Ironclad Coffee Roasters: Congo Idjwi Island

IMG_0925editIronclad Coffee Roasters, based out of Richmond, VA, was founded by Ryan O’Rourke. Ironclad, according to their website, is an adjective, meaning, “So firm or secure as to be unbreakable.” Therefore, an ironclad promise is a binding promise, a promise without weakness.

In fact, Ironclad Coffee Roasters makes an “ironclad promise,” committing to “unwaveringly provide the highest standard of customer care goes beyond mere business motivations; it is a passion rooted in preserving and, perhaps, restoring part of what has made America great.”

This passion for quality customer service alongside well crafted, top-notch coffee is grounded in O’Rourke’s experiences abroad. After spending a number of years somewhere in Europe, where he witnessed many good business practices, as well as poor customer service, Ironclad Coffee Roasters came to fruition, seeking to blend good business practices and good customer service, as well as good coffee.

On top of this, though, Ironclad Coffee Roasters is not only passionate about coffee; they also greatly care about their community. This is clear in their commitment to a monthly meeting focused on bettering their beloved city. These meetings are called Love RVA Mornings, and they are fundraising events, held at their roastery, encouraging discussion and change. And, the money raised at these events goes entirely to “Richmond SPCA and the Building a Better RPS citizens’ group on an alternating monthly basis.”

Much more could be said about Ironclad Coffee Roasters. If you are interested in more information, check out their About Us page, and be sure not to miss the sub-menu under their logo for even more information, specifically about their philosophy and their city. Oh! Also, be sure to check out their Blog as well, for a number of helpful coffee tips and articles.

Coffee Notes

For this review, we will specifically be looking at Ironclad’s Congo Idjwi Island Coffee. This is a fully washed and sun-dried coffee with a beautiful backstory. If you are interested in knowing more about this coffee’s backstory, check out this video on Ironclad’s Website.

Brew Method: Chemex; 32g; 512ml; Medium-Coarse; 4:00 brew time; 203F. I was also able to try this with different ratios and different brewers, but this is the specific method that I used for this review.

Analysis: Upon first glance, this coffee appears to be a medium/city roast. The roast seems to be quite even and lacking in noticeable defects. Overall, I would say that this is a very balanced cup. It is not too complex, but a good, easy-drinking coffee with nearly zero bitterness. It seems like a coffee that would pair well with a dessert. As with many of the coffees from Congo that I’ve had, it was quite nutty and chocolatey. Hazelnut and almond were vibrant, while there was also a little hint of toasted cashew, alongside a milk chocolate flavor that balanced it out well. The aroma and flavor had some hints of fruit, such as papaya or orange, or possibly blood orange as their bag says, which was an exciting surprise.

This coffee can be purchased from Ironclad’s website for $13.99. If you are not a fan of overly fruity coffees or simply want an easy-drinking coffee to go alongside you morning scone, then this is one you should try!

Be sure to stay tuned for a review of Ironclad’s Nicaragua Gold Mountain Don Roger’s “Tutti Frutti!”

Thanks for the review beans, Ironclad Coffee Roasters! I greatly enjoyed them!

Decent Milk Jug: First Impressions

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In my quest to learn as much as I can about coffee, one of those trails has taken me down the path of improving my latte art skills. It became evident quite early that the type of pitcher I used drastically helped or hurt my latte art. This seemingly resulted in a wild goose chase, until I stumbled upon a blogpost by Scott Rao, specifically referring to Decent Espresso Milk Jugs. He mentions numerous benefits to these pitchers, some of which I will address below, that left me excited to try one out. A few weeks later, I came home to a package from Decent Espresso sitting on my front porch, and I couldn’t wait to try out the new 350ml Decent Milk Jug with a Competition Spout!

And while I definitely have some thoughts regarding my experience with it, thus far, I am going to refrain from adding personal commentary until I’ve had more time. With that said, be on the lookout for a forthcoming post!

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Initial Thoughts

Graduated Lines – It is quite surprising that so many latte art pitchers do not have measurement lines to help with milk waste. Decent Milk Jugs have lines for both ounces and milliliters, therefore allowing the user to use the same amount of milk each time, helping to eliminate milk waste. The first time that my boss put a bucket next to the espresso bar to pour the remaining milk into after each latte, I was extremely surprised to see how much milk was wasted at the end of the day. One gallon of milk is 128 ounces. Even 1 ounce of milk waste after every latte adds up quickly. 1 gallon a day is nearly $1000 a year. That’s quite a bit.

On top of this, the measurement lines allow for a barista to stretch the milk to the same level every time. And, simply using the right amount of milk helps one out with their latte art immensely; the sooner the barista can get the pitcher at a sharper angle, the better their latte art will be.

Impressive Spout – As you can tell from the pictures above, the spout on this thing is beautiful. While the pictures above show the competitive spout, which is sharp without any sort of a beveled lip, the classic spout keeps the beveled spout, making it easier to transition into using a Decent Milk Jug.

According to someone named John, quoted on Scott Rao’s blogpost, the Competitive Spout has a bit of a learning curve, but once it’s mastered, it tremendously helps with control and detail. And, just so you know, this spout was not just made on a whim; it was designed by 23 professional latte artists, according to Decent Espresso.

Appealing – The black Teflon coating on the outside and the stainless steal inside make this a nice pitcher to look at. While it makes basic stainless steal pitchers look a little chintzy, I am curious to see how it will stand up to much use. Teflon is quite strong when it comes to acids and bases, but its ability to be scratched may make it necessary to keep away from sharp metal points.  We’ll see, I guess.

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Aside from its usefulness and elegance, there are other things that should be noted. First, this pitcher comes in three different sizes: 350ml (12oz), 600ml (20oz) and 1000ml (32oz). Second, Decent Espresso guarantees quality for life. This means that if you have any problems, they will replace it free of charge (free shipping as well)!

In the end, this pitcher seems pretty solid, and I am excited to get more experience with it! Stayed tuned for a future post regarding my experience with it.

Thanks for the milk jug, Decent Espresso! So far, I’m loving it!

Manthano Coffee 2016 in Review

img_01972016 was a pretty great year with regard to coffee. In fact, I tasted right at about 100 different coffees! So many of them were fantastic! Below, however, I have listed my top five favorites (not in order). Not only did I taste great coffee, I also learned a lot on this journey throughout the world of coffee.

Manthano Coffee’s Favorite Five of 2016

The one of Onyx Coffee Lab and Methodical Coffee were both sent to me in exchange for a review. However, the ones from Airship Coffee, Yellow Brick Coffee, and Steadfast Coffee were all received through Angels’ Cup. Although it is unlikely that you’d be able to purchase these same exact coffees now, all five of these roasters are fantastic! You should definitely check them all out!

Highlights from 2016

2016 really was a fun year! Not only did I taste some wonderful coffees, but I was able to visit some great coffee shops (Bold Bean, Revelator, Crema, Steadfast, Blueprint, Sump, Brick & Mortar, Trade & Lore, The Coffee Fox, Collective Espresso, and surely some others that I can’t remember). On top of this, I have had many opportunities to learn more about latte art, coffee production, coffee roasting, and customer service from both experience and from friends and mentors. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2017 brings!

Top Five Visited Pages on Manthano Coffee:

  1. How to Brew Coffee with an AeroPress
  2. How to Improve Your Coffee Tasting Skills: Coffee Cupping
  3. What You Need to Know about Letting Coffee Bloom
  4. How to Clean a Baratza Encore
  5. How to Brew Coffee with a Hario V60

Manthano Coffee’s 2017 Goals

  • Gain more followers
  • Post more consistently
  • Review more coffee shops
  • Review coffee products
  • Drink more coffee

Thanks for a great year! As always, I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or shoot me a message from the Contact page. And, if you have not already, definitely check out @ManthanoCoffee on Instagram!

Methodical Coffee: Kenya, Murang’a County

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Methodical Coffee is a coffee shop and roasting company located in Greenville, SC. It is owned by David Baker, Will Shurtz, and Marco Suarez, each of whom play a different role within the company: Baker deals with operations; Shurtz is the “roaster and coffee leader;” and Suarez is in charge of design and aesthetics. Although I have yet to visit Methodical’s café, I’ve heard that it is clear that they are strong in all of these areas. I’ve also heard, around the coffee world, that Will Shurtz is one of the few people that can really pull off the man bun.

Opening in February 2015, it was not until July 2016 that Methodical joined the roasting world. From hearing about Shurtz’s coffee knowledge, and after tasting their coffee, it was definitely a good idea.

Coffee Notes

For this review, we will be looking at Methodical Coffee’s Kenya, Murang’a County coffee. Before noting the specific details about this coffee, I must say that Methodical’s bags are absolutely wonderful! Not only are they stunning, they also include extremely helpful information: location, varietals, roast date, tasting notes, and even the name of the artist who designed the beautiful bag (Annie Koelle).

As you may have already noticed, Methodical’s bags do not include any indication of the roast level. This is, of course, a more recent trend within the specialty coffee world. Truly, the reality of a roast level is that it is essentially nebulous and subjective. Light, medium, and dark roasts, or whatever else they might be called, mean something different to every roaster, and every consumer for that matter. Ideally, each roaster would roast each specific bean to its best possible profile, and then the consumer would simply trust that reality and find what they like best. Some, however, like the NCA, have offered basic roast guides in hopes to better standardize roasting language across the industry; but it’s quite a daunting task.

Now, specifically regarding this Kenya, Murang’a County coffee, Methodical offers quite a bit of very helpful information. It is made up of both SL 28 and SL 34 varieties and grown at 1900 masl. It is a fully washed processed coffee, processed at Gondo Wet Mill of New Kiriti Farmers Cooperative Society, where it went through an intensive selection process, after being delivered to the wet mill on the exact same day that it was picked. After the cherries are carefully separated, prior to pulping, the ripe cherries undergo the wet processing method, whereby the Kananahu stream’s clean water is utilized. After all of this, as well as being pulped and going through the fermentation process, they are sun dried and then sent to a dry mill for dry milling.

Also, before offering my tasting notes, I will point out that this coffee was received only two days after roasting, which is absolutely exceptional!

Brew Method: Chemex; 50g Coffee; 512ml Water; 203F; Medium Grind; 4:30 Brew Time.

Analysis: Upon first glance, I do not see any obvious defects, and the beans appear to be quite light in color. One of the first things I thought of, when smelling the dry aroma, was one of those Orange & Creme Hard Candies (Creme Savers). On top of this, the dry and wet aroma brought strong notes of lemon and orange, as well as some honey, sugar cane, and maybe cinnamon. The flavor notes were quite similar, with juicy citrus notes. But it also had some darker sweet notes, like molasses or maple syrup. Most memorably, though, was the vibrant dark chocolate note in the aftertaste; it was absolutely wonderful! It was as if I were really eating dark chocolate, creamy and then a little drying afterwards. While it wasn’t the most complex cup I’ve had, it was exceptionally clean and exciting. It offered a nice medium+ body, a higher level of acidity and sweetness, and nearly zero bitterness. Very much enjoyed this coffee.

This coffee can be purchased from Methodical’s Website for $18.00. If you haven’t had this one, I would definitely suggest it!

I’ll end with a quote from their website and their bags: “There is a beautiful paradox in the simplicity of brewing coffee and the complexity of its mastery.”

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Brick and Mortar Coffee: Sumatra Jambi Kerinci

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Brick & Mortar Coffee, as mentioned in previous posts, is a specialty coffee roasting company, seeking to “move people toward greater coffee craftsmanship.” Brick and Mortar says, “Our love is people, our design is simple, our craft is coffee.” And whether you are visiting Brick & Mortar in Springfield, Missouri or tasting their coffee at home, it will be evident that they are very focused on these three things.

Coffee Notes

For this review, I’ll be making comments on Brick & Mortar’s Sumatra Jambi Kerinci. This coffee, containing various varietals, was grown at  1400 masl in “rich volcanic soil on the slopes of Mount Kerinci, in the Jambi province of Sumatra.” It underwent a hybrid coffee method of processing, called wet-hulled process. Then, after many more hands, ultimately helping get the green coffee beans to Brick & Mortar, it is then roasted to a Cinnamon Roast (397*F).

Brew Method: Chemex; 32g Coffee; 512ml Water; 203F; Medium Grind; 4:00 Brew Time. I was also able to brew this with a V60 as well as an AeroPress.

Analysis: Upon first glance, the beans are definitely a Cinnamon Roast. There were a few quakers in the jar, but overall they looked nice. I was super surprised by this Sumatran! Expecting the usual earthy notes, which were there, it also maintained a nice fruity flavor that brought with it an intense amount of sweetness. It is definitely a full-bodied coffee, alongside a medium-high level of acidity. It got sweeter as it cooled. Definitely Walnut, Grapefruit, Earth, and Lime in this coffee!

These beans can be purchased from their website for $20.00. Brick and Mortar Currently ships their coffees in 8oz glass jars, though they can also be ordered in bulk.

Thanks so much for the review beans, Brick and Mortar Coffee!

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Airship Coffee: Catimor – Guatemala

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Airship Coffee is a coffee roasting company located in Bentonville, Arkansas. As mentioned before, Airship Coffee has a goal of “blow[ing] people’s minds with coffee,” and “creat[ing] unique coffees that challenge people’s notion of what coffee can taste like.”

From what I can tell, they are definitely succeeding.

Moreover, Airship Coffee works directly with their farmers, seeking to use the best methods to bring about the best flavors. The Pacamara Natural – El Salvador is one of those coffees that benefited from an experimental processing method. Then, after working with their farmers, who then ship it to Airship in Arkansas, they roast those beans seeking “to coax the most out of the beans roasting to peak-aroma, the point where the bean is most fragrant.”

It is also noteworthy to recognize that I received this coffee quite quickly, and it also included a nice, hand-written note.

 

Coffee Notes

For this review, I am looking at Airship Coffee’s Catimor – Guatemala. It comes from Monte Nuevo, Guatemala and is made up of the Catimor variety. It is a fully washed processed coffee, grown at 1800masl. Airship Coffee’s website says, “This coffee is produced by two brothers Chepe and Nilton Perez in Guatemala’s Acatenango region. Monte Nuevo is one of the highest farms in the region. This combination of high elevation and shade produces a denser bean and a slower ripening time resulting in a sweeter cup with marked acidity which shows in this catimor.”

Brew Method: Chemex; 32g Coffee; 512ml Water; 203F; Medium Grind; 4:30 Brew Time. I was also able to brew this with a V60 as well as an AeroPress.

Analysis: Upon first sight, these beans look to be about a City roast. After grinding, the dry aroma smelled of toffee, caramel, vanilla, and peach. I was having a hard time getting the cantaloupe note while the grounds were dry, but after adding water, it smelled predominately like cantaloupe. Wet aroma notes also included toffee and caramel, as well as some minor notes of vanilla, peach, and maybe nectarine. The flavor notes, then, continued to maintain the toffee, caramel, and cantaloupe notes, but it also brought along a nice vanilla flavor, especially as it cooled down. This Guatemalan was also quite sweet and complex, with hardly any bitterness. It had a medium+ body and a relatively high level of acidity.

This coffee can be purchased from Airship Coffee’s website for $12.00, which includes a 250g bag. Although the Pacamara Natural – El Salvador was my favorite, this Catimor – Guatemala is fantastic as well. Check them out!

Thanks again for the review beans, Airship Coffee! I greatly enjoyed them!

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Airship Coffee: Pacamara Natural – El Salvador

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Airship Coffee is a coffee roasting company located in Bentonville, Arkansas. According to their website, “Airship Coffee was born under a lime tree in the mountains of Honduras.” From then on their ambition has been to “blow people’s minds with coffee,” and “to create unique coffees that challenge people’s notion of what coffee can taste like.”

Airship Coffee works directly with their farmers to bring about the best beans possible. This sometimes means using different, experimental processing methods to enhance a coffee’s flavor profile. Then, once Airship Coffee receives the green coffee beans, they seek to “use [their] roasters to coax the most out of the beans roasting to peak-aroma, the point where the bean is most fragrant.”

Also, on top of a quick delivery and elegant bags, Airship Coffee included a hand-written note! In an age where more and more people purchase things online, with slim to zero human interaction, it is personal touches like this that are meaningful.

Coffee Notes

For this review, I will be looking specifically at Airship Coffee’s Pacamara Natural from El Salvador. This sun-dried, natural processed coffee specifically comes from Calera, El Salvador, at an altitude of 1700 masl. It is a Pacamara variety, which is, according to Airship Coffee’s website, “an intraspecific hybrid developed out of a breeding program housed at El Salvador’s Institute for Coffee Research that started back in the 1958.” This variety’s parents are the Pacas and the Maragogipe, which are both mutations: Pacas from the Bourbon variety and Maragogipe from Typica.

Brew Method: Chemex; 32g Coffee; 512ml Water; 200F; Medium Grind; 4:30 Brew Time. I was also able to brew this with a V60 as well as an AeroPress.

Analysis: At first glance, the beans are clearly a natural processed coffee, considering the appearance and lack of chaff. The roast seems quite even, probably a City roast. The aroma and flavor notes scream raspberry, as well as a sweet-smelling note that reminds me of a strawberry flavored Fruit Roll-Up. The aroma also brings along a little vanilla and maybe a little apple. The flavor, though, brings out this nice green apple note, alongside the already present raspberry, and maybe a little black cherry. It is complex and super sweet, has high acidity, about a medium+ body that is quite creamy, and nearly zero bitterness. There also seems to be a minor toffee-like note after the coffee cools down. Honestly, this natural processed El Salvador is absolutely wonderful!

This coffee is available on Airship Coffee’s website for $14.00, which will get you a 250g bag. You definitely don’t want to miss out on this one! As their website says, “It’s all in the cup. Give it a go and delight your mouth.”

Thanks for the review beans, Airship Coffee! I enjoyed every single cup!

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Brick and Mortar Coffee: Ethiopia Guji Hambela

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Brick and Mortar Coffee, located in Springfield, Missouri, is dedicated to the art and craft of specialty coffee. As mentioned in a previous post, Brick and Mortar says, “Our love is people, our design is simple, our craft is coffee.” Whether you are drinking coffee in their tasting room, or at your own home, you will be able to recognize that Brick and Mortar cares about all of these things.

Coffee Notes

For this review, I will be looking at Brick and Mortar’s Ethiopia Guji Hambela. According to their website, this Ethiopian coffee comes from the Hambela farm, which “is located in the fertile regional State, in Yirgacheffe/Guji zone, between the two districts Gede and Hambela, approximately 477 km (~297 miles) South of Addis Ababa (the Capital of Ethiopia), and 20 km (~12.5 miles) East of Dimtu Town (the capital of Hambela).”

This coffee is specifically the Heirloom varietal, grown at 1900-2200 meters, and was processed naturally. Brick & Mortar, then, received it and roasted it to a Cinnamon Roast (specifically 398*F).

Brew Method:  Chemex – 50g – Medium Grind (21 on a Baratza Encore) – 800ml Water – 201*F – 5min Brew Time. While this is the brew method being used for this review, I also tried this coffee with a V60 and an AeroPress.

Analysis: Upon first glance of the beans, these look to be about a Cinnamon roast. They were a few quakers in the sample that was sent, but I was able to pick them out easily. The dry aroma was beautiful; there were strong notes of a number of berries, like raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and cranberry. Wet aroma maintained them, but brought along some notes of dark chocolate and even a tad bit of earthiness. The flavor notes were more surprising though. They maintained a little berry—like raspberry, blueberry, and cranberry—and dark chocolate, but brought about some other notes of black tea and vanilla. Aftertaste tastes like black tea and a strong vanilla, more like bourbon than vanilla. A little bitter, a medium-light body, and medium+ acidity. Definitely a flavorful cup, but it is not the most complex.

These beans can be purchased from their website for $17.00. Brick and Mortar Currently ships their coffees in 8oz glass jars, though they can also be ordered in bulk.

Thanks so much for the review beans, Brick and Mortar Coffee!

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Café Grumpy: Deri Kochoha

IMG_4776Café Grumpy began in Brooklyn, New York in 2005, specifically in the Greenpoint neighborhood. It is a woman owned company, and now has a total of seven locations in New York City, not including their roastery. Café Grumpy is known for sourcing quality beans in a responsible and sustainable way, offering great customer service, and caring for the community.

In response to a question about the origin of Café Grumpy’s name, the owner, Caroline Bell, says, “The name was inspired by some bad customer service we received at a (since closed) coffee shop back in 2004 – as in this place is making us so grumpy it should be called cafe grumpy!” She then added that the logo was designed by her brother, who based the shape of the “grumpy face” on a coffee bean.

Also, as I’ve heard from the grapevine, if you are looking for a place to crash with you Macbook, you will be SOL (aside from the Greenpoint location), considering their strict “no laptop” policy.

Coffee Notes

This Ethiopian Coffee comes from multiple small producers in the Sidama Region, specifically from the Deri Kochoha washing station. It is a traditional washed processed coffee, specifically the heirloom variety, dried on raised beds, and was grown at 1800-2000 masl. Café Grumpy has been offering this coffee for just over 4 years now, so it is definitely a favorite. Also, I got this bag 3 days after the roast date, which is fantastic!

Brew Method: Chemex – 32g – Medium Grind (18 on a Baratza Encore) – 512ml Water – 203*F – 4min Brew Time. While this is the brew method being used for this review, I also tried this coffee with a V60, an AeroPress, and as a cold brew.

Analysis: The beans were roasted a little darker than I expected, considering the flavor notes on the bag, probably a City or City+. The roast was especially even: no quakers or other clearly visible defects. Strong notes of peach, and maybe ginger, honestly reminding me of a peaches and ginger tea. Dry aroma also smells like a chocolate covered raspberry. The brewed cup itself maintained a medium body and a medium+ sweetness and acidity. A tad bit of bitterness, but overall a pretty balanced cup. The flavor notes were peach, lemongrass, and raspberry, with maybe some caramel or toffee. When it cools down, the flavor turns more toward vanilla and bourbon.

This coffee can be purchased from Café Grumpy’s website for $20.00.

Thanks for the review beans, Café Grumpy! Also, thanks for the pin! Loved them both!

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Brick and Mortar Coffee: Guatemala Chimaltenango El Rosario

IMG_4680Brick and Mortar Coffee, located in Springfield, Missouri, is dedicated to the art and craft of specialty coffee. As mentioned in the previous post, Brick and Mortar says, “Our love is people, our design is simple, our craft is coffee.” All of these things are evident, whether you are sitting inside their tasting room, or you are sipping on one of their coffees at home.

Coffee Notes

This second coffee from Brick and Mortar is from Guatemala. This coffee comes from a relative of the Perez family, specifically in the region of Chimaltenango at El Rosario, and is grown at about 1600 masl. It is a washed processed coffee, roasted to 401F, which is what Brick and Mortar calls the “New American Roast.” When I visited Brick and Mortar, this coffee was what they were running as their Single Origin Espresso. Also, it is true that this Guatemalan coffee is a part of their house blend, called Ampersand.

Brew Method: Chemex – 50g – Medium Grind (21 on a Baratza Encore) – 800ml Water – 203*F – 5:00min Brew Time. When I visited Brick and Mortar, during a trip to see some family, I was also able to try this as Espresso.

Analysis: This Guatemalan is particularly smooth and truly is an easy drinking coffee. There are heavy notes of chocolate and toffee, with some minor dried fruit notes, like cranberry, and there is maybe even a small hint of hibiscus in the dry and wet aroma. The aroma also seemed to hint at minor notes of honey and caramel. The flavor notes seemed to minimized some of the aroma notes, leaving this coffee tasting primarily like chocolate, toffee, and caramel. Minor bitterness that hits at the end, but overall a very balanced cup.

And, as mentioned above, I was able to try this as espresso, which helped bring out some of the natural sweetness. It maintained the chocolate and toffee notes, but also had a candied nut flavor to it that was quite pleasant, which lingered for quite a long aftertaste.

This coffee can be purchased on Brick and Mortar’s website for $14.00. And as mentioned last time, Brick and Mortar Currently ships their coffees in 8oz glass jars, though they can also be ordered in bulk.

Thanks again for the review beans, Brick and Mortar Coffee!