New coffee: Colombia, Finca La Paz, Washed


Colombia, Finca La Paz, Washed Country of origin: Colombia Region: Antioquia Farm: La Paz Varieties: Caturra, Colombia, Castillo Process: Washed Roaster: Workshop Coffee Co Brewing method: V60 Tasting notes: Peach, dried apple, crisp & clean mouth-feel

Finca La Paz is a small farm at just 3 hectares, producing just over 2.5 tonnes of coffee a year. Workshop picked this coffee after it jumped out during a cupping at Mercanta coffee importers.

It's in a similar vein to the stunning Finca Tamana we had from Workshop last month, but we're getting lots of peach, dried apple acidity from the coffee. We'll be getting the espresso version of this coffee in very soon.

New Coffee: Kenya Gachami AA Washed


Kenya Gachami AA WashedCountry of origin: Kenya Region: Central Kenya Farm: Baragwi Farmers coop Varieties: SL28 & SL 32 Process: Washed Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Chemex Tasting notes: Ruby grapefruit, demerara sugar, lemon rind

This is the first Kenyan of the year and its here just in time for the sun. Kenyans are a great summertime coffee - they're characterised by being light, and often with citrus and berry notes.

Similar to the way coffee growing works in Ethiopia, the coffee is grown by a farmers coop and then processed in the Gachami washing station. It sits at around 1600-1800 meters above sea level, which is ideal altitude for growing coffee. The farmers coop that Gachami is owned by has another 11 mills within the region, and there are 1472 members. The farmers have on average one hectare of land to grow crops, and most are within walking distance of the Gachami mill.

The coffee is made up of the SL 28 and SL 32 varieties which were developed by the Scott Labs in Kenya in the 1930s and are hybrids of Bourbon and heirloom Ethiopian varietals.

We get ruby grapefruit with demerara sugar from this coffee. Its very refreshing - perfect for a sunny Edinburgh.


Extended opening


A few months ago we ran a survey about extending our opening hours. Lots of you got back to us, and it was really encouraging to see that the overwhelming majority were so keen for us to stay open later. Right from when we first decided to open a coffee shop, we wanted it to be a place that opened late and offered a space that people could come to work and socialise at into the evening, and that is still the long term plan; however, the extension of our hours will be an iterative process. With the Festival coming up, we decided the right decision would be to extend our opening by an hour, and then come back at look at opening even later after we have made it through August.

From the survey we learnt that some customers find it difficult to make it to Brew Lab after work during the week, so opening until 7pm Monday to Friday would mean customers who until now were only able to visit us at the weekend, will be able to make it for an after-work coffee. For now, our weekend opening hours will remain 9am to 6pm.

We're looking forward to this new change, and we hope to see you in Brew Lab soon.

From Monday 3rd June, our new opening hours will be:

Mon – Fri      8am - 7pm Sat & Sun       9am - 6pm

New coffee: Brew Lab Espresso Mk.7 - El Salvador, San Rafael, Bourbon, Washed

Dialling in

Some of you may have noticed that our house blend has changed numerous times since we opened our doors. This is because we share the belief – along with our roasters, Has Bean – that coffee should be purchased in accordance with the various harvest seasons of the producing countries. This gives us a fantastic array of tasty beverages but it also helps us keep our offerings of the upmost quality. Has Bean have just had their first container of this year’s El Salvador coffees come in; they’ve done a fabulous job of being one of the first European roasters to land this year’s harvest. We are delighted to get hold of one of these as our house coffee.  The coffee is called San Rafael Washed Bourbon. El Salvador has the right ingredients to produce speciality coffee - soil, climate, altitude, and great plant stock. 70% of coffee exported by El Salvador is a cultivar called Bourbon. It isn’t a particularly high yielding cultivar and it has problems with disease, pest resistance, and susceptibility to wind and rain damage. It is however revered for its cup profile: Bourbons are generally known for being balanced, sweet, and having a refined acidity which does not dominate in the cup. Whilst being delicious as a brewed coffee, Bourbons are renowned for making a great shot of espresso.

The San Rafael farm is located very close to the Santa Ana volcano in a much coveted region for growing exceptional coffees. The coffee is shade grown with a mixture of agricultural crops and indigenous species, which is good ecologically. Increasing biodiversity on the farm helps protect soil and water resources whilst also helping with pest control and crop fertilisation. Additionally, shade regulates the microclimate to allow coffee plants to produce very high quality cherries. All the farm upkeep activities are done by hand rather than using chemicals and additional waste from the cherry processing plant is recycled back to the farm as fertilizer. Our coffee was hand-picked in January and then sorted to remove organic debris and bad cherries.

This coffee is known as a ‘washed coffee’ due to the way in it is processed at the El Mono mill. What occurs here is a dry fermentation where the coffee is sprayed with water, or water from the de-pulping process is added, for 8-10 hours until the drying process begins. Due to the extreme heat at midday the cherries are covered to prevent damage and the beans are then dried on patios until they have between 10-12% moisture content. Has Bean buy this coffee through the mill the producer uses and move the coffee themselves.

Once the coffee has landed at Has Bean towers in Stafford, it is then down to the roasters to choose a ‘roast profile’. The coffee is roasted to varying degrees with different temperature profiles, these sample roasts are then evaluated and a particular roast profile is chosen - the particular profile of this coffee was selected to accentuate its sweetness. Once roasted and shipped to Brew Lab the coffee rests for 7-10 days and its then down to me, the barista, to consistently serve this coffee to its fullest potential. This is me dialling in the espresso first thing in the morning before the shop opens.

Dialling in

Here I am trying to achieve a grind size and dose which best highlights the coffee on any day, it’s a lot of pressure considering the complex chain of events that led to this coffee coming into my hands!

I think effort put in at the producing country and at Has Bean really shows in the cup. As an espresso expect a very smooth mouth feel with a buttery and creamy sweetness. In milk there is even more sweetness: chocolate, cream and little bit of hazelnut.  As a brewed coffee there is an increased complexity with a sticky caramel sweetness coming through. Come in and see what you think of it!

El Salvador, San Rafael, Bourbon, Washed  Country of origin: El Salvador Region: Palo de Campana Farm: San Rafael Varieties: Bourbon Process: Washed Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Slayer Espresso Machine

New coffee: Brazil, Passeio, Natural, Icatu; Colombia, Finca Tamana; Brazil, Passeio, Pulped Natural, Rubi

Fazenda Passeio

Brazil, Fazenda Passeio, Natural, Icatu Country of origin: Brazil Region: Minas Gerais Farm: Passeio Varieties: Icatu Process: Natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

This is the second coffee we've had from Fazenda Passeio. The first (which incidentally, we have as a guest single origin espresso at the moment), was an amazing brew - it tasted of KitKats! You can read all about Fazenda Passeio here. This coffee is unusual in that it features a relatively unknown varietal: Icatu. Icatu is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Caturra, it is high yielding, pest resistent and relatively resistent to leaf rust.

The coffee has a really big mouth-fell, and tastes of dark fruity chocolate, and wafers. It's a really good contrast to our second coffee, Finca Tamana.

You can watch Steve's video review of the coffee here:


Colombia, Finca Tamana, Caturra & Colombia, Washed Country of origin: Colombia Region: Huila Farm: Tamana Varieties: Caturra & Colombia Process: Washed Roaster: Workshop Coffee Co Brewing method: V60

Coffee from Finca Tamana has been getting quite a lot of press recently. Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood from  Colonna & Smalls in Bath came second in the UKBC using it, additionally, its been getting a lot of attention in the coffee world thanks to the work Tim Wendleboe and the Farm's owner, Elias Roa are putting into improving picking, washing, drying, logistics, sustainability of the farm and the welfare of their workers. You can see more about their work in this video.

This is an extremely elegant coffee with notes of poached pear and candied orange.

Brazil Fazenda Passeio Rubi Pulped Natural Country of origin: Brazil Farm: Passeio Region: Minas Gerais Varieties: Rubi Process: Pulped Natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Slayer Espresso Machine

This coffee was on the brew bar a few months ago, but we liked it so much, we wanted to get it on as a single origin espresso. You still get the chocolate and KitKat coming through, with a very creamy body and very little fruit at all.



New coffee: Colombia, Huila, La Buitrera & Bolivia, Taypiplaya, Jatun Kollo Mountain


South American coffees are really starting to roll in, and this week we have an amazing Colombian from Square Mile, and an extremely tasty Bolivian from Has Bean. Colombia, Huila, La Buitrera, Washed  Country of origin: Colombia Region: Huila Farm: La Buitrera Varieties: Caturra, Castillo & San Bernardo Process: Washed Roaster: Square Mile Brewing method: V60

La Buitrera is owned by Albeiro Ortiz Gomez and based in the Huila region of Colombia. Colombian coffee has recently been blighted by a fungus called leaf rust that attacks the coffee plant and essentially ruins crops. The Castillo variety that is present in this coffee is the latest that has been created to be leaf rust resistent: a glimmer of hope for the coffee industry in Colombia. This coffee is delicate with a lychee syrup sweetness with a hint of chocolate and summer berries on the finish.

Bolivia, Taypiplaya, Jatun Kollo Mountain  Country of origin: Bolivia Region: Caranavi Town: Taypiplaya Farm: 150 coffee producers Varieties: Caturra Red/ Yellow, Typica, and Catuai Process: Washed Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

There are around 150 farmers in the Taypiplaya colony that grow coffee around the Jatun Mountain. It is a washed coffee so the cherries are mechanically separated from their husks with water. The coffee has a juicy dark plum acidity with hints of lime and pineapple  but there is also a large amount of chocolate in the cup.

You can watch Steve Leighton's review of the coffee here:

The Super Secret Sunday Syphon Society


The Syphon is a spectacular method of brewing coffee. Water is placed in a glass globe and brought to the boil using a halogen light that makes the apparatus glow deep red. A glass flute is sealed onto the globe, and the pressure makes the water rise up. The coffee is added to the top chamber and brews for 2 minutes; next, the heat source is turned off and the partial vacuum that is created draws the coffee back down to the bottom globe, through a fine paper filter.

Syphon small The Syphon has been used to make coffee for more than a century, and the combination of immersion brewing, a stable brewing temperature and a fine paper filter makes a super clean cup, with lots of body and distinct flavour clarity.

Every Sunday we're using the Syphon to showcase some of the best coffees available to buy in the UK. These Cup of Excellence coffees have been voted the highest quality examples from their country in any given year and exhibit outstanding flavour and balance.

This Sunday we'll be brewing a coffee from the Rwanda Mibirizi washing station that came 3rd in the last Cup of Excellence competition. The washing station is owned by the Nile Congo Mountains Coffee Company and receives coffee grown from Bourbon plants first planted 100 years ago. The coffee undergoes meticulous processing, the beans are fully washed with spring water from the mountains then sun-dried and hand sorted.

The coffee has a big, chewy mouth-feel with a caramel and butterscotch sweetness that is really brought out by the Syphon brewing.

Rwanda Mibirizi Cup of Excellence Country of origin: Rwanda Region: Western Washing station: Mibirizi Varieties: Bourbon Process: Washed Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Syphon


New coffee: Ethiopia Kebel Kercha Guji, Bolivia San Jose, Sweet Shop Espresso

pre dosing

We're onto three new coffees, with some really exciting coffee in the pipeline too. The first new coffee was sourced by our barista Mark, so he's written about it for us: I'm really excited to have a coffee on this week from a roaster in Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm Roast are a micro-roaster who only tend to supply to cafes in and around Stockholm. I'm very pleased we've managed to get this coffee on our brew bar, and I'm sure our customers will love this UK exclusive coffee too.

Guji, Grade 1- Kebel Kercha Dry Mill Country of origin: Ethiopia Region: Sidamo, northern Yirga-Cheffe Processing station: Kebal Kercha Varieties: Local varieties with a majority of Typica Process: Natural Roaster: Stockholm Roast Brewing method: v60

I came across this coffee when I had a holiday in Stockholm earlier this year. Having tried the coffee as an espresso at Tasman Cafe, I brought a lighter roast of the same coffee back to Edinburgh to try as a filter coffee. My colleagues and I were so impressed with the coffee that we decided to buy it in bulk from Stockholm.

The processing station Kebal Kercha is located north of the city of Yirga Cheffe in Ethiopia. Around 750 farmers grow and contribute their wares to Kebal Kercha. This is a natural processed coffee; it is dried in the sun with the skin and pulp intact for up to 6 weeks.

The secret of this lot is gentle processing and a conscious harvest where only fully ripe berries are picked. It has intense aromatics of berries, a creamy texture and a deep milk chocolate sweetness.

Our second coffee is from Has Bean, and the second Bolivian coffee we have had on the brew bar.

Bolivia San Jose Constancio Aruqipa 2013 Country of origin: Bolivia Region: Caranavi Farm: Constancio Aruquipa Varieties: Caturra Process: 'Bolivia style', a hybrid of washed and pulped natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

Constancio Aruqipa's farm is situated in a small colony of 12 families called San Jose. Constancio lives and grows coffee there with his wife and 5 children. The coffee is from the Caranavi region, which displays a wide range of micro climates - all of which bring out very different flavours in their coffees.

Constancio only bought this farm in 2008, and this is the first crop from the 21,000 caturra plans he planted there. Once harvested, the coffee is processed at the same mill that Finca David Vilca is milled at, a coffee that we had on the brew bar a few months ago. The processing method is 'Bolivian style', which is a hybrid of pulped natural and washed processing.

The coffee is bright with a good amount of citrus and lemonade, but brewing it on the clever dripper helps to bring out a good amount of body.

Sweet Shop Espresso 50% La Buitrera (Colombia) 50% La Serrania (Colombia)

Sweet Shop Espresso

Square Mile's Sweet Shop espresso is an ever changing blend that aims to combine sweet, characterful coffees to create an unique espresso packed with fruit. The combination of La Buitrera and La Serrania in this blend gives us lemon bonbons and lemon sherbet - its fizzy and bright, and really interesting!


New coffee: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Konga, Burundi Ngozi Rugambo & Brazil Tijuco Preto


Lots of new coffee this week! We're really excited to have a coffee from a new local roaster, Steampunk Coffee from North Berwick, a new Burundi from Has Bean and a fantastically sweet single origin espresso from Square Mile. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kebel Woreda Konga Natural  Country of origin: Ethiopia Region: Yirgacheffe Processing station: Konga Varieties: Heirloom Process: Natural Roaster: Steampunk Coffee Brewing method: Chemex

Steampunk Coffee is owned by Hans-Erik who, while he's not roasting, drives around in his VW Camper espresso bar making coffee at festivals and markets. We tried this Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Konga that Hans-Erik had in, and absolutely loved it so we had to put it on the brew bar. As with all Ethiopian coffees, this coffee has come from a large base of independent farmers (around 650 in this case) who bring their coffee to the Kebel Konga washing station to be processed. The varieties are heirloom varietals, so the exact varieties are not known due to the large amount of mutations that grow around Ethiopia. This is a naturally processed coffee so after the farmers bring the coffee to the washing station, it is graded and then placed onto raised beds for 6-8 weeks. After that, the beans are de-hulled and then taken to Addis Ababa for milling and shipping. The coffee is extremely light and floral - we get jasmine and blueberries from it - it's a stunning Ethiopian coffee.

Burundi Ngozi Rugambo Bourbon & Jackson Washed Country of origin: Burundi Region: Northern City: Ngozi Farm: Rugambo Cooperative Varieties: Bourbon & Jackson Process: Washed Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

This is our second coffee from Burundi, this time roasted by our friends at Has Bean. It's grown by a cooperative of 2165 farmers called Rugambo, near Ngozi. The Jackson variety that features in this coffee is a Bourbon cultivation that is fairly unique to Rwanda and Burundi. The coffee undertakes a double fermentation process - first the mucilage is removed from the bean, and they're left to dry ferment for 12-18 hours. The beans are then washed, for another 12-18 hours, during which the second fermentation takes place. Finally the beans are dried on raised beds for 14-21 days. This coffee is very sweet and balanced. It's a nice contrast to the Yirgacheffe, and has subtle raspberry flavours, but most of all we get sweet caramel.

Brazil Tijuco Preto Yellow Bourbon Pulped Natural Country of origin: Brazil Region: Carmo de Minas Farm: Tijuco Preto Varieties: Yellow Bourbon Process: Pulped Natural Roaster: Square Mile Brewing method: Slayer Espresso Machine

This coffee is from a farm called Tijuco Preto, owned by Ocatilio Dias de Castro and is a Yellow Bourbon coffee. The coffee is on our second grinder as a single origin espresso and tastes unusually bright for a Brazilian coffee. We get yellow fruit like lychee and physalis, as well as caramelised apple - it's a very sweet espresso. In milk, there is a milk chocolate sweetness and a light, elegant body.


New coffee: Brazil Pedro Redonda Pulped Natural Catuai & Brew Lab Blend Mk.6


We're very excited to have a single origin back on our second espresso grinder this week, as well as a brand new house blend. Brazil Pedro Redonda Pulped Natural Catuai Country of origin: Brazil Farm: Pedro Redonda Region: Matas de Minas, Minas Gerais Varieties: Catuaí Process: Pulped Natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Slayer Espresso Machine

Fazenda Pedro Redonda is owned by José Bernardes Santana who has been growing coffee in Matas de Minas for 30 years. He runs the farm with his brothers, Donizete and Geraldo. The farm employs 30 permanent workers who harvest the coffee cherries by hand as the mountainous terrain makes using machines very difficult.

Once picked, the cherries are pulped immediately and then left to dry on the patios in the sun. Processing is overseen by Geraldo who ensures any quality issues are identified as soon as possible.

We're brewing this coffee as espresso and you get dark chocolate with a lovely cherry acidity, which then turns into sweet toffee. This is a stunning espresso!

Brew Lab Blend Mk.6 50% Bolivia Loayza Feliciano Ramos  30% Brazil Passeio Pulped Natural Rubi 20% Ethiopia Kebel Konga

As coffee seasons change, so does our espresso blend and we're now onto the fifth iteration of our espresso blend; the second version to contain South American coffees. The main component, Bolivia Loayza brings cherries and dark chocolate to the table, as well as some caramel. The Brazil Passeio is a coffee we have on the brew bar at the moment, and it's one of our favourite coffees we've had on. It's wonderfully chocolaty and brings milk chocolate sweetness to the blend. Finally is the Ethiopia Kebel Konga, a component that remains from Mk.5. Since our first espresso blend that contained 100% Ethiopian Guji, we've had a bit of a love affair with Ethiopian coffees, and this brings a good amount of fruit, to the coffee in the way of raspberries and blackcurrants. In milk, the blend turns to vanilla ice cream and shortbread, with a huge amount of caramel and demerara sugar.


New coffee: Brazil Fazenda Passeio Rubi Pulped Natural

Brazil Fazenda Passaio Rubi Pulped Natural

This is quite a sensible coffee for us. Sensible in the way that it very balanced, bold and chocolaty - as opposed to some of the bright, fruity, acidic and funky coffees we love so much here at Brew Lab. This coffee won't challenge you like some of the Ethiopian and Rwandan coffees we've brewed in the past, but it will satisfy you completely. It is a very good, well rounded filter coffee. And it is by no means borning; it tastes of Kit Kats! Brazil Fazenda Passeio Rubi Pulped Natural Country of origin: Brazil Farm: Passeio Region: Minas Gerais Varieties: Rubi Process: Pulped Natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: V60

The coffee is grown by the Vieira Ferreira family, a well respected Brazilian coffee farming family who have been growing coffee for three generations.

Quality is the prime focus at the farm; they employ highly skilled workers, and look after them well. All full time workers get housing for them selves and their families, professional training and environmental education. Their children are also provided with schooling.

The farm is very conscious of environmental sustainability and frequently plants trees around its water sources to maintain their local eco system.

This is a pulped natural coffee, so the cherries are pulped, then left to dry with the sticky fruit mucilage left on the bean. The coffee is then rested in parchment bins for 60 days and then milled to remove the mucilage.

The Rubi varietal is a hybrid Mundo Novo, and Catuaí. Mundo Novo is grown a lot in Brazil as it is very suited to the climate, as well as having a high yield and resistance to disease. It is characterised by a sweet, thick mouth-feel and low acidity. Catuai is also a very common varietal in Brazil (it accounts for 50% of the coffee acreage) and is known as a dwarf plant, due to its size. When tasting, expect a bold coffee with milk chocolate (kit kats specifically!) and low acidity.

New coffee w/c 18/02/13

Dave brewing

January and February was spent working through two fantastic Rwandan coffees from Workshop Coffee Co, and now we're on to two new single origins from Has Bean and Square Mile. Burundi Buzira Kayanza Red Bourbon Washed Country of origin: Burundi Washing station: Buziraguhindwa (Buzira for short) Region: Kayanza Province Varieties: Red Bourbon Process: Washed Roaster: Square Mile Brewing method: Clever Dripper

This is the first coffee we have had from Burundi, a small landlocked country located in the great lakes region of Eastern Africa. Coffee is hugely important to Burundi's economy as it accounts for 80% of its exports and around 25% of the Burundi population relies on income from coffee to survive. Similarly to Ethiopian coffee, this is grown by lots of small-holder farmers who bring their coffee to the Buziraguhindwa (meaning 'we will succeed despite all obstacles' or Buzira for short) washing station for processing. The coffee is quite unusual in that it has an almost spiced flavour to it, with a buttery, toffee-like texture and a grape acidity. We're brewing it on the Clever Dripper. Find out more information here.

Colombia Finca El Habano 386 Country of origin: Colombia Farm: El Habano Region: Tolima Varieties: Typica, Cattura, Colombia Process: Washed Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: V60

Finca El Habano is owned by Jose de Jesus Ramirez who has been growing coffee for 10 years now. The farm is located just beneath Nevado del Hulia, an active volcano which means the land is extremely fertile - perfect for growing coffee. The coffee pickers on this farm are paid higher premiums for quality cherries, which means the overall quality of the coffee is very good. The coffee is processed straight after picking - in this case it is fully washed and then dried on raised beds. The number 386 refers to the day that the coffee was picked. The coffee is extremely clean and crisp with notes of watermelon and apricots, a really tasty coffee! More info on this coffee here.

In other news, two of our Baristas, Dave and Robbie are competing in the Irish and UK Barista Championships this year. Dave is using Bolivia Finca Canton Uyunese Teodocio Mamani, and Robbie is using Ethiopia Wote Yirgacheffe Natural - both roasted by Has Bean. Dave's coffee is bright, with toffee and white grape notes, and Robbie's coffee is extremely fruity with red berries and olorosso sherry. They're both really interesting coffees and we'll be rotating them on the second espresso grinder for the next few days so you can try them out.


This week's coffee 14/01/13

Brew Lab retail bags

Happy New Year! We hope you had a good one, and that you drank lots of delicious coffee. We've been enjoying Has Bean's amazing Wote Yirgacheffe Natural and Brazil Cachoeira Da Grama Bourbon over the last couple of weeks. They've gone down really well, but now its time to move on - and we have three new coffees from three wonderful UK roasters on this week. Rwanda Cyiya Country of origin: Rwanda Washing station: Cyiya Region: Kirimbi Sector, Western Province Varieties: Bourbon Process: Washed Roaster: Workshop Coffee Co Brewing method: Chemex

This is our third coffee from Workshop, who are based in London and have a stunning coffee shop in Clerkenwell. This coffee comes from the Cyiya washing station in the Kirimbi Sector of Rwanda, and is the first Rwandan coffee we've had in Brew Lab. Like the Ethiopian coffees we have had on recently, it is grown by a large number of small holder farmers (around 400 in this case), who bring their coffee to the washing station for sorting and processing. Unlike Ethiopian coffees, however, this Rwandan is a single varietal: bourbon. Ethiopian coffees tend to be a mix of many different heirloom varieties.

We get a lot of tropical fruit from this coffee. It is very light and has notes of stewed fruit coming through too. We're brewing the Cyiya on Chemex.

Costa Rica Finca De Licho Country: Costa Rica Farm: Finca de Licho Farmer: Aguilera Family City: Naranjo Region: Alajuela Variety: Villa Sarchí 70% and Caturra 30% Process: Honey (Pulped natural) Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: V60

This is the fifth time Has Bean have carried this coffee. The first time it was bought through an importer but Steve is now buying directly from the Aguilera Family after visiting their farm in person. The coffee is processed using the honey process (which doesn't, as the name suggests, involve honey). It is similar to the pulped natural process where the fruit is removed from the coffee bean, leaving the mucilage. The beans are then dried and turned at intervals. During drying, the mucilage becomes stickier and the beans cluster together, which is presumably where the honey moniker comes from. No water is used in this process due to its scarcity in the area.

We get sweet honey (coincidence!) and raspberry with a melted chocolate mouth-feel from the coffee, and we're brewing it on the V60.

El Salvador Finca La Fany Farm: Finca La Fany Region: Municipality of Apaneca Country: El Salvador Variety: Bourbon Process: Washed Roaster: Alchemy Brewing method: Slayer Espresso Machine

This is the first time we've had coffee from Alchemy. We first met them when Robbie, one of our Baristas, worked for them at TEDGlobal 2012. Their sister company Ristretto was providing coffee for the conference and Robbie went along to help make it. One of the espressos they had at the event was Finca La Fany and Robbie raved about it, so we had to get it in.

We had coffee from Finca La Fany on the brew bar when we first opened. That time it was from Has Bean; this time we're brewing it on the Slayer as espresso, and we're getting a lot of milk chocolate and dark cherry. It's a fantastic espresso, and works really well in milk too.

There's more info about Finca La Fany here.

We have all these coffees in whole beans for you to buy too, so you can try them out at home (we can grind them for you as well but would strongly suggest you invest in a hand grinder - freshness is key to awesome coffee). We also have a new limited edition blend in from Has Bean called Hangover Cure. It contains a large amount of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Natural that we had on the brew bar over Christmas. As an espresso, this coffee is amazing. It is certainly a real punch in the face of fruit flavours, including raspberry and blueberry. Find out more here.

This week's coffee 18/12/12


There's lots of exciting new coffee to talk about this week. The last few weeks we've been going through our first coffee from Monmouth in London: Ethiopia Kebel Dumerso. It was incredibly fruity and light, and just screamed blueberries, even more so than the Ethiopian Guji from Has Bean we had on in our first week. We're on to two new brewed coffees this week, both from Has Bean. We're also moving on to a new espresso blend from Has Bean, and we're serving some great single origin espresso. First thing's first, brewed coffee.

Bolivia David Vilca Country of origin: Bolivia Region: North Yungas Farm: David Vilca Varieties: Caturra, Criolla, Typica Process: 'Bolivian Style' (a hybrid of washed and pulped natural processing) Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

In Bolivia farms are usually named after the person or family running them. In this case it's David Vilca and his family who bought the farm 15 years ago as security for his family. At first he only had one acre of coffee plants, but that soon grew and he now has 5 acres of coffee - all of which has been bought by Has Bean this year.

We're brewing the coffee on the Clever Dripper and you get a lovely sweet, full bodied cup with chocolate, walnut and hazelnut followed by a pear acidity.

Ethiopia Wote Yirgacheffe Natural Country of origin: Ethiopia Region: Yirgacheffe Processing station: Wote Varieties: 26 different varieties Process: Natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: V60

We've had a lot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffees in Brew Lab since we opened. A few months ago we had the washed version of this coffee from Square Mile. It tasted of apricots, peaches and bergamot and was incredibly light and delicate. We've also very briefly had this coffee in our espresso blend and it bought a lot of grapefruit to the espresso. As a brewed coffee though, it is very different. We get sherry, blueberries and dark chocolate and it's a really good example of how processing the same coffee in two different ways can bring out such different flavours.

Brew Lab Espresso Blend Mk.5 50% Guatemala El Bosque Red Bourbon Washed 30% El Salvador San Rafael Pacas Washed 20% Ethiopia Kebel Konga

It was always intended that our espresso blend would change as coffees come in and out of season. Up until now our espresso blend has solely contained bright, fruity Ethiopian coffees and we've enjoyed serving up some really unique coffees. Ethiopian coffees are notoriously challenging to work with in espresso though, and we're now moving onto a new version of the Brew Lab blend that will be more forgiving. The new blend has plenty of chocolate and nutty notes from the two South American coffees and goes fantastically in milk. We wanted it to have an edge to it still, and the Ethiopian Kebel Konga brings dark fruit. Has Bean have done a brilliant job at coming up with the latest version of the Brew Lab Blend.


We also have a new espresso grinder that we'll be using for single origin espressos. So far we've had Has Bean's Finca Limoncillo Pacamara Natural, Square Mile Jirmiwachu Espresso and Monmouth's Brasil Santa Ines on and they've had some great feedback. We'll be serving the single origin espresso as a standard for espressos and macchiatos, but if you'd like to try it in another drink, just ask.

This week's brewed coffee 16/11/12

We had a great few weeks serving Square Mile's Kangocho Peaberry on V60 and Has Bean's Nicaraguan Pacamara 'Funky' on Clever Dripper. The V60s were incredibly popular, so much so it was almost our best selling coffee last Saturday. We've moved on from Pacamaras now and we're onto two fantastic new coffees from Has Bean and Square Mile. Ethiopia Kebel Konga Washed Country of origin: Ethiopia Region: Yirgacheffe Producer: 600 small holder farmers, mainly garden growers Washing station: Kerbal Kercha Varieties: Typica and heirloom varietals Process: Washed and sun-dried Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

This coffee comes from a similar area to the two Ethiopians we've had on previously at Brew Lab. It's situated just north of Yirgacheffe in the Guji area.

Its very difficult to pin down varietals in Ethiopia due to the fact that there are so many people growing the coffee that is taken to the washing station. This particular coffee is grown by around 600 different farmers in their gardens. The farmers grow many coffee varieties that have been mutated many times over the years.

After the cherries are picked by the farmers, they're taken to the Kerbel Konga washing station where they're washed under water for 18-36 hours and then dried on raised beds to 2-3 weeks.

The coffee is extremely fruity, with big dark berry fruits. We get lots of blackcurrant from it. Steve from Has Bean describes the taste as dark opal fruits, but I think it's more dark fruit pastilles!

El Salvador Kilimanjaro Pulped Natural  Country of origin: El Salvador Producer: Aida Batlle Farm: Finca Kilimanjaro Varieties: Bourbon Process: Pulped Natural Roaster: Square Mile Brewing method: V60

Pulped natural processing is generally carried out in countries where water is scarce. It involves removing the bean from the cherry, but leaving a layer of fruit meat called mucilage on. The beans are then dried out. Compared to natural processing which we talked about here, there is a lower risk of processing defects in the pulped natural process, but leaving part of the cherry fruit on the bean imparts a lot of fruit flavours into the coffee bean.

This coffee has a slight spice to it, we get grape notes and cocoa too and it's also extremely crisp.


Decaf at Brew Lab


Decaffeinated coffee has existed for over a hundred years, with the first commercial process for decaffeinating coffee beans being developed by Ludwig Roselius, a German coffee merchant, in 1903. Roselius created a system of steaming the unroasted beans in a salt water solution before using benzene as a solvent to extract the caffeine. Nowadays there are two main processes used for extracting caffeine from coffee beans- the C02 method and the Swiss water process. The CO2 – or Carbonated Water – method uses two elements, pure water and carbon dioxide, to extract caffeine. The CO2 method tends to take place in Germany and remains a popular option. With the Swiss water process, unroasted green beans are soaked in water repeatedly until the caffeine and coffee solids are released into the water and the beans become 99.9% caffeine free.

Many speciality coffee shops find providing a decaf option as something of a problem. In short, most decaf options are simply not of a very high standard. As a result, many baristas treat decaffeinated coffee with short shrift- a collective shrug of the shoulders translating as “it's only decaf”. It could be argued that decaf drinkers should actually be treated with more attention that those who drink caffeinated coffee; decaf drinkers are drinking their coffee for the taste alone, with no benefit of an added caffeine kick. It is hard to have much passion for decaffeinated coffee if the product you are using is not comparable in quality to the other beverages you are providing. Luckily, we think we've found a truly groundbreaking decaf option that more than holds its own against our other coffees.

Columbia El Meridiano Sugar Cane Decaf is a particularly interesting decaf option for a few reasons. Firstly, it's brewed, rather than espresso based. Secondly, it is produced by a new decaffeination process called the sugar cane process. Thirdly, and most importantly: it tastes fantastic.

Gilardo Gutirrrez (and his cat), one of the farmers from the ASOCEAS coop (Source: Has Bean)

The sugar cane process involves using Ethyl Acetate, a naturally occurring substance found in sugar cane, as a solvent to remove caffeine from the green coffee beans. While most decaffeination processes have a negative effect on the taste of the coffee, this process has resulted in a decaffeinated coffee that is both well rounded and full of body. When Steve Leighton from Has Bean cupped this particular coffee, he actually scored it higher than the caffeinated equivalent.

We are very excited at Brew Lab to provide a decaffeinated coffee that we are proud to serve. We think that this coffee is a real game changer and would welcome any feedback from those who try it.

Colombia El Meridiano Colombian SC Decaf Country of origin: Colombia State: Tolima Farm: 58 small coffee growers that make up the ASOCEAS coop Varieties: Caturra, Colombia, Typica Process: Washed Decaffeination process: Ethyl acetate derived from sugar cane Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper Tasting notes: Biscuit, jam, strawberries


This week's brewed coffee 02/11/12

brewed coffee 2:11

Scaffolding arrived this week. We've been fortified from the front and back, but it doesn't appear to have stifled the flow of Edinburgers looking for delicious brewed coffee. The Square Mile Yirgacheffe went down really well. It was unusual, with a very light, tea-like body that was accentuated by brewing it on a Chemex. The Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pacamara Pulped Natural was also very popular. So, new coffee:

Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pacamara Natural 2012 'funky'  Country of origin: Nicaragua Region: Matagalpa Producer: Dr Erwin Mierisch Farm: Finca Limoncillo Varieties: Pacamara Process: Natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

This week, we're continuing the Finca Limoncillo theme with another coffee from the same farm, and exactly the same varietal. However it tastes completely different to last week's Pacamara. This is down to how it's been processed. This is a naturally processed coffee, as opposed to a pulped natural which we had last week. Pulped natural coffees have the skin of the cherry removed using a mechanical process, before the bean is left to dry. Natural coffees don't have this mechanical removal of the skin, instead the cherries are cleaned and then left to dry out naturally on raised screens. The cherries are also turned periodically to ensure they dry out evenly. Once dry, the green bean is removed by hand. The natural process brings out a really unusual flavour in coffee, which is often described as 'funk'. This particular coffee has so much 'funk', it made it into the name! It's a very sweet, creamy coffee. Expect to get strawberries, but not fresh strawberries more strawberry bubblegum or angel delight! More about the coffee here.

Kangocho Peaberry Country of origin: Kenya Region: Kangocho Varieties: SL28 & SL34 Process: Washed Roaster: Square Mile Brewing method: V60

Coffee cherries usually contain of two halves of beans; however, sometimes only one half is fertilised, resulting in only one of the beans developing. Because there is no other bean developing in the cherry to flatten it, and give it the shape we usually expect from a coffee bean, it develops into an oval shape which is called a peaberry. Peaberries are picked out by hand rather laboriously, but because of this, are considered to be of higher quality.

Source: Square Mile Coffee Roasters

This particular peaberry is from the Kangocho region of Kenya. Expect chocolate, molasses and tropical fruits with a really interesting hoppy finish. Read more about this coffee at Square Mile.

Coffee varietals

Coffee cherries

As you sit down to enjoy your delicious coffee, I would like you to briefly consider what creates such a fantastic tasting cup. The main factors contributing to producing exceptional coffee are the agronomy and ecology of the farm, the processing methods, the roasting, and the preparation - the bit where I come in. I would like to focus this post on another increasingly important factor: the variety or cultivar of the coffee plant. Much like wine grapes and beer hops, certain coffee varieties have specific physiologies and flavour profiles. Recently, the speciality coffee industry has begun to focus on the individual varieties, and how they impact on the flavour of the final cup. The main species of coffee grown for the speciality coffee industry is Coffea Arabica. C. Arabica is thought to have evolved from the area spanning northern Kenya, the south-western highlands of Ethiopia and south-eastern Sudan. The two main botanical cultivars of C. Arabica are Typica and Bourbon. Most varieties are derived from these through plant breeding and natural mutations. Bourbon derived hybrids tend to be a higher yielding, more resistant cultivars than Typica varieties and, as a rule, they tend to produce a higher quality cup.

Traditionally, coffee farmers’ choice of varietals was made from a production viewpoint. Different varieties perform differently in different ecological conditions. A great example of this comes from our Square Mile Kenya Kangocho Peaberry, which we have on the brew bar this week. This is composed of two varieties: SL-28 and SL-34. In Kenya, the cultivar SL-34 outperforms its competitor SL-28 at lower altitudes. However, in terms of cup quality, SL-28 is the favoured of the two. Increasingly, farmers are now choosing coffees because of their culinary merits, rather than their ability to produce consistently high yielding crops. Such a drive towards such high quality, low yielding varietals will, of course, be reflected in the pricing - possibly creating a pricing structure more akin to that seen in the wine industry. SL types comprise 90% of Kenyan coffees and are Bourbon derived cultivars. SL-28 cultivars produce a flavour profile that can be intensely citrusy, balanced, sweet and complex in flavour. SL-34 flavour is characterised by its complex citric acidity, heavy mouthfeel and a clean, sweet finish. Quality Kenyan coffees show bright, complex acidity; some are clean, while others display red wine like characteristics.

So what is a peaberry? In the coffee cherry there are normally two seeds. However, in around 5% of the cherries, just one seed gets fertilised and an oval shaped bean develops – a peaberry.  Peaberry beans are thought to roast better because of their oval shape. Some believe the improved quality could also be due to more careful selection for processing.

Also on offer this week is our Nicaragua Limoncillo Pacamara Natural ‘Funky’ 2012. Pacamara was bred at the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research in 1958. Plant breeders at this institute artificially crossed the Pacas and Red Maragogipe varieties. The Pacas variety is short in size, highly productive, and well-adapted to local conditions whilst the Maragogipe cultivars are high yielding due to their seed size, and are considered to produce better cup quality. Pacamaras tend to produce better cup quality at higher elevations, generally with floral aromas, full body and a creamy character. They have a medium to high acidity creating a cup which is crisp, juicy and bright. Their flavours can be very complex (we get strawberry from this particular coffee), and are usually followed by a pleasant and long aftertaste with a final sweet note.

One of the reasons that we at Brew Lab are very proud to work with Has Bean coffee roasters is that the fantastically personable owner Steve Leighton makes regular trips to origin and works closely with producers. One amazing benefit of this close relationship is that Steve can now attempt to push the farmers to separate out different varieties during picking to create a greater plethora of cup flavour profiles, to the betterment of the coffee drinking community. In fact, the ability to do this may be one of the reasons behind the success of the last two world barista champions, both of whom were from producing countries.

So has the speciality coffee industry reached the point that the wine industry has achieved in characterising varieties? In certain ways it has - but it has a long way to go. I can, for example, tell you that if I see a packet of coffee with El Salvador Red Bourbon written on it, it will almost certainly be sweet. I can further tell you that South/Central American coffees tend to be more well-rounded than African coffees. Unfortunately, the coffee industry isn’t even close to the wine industry in terms of characterising varieties’ flavour profiles.  The main reasons for this are the comparative youth of the industry, and interaction with other factors, notably processing method. For example, recently I received two very different tasting bags of coffee, of the same variety, from the same farm, grown in the same plots, and processed in an almost identical manner with the difference being that one coffee had been turned once every hour instead of every two hours. Clearly it’s going to take a lot of hard work from the roasters and the farmers to untangle these factors!

Featured photo licensed under Creative Commons from barloventomagico.

This week's brewed coffee 16/10/12

brewed coffee 171012

We've said farewell to Workshop's awesome Kiawamururu, and Has Bean's Costa Rican Herbazu Honey Process. Feedback on both was excellent. Overall, by sales the Costa Rican was the most popular coffee, but it was on at a slightly lower price, and the fact that it was a more rounded, balanced coffee I think made it particularly popular. The Kiawamururu was a spectacular coffee, full of blackcurrants, and wine gums. A really good coffee to contrast against the Costa Rican. So on to new coffees.

Wote Yirgacheffe  Country of origin: Ethiopia Region: Yirgacheffe Producer: Mr Mergya Washing station: Wote Varieties: Mixed heirloom Process: Washed Roaster: Square Mile Brewing method: Chemex

This coffee is grown by about 300 small holder producers who bring their coffees to the Wote washing station, owned by Mr Mergya.

We get exactly what Square Mile have on their tasting notes: juicy peaches, apricot jam and a bergamot finish. It's an incredibly light bodied coffee with an almost tea-like consistency. Find out more about this coffee here.

Nicaragua Limoncillo Pacamara Pulped Natural  Country of origin: Nicaragua Region: Matagalpa Producer: Dr Erwin Mierisch Farm: Finca Limoncillo Varieties: Pacamara Process: Pulped natural Roaster: Has Bean Brewing method: Clever Dripper

One of the things we really like about this coffee is that Steve from Has Bean has a very close relationship with the farm. He knows Dr Mierisch and his sons well and buys directly from them. Last year when he found out that the importer was not going to bring this coffee in again, Has Bean ended up buying a years worth of coffee in one go to ensure they could have it. Their relationship went from buying through the cup of excellence scheme, to a long-term buying relationship, to a direct trading relationship. This means that we know that the farm pays their workers 30% more than minimum wage, provides them with free housing, electricity, water, food and much more. Steve has written a lot on the farm and the coffees that come from it here.

The coffee is a special pulped natural version of a coffee that is usually washed or natural and this adds to its complexity. The coffee has a wonderful sweetness and creamy mouth-feel with a mango-like acidity.

One very obvious difference between the two coffees we have on at the moment are the size of the beans. The Yirgacheffe berries are tiny, and the Pacamara beans are huge! The size of the Pacamara beans is mainly down to hybridisation. The beans are a hybrid of Pacas and Maragogype seeds that originated in El Salvador. The Maragogype beans are naturally very large - they're known as the giants of Arabica coffee. The plants are very large, the leaves are large, the cherries are large; however, the reasons behind this are beyond my knowledge of biology and coffee! There's an interesting article on coffee varieties here if you'd like to read more.

Brewed coffee at Brew Lab

Syphon small

When we first talked about opening a coffee shop 4 years ago, we had no idea what a big deal brewed coffee was going to be. Espresso has been such a huge force in the coffee world for so long. As relative new-comers to the coffee industry, we would hopefully be forgiven for saying that, up until a couple of years ago, if you wanted a black coffee in the UK (aside from a strong, dark, bitter cup of 'Pike Place Roast' in a certain North American chain), an Americano was the only way to go. Things are most definitely changing.

We've been open for a month today, and we're well into our fifth single origin brewed coffee. We started with Has Bean's incredible Ethiopian Kebel Kercha Sidamo Guji Natural brewed on Clever Dripper, and their well rounded El Salvador Finca La Fany brewed on V60. The Guji is not a cheap coffee. It's also a bit of a curve-ball of a coffee. For a start, it's a natural. Natural coffees stand aside from washed coffees in that the cherries are picked, and then left to dry out naturally. This brings out a very distinctive flavour set (sometimes this is described, rather oddly as 'funk'!). Anyway, the Guji was as Steve from Has Bean describes, a 'truly amazing' coffee. The tasting notes for it are blueberry muffin, effervescent, zingy and sweet. It is really not your average coffee and because of that, we thought it was the perfect coffee to open with. We wanted something that was going to be bowl people over, and it truly did. The feedback from customers who tried it was better than we could have ever expected. One Yelp review from Jenny Lovatt sums it up perfectly:

'what just happened to my mouth? To my tastebuds?...I could smell sweetness and chocolate and fruit. It was dark red, without milk. And then how it tasted. Oh, how it tasted. I can't even begin to describe the taste, so I won't. But let's just say this was coffee like no other I've ever tasted.'

Our aim has always been to get people to appreciate that coffee isn't just a drink to wake you up in the morning. It is so much more than that. Just as wine or beer is so much more than something that just makes you drunk.

From what we had learned from our research we expected 10% or less of customers to be trying our brewed coffee. That was our target. Straight away, and consistently for the duration that we had the Guji on the brew bar, it was our fourth best selling coffee after flat white, latte and cappuccino (the Finca La Fany was not far behind). We think it's amazing how our customers have embraced brewed coffee. And not just trying it; we're finding that customers that usually have milk, or sugar in their coffee are happy to try brewed coffee black and then are turned into regular no milk or sugar coffee drinkers!

The Guji and Finca La Fany lasted two weeks, and since then we've had Workshop Coffee's awesome Kiawamururu AB and Has Bean's Costa Rica Herbazu Honey Process on the brew bar. Yesterday we put Square Mile's Wote Yirgacheffe on, and it's already flying out. We have some amazing Has Bean Finca Limoncillo coffees coming next. We'll continue to rotate our brewed coffees frequently. We will always have a Has Bean coffee on, because they buy and roast incredible coffees.

In our first month, brewed coffee has accounted for 25% of our coffee sales, which we think is outstanding. Thank you Edinburgh for giving us a punt and for being interested in trying something different.