January 2017 – Mamuto
George Howell’s Mamuto is one of the coffees I had in my mind when I started this subscription. It still holds a place as the best espresso I’ve ever had (made by Ben Kaminsky at Coffee Common TED 2011). It’s super ultra special, and crazy delicious.
This particular Mamuto is a December 2013 harvest that’s been vacuum sealed and suspended in time for 4 years. You cannot buy this coffee anywhere. Deliciousness and rarity are literally off the charts this month, and you’re getting 113 grams (4oz.) !!
|Producer:||Walter and Patrick Mathagu|
|Farm Size:||21 acres total; 13 acres of coffee|
|Varietals:||SL28 & SL34|
|Rainfall:||Low to moderate~ approximately 40 inches|
|Soil:||Red volcanic loam|
Words by the George Howell team:
Mamuto is located in Kirinyaga which lies beneath the slopes of the usually overcast seventeen thousand plus foot Mt Kenya looming above to the North. The coffee grows at 5,000 ft. (1,525 meters), lower than many of the famous Kenya cooperatives; however we believe that its rich soil and position under the massive Mt Kenya gives great sweetness, complexity and perfect balance of body and acidity. The soil is deep red-orange in a lush green very gently undulating landscape. Walter Mathagu and his family have owned, worked, and operated Mamuto for over 47 years.
We were introduced to Mamuto in 2006 when Jeremy Block of C. Dorman Ltd. told us we had to try a great coffee purchased at the Kenya auction. Immediately upon cupping we knew we had something very special and bought it on the spot. What blew us away was depth of the flavor and body of this coffee matched with a perfect acidity. The following year was the first of many visits as we established our direct relationship with Walter Mathagu. We have had the honor of this exclusive relationship that has pioneered working with single small individual farmers in Kenya.
Our relationship with Mamuto is one based on a mutual goal of attaining the highest quality. We work closely together to improve the farm, its productivity and it’s quality. Walter’s strict growing and processing practices and openness to technology and change is something we admire and rely on. Over the past 2 years we have donated different pieces of equipment to help promote this joint goal working with Walter, his son, Jason, Coffee Management Services, C. Dorman and Central Kenya Coffee Mill.
Choosing the coffee for Barista Hustle was simple: it had to be Mamuto Vintage 2013. That year was the perfect storm of hard work, years of development, and environmental factors cooperating to create one of the most exceptional coffees we have ever had at George Howell Coffee. It arrived to us very slightly aged and has remained that way since; the balance, boldness and clarity of flavor are, nevertheless, profound.
Our vintage roasts are an historic first in the history of coffee, as far as we know! We have been freezing our green coffees for over 10 years. Vintages are a great way to test and prove the freezing model. We have also been recommending freezing roasted coffee once the package is opened for at least the past ten years, contrary to popular specialty recommendations and even contra-indications. It looks like that may be getting a second look too.
See George’s farm visit to Mamuto!
We have two roasters; a Loring Kestrel S35 and a 1960’s Probat UG-22. Our Mamuto AA 2013 was roasted on the Probat. A few minor modifications have been made over the years, but for the most part, our Probat remains in its original state. A variable application gas controller and the invaluable Cropster module are the only major alterations to date.
We defer to the Probat for all of our small batch and/or highly sensitive coffees. The reason: adjustable airflow. Being based in New England and challenged with drastically volatile weather, airflow is a key tool for roasting with fluctuating environmental factors.
Our general roasting philosophy is this: roast light to make coffee transparent and let the terroir shine through. Our Mamuto AA from the 2013 harvest is no exception. Short roast times allow us to emphasize the acidity of the coffee, and bring out the natural blackberry and jam that’s become Mamuto’s calling card.
For this particular roast, we start off with a charge temperature of 335°f (168°c) and punch it with heat shortly after the drop. Once we’ve ramped up to our peak heat application, we leave it be until the bean temperature reaches 325°f (162°c). From that point on, Rate of Rise (RoR) takes over as our guide to finish the roast—looking for a steady decrease until we hit first crack. To achieve this, we incrementally reduce heat application every ten degrees of RoR until we reach crack. This is where our retrofitted variable application gas controller has been so critical. Prior, we were limited to the original three options for heat application of 33%, 66% or 100%. After the start of first crack, we lower the heat substantially until just after first crack ends, with our target being 400°f (204°c). The total time of roast is just over 10:00 for a batch that is 55% of our drum’s capacity.
Brewing[ written by Matt ] This coffee is SUPER fun to brew and drink. Holy moly. You almost can’t screw it up. No matter what you throw at it. With this in mind, I’d like to suggest the following.
From what I can tell, there’s two main expressions of this coffee:
One is crisp, tart, and refreshing. Think rhubarb, rosehip, and blackberry, with a cooling, mineral-like menthol-esque finish. To achieve this, brew for around 2-3 minutes with a ratio of 1:16 (62g/L). Best for pour-overs and the like.
Two is ripe, lubricious, and brambly. Think berries, red plum, juicy malic/tartaric acid combo, with a wet, lubricious mouthfeel. To achieve this, brew for 8-10 minutes with a ratio of 1:14.5 (69g/L). Best for cupping bowl/plunger type brews.
For method two, I would also recommend brewing with 1:13 ratio (75g/L) and diluting afterwards. Have a taste, add 5g water if needed. Have another taste, add 5g. etc. This coffee can get *really* juicy and ripe at higher ratios and it really pays off.
Go have fun! It’s so rare that we get to play with coffees like this. 🙂