Fully Washed Sidamo

by Douglas Orton
Carrot cake & espresso Sidamo

As coffee lovers, we drink many espressos during our days; we taste new origins, different roasts and experiment with extraction techniques. Among all these coffees there are some we like, and others we don't. Every now and then, however, as the storyteller of this edition tells us, a coffee goes beyond mere flavours and touches our souls. These are the ones we call God Shots. In this section of the blog named "Coffee memories" we would therefore like to tell about the coffees that have remained particularly imprinted in the minds of our readers, hoping that you can have a little taste of them too. The storyteller of this first episode is Douglas Orton, who will tell us about his experience with a washed coffee from the Sidamo region. Douglas is a real enthusiast, he roasts the coffee himself, grinds it by hand with an Apollo and extracts it with a Cafelat Robot. But now we give the voice directly to him to tell us in person his passion for this coffee.

Ethiopia is one of the most important countries in terms of coffee cultivation. It is in fact the place of origin of this delicious raw material and one of the few places in the world where coffee grows wild. For this reason, over time many varieties have developed and mixed together and now we can find a vastness of coffee with very different characteristics in a relatively small space. 

The best-known coffees in this country are definitely those from Yirgacheffe, and people often think of the coffees from Sidamo as being of inferior quality. But what many people do not know is that Yirgacheffe is nothing more than a sub-region of Sidamo. 

In the past I tried a washed Yirgacheffe and a natural process from the Rocko Mountain reserve which were both very good but unfortunately, they are no longer available. Later I tried other Ethiopian coffees like the Bench Maji, which was decent, and a Duromina Limu with a very high SCA score that, despite all my attempts to increase the body, was too thin. It had a wonderful nectarine acidity, but was more suitable for drip. From my experience, I can therefore say that I usually enjoy coffees from Ethiopia, but the thing that always put me off this specific Sidamo coffee was the “tea-like” description. I imagined a very thin, delicate mouthfeel, but this Sidamo is anything other than that. I originally bought it intending to use it mainly for espresso blends, but it resulted that the other coffees masked its beautiful qualities. Instead, I found that it stands up on its own as a single origin for espresso and not too many coffees can claim to have that rounded, balanced character.

Bocaboca Coffee Roaster

Sidamo roasting in the Bocaboca

I roasted the coffee sticking to my simple and trusted formula: I set my Bocaboca roaster on full power until I hit first crack and then I reduce the heat to 50% with a 25% development time. As the development time is the time between first crack and the end of the roast, if I hit first crack at 7.5 minutes, I’ll then turn the power down to 50% at 7.5 minutes and I’ll stop the roast at 10 minutes. This usually gives me a full city roast with a weight loss of around 15-16%. Based on what I’m tasting in the cup, I’ll then adjust the development time of the next roast. Extending it will enhance the body of the coffee at the expense of the acidity and vice versa; this can be done with or without increasing the roast level. Only rarely will I have to slow the roast before first crack and that’s if I’m roasting a particularly dense bean such as a peaberry or if the coffee is very thin. With this Sidamo, I unintentionally went over my target roast level as my drum got temporarily stuck in the roaster while I was removing it. I ended up with a full city plus roast with 17% weight loss, but it was delicious and a very pleasing accident!

BPlus Apollo, Bocaboca and Cafelat Robot

Complete coffee set of Douglas

I drank the coffee as an espresso, pulling the shots with my Cafelat Robot and grinding the coffee with a Bplus Apollo grinder. My go-to espresso recipe for the Robot is a 1:2 ratio with 16 grams in and 32 grams out. After a careful puck preparation using a WDT tool followed by a firm, but not excessive tamp, I aim for a pre-infusion of 15-30 seconds. I hold a slight pressure while I wait for the puck to be fully wetted, watching the beads of coffee appearing across the bottomless portafilter. I will only allow a maximum of one drip before applying pressure to the levers. I aim to hit around 8 bar with the initial pressure and I then sit back and allow that pressure do the work. Rather than try to maintain the pressure I aim to maintain the flow rate keeping everything running as smoothly as possible. This often requires a declining pressure profile until I hit my target yield with an extraction time of around 30 seconds. I always pre-heat the Robot’s basket, piston, and portafilter as it not only gives more temperature stability during the long pre-infusion and extraction, but I feel it provides more consistency from day to day with the UK’s ambient temperature changes.

After trying it, my first impression was that it was a gentleman's coffee. Refined, elegant, smooth and comforting. Reading the label was like connecting dots and seeing a constellation. It had a good depth to the body, yet it was clean and light with a delightful lemon acidity. It had a good balance between body and acidity even at just a few days post roast. As the week progressed my love for this coffee grew, it had everything. I discovered that the "tea-like" referred to the flavours and not the mouthfeel. It had started out with a delightful light, airiness which tied in, as described, with the tea-like and lemon tasting notes. As the coffee rested more over the week, the body intensified as did the fruit, but it always stayed balanced, rounded, and deeply satisfying. Every now and then a coffee goes beyond mere flavours and touches your soul, this coffee did just that. Sidamo has become a firm favourite of mine so I'm happy I have another 800g of these greens and that they are so widely available. Usually you can find this coffee processed as natural, but if you find the washed version I strongly suggest you try it.

I wish everyone a God Shot, Douglas.

Espresso with Fully Washed Sidamo

Fully Washed Sidamo