This month we return to Ethiopia with a fantastic Konga roasted by Round Hill Roastery in Bath, England. Sourced from the Merkuria Washing Station, this is simply a delicious Ethiopian, full of fantastic flavour. You can also find out a little more about the team behind Round Hill here.
You can sign up to receive other rare, unique, and special coffees just like this when you join our Superlatives subscription, or just purchase a one-off bag. But they do go quick!
About the Coffee:
Harvest: December 2016 – Feb 2017
Plant Varietal: Heirloom
Grade: Grade 1
Process: Fully Washed
Drying method: Raised Beds
Farm location and other Characteristics:
Farm/Wash Station: Mekuria washing station
Mill: Private Mill owned by Mekuria Mergia
Origin: Konga Micro Region of Yirgacheffe
Altitude: 1950 – 2100 masl
Average Farm Size: Less than 2 Hectares
Number of Farmers: 800
The bean: Konga — Warqee #2
Around 90% of Ethiopian coffees move through the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange, a centralised system that controls and grades coffee in Ethiopia. This makes it almost impossible to trace most coffees back to the original farm. The Ethiopian coffee board has attempted to address this problem by introducing a bar-coding system enabling certain lots to be traced back to the farm. It’s definitely not perfect, but at least a step forward in allowing people to trace beans back to origin.
This particular Grade 1 coffee can be traced back to the Merkuria Washing Station, located in the Konga area of Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe region. In this area there’s mix of local improved variety’s like Certo and local Wolisho. There are also native or “wild” coffee originating in the surrounding forests which has been transferred to family smallholder plots. Collectively these varieties are known as Ethiopian Heirloom, usually an assortment of local native Typica hybrids with new improved varietals based on the old strains.
Processing and Drying:
Cherries are hand sorted for unripe and overripe beans before production begins. Firstly the cherries are de-pulped using a traditional disk pulper then graded by density. The parchment is then fermented for 48 hours depending on weather conditions, and after this first stage of fermentation further grading takes place. Once the coffee has been separated it is soaked for 12-24 hours in fresh clean water.
The coffee is dried on raised African drying beds allowing air to circulate under and over the coffee. The first few hours of drying are under shade. The coffee is then moved into direct sunlight and turned regularly to prevent moisture building up or inconsistent drying taking place. This whole process takes between 12-15 days. All the coffee is covered in shade nets during the midday heat and at night.
The farm: Mekuria Washing Station
There are approximately 800 smallholder farmers delivering coffee cherries to the Mekuria wet mill during the harvest, a privately owned communal wet mill owned by Mekuria Mergia. This wet mill is striving to increase quality through better preparation and processing, with a lot of the coffee prepared and graded as Grade 1.
Each farmer on average will have less than two hectares of land, roughly equating to 1500 trees per hectare. One tree will typically produce enough fruits to give 100–200 grams of green coffee; when roasted this will be about 85–170 grams of roasted coffee. Most coffees are organic by default, and while organic compost is common, pruning is less so.
The roasters: Round Hill Roastery
Located in Bath, England, Round Hill Roastery is a small company producing some big flavours. We carved out some spare time to sit down and have a chat with them, which you can check it out here.
Round Hill have kindly sent us their roast profile used for this bean. Check it out here.
Usual water specs apply here (head over here to start off with your own bespoke mineral water recipes) with recipe 6 giving us the most juiciness for filter and espresso. However if you want to match the water used at Round Hill, you’ll be looking at a recipe in between 6 and 7:
RH Water Recipe:
- 48g Buffer
- 30g Mg
- 922g DI Water
This is some relatively high mineral content water (but this is Bath — they invented “Hard dot AF” water). Low mineral content water really needs to be avoided here, or for filter styles, Soft dot AF water will require Hard AF agitation ; )
- Water at 100°C (212°F) (You know when it’s at temp — the water starts boiling! Let it sit for a bit and use just off boil)
- 12g ground coffee to 200g water (60g/L)
- Ground for pourover.
Using recipe 6 for your water, slow down your pouring and don’t fill up the paper with more than 1cm water above the coffee line. Slowly extend that contact time, stirring like a bandit if you’re using lower mineral content water. With a 2:30 – 2:50 brew time you should be getting those typical Yirgacheffe tea-like flavours of bergamot and citrus, with a blueberry pop. There’s a beautiful development to this coffee, so extended brew times tend to uncover subtle flavours and deeper nuance, without introducing an unpleasant bitterness. The body just grows, lush and full, with the citrus fading slightly and the blueberry becoming prominent.
Mat North was kind enough to help Round Hill out with a video guide for Aeropress brewing — come for the awkward opening jokes, stay for the superb subtitles and kick-ass aeropress recipe from Mat.
- Water at 94°C (201.2°F) (Boiling water and a few minutes off boil should get you there)
- 13g ground coffee to 240g water
- Ground medium fine (with Turkish burrs aligned on an EK, that’s around 8.7 on the dial, ymmv)
Same story as last month: low pressure at 5.5 bars, 18g dose in 18g VST basket, ~38g beverage weight, with a slightly longer 25-30 second shot time, 10kg tamp force, 90°C brew temp, with frozen beans ground straight from the freezer.
The acidity as espresso here is incredibly lush — it’s a word I keep using for this coffee because that lushness, body, and all-round yumminess is there right from the first sip. As espresso the citrus from the filter styles gives way to nectarine, with a perfume lychee-like aroma and subtle flavour, finishing with a honeysuckle sweetness (Magnesium ftw).
I stuck with recipe 6 for espresso, but messed around a little with the original BH water recipe, and the RH water specs — and they all worked! I’m just a sucker for the flavour profile from recipe 6; the honeysuckle really shone through. The blueberry still snuck in with the OG BH recipe, and while you lost a little clarity with the RH recipe, it gained a bunch of punch in the mouth — there was a lot going on and all of it was great.
This is a beautiful coffee, well sourced and well roasted — Round Hill Roastery really nailed this one. Let us know how you go with brewing this one up in the comments below! : )
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