October 4, 2019
After cupping through all of our Burundi coffees on hand a few weeks back, Kayanza Gahahe Station was clearly at the front of the pack in terms of complexity, cleanliness and versatility. Light roasts are clean, crisp and bright, and show a complex array of baking spices, herbal teas, and toasted sugar sweetness. When roasted dark, the cup is bodied and produces compact flavors of brooding bittersweet chocolate and dried fruits. No matter where we stopped along the roast curve, Gahahe proved to be a delicious brew.
Needless to say, I was delighted to have Gahahe on my list of coffees to roast-test in the Behmor 1600+ and it was just a matter of deciding which end of the roast spectrum I wanted to shoot for.
Taking a cue from my previous Behmor Burundi post, I decided to go with the "light and bright" approach, roasting to City roast level as fast as the roaster could get there. With the Behmor, batch size is about the easiest way to shorten roast time significantly, so I stuck with roasting 100 grams of coffee on the highest heat setting (P5) for the majority of the roast.
I pre-warmed the roaster on P5 before starting my roast batch for about 45 seconds on full power. I do this with the drum removed, stopping the roaster 45 seconds in, quickly loading my batch and restarting the roast well before it gets too hot and has to be cooled. This step may no be necessary, but I figured it was worth a shot to potentially shave off a little time.
If you compare the rates of rise between this roast and my 100 gram roast of Gakenke in the other blog, you see greater temperature jumps with Gahahe over the first 2 minutes. But by minute 3 or 4 they track more or less the same, finish times only 15 seconds apart.
It's a good reminder that the Behmor's thermoprobe reads chamber temp, not bean temp, and the shifts in temperature per the LED may provide a benchmark, but don't necessarily track with actual roast development (see the last 2 minutes of my roast where the temperature reading actually dips while the roast continues to progress).
When it was all said and done, my roast time went 9 minutes 15 seconds, with roughly 1 minute 8 seconds development post 1st Crack before I hit the cool button. I cooled this batch with the door open in order to bring it down to room temp as quickly as possible (you can also make a simple auxiliary cooling tray like this one).
This roast level highlighted the bright cup character of Gahahe, underscored by flavors of black tea with lemon. When the coffee was hot, the sweetness had a simple syrup like quality - sweet, yes - but not really a specific sugar flavor I could put my finger on. As the coffee cooled off some it took on more of a toasted sugar characteristic, caramelizing sweetness with an ever so slight 'smokey' note. Top notes come through in spades, and some of what we noted were chamomile and black teas, tangy citrus and orange peel, cardamom and an lemongrass herbal note.
I should also mention that I cupped Gahahe alongside a few of our Costa Rica arrivals and it really bowled me over in this context. The Costas were totally clean. But next to the balanced, simple cup profile of a Costa Rican coffee, Gahahe's complexity seemed off the charts. This isn't to say that Burundi coffee is better than Costa Rican coffee. After all, there's no accounting for taste. But it's hard to taste coffee from these two origins side by side and not wonder why lower scoring, higher priced Costa Ricas are so much easier for us to sell than a higher scoring, and much lower priced Burundi. I won't dive deeper here. But if you're interested in exploring this question further, Tom shares his ideas on the subject in his blog post, Rwanda and Burundi Coffee Quality is Still Undervalued.