March 6, 2020
Is your household made up of regular and decaf coffee drinkers? Well, for maybe the first time ever we have the same coffee available in both forms - Organic Ethiopia Dry Process Limu Kossa Farm. A rare opportunity to enjoy a single, single-origin together!
The title says "vs.", but this is no competition. No, they don't taste exactly the same. After all, one's decaffeinated which will always have an effect on flavor. But I think you'll agree that a lot of what makes this coffee unique in the first place can still be found in the decaf counterpart.
We knew from the get-go that Limu Kossa would present well as decaf and we were right. Dry Process coffees are often bold with fruited flavors, which have a way of withstanding the decaffeination process. Both versions are fruited and sweet, big bodied and with the potential to build incredible chocolate flavors when taken beyond City+ roast level. For these reasons it is also a great dual-use coffee, working quite well in both brew and espresso applications.
Hand sorting begins at the road leading into Limu Kossa Farm, where farmers pick out any under or over ripe coffee in order to deliver uniformly red cherry to the mill
For those not familiar with what exactly dry processing is, it's when the outer cherry and coffee seed (bean) are dried together, whole. Unlike wet processing - where all the cherry is removed immediately - leaving the fruit intact during the drying phase tends to impart fruited cup qualities, boost body and soften acidity. This is a fairly accurate description of this coffee from Limu Kossa Farm and the effects of dry processing are still tasted in the decaf.
The decaffeination process breaks down the cellular structure some, posing the risk of losing volatile cup flavors. Some of the harsher chemical processes of old (and current, actually) in particular yielded a coffee that tasted like cardboard when roasted light, bittering ash when roasted dark. In this way, it was a great equalizer of coffee cup qualities; no matter what went in, they all came out tasting the same!
The Swiss Water decaffeination process is chemical-free, using only water to remove 99.9% of the caffeine. Their patented method is gentle on the coffee's organic structure and leaves much of the volatile compounds that affect aroma and flavor intact. That's why in the case of Limu Kossa, the fruited, sweet coffee we sent off to them came back a fruited and sweet decaf in return.
Unroasted Limu Kossa Decaf left, roasted at right - you can already start to see some oil at the surface just a few hours after roasting
Roasting decafs can be a little tricky because of the dark color of the un-roasted beans. The old methylene chloride decafs we used to buy bore a chocolate brown hue, not too far removed from that of fully roasted coffee. Thankfully, the Swiss Water Process yields a bean that's still on the green side, making it much easier to determine roast development by sight.
We've also found that Limu Kossa decaf lets off a fairly strong, audible 'pop' when entering the beginning of first crack, which helps. As a general rule, I like to pull my decaf roasts a few seconds before I might normally pull a non-decaf. For example, if for a City roast target I normally stop the roasting process 2 minutes after 1st crack starts, I will pull the decaf at 1:45. This is due in part to the loss of bean density during decaffeination, therefore, roast progression moves at a faster pace. It's also the reason you'll likely see oils rise to the surface of the bean no matter how light you roast the coffee (you can see a little bit in the photo above).
We've tried both coffees at several different roast levels and they both offer a broad range of flavors. For the decaf, I'd steer clear of Full City+ as the less dense bean tends to char when taken too far beyond Full City and you're left with an ashy tasting coffee. But other than that, I'd say grab a bag of each and test your hand at replicating roast levels from one to the next. It's an incredibly versatile coffee that stands out on its own and also makes a big impression when used in a blend. One coffee drinker in my household who's been cutting back on caffeine is blending the decaf and regular in equal parts post roast. With Limu Kossa Farm, it's hard to go wrong!
Order Limu Kossa Farm Decaf here (....or here for Coffee Shrub)
Order Limu Kossa Farm Regular here (....or here for Coffee Shrub)
Check out a short video from our visit last December here