A Single Origin Espresso Set to Pull You Through the Holiday Season

A closer look at the four amazing coffees in our Holiday Single Origin Espresso Set

(or hop on over and grab yourself a Holiday Single Origin Espresso Set first)

This holiday season, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite single origin espressos into this 4 lb. holiday set! Single origin espresso (“SOE”) are simply coffees that taste great as espresso on their own, unblended. In fact, they deserve to be tasted independently as they have all the tenets of a delicious espresso shot without needing to be mixed with other coffees.

We only give SO espresso recommendations to coffees that excel in body, and bittersweetness at the very least. These two attributes alone are the 1-2-punch for a classic-toned milk drink, and bittersweet ‘solo’. And coffees with flavors beyond that crucial, necessary base make for some of the more complex shots on our list.

A view of espresso extraction using a bottomless portafilter on the Quick Mill Andreja
A view of espresso extraction using a bottomless portafilter on the Quick Mill Andreja (the Espresso Monkey demitasse deserves an honorable mention!)

This selection of SO espresso fall all along that flavor range. None are “basic”, and even the chocolate-forward offerings yield a complex compound of flavor types wrapped up in syrupy tactile mouthfeel. We steer clear of espresso that’s too ‘wild’ as well, discovering that just because we enjoy a fruit bomb, it doesn’t mean everyone will!

I revisited each coffee in both a Quick Mill Andreja, and the Flair Classic portable espresso brewer, in order to get a fresh take on how they stack up under espresso extraction. I prefer the intensity and creamy mouthfeel of short ristretto shots, and most of my ground coffee-to-water ratios were around 1:1, 1:1.25. The intensity of the distilled espresso extraction will still come through in the longer “lungo” extractions (1:2ish), or when brewed as Americano.

Beyond mentioning the roast level in the text below, I’ll say that sticking to Full City to Full City+ is recommended for all of these coffees; that is to say, roughly 30-45F roast development beyond the beginnings of 1st Crack. My darkest roasts hit 2nd snaps seconds before cooling. Going too deep into 2nd Crack risks bringing out bitter roast without the balancing sweetness, and sacrifices the inherent flavors that make these four coffees unique.

Here’s what you can expect in the Holiday Single Origin Espresso Set while supplies last:

The familiar reddish color of dried fruit mucilage on a honey process coffee drying at the home of Emilio Chasoiy Aponte, Colombia.
The familiar reddish color of dried fruit mucilage on a honey process coffee drying at the home of Emilio Chasoiy Aponte, Colombia.

Colombia Honey Process El Paramo: The honey process method is favorable to big body, and they tend to work incredibly well as espresso. The bittersweetness in the shot at Full City roast level is wrapped around a plump red fruit note, and lends to a flavor profile of a dark chocolate cherry cordial. There’s some brightness up front that is a little intense at this roast level, but could be dulled significantly with another 30-45 seconds in the roaster, as well as more rest (I’m drinking this at 48 hours rest). But I personally love the contrasting flavors offered here, and find the bright/bittersweet aspect a big part of what makes this honey coffee from Colombia special.

Guatemala San Martin Jilotepeque: Wow, San Martin’s mouthfeel scores a perfect 10 for me. The shots produce a velvety liquor on your tongue, which pairs perfectly with the classic bittersweet espresso flavors that come through at Full City+ (just the beginnings of 2nd snaps). Straight shots have robust cocoa roast flavors distilled down with a creamy macadamia nut note, and something like hazelnut creamer in sweetness. And boy what a bittersweetness this coffee packs, and lingers for a very long time. Seriously, 5 minutes on and I’m still getting hit with waves of ultra dark cacao bar on my palate and in the ‘nose’ (think 80%+). If you’re looking for an espresso to elevate your steamed milk drinks, THIS IS DEFINITELY THE ONE!

Green coffee dries on raised beds at Kageyo washing station in Ngororero, Rwanda.
Green coffee dries on raised beds at Kageyo washing station in Ngororero, Rwanda.

Rwanda Nyamasheke Kageyo: East African coffees are known for their bright acidity, which doesn’t always bode well for espresso. We found Kanyege’s acidity to be a bit tamer than the other Rwanda’s, though still carries a shimmering, yet enjoyable, citrus aspect when roasted dark. I personally really enjoy that bright spot, and my Full City+ shots extracted juxtaposing flavors of rich, dark chocolate syrup, and lemon tart note that’s most present up front, then dissipates in the aftertaste (the chocolate does not). Other flavor notes included orange-infused dark chocolate, roasted cacao nibs, Tootsie Roll/chocolate taffy, and candied citrus peel. Full City+ roasts will work well in milk drinks, though the acidity at even a shade lighter Full City may be too distracting for that application.

Ethiopia Agaro Duromina: Duromina has always been exemplary as espresso, and this year’s coffee is no exception. Western Ethiopian coffees tend to be our go-to for Ethiopian espresso The balance and body that we find in many of the Western coop coffees stands out from those of the southern regions. Full City roasts significantly tone down Duromina’s acidity level, while retaining some of the fleshy stone fruits, like plum, and ripe peach, that are tasted in lighter roasts. My first roast attempt was much too light, and came off thin and puckering. Keeping your roast south of Full City helps boost body to a much more moderate level, quiets the fruited vibrance, and brings out the the booming bass notes underneath. Deep chocolate roast tones, and dark fruit flavors are integral to the shot, and point to flavor aspects of bittersweet chocolate ganache frosting, semi-sweet chips, stewed plum, and an aroma of chocolate-covered dried berry. Duromina has lighter body than the others (still far from thin!), and overt fruited notes make it less suitable option for milk drinks. That’s quite alright by me, as I wouldn’t dream of covering up the complex flavor profile.

Pick up your Holiday Single Origin Espresso Set HERE while coffee stocks last

2 Responses

  1. Hi Dan, I have a quick Flair question… When you refer to the ratios for your ristretto (1:1, 1.25:1) shots, are you talking about the final liquid weight of the shot it has been pulled, or the weight of the water added to the Flair to pull the shot? I have enjoyed my Flair (the entry level Neo model), and discovered a lot of great stuff via your cupping notes and recommendations. Looking forward to trying at least a couple of these on the list….

    Thanks, and Happy Holidays to you and the entire SM crew!

    1. Hey Dan, I’m glad to hear our notes have been helpful my friend!

      I too have the early ‘no frills’ Flair, and am amazed at how the shots compare to what I pull on my lever machine. At the time we started carrying the Flair, it was truly the first portable espresso maker we’d tried that was able to retain water temp, and produce the bar pressure needed to make a nice espresso. Tbh, if I’m just making a single shot of espresso, I find myself reaching for my Flair rather than waiting the 45 minutes to warm up the Quick Mill.

      Ratio clarification; I mean grams of roasted coffee to liquid yield. So my 1:1 in the Flair are around 14 grams coffee to 14+ grams espresso. But I like my espresso creamy and intense, which is definitely not for everyone!

      Hope that helps Dan!

      All the best,
      the other Dan

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