Brian Beyke

Madcap - San Sebastian & San Sebastian Peaberry - Review and Comparison

Brian Beyke

I don’t know why, but there is always something enticing to me when I see a peaberry offering.  It’s funny to me too, because usually when I try a peaberry it leaves me a little more to be desired.  I hear that peaberries should be sweeter, so maybe I am expecting some grandiose level of sweetness in the cup?  It wasn’t until trying Madcap’s San Sebastian and Peaberry offering I was able to understand exactly what I should be tasting.

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To give you readers a little more info if you are not aware, here’s more about peaberries from Madcap’s website:

While coffee typically grows with two seeds facing one another, about once in every 20 coffee cherries just one of those seeds matures, creating what we call a peaberry. Legend holds that peaberry coffee packs all the flavor of two beans into one, making it slightly sweeter.  This coffee is a selection of only peaberries from our San Sebastian.

The folks at Madcap were kind enough to give me a sample of the San Sebastian to try alongside the 12oz Peaberry bag I bought so I could get a good head to head, and I am glad they did.  If I were wise, I would have asked for 6oz offerings of each, but that is neither here nor there.  However with that information known, I say it to explain that I was only able to make the regular San Sebastian twice, where the peaberry is an ongoing brewing experiment with me.  Let’s get to the reviews then come back for some head to head.

San Sebastian Regular 

Details:

Tasting Notes: Crisp, floral, citrus, balanced

Produced by: Growers of OCCICAFE

Region: La Plata, Huila

Variety: Caturra and Bourbon

Altitude: 1,500-1,900 masl

Processing: Washed and dried on covered raised beds

Harvested: June - August 2013

Brew Method:

Clever | 34g © to 493g (w) | 3:35 then drop | 200 degrees

I have to start off by saying that my first brew of San Sebastian brought out a lot of imagery, thus the imagery is tied to my review.  Experiences may vary.

In the dry aroma I caught whiffs of warm pretzel, cantaloupe, pineapple, maybe a little earthiness.  

The wet aroma seemed to have a melon pop at first hit with some floral and sweet citrus notes.

On the nose of the cup VERY prominent cherry and apple, but to my surprise, the first sups weren’t that at all.  

A mouthfeel similar to soil, a palpable weight with dark chocolate finish and fruity undertones.  Really well balanced.  It reminds me of being out in the forest while it rains.

Prune, cranberry, green apple, cherry, lemon acidity…it almost slides down the tongue.  The fruit really starts rising up.

Again, I can sense damp logs around me.  Very engulfing.  

Black cherry though…everywhere.  That dark chocolate and a sort of ashiness remains in the aftertaste.  Man, what a balanced cup.

Wow, at the end of my mug the aroma now is that of wet leaves.  Floral flavors come flowing out of the cup like it is spring.  Looooong, lingering sweet fruitied floral finishing.

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San Sebastian Peaberry 

Details:

Tasting Notes: Crisp, deep, citrus, berry

Produced by: Growers of OCCICAFE

Region: La Plata, Huila

Variety: Separated Peaberry of Caturra and Bourbon

Altitude: 1,500=1,900

Processing: Washed and dried on covered beds

Harvested: May-July 2013

Brew Method:

Clever | 34g © to 493g (w) | 3:35 then drop | 200 degrees

In the dry aroma I still get bread, with some sort of vegetal or savory notes.

The wet aroma I seem to get tangerine or nectarine, some sort of citrus with cherry and some sort of spice.  Maybe cinnamon.  It is wheaty like cinnamon toast.  A few floral pops exist as well.

The cup has a much more floral nose.  First sips similar, but a richer cup.  It gets deeper much more quickly, and more smoothness.  Goes right into a baker’s chocolate finish, not as present fruitiness underneath.  The chocolate sort of rolls right off and stops any other lingering taste.

As I dig deeper it seems some nuttiness comes out.  Grows into roasted nuts and some fruitiness comes out, yet less defined.  Maybe pistachio?

As it cools it develops quickly a long lasting finish, sweet, syrupy, and deep.  It keeps growing sweeter, but not any one defined flavor jumps out.

Very coating on the tongue, like honey as it goes down.  The aftertaste reminds me of toast after the sweetness goes away.  It gets very long, sweet, fruity, citrusy, and floral in the finish.  

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Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 45g © to 621g (w) | 4:00 total time | 200 degrees

Nose of sweet citrus and cherry.

The first sips are round and smooth.  Chocolate rolls off the tongue and then seems to dry out.  Leaves my mouth feeling like I just drank a cup of milk.

Pretty lively on the front of the mouth.  A bit of berry starts creeping in, along with almond.  It grows a little more delicate, but the taste doesn’t seem to change much through the cup.

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Brew Method:

V60 | 34g © to 453g (w) | 3:20 total time | 205 degrees

Dry aroma of french fries, floral, sweet, citrus, maybe sun dried tomatoes.

Wet aroma was potato, grainy, and citrus.

The nose was cherry, no doubt.  The cup was fruitied but deep, not very well defined.  Rolls of the tongue, but doesn’t leave much aftertaste.

A little more grainy taste as a dig deeper, wasn’t really enjoyable (which could be attributed to the brew method as opposed to the coffee).

A sweet warm caramel taste starts to creep into the cup.  Fruit starts to shape like cherry, raspberry, and cranberry.  

As it sits, a little more fruit and floral comes out, a little tartness in the mouth and finish as well.  

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Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 450g (w) | 3:00 total time | 205 degrees (preferred method)

Dry aroma of melon, citrus, sweet, leaves

Digging into the Chemex was a bit refreshing.  The previous methods seemed to all hit the same tasting notes similarly, or I should say tasting more similarly to each other than the Chemex.  The Chemex was brighter than the other methods, with a green apple crispness.  There was a little astringency, some tart berry, citrus, milky taste in the finish.

As I dig deeper it starts to open up.  Chocolate notes creep in, and it gets a little more rounded.  Pear seems to appear, cranberry is more defined as the tart culprit.  

The finish stays reasonably dry, yet has a moderate amount of depth and linger as well, growing a little longer the more it cools.  

While this may be my favorite method of this coffee, it should be noted that while the profile overall seems more enjoyable on the Chemex and different than the other methods, you do lose some really neat flavors in the finish that may be found in the other methods.  Experiment and let me know your own thoughts!

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HEAD - TO - HEAD

Not really a comparison of which was better, but really an understanding of the coffee itself.  I brewed the regular San Sebastian first and immediately after the mug finished I was baffled by the amount of black cherry I was getting.  I literally felt like my head was surrounded by a barrel of black cherries.  I nearly ran to the grocer just to buy some black cherries and make sure that was what I was tasting.

I shot a message to the folks at Madcap to see if I was, in fact, going crazy.  They re-affirmed the fact that black cherry seemed to be the most prevalent flavor in the coffee.

So I was looking at this information and it didn’t really make sense to me.  While the peaberry was a little more rounded, maybe a little deeper or cleaner…I had a hard time understanding how, as a peaberry, it would be sweeter.  The overwhelming flavor of black cherry was way more defined in the normal San Sebastian than any flavors I got in the Peaberry.  

However, then I started looking through some of the notes that remained in my Peaberry brews, and noticed that one common theme in them was cherry flavors.  I realized that what I always thought would be a grandiose amount of sweetness in a peaberry, could be as simple as a sweeter berry note - from black cherry to cherry.  Huh.  Well, that is interesting to see.  I suppose the peaberry actually WAS sweeter, it just wasn’t what I led myself to believe. 

It was neat to try the offerings, and I’m still brewing up the peaberry and will most likely update this post with methods as I do.  While San Sebastian wasn’t the most impressive offering I’ve had, it was definitely an enlightening experience.  

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.