will like best. Also, check out this list of coffees with excellent top notes.


Kenya Muranga’a Githiga AA

At lighter roasts, the cup has an intense citric brightness that pulsates through the cup. It’s lemonade-like and provides a mouth-cleansing aspect in the finish. Darker roasts develops dark berry, raw cacao nib notes, along with a pungent date sugar sweetness that intensifies in the finish. The interplay of fine cacao flavors and tangy citrus and berry notes is also tops as you near a Full City roast level.


Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe Buufata KongaThis coffee is undeniably clean, with a mouth-cleansing acidity. Fresh citrus flavors like Meyer lemon, pink grapefruit, and mandarin juice ring out in the cup, while retaining a delicate structure. The sweetness is complex, starting off honey-like and shifting toward baked sugar in the finish. The finish is clean, with an overt jasmine floral note.


Burundi Mutambu RubandaThe cup flavor at City roast sees a tart lemon note hanging overhead, not puckering, but brisk and resonant. A grounding sweetness of cane juice is amplified as the coffee cools and is followed by notes of orange and tangerine, which are pleasant on the tongue. City+ roasts have a nice developed graham cracker sweetness (honeyed), and a red raspberry tang in the finish.


Rwanda Nyamasheke Nyungwe CooperativeCity to City+ will yield the highest level of complexity and acidity. It’s not “showy” in the way Ethiopian or Kenyan coffees can be, no jasmine florals or “wild” fruit characteristics here. Instead, this all bourbon lot boasts an incredible sweetness like brown sugar dissolved in water, overt and balancing. It has a flavor of tart, fresh-squeezed orange juice (slightly pulpy), that emboldens structuring, citric acidity as well. Don’t expect ‘hit-you-over-the-head’ citric brightness, but light roasts will still be “brilliant” and mouth-cleansing in this regard.


Burundi Kibumbu KayokweKayokwe is a bright cup with a bracing grapefruit juice note that defines the acidity. A  caramel flavor couples with sweet lactic notes, sort of like the top layer of a “flan” cake. From City to Full City, you can expect a sachet of dry spice notes dotting the cup profile. Fruit accents pull out of the shadows in the cooling cup, apple, nectarine, and white grape notes adding to the overall cup complexity. We pulled a shot of espresso and were wowed by the resonant syrupy sweetness, and ‘snappy’, up-front lemon flavors.


Kenya Nyeri Kagumoini PeaberryThe cup is vibrantly bright and tangy, with sweet mandarin orange acidity. There is a caramel sweetness that is nicely offset by a rindy citrus in the finish. Kagumoini offered a refreshing fruited sweetness in our City and Full City roasts. If you’re looking for the snappy brightness of a Kenya cup, you’ll be rewarded in the City/City+ range. Acidity intensity tones down to subdued hues with heavier roasting, while still retaining a fruit-forward cup character.


Colombia Inzá Pequeños GranjerosSomewhere between City and City+ the warm expressed beautiful acidity, very much in line with the stone fruit flavors that are also sensed. Sweetness shows wonderful development at this level too, a bit like orange blossom honey fading to raw sugar in the aftertaste. It’s a beautiful cup, boasting top notes like white peach and grape as the cup cools. Full City roasts have more of a cocoa matrix – from bittersweet powder, to high % cacao bar – and an underlying sweetness throughout.