coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Cerberus

Cerberus Coffee, Jacksonville, OR
Wizard Cat – Medium Roast, Blend of Brazil and Uganda
Tasting Notes: Dark Chocolate, Fruity, Balanced
Method: Pour over

Obviously I bought this impulsively because of the packaging, right? Cerberus Coffee is the featured roaster for Market of Choice stores for April and May, and it’s well deserved. Great packaging and pretty good coffee too.

Jacksonville is a small town in southern Oregon, a few miles away from Medford. I’m not too familiar with southern Oregon except for the town of Klamath from Fallout 2, but my friends who are from there tend to talk about it in a way that feels like it is a whole different land from the Willamette Valley part of Cascadia. (I’m actually traveling to the Medford area this summer so I might have some more imput later.)

I appreciate that Cerberus puts some of its money back toward the community, especially the LGBTQ community. But how does it taste?!

Well it tastes pretty … balanced. As if they blended two different origins and roasted them just enough to give a blanket taste. Not a bad cup of coffee at all, but nothing jumping out. I got more of the dark chocolate notes than the fruit. When I want a cup of coffee that tastes good and full-bodied without the sometimes pesky nuances of a light roast, this is what I would gravitate toward.

Overall, despite the confusing marketing between a Cat who is a Wizard and a Dog with Three Heads who guards the gates of Hell, Cerberus’s Wizard Cat is a tasty blend that doesn’t try anything too wild. 7/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Skaut

Skaut Coffee Roasters, Portland, OR
Hawk’s Nest – Medium Roast, Guatemala Single Origin
Tasting Notes: Smooth, Balanced, Nutty
Method: Pour over

The Look

My first impressions of Skaut is the blurb on the back. For a moment I thought, Is this a New York roasting company? But no, of course not, it’s local. The story is just about Hawk’s Nest, New York, which is fine, I suppose. It means almost nothing to me, as it is little more than a blurb about a place and not indicative of the coffee itself. It’s fine!

I wasn’t super impressed with the roast date, being nearly a month ago. That indicates to me that people aren’t buying these as much as other brands. Doesn’t mean too much though, as there are a lot of different brands to purchase from.

The thing that got me, though, was the glaringly obvious error or wrong label on the front of the package. You’ll notice that it says this is a 3lb bag. It’s not. It’s a 12oz bag. I weighed the beans myself because I thought I was going crazy. (To be fair, it is a perfect 340g, so good work on that weight.) I do think the fact that it said 3lbs influenced my decision to buy it, for a excellent price-to-pound ratio. What can I say, it was early, and my frontal lobe hadn’t fully activated.

I just now noticed that the edge of the label is camouflage, which is really not my thing, but whatever.

The Info

The Skaut website kind of annoys me. I want to learn more about the people making the coffee and their About page says “Meet the Makers,” but then you don’t actually meet the makers. They just talk about the coffee story. There’s just little blurbs at the bottom. Again with the blurbs!

But then! I did a little digging and found that you can pick up the beans at Pips & Bounce. Pips & Bounce? Why would you pick up coffee beans at a ping pong place featured on Shark Tank?

That’s when it clicked: the founder of Skaut is Eugene Jung, aka one-half of the duo that started Pips & Bounce. So, perhaps the lack of bios on the Skaut About page is because Eugene doesn’t want to draw too much attention to himself and his Shark Tank fame.

That said, I would still like to know a LOT more about the whole setup. Where do they roast? Inside Pips & Bounce? How do they get their beans? “Guatemala Single Origin” could mean so many things. Are they part of a coop? What’s the deal, bro?

I was able to find a bit of information about the coffee cultivation process, which is nice, but I want to know about the people growing it. I want to make sure that the coffee is ethically obtained. Just add some more blurbs, dude, about the people growing your coffee for you.

I did also find that Skaut has only been around for around three years, in its current incarnation at least. So they’re pushing and fighting their way for a stake in the wide variety of very excellent roasters in Portland. Good luck!

The Taste

Taste-wise, it has the nutty and smooth profile it says it does. It’s easy to drink and not trying anything bold or fruity or tangy. It’s veering slightly into ash tastes for me, but thankfully not enough to be put off by it. I suspect future cups won’t feature that as much. I might try brewing with the French press next time, as I bet this will lend itself better to an immersion brew, though that might also release more of the ashy taste.

Overall, a pleasant cup with some warm nutty notes, if a little ashy. I wish it was a 3lb bag for the same price. Oh well. 6/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Keia & Martyn’s

Keia & Martyn’s, Portland, OR
Light(?) Roast, Colombia Nilson Yunda
Tasting Notes: Sugar, chocolate cookie, dried fruit

Oh boy. Oh boy. I’m excited for this one. First off, look at this packaging:

Absolutely cute as fuck. And compact, too!

But moreover, this coffee has a bit of lore to it, which has particular interest to me. Martyn is Martyn Leaper, of the band the Minders. I don’t know the Minders, but I am familiar with who they are connected to: the Elephant 6 Collective. These were a group of musicians who created some of my favorite bands–Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and Apples in Stereo to name a few. (Elf Power, Olivia Tremor Control, and Beulah to name more.)

To grab this coffee on a whim because it had cute packaging, only to find out that one of the roasters was a part of a highly influential recording collective, is pretty cool! Sadly, it appears that Martyn recently had a heart attack and is recovering from heart surgery. I hope he makes a full recovery!

I can’t find much information on Keia, unfortunately, though having a Black woman as a roaster bodes well for the equity of the beans, I think. I’m always leery about fair trade when it’s just a bunch of squirrely looking white guys running the roastery, you know? She has even set up an awesome Equity Pricing model for purchases. Super great.

Yeah yeah Josh, but how’s the coffee taste?

Pretty good! First sip was a blast of bright, floral notes, followed by a rounded out roasty flavor aftertaste. I’m fairly sure the beans are a light roast, which explains the floralness of it, but they may be more of a light-medium. I don’t really get any of the tasting notes, but that’s unsurprising for me. (I’m bad at tasting notes.) Perhaps the floral aspect I’m tasting is more along the “dried fruit” route, but I swear it has a bit more of an almost lavendery-esque taste to it. I thought the floral punch would stick around but subsequent sips are much more mellow.

Overall, great pro-social justice coffee roaster with a nice, pleasant flavored cup of coffee. And the Minders are a good band too! 7/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Happy Cup

Hey, let’s review some coffee beans, why not?

Happy Cup, Portland, OR
Medium Roast, Single Origin (Guatemala)
Tasting Notes: Cherry cordial, hazelnut butter, rosewater, vanilla

Happy Cup is awesome. It is a roaster here in Portland which employs people with developmental disabilities, at a competitive wave. I don’t know what else to say about that other than it’s awesome.

These beans are sufficiently roasty for a medium roast, without being ashy or sour. (I think fixing my grind helped this though.) Otherwise, pretty mellow with some fruity notes. I didn’t taste vanilla but I did get an umami flavor in there at one point, which I enjoyed. Happy Cup has never really wowed me with its beans but they’ve never been terrible, either.

Look, if you live in Portland and you like coffee, buy a bag of Happy Cup beans every once in a while. Make it part of your rotation.

Thanks Alix for my beans!

Overall, a nice, middle of the road bag of beans that you should absolutely buy so you can help support people with developmental disabilities. 6/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Courier

Hey, let’s review some coffee beans, why not?

Courier Coffee, Portland, OR
Light(?) Roast, Organic Congo
Tasting Notes: None officially

I’ve told this (mundane) story several times, but Courier Coffee was the first place I ever had a cup of coffee. Prior to them, I hated coffee. (I still did when I got my first cup.) My dad would brew a big pot of coffee every morning and pour it into a 32 or 64oz plastic gas station mug to take with him to work. Every morning I endured the horrible smell of Folgers.

Then, in 2007 or 08, I can’t remember, I traveled/moved to Portland and got a cup of coffee with a friend, who took me to Courier. I don’t remember who this friend was now. I barely remember where we were! It’s funny visiting a city and going to a location and then later moving there and really understanding where that location is now. Like, I had another friend who lived on 60th and Glisan, and I still pass by those apartment and feel a disconnect between them now, and them when I was visiting.

Anyway, Courier was and still is a little hole in the wall coffee shop. It opened in 2006 and is going strong and I believe that address on the beans is Joel’s house? I’m not sure, because the Courier coffee shop is on the other side of the river, and Google Maps points that address to a house on Hawthorne. I don’t know. This coffee is from Kivu, in the Congo. There are a lot of coffee farms in Kivu and there’s even a coffee called Kivu made by Kroger, which cannot be a good coffee.

One of the things I love about Courier is the DIY attitude. The handwritten description, the blurry stamp. It’s lovely. But it also leaves out a few bits of information, like the roast level and any info about how the coffee was harvested. I think one can assume that it’s all as ethical as can be, but it’s always good to have a blurb somewhere, you know?

This coffee is tangy! Bright and fruity. I think it’s a light roast, the seam on the underside of the bean is very light, almost white, which makes me think it wasn’t roasted long. My recent bout with covid made coffee taste like seaweed for a couple days (apparently the taste/smell issues with covid can impact your umami taste more than the others), but this does not taste like seaweed at all. It has an earthy undertone to it and a slight ashy aftertaste, but the dominant taste is tangy citrusy fruit. It’s not my preferred coffee taste, to be honest, but it’s not bad either. I think I may cut this one with milk in the future, to see if that mellows out the tang at all.

Overall, a bright, fruity, tangy taste with some earthy, ashy aftertaste. Not bad, especially if you enjoy tangy coffee, but it’s not my preferred go-to. 6/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Groundwork

Hey, let’s review some coffee beans, why not?

Groundwork Coffee, Los Angeles/Portland
Light Roast, Organic Colombia
Tasting Notes: Tangerine, Milk Chocolate

Groundwork Coffee began as a shop at Venice Beach, California, but now has two roasteries: one in LA and one here in Portland. So, despite the HQ being a state away, I still feel like I’m buying locally roasted beans, which is nice. The beans come from AMUCC, a woman’s co-op of coffee growers in Popayan. If there’s one thing I love about the coffee scene these days, it’s how hard some roasters are trying to work with local co-ops and growers and not exploit them. If buying these beans helps put decent money into the pockets of women in Colombia, I’m all for it.

First off: I upped my Bean Grams, from 15g to 20g. Groundwork suggests 1tbsp of grounds per 6oz of water. That’s 15g per 177ml, roughly. Doubling that (30g to 354ml) would actually be around the amount of liquid that one of my coffee mugs can hold, but 30g seems like too much for me. A tablespoon holds about 60mg of caffeine, and I only want to hit around 100mg. I ain’t no caffeine fiend.

The increase in grounds did improve the flavor though. It’s a much richer cup. What struck me first was how ashy the first sip was, and how each subsequent sip was more mellow. It was never ashy enough to be gross, but it was pronounced. Then came a floral, almost tangy taste (I guess that’s where the tangerine comes in), bold but not overpowering. That was the dominant flavor for me. I’d say it’s a better cup than the Two Dad’s beans, but as I mentioned in that review, I was measuring my beans incorrectly and generally getting weaker cups as a result. But I would say that I think I prefer light roasts over medium, overall.

That said, I do kind of wish this cup had a little bit more of a roasty flavor to it. The other tasting note, milk chocolate, I didn’t really get, but I’ve said before that I’m not great at tasting notes.

I bought these beans at Market of Choice for like $10.50 (on sale), which is a steal for organic, locally roasted beans. So it was worth it.

Overall: a bright, floral, slightly tangy cup of coffee. I liked it! 8/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Two Dads

Hey, let’s review some coffee beans, why not?

Two Dads Coffee Co., Portland, OR
Medium Roast, Guatemala Single Origin
Notes: Caramel, Roasted Almond
Brewing Method: Pour over

I purchased these beans, as I often do, at Market of Choice, a local market in the vein of a Whole Foods or New Seasons. Fancy white people store, in other words. In terms of roasts, I prefer a light roast when available, and I tend to shy away from dark roasts. Mediums I will pick up if there’s nothing lighter within my budget.

Whenever possible, I like to purchase from local roasters, ideally at their place of business, but that doesn’t always work out. Also, this is petty as hell but if I buy beans at a local coffeeshop and they don’t give me a free cup of coffee, I stop buying there. I know! I’ll even buy their beans at a store. Coffeeshops, you gotta give bean buyers a free cup of coffee!

Two Dads is, well, two dads. One from Guatemala, one from the Pacific Northwest. They seem to roast only medium and dark roasts, at least according to their website. I love the bag with all the doodles and I love the story of how these two men started their roasting business. Lovely to read a story of people finding love and passion in their work.

Anyway, I finished off this bag today. They certainly have a roasty flavor typical of darker roasts, which made it difficult for me to figure out a good grounds to water ratio. The bag says 1.5 tbsp (or around 22g) per 5oz (150ml) of water.

I brew a way weaker cup than that–15g to 300ml. At the time, honest to god, I thought I was brewing to their specifications, but again, I am dumb with math. (I even had to remind myself just now, again, that one gram is equal to one milliliter [of water at least].) I don’t have any more beans to redo with the proper ratio, but it’s okay, as I think the cups I brewed were just fine.

The roast of it comes through the most for me. I’ve always been bad at tasting notes, but I can see where one might get a roasted almond flavor. It brewed very much on the line of ashyness, though, something that I was fighting with every morning. It felt like I had to have my pour over game perfect or else it the taste would be a little bitter or ashy. I always drink my coffee black but I think this is the type of coffee you should pair with cream and/or sugar.

Overall, not a bad cup of coffee, but perhaps a bit too dark on the roast for my liking. 7/10