Sweet Maria’s Staff Picks: Featuring Dan

Meet Dan. He cups a lot of coffee and helps decide which of those coffees will end up on Sweet Maria’s and Coffee Shrub’s offerings lists. You may have seen him in many of our Behmor-based Youtube videos.

How did you become interested in coffee?

My interest in coffee started back around the time that I realized coffee could taste very different. This revelation came by way of a small espresso stand in my hometown of Seattle, Washington, Espresso Vivace, run by David Schomer. Their espresso was extracted slowly, the baristas intent on “getting it right”, and what a double espresso lacked in volume, it more than made up for in intensity of flavor. That I was able to taste this difference was empowering in some way I guess. At the very least, I recognized that coffee could be more than just bitter, that preparation seemed to impact flavor. 

Around that time, a neighbor of mine told me he was roasting coffee in a popcorn popper. I was intrigued that something I had only seen on a large-ish scale could be done in your kitchen, with a popper no less! He told me about Sweet Maria’s, and when I moved to Oakland a few years later, I dropped by the West Oakland warehouse to make my first purchase. It was a pretty profound experience to see such a long list of coffees from more origins than I could count on my two hands, and with flavor descriptions that emphasized difference. I was hooked.

I was a Sweet Maria’s customer and fan first, roasting coffee in my oven, popper, and eventually a Behmor. After about a year of picking up orders at the warehouse I got up the nerve to ask them for a job, and thankfully, they obliged! This gave me greater access to green coffee and the opportunity to use different types of coffee roasters. That’s when my interest in coffee really exploded. 

These days it seems like roasting coffee is mostly something I do for work, rather than a hobby I indulge in. That said, I still find time to fire up my Behmor 1600 or popcorn popper at least once a month just for fun!

What coffees did you pick and why?

Ethiopia Guji Hambela Dabaye – Depending on the coffee, sometimes roasting very light means sacrificing sweetness. Not the case with Hambela. City roasts have this vanilla/brown sugar flavor that reminds me of cream soda, and the coffee cools to complex stone fruit and baking spice notes. Also worth noting that if you’re a fan of wet process Ethiopian espresso, Hambela is a home run. It has this silky chocolate/peach flavor combination in the City+/Full City roast range that’s a real knockout. I didn’t give this coffee an espresso recommendation in the review, mainly because it will be too bright for some. But I love it.

Colombia Caicedo Las Alegrias – The coffees we’re buying from Caicedo and neighboring Urrao are truly something special. You see a lot of Caturra cultivar growing at extremely high altitudes, nearly 2200 meters above sea level in parts of Caicedo. It’s very cold too, which extends the fermentation time, and can lead to pulpy fruit flavors in the cup. The best examples are a complex mix of raw sugar sweetness, fruited undertones, and a level of acidity that comes with high grown, dense coffee. This lot is made up of coffee from a small handful of farms in Caicedo and is a nice example of a balance of these flavor characteristics.

El Salvador Santa Ana Pacamara AAA – I’m a sucker for the “odd duck” and always up for a challenge. This coffee ticks off both of these boxes for the same reason – gargantuan bean size! The Pacamara variety is a cross of Pacas and Maragoype, and is generally known to have very high cup potential when roasted well. Light roasts are where this coffee shows the most cup complexity. But because of the large bean size this can be tricky to achieve without winding up with a raw center. The safe bet is to go about 15-30 seconds beyond where you would normally pull your batch for a City roast level. If you have manual heat control on your roaster, you can try slowing things down through the drying phase, ramping up heat after the coffee turns yellow. Don’t slow things down too much though, as a baked coffee is a flat coffee. When you get it just right, this coffee’s soooo nice – balanced sweetness, with brilliant citric impressions and tea-like top notes. Delicious!

We turned Dan’s list into it’s own Green Coffee Sample Set. Check it out!

2 Responses

  1. I have purchased some of your coffee blends in the past. I don’t see any blends listed now. Is it still possible to purchase some of your blends anymore?

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