For the week of April 1st, I chose to revisit an old favorite that had met with good reviews, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Previous iterations of Yirgacheffe BBotE had been described as pleasantly earthy with peanut overtones, but this time came out different. In fact, there was a strong gender based difference in opinion on the flavor when presented to my Usual Subjects.
This particular batch was received within 12 hours of leaving the roaster before being put up into solution. While extracting, it proved one of the more oily creations I’ve had, challenging the Colombian Finca Yara . The surface tension of this BBotE was such that, when shaken, drops would bead on the surface before sinking and merging into the blackness.
When given to men, as a straight cold shot, there was uniform agreement that it was “fatty, greasy…but I like it” on the immediate taste. None of us agreed on the aftertaste. One declared it to be “rich, rich, melty fudge” and other said it was “smoked ribs”. To me, it was like heavily buttered movie theater popcorn. My hypothesis is that there was a good hard stomp on the fatty taste bud and then the rest of the tongue was extremely confused trying to figure out what just happened. This is largely dependent upon the “flavor library” you have trained your tongue and brain with over your life. So many smells and flavors are completely tied up in memories that describing whatever you just drank turns into a small biographical journey to bore your fellow drinkers with, who really wish you’d just shut up and enjoy it already.
The women, save one, uniformly declared the Ethiopian to taste like “burnt caramel”. The exception has a long established her aversion to dark roasts of any shape or form and finds them to be “burnt dirt”, though she did declare that she could see where others might have found caramel. Go figure.
The traditional alcohol test of adding one part straight vodka to three parts BBotE yielded a pleasant cocktail, but very little change in BBotE flavor. The fatty mouth feel was muted, but otherwise unchanged.
To be honest, I am not nearly well read enough in neuroscience to say anything definitive but I find this all tremendously interesting.
A week passed…
For the April 8th experiment, I tried another freshly roasted batch but this time a nice Guatemalan medium roast. The flavor yield was good but the mouth feel was something new and different from the previous week’s Ethiopian. During extraction, it seemed to be far less oily or frothy than the Ethiopian but on initial taste had a strong fatty hit on the tongue. This was immediately followed by an almost martini-like sensation of dryness on the top of the tongue. Aftertaste and mid-palate flavors were uniformly declared to be “nutty…like hazelnut or Brazil nut”. One person found a hint of chocolate that made her ask if I’d added Nutella to her sample.
The traditional alcohol test of adding one part straight vodka to three parts BBotE caused the Kenya-like explosion of sweetness. Indivdually, neither BBotE nor straight vodka are sweet; combined in those proportions, it became dangerously drinkable as a liqueur with no additional sugar.
And now for some well earned beer.
I was going to try to recreate the post I made on 4/7/10 before communist fifth columnists who hate freedom destroyed it, but under the conditions of exceptional insobriety courtesy of the nice people at the St. George Distillery that’s not going to happen. They have just held a release party for the Firelit coffee liqueur to which I was invited and do not hesitate to recommend. Imagine, if you will, Kahlua that…well…doesn’t suck.
Kahlua has always been a problematic mixer in my bar as it tended to lend more of a chocolate character to cocktails than coffee. It is syrupy and tends to stick to the palate. As a man with Brimley Disease (AKA Type II Diabetes), this is a sure fire signal that I probably shouldn’t be drinking it or anything using it.
Enter Firelit. Using Bluebottle coffee and a brandy base, the Firelit liqueur manages to capture the essence of the coffee in a manner similar to the Black Blood of the Earth without turning it into treacle. It is has all the flavor but the lightness of brandy that makes it a pleasure to consume on it’s own. I cannot even begin to conceive of taking shots of Kahlua without serious cash money and honor being on the line.
The fact that the K value of caffeine in ethanol is not far off from water means that there is a bit of caffeine kick to it. One BBotE test subject who picked up a bottle of Firelit, excited about having “coffee but able to sleep afterward” was sorely disappointed when she found herself still awake at 4am after having a glass at 9pm.
I am to understand that it is currently sold only in California but that it can be ordered in most of our fair union. K&L is my shipper of choice.
And now, bed. Maybe. I’ll be lying down at the very least.
Following a three week countertop exposure of Kona BBotE at room temperature in sealed bottles, the verdict is in: Black Blood of the Earth can survive shipping without prohibitive cold packaging. I did testing with both air in the headspace of the bottle and with carbon dioxide. A future test with nitrogen may need to be done.
The first noticed change in flavor of the air headspace happened in the first 24hrs, which I attribute to the difference in mouth feel between cold and hot beverage. The warm BBotE was similar in flavor to what I am accustomed to when adding one part BBotE to three parts hot water from magical Japanese hot water machine in the breakroom at work. Flavor was consistent thereafter from 2-10 days. At 12 days, I noticed a slight tannic note sneaking in. By 18 days, the flavor had become distinctly “tangy” even when added to hot water. This stayed consistent thereafter.
The carbon dioxide head space had a similar flavor progression, but off the bat had a minor carbonic bite from the dissolved CO2 in solution. The “tangy” character was less at the 18 day mark, but still there.
Interesting to note: at no time did either trial bottle develop mold. This is a corroboration of the observation while evaporating samples for caffeine content analysis that, even while standing open to fume hood air for three weeks, none of the BBotE samples moldered.
In other interesting news, it is possible that I have identified the chemicals responsible for creating “butt cofffee” flavor. You know, the horrible taste from burnt, long ignored coffee. The likely culprits that are known to be present in coffee beans are thiols (well known in chemistry labs for their fishy aroma) and putrescine. Yes, putrescine as in “the smell of corpses”. Really, putrescence is a decay product from the breakdown of proteins, which is something that happens to all living things, including coffee beans and people (special thanks to the Funranium Labs Staff Mortician for explaining this). Of course, heat will accelerate this process which is why being a coroner on the east coast during the summer sucks so very, very much. The same goes for overheated and then ignored coffee. Just beacuse you stopped heating and walked away doesn’t mean the protein breakdown stopped.
At the request of one astute reader, I performed a 48hr BBotE preparation of Sulawesi beans. Sulawesi is well known for making a very pleasant smelling, rich, and low acid hot coffee. Sadly, these characteristics made a somewhat weak BBotE. Perhaps it needed more time to draw more out of the beans, but the defining description from the test panel was “bland but drinkable”. I may try some longer term preparation another day in the interest of science. The aroma of the beans themselves is so delightful that I know something wonderful is hiding in them.
I would like to also welcome Test Subject Puppeteer to the ranks of the BBotE cohort. After approximately 1.5oz each of Kona and Kenya BBotE, in straight and vodka mixed formats, he declared “I feel alert…actually, I feel really competent”. It was as if he had consumed the elixir from Egg Shen’s gourd. He felt kind of invincible. This may explain the later attempts make his mummy puppet dance on the bar while standing on a folding chair. Following a near mishap, he decided it more prudent to instead stand on the table and dance with his puppet. At 2am, he rode his bike from West Hollywood to his home in Koreatown and went to sleep, at his own chosing, not because he was tired. His remaining BBotE supply is now being rationed for a future night of exceptional productivity.
Test Subject Censorian gives this self-assessment:
“4:00am: drank ~1 oz of batch 031510-1-3. Effects were subtle but noticeable. (I was staying up all night in order to get to work on time.) In 22 minutes I went from groggy zombie hell to efficient focused web surf(land). I had five tabs open, all dedicated to different aspects of the California Aqueduct and Los Angeles Aqueduct intersection. At 6:00am I was comparing two different topographical maps of the area around the St. Francis Dam. By 7:00 am, I felt the effects declining, and opted for a Diet Rock Star, rather than waste BBotE on such menial work. At 7:30am I left, feeling quiet but functional, for my first training day at the U.S. Census Bureau.”
In the meantime, keep watching here, the Etsy store, or the Funranium Labs facebook page for the official announcement that Black Blood of the Earth is available for shipping. It won’t be long now…