Extracto Coffee - Ethiopia Hambela
- Great acidity
- Complex fruitiness
- Great sweetness
- Not very forgiving/tough to dial-in
- Not great for immersion brew methods
- Not for beginners
What better way to kick off my 2016 coffee reviews than a review of some Ethiopian beans from a Portland roaster?
I “discovered” Extracto Coffee through one of my favorite coffee books, Left Coast Roast.
Basically it went down like this: my fiancée was in Portland, OR and sent me a text asking for coffee recommendations.
It was kind of ironic considering I had only been to Portland once for a stay that lasted less than 24 hours.
So I pulled out my copy of Left Coast Roast to hopefully find some roaster recommendations in Portland. Extracto was one of the two that I mentioned in my response.
Little did I know, she was only asking so she could pick up a bag of coffee for me. She chose Extracto.
What a gal!
About Extracto Coffee Roasters
According to Hanna Neuschwander (author of Left Coast Roast), Extracto started as a small neighborhood cafe that served other roasters' beans for 3 years.
It wasn't until 2008 that owners Chris and Celeste Brady started roasting their own coffee on a 22-kilo Probat drum roaster.
In 2010 Extracto opened a second café that is largely characterized by its pour-over bar where baristas serve up single servings of drip coffee. This is what Veronica ordered during her visit, although I'm not sure if it was from this location or the original café.
In any case, she was blown away by the exceptional fruitiness behind the cup of Ethiopia Hambela she ordered.
About the Producers (METAD)
Every roaster that offers coffee from the Hambela Estate in Ethiopia has the same word-for-word description on their website. Here's more info on the producers, courtesy of Black Oak Coffee Roasters.
You can also listen to me reading this same summary of the producers in the video review below.
General Notes and Observations
As I mentioned earlier, I found this coffee to be very difficult to get right. What I mean by this is that Veronica set the baseline for how it was supposed to taste, and I just couldn't replicate it for her.
I also had a ton of disappointing brews in the beginning.
Dry mouthfeel, muted acidity, little complexity. Basically everything I knew this coffee was not supposed to be.
So I decided to email Chris (one of Extracto's owners) to hopefully get some insight into how I could brew this the right way.
Clearly, I was over-extracting the coffee again and again.
He recommended that I coarsen things up with my grind, especially because of the lighter roast's larger water retention.
He also recommended that I overdose my filter basket for espresso, using about 23.5 grams in an 18 gram filter basket. I only used 20 grams for most of my shots, but this recommendation was pretty much moot considering I couldn't ever get the grind fine enough with my Breville Smart Grinder Pro's recurring lock-up issues.
Roast: Half City (possibly city) – medium-light
Aroma: Blueberry, caramel
I was hopping around a lot between Espresso and Hario V60.
And man, I wasted a lot of coffee.
If I hadn't blown it so many times I may have gotten a lot more brew methods in. Oh well.
18 grams of coffee, 222 grams of water at 202˚F, fine grind. Total brew time was 1:40.
Acidity was high, but there was still good balance in flavor. Not a lot of complexity, but a pretty good cup of coffee nonetheless.
Initial flavor was fruity, aftertaste was smokey.
Flavors: blueberry, cranberry, smoke
When I kept extraction times under 4 minutes, things seemed to work out pretty well with my Hario V60.
Sure, I had a ton of over-extracted cups, but my guess is that my grind was simply too fine.
Flavors: raisin, tobacco, blueberry, cranberry, green apple
Read my review of the Hario V60 here.
Pretty sure my best brew came from the Kalita Wave.
I really ran with Chris' advice here, which was particularly important given the thickness of Kalita filters and the smaller holes at the bottom of the dripper.
Flavors: strawberry, raspberry, chocolate
Want to replicate this cup of coffee? Download the brew guide for this coffee by clicking the image below:
Read my review of the Kalita Wave here.
Pretty much all of my shots were duds.
Sour, under-extracted, lots of wasted coffee. I blame my grinder, which I'm convinced is just no good for lighter roast espresso.
If you're new here, you can check out how I rate whole bean coffee here.
Cranberry and blueberry notes were frequently present in this highly acidic coffee. If you do things right, this is one of the highlights of the Hambela.
Smokey and at times, chocolatey. Nothing too remarkable about the aftertaste, just be careful not to over-extract or you won't be stoked on the mouthfeel (just like with any coffee I guess).
Tough to pin the specifics of the aroma beyond the blueberry and caramel. But it definitely smelled delicious.
Very easy to mess up the balance of the cup, which kind of ties in with this coffee's “forgiveness” rating. Coarse grind with high temperature would be the way I'd go if I wanted the most balanced cup of coffee through pour over.
Pretty thin in most cases, which isn't a bad thing. This is just a “cleaner” coffee.
I wouldn't say that this coffee was as complex as Veronica found it to be, but this is probably just because I messed it up so many times.
When the full basket of fruit came out, I loved the Ethiopia Hambela. Unfortunately, I was almost out of coffee by the time I dialed-in on this one.
This was the biggest weakness of the Ethiopia Hambela in my opinion.
It's not often that I'll go 5-6 brews without being able to come up with something close to the way it's supposed to taste. My bad espresso shots were, bad. My bad pour overs were, well, bad.
As long as the coffee isn't over-extracted, you'll end up with an incredibly sweet cup of coffee.
Most methods I used were duds. I blame myself though. I think this coffee is best for pour over. Espresso and immersion didn't impress me that much.
You should take this review with a huge grain of salt.
Because I still make a ton of mistakes when I brew coffee, and this was no exception. I didn't make the proper adjustments quickly enough, and as a result, the Ethiopia Hambela just wasn't as good as I know it could have been.
So as I said in the video, if you're confident in the way you dial-in poorly brewed coffee, this is a great option.
I'd also recommend only trying this if you are already accustomed to Ethiopian coffee, because it is not a beginner's coffee by any means.
My recommendation would be to check out Extracto Coffee next time you're in Portland though, order a cup of this, watch closely, ask questions.
If you like what you taste, definitely take a chance with it. I'm sure you'll be able to replicate better than I was able to through the grapevine of my fiancée, who couldn't tell me much about how the coffee was brewed.
Tried this coffee?
I'd love to hear what you think about the Ethiopia Hambela from Extracto (or elsewhere). My opinion is just one opinion, so please weigh in!