Old Style and New: Coffees of Java and Bali

Merapi volcano in Central Java, Indonesia.

Java and Bali are familiar names in the atlas of legend and imagination: Java mainly because of an historical association with coffee so powerful that it lent coffee one of its nicknames, and Bali for reasons that have little to do with coffee, but with the famous beauty of the island and its people and culture. Today, both islands produce coffees of charm and interest, and this month we report on a small but impressive selection.

To say Java has a long history in coffee would be an understatement. After the colonial Dutch established Arabica coffee as a money-making crop on Java around 1700, the island, together with Yemen, supplied all of the coffee consumed in the world for the next 30 years. Thereafter, Java had to share the world coffee stage with a succession of other coffee origins, but retained enough of its … Read more

Coffee Brew Bags: Convenient, But How Good Are They?

Simon Hsieh’s Bull Demon King is a darker-roasted blend that works well as a steepable brew bag. Courtesy of Simon Hsieh.


Among the many paradoxes in the wide world of coffee, one ongoing question regards ritual versus convenience. Some people like the slow, meditative pour-over brewing method, and others prefer to pre-program a batch brew and have it waiting for them when they wake up. And then there are the times when you don’t have a lot of options — camping, air travel, hotel stays — when just about any coffee tastes good if it’s hot and caffeinated. Recent years have seen an increase in the quality of specialty instant coffee, but let’s face it, it still doesn’t replicate the experience of freshly ground whole-bean.

Kakalove Cafe uses brew bags at the cupping table to assess new green coffees. Courtesy of Kakalove

The new kid on the block is … Read more

Fresh Fruit or “Juicy Fruit”? Tasting 90 Anaerobic-Processed Coffees

Edwin Noreña checks on his Double Carbonic Galaxy Hops Geisha at Finca Campo Hermoso in Colombia. Courtesy of Barrington Coffee Roasting Co.


Of all of the innovations challenging traditional expectations in specialty coffee today, the use of anaerobic (limited oxygen) fermentation to alter and intensify the character of the cup is perhaps the most striking. Anaerobic-fermented coffees that explicitly and successfully express this method tend to be intense and almost shockingly floral and fruit-toned, with the flowers often boosted by a candyish sweetness and surprising spice and herb notes.

Many in the specialty coffee world love them for their sheer difference from ordinary coffees, for the audacity of their soaring flowers and seduction of their sweetness. A few find their profiles too over-the-top, their floral notes perhaps less like fresh bouquets and more like eau-de-cologne, their fruit more Juicy Fruit gum than fresh fruit. Many in the coffee world … Read more

Warm Your Bones With 10 Ski Country Coffees

Snow blankets the landscape in Hamilton, Montana. Courtesy of Big Creek Coffee Roasters.

While the sun is finally peeking through the clouds in our home base of Berkeley, California, much of the U.S. is still blanketed in snow. If you’re trying to dig out of your driveway to go to work, that’s a bummer, but if you’re getting ready to hit the slopes, you’re in your happy place. Either way, you’re going to need coffee, and we’ve found 10 ski country coffees to recommend you get your gloved hands on. Why drink the generic brew that’s served at most ski lodges? You deserve better. These thoughtful roasters from popular ski areas in Vermont, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, Utah and California have got you covered.

We sampled a range of coffee types, from unique house blends to classic single origins. Perhaps not surprisingly, the single origins rose to the top of … Read more

2023 Preview: Coffee Trends, Controversies and Change

What is trending in the specialty coffee world for 2023? What will be 2023’s major controversies or issues? Which origin countries or regions should Coffee Review look in on? Every December brings a round of often intense debate and speculation as we at Coffee Review exchange emails and bang heads trying to come up with topics for the following year’s 10 tasting reports.

For these reports, we test anywhere from 30 to 100 coffees that relate to the report topic. Based on our tasting, descriptions and ratings, we choose 10 or more coffees that we review in detail, and that provide the descriptive backbone for each report.

Here are our report topics for 2023, many chosen with particular focus on what we see as specialty coffee trends in the coming year.

February 2023: Coffees from Roasters in Ski Country

We start the year with a seasonal report by having a … Read more