Brian Beyke

Counter Culture - Apollo - Sidama Ethiopia

Brian Beyke


I had been trying to win Counter Culture’s #AnyCoffeeAnyBrew contest for awhile.  They started it back up, and fortunately I became one of their weekly winners.  The prize was a bag of their Apollo, which is this rotating espresso/brewing friendly coffee.  It couldn’t have come at a better time either, as I was trying to find a new coffee to keep trying to dial in this espresso machine.  To my dismay, I wasn’t able to figure much out about the region this coffee comes from, but I’m told it’s 100% Setamo from Sidama, Ethiopia and by the looks of it is both certified Organic and Fair Trade.  While I spent most of the bag making ristrettos, cortados, and affogatos, I did manage to make a few brews with it, too.  Let’s learn more about Sidama, and Counter Culture’s Apollo.

In the summer of 2010, we introduced Apollo as a seasonal “espresso” with the goal of creating an espresso-brewing–friendly coffee with the best possible coffees of the moment and less focus on trying to make it taste exactly the same all of the time—all the while using freshly harvested coffees.

In the beginning, the idea of Apollo was somewhat radical, especially looking back on how cautiously we introduced the idea that it could be from a single origin some day … a concept which now seems so familiar to us as to be unremarkable.

In light of our #AnyCoffeeAnyBrew initiative, we’ve updated a few things about how we talk about Apollo (e.g. no more reference to “espresso” here), but some things remain the same. Apollo will always be clean and bright. “Clarity” could be the operative word. Specific flavors (e.g. raspberry, citrus, floral, honey, etc.) will change with the seasons, but the thing that will never change is the crystalline clarity of the coffee.


I wasn’t told directly this offering came from the SCFCU, but it was the only resource I was provided that could link me back to the Setama Cooperative, part of the Dara district of Sidama.

The Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU) was founded in 2001 to represent coffee producing cooperatives located throughout the Sidama zone of southern Ethiopia. As a result of the region’s excellent soil, ideal climate, and high elevation (1,750-2,100m), they have become an origin recognized for their world-class specialty coffee production. Today, SCFCU represents 46 cooperatives and over 80,000 farmers (smallholders), making them the second largest coffee producing cooperative union in Ethiopia. Currently, 39 cooperatives are Fair Trade Certified and 35 are Certified Organic.

SCFCU supports farmers by developing producer/buyer linkages, directly exporting members’ coffee to the international market, facilitating access to finance for the harvest, and through capacity building, training, and education programs. They have successfully increased farmers’ share of the price received for the coffee, all the while contributing to improvements in quality for Ethiopian coffee as well as the socioeconomic well-being of farming communities.

According to their General Manager, “the benefits of Fair Trade and other certifications cannot be overstated. With price premiums, farming communities are able to feed themselves and invest in new infrastructure such as roads, grain mills, schools, access to electricity, bridges, and other much-needed facilities.”


Roaster: Counter Culture Coffee

Region: Dara District, Sidama, Ethiopia

Farm/Producer: Setama Cooperative

Process: N/A

Varietal: N/A

Elevation: 1,815m


Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14.5g © to 227g (w) | 2:10 total time | 197 degrees | 1.44 TDS | 20.90% Ext.

A little on the heavier side than what I’m used to for the region, but could just be that initial diving into the cup. Medium bodied, a bit smokey at first, with a slight berry finish.

Digging further, those berry notes take form a bit more, becoming a little bit more crisp like fresh raspberries with even some tropical sweetness forming, with a chocolate mousse-like finish and citrus notes surviving into the long finish.

The acidity now is starting to be showcased a bit more sparkly, and a bit more fun.  Tangerine takes the most noticeable spot, while notes of grape, blueberry, peach, apricot, and plum are all detected with a bit of a tea-like finish and still an underlying smokiness through the cup now taking the form of roasted nuts.  Rich chocolate still resides in the lowest notes, too.  Honey does stand out more in the cup as it cools, giving some slight syrupiness to the body.  It definitely feels a bit clearer the more you get through the cup, but hopefully other makes will have that the whole way through.


Brew Method:

Chemex | 20g © to 320g (w) | 3:10 total time | 197 degrees | 1.31 TDS | 19.38% Ext.

Spongy berry notes open the cup.  A bit of dark honey, cranberry, raspberry, a slight of blackberry with moderately rich dark chocolate finish.  Plush, reasonably lingering sweet finishes, medium bodied, lemon acidity, pretty balanced.

Cooling further you get some nice crisp, clean and refreshing highs like grape, apple, and pear along with the cranberry, but there still is enough of something in the lows be it a tad smoked nuts with the chocolate that keeps it from having complete clarity through the whole cup.  It isn’t bad, it actually keeps the coffee in check as a medium bodied coffee, preventing the sweet peach and honey notes that fill the middle from getting lost in a delicate fade.  It still carries tea-like notes too in the finish, while bergamot lasting into the long finish.

Cooling even more though, it does condense a bit.  Deep fruit notes meld into a sweet honey and slightly floral kissed cocktail with soft drifts of chocolate finishing.


Brew Method:

Aeropress (Inverted) | 16g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 200 degrees |1.36 TDS | 21.55% Ext. (Immersion mode) (preferred method)

Heavens to Betsy.  Amazing, gorgeous, astounding lemon and grapefruit notes fly from the cup.  If anyone is like me and loves the smell of lemon pledge, that aroma is this flavor.  It’s intoxicating and bright and really different from a lot of coffees, especially Ethiopians I’ve put in an aeropress.

Crisp raspberry and apple butter notes take the lead as the fresh citrus notes begins to subside (but never disappear).  Juicy, lingering lemongrass, medium bodied.

Such a snappy acidity with dried fruits of date, raisin, currant, cherry, and cranberry meeting pear, apple, passion fruit sweetness mid cup.  The finish is tea-like in flavor, leaving a lot of that low-end heft found in other methods behind.

This method highlights the bright and alive side of the cup.  Florals exist in almost a fresh bouquet manner: honeysuckle, jasmine, soft lavender all beautifully sweep in and out through your sips like the breeze through your house with all windows open.

I can barely stop from gulping down the entire mug, but in my attempts to rope in my final flavors I find the likes of cider, powdered donuts and black tea with sweet, floral, and citrusy lingering.  


Grapefruit, fresh flowers, tea.


I don’t think I’ve had another coffee from Sidama recently.  Last year I found them to be pretty tasty- big fruits and dense juicy bodies, and this offering was no different.   For me though, this coffee did perform better as espresso.  I think I was just in the mood for something comfortably round but carrying some nice sweetness that when added to milk was creamy, sweet, and more fitting to the season.  Not that it wasn’t good brewed, it just wasn’t anything that left me dazzled like previous Counter Culture Ethiopian offerings I’ve had in the past, and with a lot of really great Yirgacheffe coffees in lately it had some competition. However, the aeropress make of this coffee was pretty outstanding, and actually better than a lot of makes of any coffee I’ve made lately.  It was pretty shocking, really.  Most Ethiopian coffees I put in the aeropress seem to feel a bit flat, and the rich body seems to overshadow the delicate intricacies… but not this one.  Really prominent acidity, complex, and lively.  Be it for espresso, brewing, or both, this offering is definitely clean and bright like it claims to be.  It lends well with cream in both instances, has enough body to be a good morning or evening coffee, and enough flavor to be enjoyable any other time of the day.


Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.