A while back, one Mr. Kristobek presented me with the simple challenge to see how Death Wish Coffee worked out as BBotE, on the principle that one ridiculous thing taken to the power of extreme must, by definition, be More Awesome. I can’t fault this logic and it is the principle to which Funranium Labs is dedicated.
More to the point, the folks at Death Wish have pursued a line of questioning that has been nagging at me since the dawn of BBotE: why don’t we have tastier robusta coffees? We know that the robusta beans can be 2 to 5 times the caffeine content of their arabica cousins and that they will happily grow in climates that arabica would never sprout. If the childhood memory of Li’l Herr Direktor Funranium serves, we actually had some robusta growing in the wild hammock of Erna Nixon Park in Melbourne, FL. One of the wonderful things about robusta coffee plants is that they are rather friendly cultivation-wise which makes for low impact farming. They’re practically weeds they’re so hardy.
The problem is that robusta beans are regarded as tasting almost uniformly awful. Part of the reason that many mass production store bought coffees are cheap (and regarded as crap) is that their arabica beans have been cut with robusta to help bulk out the can. Yes, that sounded like I was discussing crack sales to me too. I’ve gotten kicked out of more roasteries than I can count for breathing the word “robusta” in the presence of their bean roasters, as if it would taint their production.
But I always wondered, there must be some robusta that isn’t as awful. There must be something that can be done to breed for improved flavor while preserving the higher caffeine content. This is precisely what the folks at Death Wish did. Where I went searching for a process to improve coffee to make it more drinkable for me, they went searching for the highest possible caffeine levels they could find and then making a delicious coffee from that.
Some caveats for my rather biased tasting:
- I am fond of light roasts, not dark. Even the choicest picked beans taken to a dark roast loses a great deal of flavor as far as I’m concerned.
- The original reasons I made BBotE in the first place was because my sweet tooth couldn’t handle the bitterness of arabica coffees without heavy cream & sugar masking, and diabetes had made that impossible. Thus, the average robusta is a no go. The hot perc coffee I made with the Death Wish was undrinkable to me, though others were quite fond.
As both a grind in the process and as straight BBotE liquid, there was a distinct butyl rubber & deep dark coffee aroma in the air, which is characteristic of robusta beans in general. This is the smell of a new respirator if you aren’t familiar with the chemical. It was somewhat muted compared to some other robusta blends I’ve worked with so that was a good sign.
In flavor, both straight and with 1 part straight vodka to 3 part BBotE addition there was an wild green grape metallic-like (go eat one sometime and and see what I mean) & licorice flavor. And then there was a very long, though muted, bitter pinch on the front sides of the tongue. The robusta bad qualities were showing in the long palate, though not cripplingly so.
When diluted with 3:1 with hot water, the grape-metallic flavor and long palate bitterness disappeared, leaving a good strong, dark coffee that finished with long feeling of menthol cool on the tongue. I think it may have made the best pairing with absinthe yet as it pulled a strong root beer flavor.
For all of these tastes, I can most definitely testify that it had more than the normal amount of caffeinated zing. I felt eyelids go a bit wider after a few minutes after my testing sips. ADDENDUM: did not comfortably get to sleep until roughly 2:30am after a half shot. Wow, and this is my caffeine tolerance talking.
When fed to my favorite guinea pigs at St. George Spirits, there was uniform approval with particular props from the apprentice distiller. Half of the crew are fans of dark roasts, they regularly complain that I don’t do enough of them, and the Death Wish BBotE really hit the spot. I would like to note that the “bouncy” level in the tasting room went up a notch and their knob already goes to 11 in there.
So, the end result is impressive caffeine content but not my favorite flavor. Folks well disposed toward dark roasts will probably be quite pleased with it.
There are two 750ml bottles of it now in the Prototypes & Clearance section, so help yourself. (EDIT: Oop, not anymore. Both gone within an hour. Fear not though, there has been sufficient whining from the Caffeinatrix of Portland because she didn’t get any that I’ll probably make another batch when I return from DC & NY. Follow up discussion of Death Wish and why there will be more here.)