Double Origin Espresso

Back just before we had to close Flying Five Coffee in 2009, I was starting a project I was calling “Double Origin Espresso” to explore espresso blends with two beans. At the time, our blends were all composed of three blends, which was what I thought what was needed for an interesting and complex espresso.

I was very interested in Single Origin espresso (and still am), but at that time, hadn’t found origins that had enough complexity to satisfy me for espresso. Yet, the ideas behind Single Origins are incredibly attractive: they link what you’re drinking to a specific place in the world, and really feature the specific tastes in the bean. There’s nowhere to hide in a single origin coffee: all the features or defects in a coffee are front and center.

And, so I thought that a “Double Origin Espresso” might be the best of both worlds: you could possibly gain enough complexity from two beans to create interesting espressos, and yet still maintain the individual features of the two origins. 

The linking of cup to place is potentially even more interesting with a Double Origin Espresso: you’d pair up two disparate places in the world and feature their specific tastes and play them off each other. Brazil and Ethiopia. India and Indonesia. Guatemala and Kenya. The possibilities are interesting and endless.

I never got a chance to pursue the Double Origin project – the realities of the 2008 and 2009 economy intervened. But, I’m happy to say that some other roasters have gone in this direction and are producing some great espresso blends with just two beans.

The first one I ran across is Heart’s Stereo. Is that a great name for a blend of two beans, or what? They rotate their pairings seasonally, their current one is 50% Colombia and 50% Ethiopia. 

The seasonal rotation concept is another Single Origin staple, and it translates to Double Origin espresso perfectly. Coffee is a seasonal crop, and at any particular time of the year, different beans from different farms are in season. If you’re chasing the best tastes, you won’t have them all year round.

Another Double Origin Espresso I’ve had recently are two blends from Huckleberry. Their staple espresso is 50% Brazil and 50% Guatemala, and has tons of complexity. Earlier this year, they also had a 50% Brazil and 50% Kenya that had some very interesting acidity and high notes from the Kenya playing off of the base Brazil.

It’s interesting to me that both roasters ended up with 50/50 proportions – is this the go-to ratio for two bean espresso? Hard to say, but maybe so.

I suspect there’s a lot more Double Origin Espresso out there that we just don’t necessarily know about. I think there are a lot of roasters playing with this concept that aren’t labeling it as-such and just creating great espresso blends that feature great tastes from two origins.

Whatever it’s called, I think Double Origin Espresso is a fascinating extension of the Single Origin ideas into espresso blends.

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Single Origin Espresso

Over the years, I’ve never been a huge fan of single origin espresso. I’ve always cited the same reasons as others that criticize single origin espresso: I enjoy espresso when it is multi-dimensional, and espresso from just one bean always seems to turn out one-dimensional. I’ve always loved tasting single origin espressos though, starting back with Flying Five when I was blending the various espresso blends we created. But, I’d never found one that I wanted to drink every day of the week.

Last year, my opinion started to change, however with a few Nicaraguan espressos from Victrola and Coava. Those were the first single origin espressos that I had that I wanted to drink day after day. They were complex, interesting and multi-dimensional. I’m not sure what the right way to say this is, but perhaps their different tastes still fall closer to one another than a “traditional” espresso made up from different beans from all over the world.

Then, this year, I ran across two single origins at the same time that together completely changed my opinion. The first was a Panama from Verve. While not incredibly complex, the clarity and purity of the flavor notes far outweighed any lack of complexity objections. Verve didn’t carry it for long, but while they did, I drank it pretty much every day, and thoroughly enjoyed every single one.

These Nicaraguan and Panama espressos altered my “lack of complexity” objection. Sometimes, the clarity and purity of a flavor note can outweigh other factors. Who says all interesting tastes have to be complicated?

Then, I was visiting Huckleberry Roasters in Denver, and they had a fascinating Rwanda. This particular single origin espresso had tons of complexity, and even more interestingly, it changed its taste substantially as it cooled. The resulting taste journey was as interesting or more interesting than any multi-bean espresso blend.

So, I’ve been converted from a single origin espresso dabbler to a full-on supporter. There still aren’t lots of them out there that I would drink day in and day out, but it sure is fun to go looking for them.

Huckleberry Roasters

Denver’s Huckleberry Roasters has a new roasting facility and cafe on Pecos street in the Sunnyside neighborhood. They renovated an old neighborhood filling station, and when the renovation proved more difficult than expected, they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to help get over the hump.

The result is a fantastic light, open, cleanly designed roaster/cafe with comfortable tables and seating at the bar and also what will be a garage door/counter opening to the outside when it’s nice out. They did much of the work themselves on the space. We were enjoying our drinks, talking to one of the owners at a large concrete table and commented about how much we liked the table. Turns out that he not only poured the table himself, he gave us instructions on how we can make one as well!

They have a La Marzocco GB5 that they put to good use with two different espressos and a decaf. I had to taste both espressos when my wife and I stopped by at lunch one day, and both were excellent. Almost more impressively, my wife’s decaf Cortado was very flavorful and complex. Decaf espresso is a difficult thing to do well, and Huckleberry is providing a solid quality decaf option for those who don’t want the caffeine.

On a few trips, I’ve had three different espressos in a Cortado, and all are interesting and complex. They currently have a Single Origin Rwanda that is a fascinating chameleon in the cup: for me, it started off with a floral, lemony note with a hint of sweetness, and then the sweetness took over as the drink cooled. The sweetness turned to a huge sugary note that kept changing as it cooled. Yummy.

I haven’t yet had a chance to try it, but they also have the now-seemingly-required V60 pour over for drip, and I also spotted an Aeropress as well.

There’s a window over to their roasting room with their Giesen roaster: they do their roasting in the same facility. It’s fun to peek in and see the remnants of the day’s cupping of their roasts to evaluate their coffees and also to see the burlap sacks of unroasted beans.

All in all, it’s a great addition to Denver’s ever-growing craft coffee community, and definitely worth a visit.