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Ayu

by | Nov 4, 2020

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Ayu is the name of our signature blend, our first baby, and the coffee we love most of all. This is the culmination of everything we love about great coffee, and the number one coffee we serve in our flagship store. It’s a can’t-miss crowd-pleaser, with an exotic touch to surprise even the most discerning palates.

Origins

“Ayu” is one of the traditional names given to girls in the ancient culture of Bali, where the naming traditions are so unique. Ayu means beautiful. And it also happens to be the name of the Balinese woman who supplies our special coffee (and she is also beautiful!). It was a natural choice to designate a coffee like this.

The Ayu is a marriage of three tropical coffee origins, each with a unique character and flavor: rich chocolate from Brazil, sweet citrus from Colombia, and colorful tropical fruit from Bali. It’s a world tour of sunny climes.

The secret ingredient in this coffee is the Bali coffee. This is a direct-trade coffee that we source from close friends on that island. We’ve walked the land with them, cupped their coffees together with them, and stay in constant contact.

The wild, sweet, tropical fruit flavors that the Bali coffee brings to this blend is our special Coffee & Coconuts personality in liquid form. LIke if you took a balmy tropical evening on the beaches of Bali, bottled it up, and poured it into your coffee cup. 

You can read more about this unique ingredient on our Kinta page. 

But first let me say a word about blends.

In putting this coffee together the way we have, we’re bucking a trend that we’ve noticed in the specialty coffee community. There seems to be an unexamined assumption, that “single origin” coffee is, by its nature, always better than blended coffee. This idea has its origins in a basically correct notion of how coffee quality is created, but it’s gotten so out-of-hand that people have lost track of why they believe what they believe. The result, to be honest, is that you often get very aggressive, almost undrinkable coffees at “specialty” shops, from a barista who insists he’s giving you some special “experience.”

I believe my job as a coffee roaster is not to show off, not to “challenge” the customer, but to deliver something truly special, carefully crafted, and above all, a pleasure to drink! Coffee has become an obscure intellectual exercise for too many professionals. They lose track of why people drink coffee in the first place: to have a lovely, warming, energizing drink. Whether your’re using it to concentrate on your work, or enjoying a cappuccino with friends and family, the whole point of a cup of coffee is the pleasure it brings. 

Now, single origin coffees are a beautiful thing, and we offer several single origins that we are very proud of at Coffee & Coconuts. The term “single origin” just means that the beans come from one particular place. This can get complicated, though, because some single origins come from a single small farm, some from a single large estate or mill, some from a single region, and some from a single country. The logic of what counts as a “single” origin is very obscure. You could even imagine a sneaky roaster taking coffee from Kenya, coffee from Uganda, and coffee from Tanzania, blending it all together and calling it a single origin.. Africa. As you can see, the definitions can get very slippery.

But what’s the reasoning behind single origins, anyway? There are two main reasons: 1) Each coffee has a unique terroir, just like with wine; keeping the beans segregated out allows you to express that particular unique terroir in a way that can be lost if the beans are blended with other origins. 2) in very old-school, mass-market coffee companies, blending coffee used to be (and sadly, for some large companies, still is) a way to “hide” low-quality beans; roasters would increase their volume while lowering the overall quality through blending.

Given this, it’s no surprise that coffee nerds have gravitated more and more to ditching blends in favor of single origin coffees. But if you remember what I said before, the ultimate goal for any roaster should be to create lovely coffee, to give the customer a unique and delicious experience. 

The espresso extraction process is extremely intense, and it tends to magnify the character of the beans tenfold. If you start with a coffee that’s bright and sunny as a filter coffee, the same coffee prepared as espresso can be so sour and blindingly bright that it’s like sticking molten lava in your mouth, or squeezing lemon juice in your eyeballs. Maybe that kind of “challenging” coffee gives some people an intellectual rise, but frankly, in my book it’s just bad coffee. Just because you slap “single origin” on the label, doesn’t mean you’re actually serving good coffee!

That’s where the Ayu comes in. We were determined to make the best-tasting espresso possible. We serve hundreds of cappuccinos, espressos and americanos at our Amsterdam store every day, to customers from all over the world. We want to give them a beautiful, special, and delicious cup every single time.

So we approached creating the Ayu like painting a picture, with three layers:

  • First, we lay down the foundation, the primer for our canvas. That’s medium-altitude Brazil coffee with rich, smooth body and deep notes of chocolate and nuts. This assures us that the basic depth of the coffee will be smooth and easy to drink
  • Second, we add in about 30% of high-grown, fully washed arabica coffee from Colombia. This brightens the picture, bringing things to life and adding just a touch pleasing, snappy acidity. 
  • Then we break out the wild tropical neon pinks and oranges: our totally unique natural processed Bali coffee (from Ayu herself!). We splash the canvas with streaks of mango, papaya, and passionfruit, not so much to overpower the base flavors, but in just the right amount to add a beautiful and unique aroma and flavor.

The result is a flavor you could never achieve with one single coffee. A great blend is not a “mish-mash” of random beans. On the contrary, a great blend is a carefully orchestrated synergy of flavors and aromas. We’re incredibly proud of the end result, and we think you will find it a coffee experience that’s beautiful, approachable, reliable, and unique.

Roasting

Each component of the Ayu blend is, of course, roasted separately. This is because every coffee origin produces beans of different sizes, shapes and densities. When applying heat during the roasting process, you must take these characteristics into account in order to avoid all kinds of problems that could arise, like scorching, baking, or roasting unevenly the beans. 

For example, the Colombian coffee we use is very high-density, meaning the cells of the bean are packed together very tightly with not much space in between. This makes the green coffee particularly hard and resistant to heat penetration in the early stages of the roast. So we start the roast with the machine set to a quite high temperature (210 degrees), so that we can aggressively start the moisture-drying stage of the roast. However! This same tightly-packed density means that once the coffee has begun internalizing heat, the process can quickly spiral out of control. When the beans go into the exothermic reaction around first crack (191 degrees or so), they start giving their own heat into the roasting environment, and without adjustments from the roaster, they will race through the development stage, leaving you with coffee that is sour and bitter.

(I think a lot of roasters make this mistake, sadly. You may have tasted coffee like this and you know what I’m talking about.)

So we drop down the flames on our Giesen roaster very rapidly, like cornering a steep curve in a sports car, right before first crack, to give our Colombian coffee a nice, easy ride through the development stage where sweetness is created.

On the other hand, the Brazil we roast for the Ayu is much softer, with smaller beans. They are pulped natural beans, meaning they dried with some of the sticky fruit of the coffee cherry still in contact with the surface of the beans. This gives it a nice sweet flavor, but it also means that on a microscopic level, the cells along the exterior of the bean are interpenetrated with tiny ruptures that formed as the sugars dried on the beans and were later removed mechanically.

If you used the same high-initial-heat protocol for these beans as you used for the Brazil, you’d start scorching the surface of the coffee, leading to black marks all over your beautiful coffee. And it doesn’t just look bad, it tastes bad, too: ashy and bitter.

So we use a much lower initial heat for the Brazil in our Ayu, gently bringing it up throughout the process to ease things along.

There are, in fact, many more details I could give about how we roast and blend this coffee. The point is, every little aspect is considered and deliberately chosen, all with one end goal in mind: a lovely, delicious, easy-to-enjoy cup of coffee.

Brewing

The Ayu is designed for espresso. It’s a forgiving coffee, and will perform just fine in your drip machine, french press, or pour-over. But its best chance to shine is in an espresso machine.

At our Amsterdam store, we use a double basket packed with about 17.5 grams of coffee, brewed for 25-28 seconds using water at 91 degrees for a resulting double-shot clocking in around 45 ml of liquid gold. 

However, we’ve designed this coffee to be pretty forgiving. You shouldn’t have to throw out half your shots just because you were off by a few seconds or grams. We definitely encourage people to relax and play around with this coffee, and we’re confident you’ll get a great shot no matter what your set-up is.

A side note regarding the water temperature: Please note that Amsterdam has particularly “hard” water, meaning that the mineral content is relatively high. This is no problem, and can give you awesome coffee, but it’s best to keep the extraction temperature relatively low to avoid over-extraction. If you live in the Netherlands or another place with similar water, you can try the Ayu around 90-91 degrees.

Where I come from in Seattle, USA, our water comes straight down from the melting snowpacks of the Cascade Mountains each year. It’s very soft, meaning it’s crystal clear and has very low minerals. That might sound nice (and it is!), but the problem is that the lack of charged ions in the water means much of the flavor in the coffee is not extracted unless you really crank up the heat! I know some excellent cafes in Seattle that extract their espresso at temperatures as high as 98 degrees. 

Feel free to play around with this coffee. We designed it to be friendly. 

So we hope you have a chance to come visit our cafe and roastery in Amsterdam where we’d be happy to make you a drink with the Ayu, and sit and talk coffee. But if you can’t make it today, we’re proud to offer you something just as nice: a cup of our “Beautiful” blend  in the comfort of your own home.

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