This month we head to Sonora Estate in Costa Rica, with a fantastic naturally processed Catuaí roasted here in Melbourne by Sensory Lab. Fruity and elegant, it’s a beautiful example of what naturals can offer. 

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About the Coffee:

Harvest: 2017

Plant Varietal: Catuaí

Process: Natural

Drying method: Sun-dried


Farm location and other Characteristics:

Producers: Alberto Guardia and his son Diego Guardia

Country: Costa Rica

Origin: Central Valley

Altitude: 1200 masl

Farm Size: 100 hectares


The bean: Catuaí

Catuaí is a cross of Mundo Novo and Yellow Caturra varietals, who joined forces creating a high yield Arabica cultivar. It was developed by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil in 1949, spreading throughout Brazil and Central America. With the combination of the dwarf characteristics of Caturra and the high yields and strength of Mundo, this varietal flourished in these areas, today forming the foundation of over half the coffee varieties grown in Brazil. 

Processing and Drying:
                                                                                                                                                                                    As a natural processed coffee, this coffee is sun-dried for 14 – 18 days, covered with black plastic every day around 3pm to keep in its heat. When it gets to 18% – 20% moisture the coffee is stored for six days out of the sun before being brought back out to finish. This is one of their tricks to enhance cup quality and uniformity. Right at the end of the drying process the coffee is placed on a drum dryer to finish for around three hours. This creates even better uniformity in the cup. Mass temperature never exceeds 37.5°C.


The farm: Sonara Estate

Hacienda Sonora is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, at the foot of the world renowned Poas volcano. The farm’s area is approximately 100 hectares, made up of around 55 hectares of shaded coffee, 35 hectares of wild forest reserve, and 10 hectares of sugar cane. The coffee grows in an area surrounded by exotic trees and other vegetation, providing great conditions for quality, while improving the chemistry of the already naturally rich volcanic soil. 

All the energy used on the farm is 100% renewable energy harvested on the farm. This is used to supply power to the coffee mill and provide a portion of free electricity for some of the people who live and work at the farm. The green energy is harvested from a natural water stream with a special turbine known as a Pelton Wheel.

The farm is owned and operated by the father and son duo of Alberto and Diego Guardia. Diago returned home after six years studying Engineering abroad in America. This education has help him implement innovative systems and ideas, complementing the immaculate skills of his father Alberto. From a high-tech micro-mill and dry mill, to meticulous sorting of lots, strict repost and homogenisation, along with skilled specialisation in honey and natural processes, have lead to a stunning reputation for Sonara Estate. This special lot from Sonora is named after Diego’s young daughter Olivia.  

The roasters: Sensory Lab

Sensory Lab is a bunch of dedicated coffee professionals who eat, sleep and make coffee. Set up to act as a “cellar door” for coffee, a big part of this process is buying what’s in season — a consideration that can sometimes be lost when “freshness” of green is abstracted away into roasted coffee. 

Lucy Ward, Procurement Specialist for Sensory Lab and St. Ali, sums this philosophy up: “I love that coffee is ephemeral, it adds to the beauty of it. It is an agricultural product which ebbs and flows with the season. My belief is that we should celebrate the terroir and season just as much as much as we celebrate the producers.”


Roast Info:

Sensory Lab were kind enough to share the roast profile used for the Sonora here.


The Water:

Head over here to start off with your own bespoke mineral water recipes; we highly recommend using these for your brewing. As the beans were roasted to water right here in Melbourne we used Recipe 1 to start with, giving us an elegant and light flavour profile for filter brews. Ramping it up to Recipe 6 allowed us to hit those sweet strawberry flavours for espresso:



We’ve long been advocates for long brew times here at Barista Hustle, in the belief that a well sourced and roasted bean needs every ounce of yumminess extracted out. A natural evolution of this is a half Aeropress style / half cupping style of brewing, which we dub the ‘Aerocup”. It’s simple, low maintenance, with no yums left behind. 

First you need to make some brew water. With the Sonora cupped and roasted here in Melbourne, it makes sense to use the Melbourne water recipe (full instructions for concentrates are here). You could make a full 1L batch if you like, but the beauty of these concentrates is you can make by the cup amounts if you like as well. They’re pretty versatile recipes. So for this, I’ve scaled down the recipe by 4.


Melbourne Recipe (scaled down x 4)

3.5g buffer

1.5g Mg

245g DI water


This will make 250g total brew water. You’ll use 220g for the brew, but hold back that 30g for later. Once you’re done, throw the water into an empty kettle and boil. 

In the meantime grind 16g coffee to medium coarseness. 

Add coffee to the Aeropress, inverted and pour in 220g water, then stir for a bit, getting all the grinds covered. 

Set a timer for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, stir again, then set the timer for 6 minutes.

When times up, rinse a filter, cap the Aeropress, invert again over your favourite mug, and press down gently until you hear a hiss. 

Take a sip, and if it tastes a little strong (I’m an espresso drinker — I like filter strong …) add 10g increments of your brew water and dilute to taste.

You should find in the cup a lush mouth feel with oodles of strawberries and cream, and a hint of chocolate. It’s a delicious way to brew up an Aeropress, and make sure you get all the flavour out of the beans that are there to give. 

If you like moving pictures and ping pong, here’s a video showing the steps:



I stuck with my usual parameters: low pressure at 5.5 bars, 18g dose in 18g VST basket, ~38g beverage weight, 20-25 second shot time, 10kg tamp force, 90°C brew temp, with frozen beans ground straight from the freezer. 

I found I had to coarsen up the grind slightly from my previous settings used for this, though slower shot times simply tamed the acidity and highlighted more of the molasses flavours coming through. 

You can typically expect some level of berry fruit from a naturally processed coffee, and the Sonora is no exception, bursting with strawberries start to finish. There is a “strawberries and cream” aspect to this coffee as well, along with that molasses sweetness. While recipe 1 had you searching a little for this as espresso, with Recipe 6 that sweetness exploded from the cup. At a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio with milk, this swaps over to a strawberry milkshake with a tonne of vanilla ice cream mixed in, the creaminess really gets elevated.

What separates this from “typical” naturals, is that funkiness you sometimes get. Elegance is the word that kept coming to mind as I tried this — no funkiness. Just elegance. With a whole bunch of strawberry sweetness. It’s delightful : ) 

Let us know how you went with your brews down below! 


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