Beans: Code Black (Bold), Green (Decaffeinated) and Yellow (Breakfast)
Roaster: Emergency Coffee
Rating: 2-, 2-, 2
The guys from Emergency Coffee contacted me recently about trying out their product. What intrigued me most was the fact that their beans “are roasted at over 8,000 feet over an open flame.” I had visions of some fascinating, modified grill roaster busily at work at a ski lodge, but it turns out they use fairly standard gas-drum roaster that’s located somewhere in Ouray, Colorado. Their website and emails suggest that the altitude allows them to roast at a lower temperature for a longer time. I was dubious about the merits of this method, but nevertheless curious about the results.
My package arrived, filled with three of EC’s five coffees – the “Code Black” or “Massively Bold” blend, the “Code Yellow” or “Breakfast Blend,” and the “Code Green” or “Decaffeinated Blend.” The extreme dark-roasted appearance of these beans told me most of what I needed to know. The lighter Code Yellow blend contained seriously dark-roasted coffee. The Code Black would put a typical French Roast to shame. I nevertheless laid them out on the cupping table and prepared them via French press, pour over drip and as shots of espresso.
To my surprise there were some subtle differences between each of these organic bean blends. The Code Black was very smokey with hints of anise. The Code Green had some chocolate notes and a few hints of something fruity. The Code Yellow was a bit more minty, herbal and vegetal with a slight tendancy towards something chocolate. While I think I was picking up on genuine differences in the beans, mostly what I tasted were subtle degrees of roast. I couldn’t really recommend one method of preparation over the other; they all worked about as well as one could expect for each method given their level of roast.
I think the big moment for me here was that the coffee wasn’t as terrible as I imagined it might be. It wasn’t excessively bitter or burnt. While this positive finding might have had something to do with the roasting method, I’d be willing to wager that it had to do more with freshness. Emergency Coffee roasts to order and my coffee wasn’t more than a week old when I tried it. Rarely do you find an ultra-dark roasted coffee this fresh since many roasters who roast this dark do so, in part, to cover up the long shelf life of their coffees that would leave lighter roasts tasting stale.
In the end, this coffee is what it is: ultra-dark, but fresh, roasted coffee. I can’t personally recommend it as I don’t think it really showcases the best these particular beans have to offer. That said, the guys at Emergency Coffee are discussing the concept of a lighter roasted blend. I also recognize that a lot of people out there (probably not those reading this blog) gravitate towards extremely dark roasts. For those people, this isn’t a bad choice given Emergency Coffee’s emphasis on freshness.