This month we head to the fabled Panama region, not for a Geisha though, but a rare variety known as Maragogype. Naturally processed at Finca Hartmann, then roasted by Colonna in Bath (UK) this is a big, complex coffee bursting with bubblegum and pineapple. You can read more about Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood and Colonna here.
About the coffee:
Harvest: December – April, 2016/17
Plant Varietal: Maragogype
Drying method: Sun-dried
Farm location and other characteristics:
Producers: Familia Hartmann
Origin: Santa Clara, Renacimiento, Chiriqui
Altitude: 1400 – 2000 mts
Farm Size: 100 hectares
The bean: Maragogype
We’re a little unsure of how you pronounce this bean, the general consensus falling around “say it with confidence and it should sound good.” We do know these beans are big, leading to their unofficial name of “Elephant Bean coffee”. It’s a large plant with big leaves, low production and very large fruits, believed to have stemmed from a spontaneous mutation in Maragogipe, a municipality in the Bahia state, from the North-East region of Brazil (Maragogipe being the alternate spelling for this bean). The bean is very low producing, with a long maturing process, which helps add complexity to the cup. It’s a fairly rare bean, and getting it right is even rarer. Roasting and grinding can lead to some difficulties in getting good flavour from these beans. But when it’s good — it’s good.
The farm: Finca Hartmann
The Hartmann farm is located in Santa Clara, in the Chiriqui province of Panama. It’s a family run estate, the parents retired yet still living on the farm, with the five siblings (four brothers, one sister) taking care of the day to day running of the estate. It’s fully equipped with a state of the art cupping lab and sample roasting facility, allowing the Hartmann’s to continually improve and experiment with their coffees. The Hartmann’s are dedicated to sustainability, with an impressive diversity of flora and fauna on the farm. They try not to cut trees, and when they do they replant with natives.
“From the beginning, since my parents started with this farm, they have worked the land with a lot of love and respect. We are following in their footsteps, we love this farm, we love what we do, despite the difficulties one might face in the market, and we intend to pass this passion on to our children.” Aliss Hartmann.
On to the third generation running the business, the estate was first set up by Alois Strasil Hartmann. Born in Monrovia (now part of The Czech Republic) in 1891, he abandoned the country as a young boy when the First World War began, travelling to Pennsylvania, USA on a ship, hidden by his mother. As an early adult he travelled around seeking adventure, ending up in Panama in 1911, where he decided to settle down in Chiriqui, farming cattle and donkeys. It is a rule that all great coffee farms start with a donkey, and Finca Hartmann is no exception.
Panama Varietals have more on the fascinating story of Finca Hartmann here.
The roaster: Colonna
Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood set up Colonna with his wife almost a decade ago in Bath, UK. Since then Colonna has become an internationally recognised destination for specialty coffee. UK barista champion three times, WBC finalist three times, co-author of “Water for Coffee”, along with a bunch of other scientific papers, it was an immense pleasure to hear from Maxwell as we emailed back and forth. You can find the lightly edited version here.
Head over here to start off with your own bespoke mineral water recipes; we highly recommend using these for your brewing water. Maxwell was kind enough to share his water profile with us, which I’ve had to modify slightly due to the addition of calcium in his specs.
(Sidenote: we’re not giving up on supplying some calcium recipes for y’all — water is complex though, and this is gonna take some time explaining to get right for everyone. Stay tuned though — they’ll be coming eventually!)
For Colonna, using our concentrates, we’d recommend:
- 20g buffer
- 27.2 Mg
- 952.8g DI water
This is a slightly lower buffer than Colonna usually work with day to day. This is such a big, complex coffee that can be savoury and heavy — but can also be bright, floral and tropical. This water recipe is recommended to highlight the latter.
We were lucky enough to have Ash Ponders and Pope the Poodle help out this month with the brew video, with a tasty Aeropress and a crispy video — note the “Maragogype” pronunciation from Ash as well — On. Point.
For the water we scaled down the above recipe 4x. For those who hate math, the recipe is:
- 5g buffer
- 6.8g Mg
- 238.2g DI water
And the Aeropress recipe is:
- 16g coffee
- 224g Colonna water (14:1)
This is an inverted Aeropress recipe, so get your water boiling, and add your coffee to the Aeropress while you wait. Add 224g water once boiled (save the rest of your water to dilute to taste once brewed) and stir, getting all the coffee immersed. Wait one minute, flip and plunge. Serve into your favourite mug, then head out for a desert stroll. Simple. Tasty. Yum.
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.
Maragogypes can be a pain to dial in sometimes. Whether it’s less or more density, or the difficulties posed when roasting, it can be finicky at times to get right. My usual parameters are good for most beans when dialling in, a notch finer or coarser is all that’s usually required — but for this bean I had to go fine. In saying that, 15 second gushers from this bean were still delicious, all floral bubblegum and pineapple, with a pronounced sweetness. Grinding finer, and upping the dose slightly to 18.5g stretched me out to around 22 seconds, where the sweetness balanced the body. There is another natural with none of that typical “funkiness” you sometimes get from other natural processed coffees — it’s all refined acidity and body.
What we did find from this coffee was how immediately distinctive it was. Superlative almost … Like we said: Maragogypes are hard to get right, but when it’s good — it’s good.
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