Oily Coffee Beans - Sumatran Mandheling

Sumatran Mandheling

UPDATE: Its worth starting out by saying that the tests in this review are too flawed for it to be valid. While the tastes were all mine, I don’t think I’d put much validity into this article. Check this article out for more on my thinking here.

I get my baseline impression of Sumatra from Starbucks. It’s not my favourite kind of coffee – it just doesn’t taste like I think coffee should taste, but it works as a drink. Kelly does like Starbucks Sumatra though, so I figured I’d give this one from idrinkcoffee.com a try to see if I can make a brew that she likes.

My initial impression of this one, when pouring the beans in my hopper, is oh my, its oily. It looks positively wet (see above), and I first thought that maybe it is. A roll of some beans on a paper towel confirms it is indeed oil.

I know that dark roasts have a tendency towards being more oily than lighter roasts, but this was the first time I’ve actually seen such obvious evidence of it. My grinder has no problem grinding it, but it does make it somewhat clumpy when tipping into my portafilter, and that certainly doesn’t help with distribution, or keeping my tools clean.

Consistency of the pull was good, though a touch thinner than my favourites.

I found it preferred a coarser grind, and larger dose, but still found the crema to be a little lacking, compared to my favourite blends. Not terrible, but not plentiful either.

Its taste is what I thought it would be – pretty much the same as Starbucks, though I think the acidity is lower, avoiding the jitters and gut rot that I get from Starbucks. Flavour seems a little stronger, but rounder than Starbucks. I’m not sure how to describe the taste – it doesn’t have subtle notes of anything specific to me – even though it has a strong taste, it doesn’t have anything recognizable, other than it tastes like Sumatra! Kind of like Coke – it tastes like… well, cola. Kelly hasn’t tried this one yet – I’ll let her be the decider. If it doesn’t make her like my espresso, I won’t order it again.

Update: 9 November

I’ve done a bit of a 180 on this. Having dialed in my grind and dose, I’m getting a significantly better coffee out. In fact, measured at a 2:1 ratio of coffee in to coffee out gives me the most incredible straight espresso. But even without this precision, I’m enjoying this a lot now that I’ve got it dialed in… just as I get towards the end of the bag!

The crema in the photo above is not representative of what I’m getting out now, which is much heavier. The whole experience of it is very different to my early attempts.

Kelly likes it too, so I’m pretty certain I’ll be ordering again.