Brian Beyke

Four Barrel Coffee - Musabiymana, Rwanda - Craft Coffee - May 2014

Brian Beyke

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My first experience with Four Barrel Coffee was a fun one.  Our friend Janine, whom I used to play music with, had moved to California with her husband where they’ve been growing their family.  During her pregnancy she was craving Cincinnati-style chili and I told her I would buy some cans and send to her and in return she sent my wife some chocolate bars, my daughter a lovely San Francisco book, and me a bag of Four Barrel Ethiopia Chelba.  I loved it, but as with a few other roasters, never got around to ordering another bag from them.  I was again lucky that my local shop has featured them a time or two and I have been able to have a few more of their selections.  Today, Craft has been so kind as to select their Musabiymana, Rwanda.  
This particular washing station fell on hard times recently, and was actually shuttered for the 2012 season. The Abaryoshyakawa co-op, which built the station in 2005 with help from USAID, couldn’t keep the mill at its full potential, and its members paid the price. Or more appropriately, they didn’t receive the prices they deserved. Justin Musabiymana stepped in last year to lease the washing station from the co-op, and revitalized its operations. Now co-op members can deliver their coffee with the confidence that it will be properly milled, and retain its high quality all the way to the cupping table. This tiny mill’s small capacity (20,000 kgs of parchment per year doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of global coffee) makes it essential that these farmers receive high prices for their limited output.

Details:

Roaster: Four Barrel Coffee

Producer: Justin Musabiymana

Origin: Gihombo, Western Rwanda, Rwanda

Varietal: Bourbon

Elevation: 1,800 mas

Process: Washed

Brew Method:

Shaken Iced Bonmac | 28g © to 280g (w) | 140g ice | 2:35 total time | 198 degrees | shake over fresh ice | serve

 
Probably should have tried to stretch this time out, but I can’t complain about the results. 
The initial acidity will be similar to biting into a green apple, then what follows are both red and green apple fruit notes along with flavors of praline, peanut brittle, and caramel that jump out right away.  It has a nice syrupy body, with some darker notes of dark honey, warm cobbler, and wood.  All these sound descriptive of a heavy coffee, but it’s quite airy, pleasing and lively.  It also carries some stone fruit sweetness like plum, peach, and even a nice soft blackberry jam finish. 
Continuing sips begin a bit savory, but another swish around the mouth and you find buttered croissants and a big juicy and lingering finish that now also adds in honeysuckle to impress the palate. 
The later stages of the cup are saturated with sweet fruit notes like a washed Yirgacheffe and a buttery and honey lined body.  It’s completely enjoyable, now also adding chocolate mousse and toffee to the equation.  100% enjoyable, can’t wait to try it hot. 

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Brew Method:

Woodneck | 29g © to 476g (w) | 4:00 total time | 197 degrees | 1.36 TDS | 20.70% Ext. (Immersion mode)
Sweet fruity aromas lift from the cup. 
A bit tangy on the front with a crisp apple acidity.  It carries flavors like a fruit strip, I guess you could say more concentrated fruits, juicy with apple, cherry, and grape sweetness.  A bit of a buttery body with vanilla cream in the center meeting cocoa finishing.
It’s a very dense cup, notes of dried fruit (apricot, pineapple, kiwi),  currant, and warm berries atop chocolate cake.  It carries a pretty clean finish, and at times reminds me of Boylan Black Cherry Cola.  The fruits grow more juicy and more vibrant, with a complexity both tangy and sweet bringing to mind orange, lime, blackberry, date, and plum.  The finish carries slight hints of honey and nuts, but it’s incredibly smooth like peanut butter and honey spread out on the tongue.  
Cooling further the acidity does start to get a bit more lingering, a bit more noticeable, and the box grows ever more dense in the fruit notes with sugary sweetness finishing every sip. 
Pretty captivating coffee. It was very energized, with flavor galore.  While you *could* search for flavors, that buttery body just collected such a complexity of fruit notes and drifted down the tongue that all one had to do was wait to encounter them.  
Dense, concentrated fruits, dessert-like.

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Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 480g (w) | 3:30 total time | 197 degrees | 1.27 TDS | 18.80% Ext.
Lower extraction, not exactly sure why since it’s the same recipe I’ve been using lately.  Not really indicative of a lack in cup flavor though. 
Sweet and syrupy body introduction.  A bit tangy with black cherry, peach and tangerine highs leading into juicy and syrupy sugary honey middle and chocolate in the lows.  Lingering finish carries slight nods to marzipan, fresh baked bread but I’m finding plum most prominent.  Clean and balanced with an emphasis on sweetness if anything. 
As it cools, that cup escalates in it’s enjoyment, with green apple jolly rancher taking control of the highs along with currant, blackberry, pear, grape, and an assortment of dried fruits.  It still carries a nicely dense center, syrupy and honey coated, sugary sweet and carrying you into long sweet finishes lightly touched with nuts, cranberry, cherry, and strawberry notes.  
The coolest moments of the cup are outstanding.  The body just soaks up flavor, a complexly dense sweetness that now even gives soft nods to florals and honey more than ever before.  A little bit softer, still stone fruit juiciness that might remind you of a classic washed Yirgacheffe profile.  Absolutely beautiful. 

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I’m not sure exactly what the potato defect is, nor how noticeable it is in the cup.  I don’t say this because I experienced it in this cup, I say it because this makes the 8th or so Rwandan coffee I’ve had this year and, like the others, this offering has been full of enjoyable flavors from beginning to end.  Looking at the tech specs this is exclusively bourbon variety, and it makes sense with it carrying a dense and juicy sweet body throughout.  This cup is great for one that likes a little more sparkling acidity playing in the cup, and a body that seems to soak up tons and tons of flavor. 

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.