Gathan Beaga

Nekisse vs. Sidamo single origin

As I’ve posted about earlier, these days caffeine-wise I’m off the espresso and on to pour-over filter coffee, like the Chemex.

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicI’m far from the only one around Wellington following this path and recently Coffee Supreme, sensing a market, have started a new range of super-premium single-origin coffees at around double the price of their regular beans. The first is the Nekisse.

Now I really know very little about this bean, save that it’s from a single farm in the Sidamo region in Ethiopia, and it’s supposed to be amazing. But I was lucky: last week Ralph at Customs Brew Bar slipped me a couple cups worth of an early roast to try.

I got them home and gave them a good look and smell. They were very fragrant; similar to the characteristic Sidamo fruitiness (which, if you haven’t come across it, is itself a revelatory coffee experience) but cleaner and brighter.

Nekisse (left) and Sidamo (right)

The beans were physically slightly smaller (left), and of a more even size than the regular Sidamo (right). This roast was not as dark as the Sidamo either; Ralph tells me that the Nekisse roast they’re selling now is a little darker (unfortunately the lighting in my photo doesn’t make the colour difference very clear – it’s a little more obvious in the flesh).

Anyway, I tried the Nekisse in the Chemex, but it didn’t really set my world on fire. As a breakfast coffee, it was very nice, but I actually preferred the regular Sidamo. Then I thought I’d better give it a proper comparison test.

As I don’t have two Chemex filter glasses, I thought I’d try something I found in Japan City1: a couple of cheap plastic versions of the classic Hario drip cones. I also picked up a pack of the filters on the next aisle over (get the larger size, if you are heading to Japan City yourself).

And so this morning it was time for the test.

Using the Japan City Drip Filter

I used the same amounts of beans (20g in this case, though I usually use 25g) freshly ground at my usual coarse-but-not-as-coarse-as-French-Press grade and placed in the pre-rinsed filter cones.

Nekisse vs. Sidamo

I then poured a cup and a half of recently boiled water over each, taking care to let the grounds bloom before pouring all the water in.

The results were pretty interesting. The Nekisse was light and very very fruity, seemingly more fruity than previously when I had it in the Chemex. It had amazing berry flavours – to me, lighter and less tannic, like the taste of strawberries. Yet surprisingly, the regular Sidamo tasted flat and almost muddy in comparison. I’ll definitely be getting some more of this Nekisse, I thought.

But thinking back to my experiences with the Chemex, where I’d found the regular Sidamo more interesting than the clean but bland Nekisse, it became clear that a lot of the differences between the Chemex brews and the my plastic cone filter brews were in the paper filters used.

Chemex sometimes gets a bit of a bad rap for filtering out too much flavour; so it seemed that not only was it taking out a lot of the less desirable flavours in the regular Sidamo, it may also have been removing some of the good flavours in the Nekisse. On the other hand, the cheap paper filters I was using in the plastic drip cones were allowing more flavours through, good and bad, but to the advantage of the Nekisse.

I’d always thought this sort of effect was a bit overstated, but obviously that’s not so. So it would seem that some brewing methods work better than others with each single origin bean. Yes! A whole new dimension of coffee nerdery to explore!

So, to conclude: if you’re having people over and you want to blow them away with an amazing brewed coffee experience, you should try them on the Nekisse in a Hario drip cone or similar. Because of the quality of the beans, even a flimsy paper filter is enough (and probably desirable). But for everyday usage, I think I’ll be sticking to the Sidamo in my Chemex (much to the relief of my wallet, no doubt).

On the other hand, maybe I should get just the tiniest amount of the Nekisse. Just a little bit more…

1 A sort of $2 (most things are $3.45) shop up Cuba Street full of Japanese stuff; some of it actually exceedingly nifty, as Robyn’s post on the Wellingtonista explains.

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