Today is the third and final installment of our week-long series of reviews dedicated to the brand new and much-anticipated Bow Truss Coffee Roasters.
There aren’t many more ways to introduce these folks here, so let’s get down to brass tacks.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe from Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago, IL. Feel free to pull up a chair.
As I wrote the other day, I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate the birth of a coffee roaster than to write up reviews of their coffees that hail from the birthplace of coffee: Ethiopia, Africa. That day, of course, we got to sip the very interesting and somewhat complex Ethiopia Sidamo, Kenebata Natural.
I have a fond affinity for coffees that get down to the very basics and skip all of the washing and other processing.
Today’s coffee, arguably, is even more basic than that—it’s a very straightforward fully washed bean that comes from Ethiopia’s chiefest and most famous production region: Yirgacheffe.
Now, unfortunately, I couldn’t track down any specific information about today’s selection as Bow Truss doesn’t include anything like that with their item descriptions on their online store; and since Yirgacheffe is such a massive place with so many, many, many different farmers, cooperatives, and mills, I’ve decided to remove all of the guessing work and cut straight to the coffee itself.
origin: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
First off, when I open the packaging of Bow Truss’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, my nose is greeted by a very pleasant aroma. It’s one of those classic coffee aromas—the kind that isn’t complex, that isn’t overpowering, that isn’t attention-grabbing. The kind that lulls people down grocery store aisles, like a siren’s song. It’s sweet with tones of chocolate, honey, brown sugar, and just hints of floral aromatics.
Immediately post-brew, while it’s piping hot, the coffee has a bit of a smoky, earthy texture to it. There’s not much flavor here—maybe just a small taste of almond nuttiness. When the cup cools off a bit, the smokiness disappears, and the earthy texture smooths out, becoming more of a sweet, creamy honey that coats the palate. There still isn’t much attention-grabbing flavor, though.
The cup has cooled off just a little bit more and now I’m starting to taste something. The body is still creamy, almost velvety; it still has a nice honey sweetness; now I’m getting an astringent, tea-like, floral note—lilac. In addition to that, a belly of raw cocoa has bubbled up; chocolaty, with the sort of bitter flavor you experience when you chew on a cocoa bean. And if I squeeze my eyes shut and slurp with all my might, I get just the ever-so-slight hint of blueberry.
At room temperature, I’m not even sure it’s worth talking about anymore. I realize how mean that sounds, but trust me when I tell you that I don’t want to be mean about it; but the coffee almost tastes stale at this point. Very little flavor, no zest, hardly any acidity at all—nada. I’m as disappointed as you are.
Full body; honey mouthfeel; low acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
I need a couple of second opinions for this coffee, because I almost refuse to believe my palate.
I brewed it with every single device I own—Chemex, Hario, French press, Aeropress, Clever, Moka pot… I got roughly the same results every time: dull. Even when I brewed it as a concentrate (very concentrated, I might add—almost espresso strength), when the honey sweetness and a great berry acidity came out, it still didn’t really “wow” me.
This is a coffee that required a lot of tinkering. I bought a full pound of it (which typically almost lasts two weeks for me) and, I did so much experimentation with it, that I scraped the bottom of the bag after only six days. Luckily, in those last two batches, I finally got it where I wanted it. I had to up the grounds to water ratio (about 1.5:1) to get the most flavor out of it.
I feel let down. My expectations of Bow Truss Coffee Roasters have been incredibly high for the past several months and, now that they’re finally here and open for business, the most I can say for the two coffees of their’s that I tried is, “Okay.” A couple of my roaster friends have offered that maybe Bow Truss is trying to adjust to their new roaster, that maybe this particular coffee was old, that maybe the roaster cut off airflow too soon… I don’t know.
I really hope that the two coffees I’ve had from them so far are the result of a learning curve; I really hope that soon, a little further down the road, I’ll be writing glowing reviews of Bow Truss Coffee Roasters. For now, though, the bottom line for me is disappointment.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.