Ahhh, I love a good naturally processed Ethiopian coffee, and Ethiopia Hambela Buku from Onyx Coffee Lab is a really special one at that. This coffee is so many things at once: it's very smooth and approachable and easy drinking, can be brewed to be fruity and sweet like a typical natural Ethiopian or brewed to be much more delicate and nuanced. This is one of those coffees that washed only snobs should be able to appreciate since it's very clean and crisp and has some delicate transparency. Onyx states that this one of their most popular Ethiopians and I can see why, it has a little something for everyone, and can easily be manipulate to suit based on how you brew it. So let's get into that.
In the 02 size Hario V60, this coffee needs a really coarse grind to brew anything under 4:00. Keeping the setting from last week's Kenyan coffee had a 20 gram dose brew in 5:30, and it was still very good. Dense, more like a typical natural Ethiopian coffee and mildly sweet without being in your face like the bad stereotypes of a natural Ethiopian would suggest. For reference, I had to seven steps coarser on the macro adjustment of my Baratza Vario grinder. That's most of the adjustment it has in its range. Bringing brew times to the 4:30 mark made the coffee more interesting, and would probably be the sweet spot for most, but going really coarse and bringing brew times closer to 3:45 or 4:00 mark brought out softer and more transparent flavors. I was intrigued by the "coconut water" flavor descriptor, but when brewed faster, it's certainly there.
In a very non-meticulist manner, I didn't realize "the story" in the purple box on the right side of the screen could be expanded. Upon reading it, Onyx preaches how this coffee really does need a very coarse grind and some adjustments in the brewing technique as well, recommending that you use hotter water (208*F) to keep the slurry temperature up due to the slow draw down, and also NOT fill it up too high and rather keep adding water in shorter and smaller increments/volumes, stating that adding too much water at once thinking you're going to brew it faster will actually slow the brew down by trapping fines in the bottom. This was very refreshing to read since I was going through the same steps when trying to get this coffee to brew correctly on my own, and hey, Onyx has Barista and Brewer's Cup Champions, so a little affirmation from the pros is always good.
Scrolling through the story section is also worth the read since Onyx shares their coffee buying principles, what they pay for the coffee and their partnership approach to the industry. I stated that Onyx isn't cheap, but this explains why, and I'm on board with that!
So, my ultimate brew recipe looked very similar to theirs: 1 : 16 ratio, very coarse grind, and shorter pour increments to keep the bed suspended and keep it from clogging the bottom of the filter.
As espresso, the grinder was again set too fine to begin with, but that didn't mean I got a horribly over extracted shot. Even at a 45 second pull time for a 1 : 2 ratio, the coffee was sweet, smooth, silky and quite good save for a bit of dryness in the finish. Like with brewing, speeding up the extraction brought out floral and soft tropical notes, making for a very soft and delicate espresso. The coconut water again poked its head in, but as with brewed, silky and juicy are probably the two most fitting descriptors. I was pulling shots at 18 grams in to 34 grams in out in 27 - 30 seconds with 3 seconds of preinfusion. Onyx recommends 19.5 grams in to 40 grams out in a very speedy 23 seconds. I found getting close to this, but at a lower yield brought out a best of both worlds coffee and retained some good mouth coating body.
Hambela was good with milk as well, though I think this coffee really shines when you hit the brew just right, or find the balance in the espresso shots. It makes for a fine cappuccino, smooth and sweet, but no distinct flavors came through.
All in all, this is an excellent coffee, and it was really fun to work with and to continue learning, especially with the adjustments needed to keep the brew moving. This coffee is $20.50 for a 12 ounce bag from Onyx Coffee Lab here.