Branches filled to what seems like the limit, with green cherry for the upcoming harvest; Urrao, ColombiaBranches filled to what seems like the limit, with green cherry for the upcoming harvest; Urrao, Colombia

In relation to other coffee-producing origins, Colombia stands out in that coffee is being harvested practically year-round. Most other origins we buy from tend to have a single harvest lasting a couple of months. This means that after all the coffee's been picked, there will be nothing fresh to be found for the better part of the year. Not the case in Colombia, where a wide range of micro-climates and close proximity to the equator make for a seemingly steady stream of fresh green.

Two regions in particular that we buy from, Urrao, Antioquia in the north, and Inzá, Cauca in the south, get an incredible amount of annual precipitation. This may make drying coffee outdoors on open patios dicey at best (one of several reasons covered beds are used - "parabolicos"), but it also lends to regular flowering coffee trees and healthy harvests. Both regions have the equivalent of two "main" harvests, and in the case of Urrao, there are several mini-harvests in between. Because of all this, we tend to have Colombia coffee shipments spread out throughout the year, and in some cases close to piggy-back. For example, our most recent container arrived at the end of March, only 3 months after the previous container.

Pouring the first flight at Shrub headquarters, West Oakland

Last week we invited a few of our local customers to come taste an assortment of these fresh arrivals from three of the growing regions we buy from: Antioquia, Huila, and Cauca. Despite all of the coffees being wet-processed Colombian, the cup profiles were very different, showcasing just how unique Colombian coffee can be from one growing area to the next, and even one neighbor the next. Clean sugary sweetness, fresh fruits flavors, bittersweetness, pointed acidity; stark contrast in cup flavors, shifting in level of intensity as the cups cooled. We'd love to have you all at our table, but obviously there are space limitations, and of course the bulk of our customers are far outside the Bay Area!

We've done the next best thing, putting together a sample set of 6 fresh Colombia options for little more than the price of shipping. You'll receive coffee from Urrao, Timaná, and Inzá - basically the same coffee grouping we showcased for customers last week. Only two are listed on Coffee Shrub, so this is also a chance to pick up coffee from the proverbial "back room". Check out the full run-down of coffees, and order your "Colombia Back Room Sample Set" HERE. SOLD OUT

***Orders for any "offline" coffees will have to placed direct via

Pulling Espresso on the Rocket Giotto EvoluzionePulling Espresso on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione

After a busy workweek, I can't think of a better way to spend Friday afternoon than assessing two single-origin espresso favorites: Guatemala Huehuetenango Familia Morales Lote 3, and Ethiopa Organic. Tencho Cooperative. Guats tend to make excellent espresso options, appealing to those who prefer "classic" tailored shot, heavy chocolate tones, bittersweetness, even aromatic wood with heavier roasting. They can be bright too, citrus to malic, and produce body for days with the right roast development. Ethiopias on the other hand, offer exotic flair, floral to fruit flavors, tea and spices, and the darker shades (FC and beyond) can pull out surprising levels of cocoa roast tones too. 

Like most of the coffee we assess, the roasting was carried out in our electric Probat 3-barrel sample roaster. Both coffees are fairly dense, grown at altitudes of 1600 up to 2000 meters above sea level. The Ethiopia is a smaller bean size, 15 screen, as well as lower moisture content (10% as opposed to the 11.2% Guatemala), and so roasted at a slightly lower temperature. Our roaster runs on a PID, with the sensor about 2" from the actual heating elements. Basically it's reading the temp output, and then oscillating the power on and off to hold the temperature set on the controller. We don't have a bean probe, and so my markers are time and visual cues rather than judging actual temperature.

This is a sample roaster, so batch sizes are very small (90 grams) and quite different than roasting on an actual production machine. Such small bean mass does not require the same roast treatment, and therefore are abbreviated. Ideally when roasting for cupping, we're looking for 1st crack around 6 - 7 minutes, and then pulling a batch roughly 2 minutes later (give or take). Since I'm roasting for espresso, I shoot for the longer end-time of 1st crack, dropping the heat slightly and closing the air flow, and pulling batches around 3 minutes post 1st snaps. I roasted both coffees to Full City, reaching 1st snaps at 7:20, with finish times at 9:10 for the Ethiopia, and 9:35 for the Guatemala (slightly longer due to density, larger bean size, and moisture content). I'll call them both Full City, probably about 1 full minute before 2nd crack at the rate they were progressing.

90 grams doesn't allow for much grinder dialing-in, and so I roasted two batches of each coffee to make sure I had enough. There's nothing more frustrating than needing 3 full shots to get things right, without enough left for a final pull! For brewing, I used the set-up we always use for reviewing espresso: a Compak Touch K3 grinder, and a Rocket Giotto Evoluzione v2 espresso machine. 

Guatemala Huehuetenango Familia Morales Lote 3:

Even five months after arriving, this Guatemala has held up incredibly well (I roasted to a light level as well as dark, to see how the cup compares to original review). I prefer structuring brightness in my shot, and so I kept the roast north of 2nd snaps to allow for some acidity to come through. My first shot was on the lungo-side of extraction, 25 grams yielding a little more than 2 oz of coffee in 25 seconds. Bittersweetness is intense, like baking chocolate, but still leaving room for accents of creme brulee crust, and cedar shake. Even at a roast level just shy of 2nd snaps, we find citrus brilliance, moderate in our first attempt, and much more distilled as ristretto. In both applications the mouthfeel is silky, the residue left behind affording the longest of aftertastes. This is a spectacular SO espresso, but would also fair well as a blend base, or combo base with another Latin American coffee (try 40% Guat with 40% Costa Rica La Union Yellow Honey for a thick, creamy, and slightly fruit-toned base, rounding out the final 20% with a washed African coffee).

Ethiopia Organic Tencho Cooperative:

We were initially impressed by the way this Limu region coffee brewed, showing strong flavors of raw sugar and floral peach. So no surprise that much of the sweetness and fruit tones shone through as espresso too. Both short and long shots are bright - like lemon and tart cranberry - but the level of acidity expressed is much milder with the slightly faster extraction (25 grams yielding roughly 2.5 oz. in 25 seconds). The tartness is still very much present and like lemon, but at about the same level as a reverberant cacao/roast bittersweetness. The mouthfeel is silky, and Ristretto pulls are so intense, and in every way. A syrupy dark chocolate bittersweetness lurks beneath stone fruit top notes, citrus and berry highs soaring overhead, and a crowning floral note. This is a standout SO espresso, incredibly sweet and complex. This one excelled at Full City roast level, and a profile that will surely withstand the beginnings of 2nd crack.

We just started selling Sonofresco roasters and are pretty excited. We had the option of selling them on Sweet Maria's but thought Coffee Shrub would be a better home since they are a big step up from your average home roasting appliance (and a small step down from a more expensive commercial roaster). If you are starting a small roasting company or are just really serious about cranking out 1 or 2lb batches, this roaster is for you.

Two Models

The "Profile" model allows you to wirelessly connect to your Mac or PC so you can monitor your roast profile in real time. You can save profiles on your computer and in the machine itself. The "Flagship" model is the same machine as the "Profile" but without computer control. You can control your roast with the buttons on the side of the machine. The "Profile" has the same manual controls as well. The 1lb machines can also roast 120g sample batches.

Getting Started

The burners are gas powered so you will have to supply either propane or natural gas. Connecting the gas source is simple. After receiving our test model, we read the instructions, bought a propane tank at the gas station and were good to go. Roasting coffee creates smoke and using the Sonofresco is no exception. You will need to set your roaster up under a hood vent or connect it to a vent pipe to keep your roasting space from filling with smoke. If you aren't into DIY venting, you can purchase one of Sonofresco's venting options from their website.

We were very impressed with how the Sonofresco performed during testing. It has an industrial build with solid parts. If you do happen to break something, Sonofresco supplies most replacement parts. The fan does an excellent job moving the bean mass and the burner gets up to temperature quickly, giving you roast cycles around 18 minutes.