I’ve done it! I’ve found the current heavyweight of specialty decaf coffee.
Wisdom grows with options: the more you have to compare, the pickier you get. It’s why I would hesitate to buy yet another cherry red jacket when I already have two in my closet. It’s why I skim past the proverbial flood of cereal boxes for my tried-and-true Honey Bunches Of Oats (at least, the generic version). While I’ve had a lot of coffee in my life, ordering freshly roasted specialty bags is still a newer reality for me. Good decaf coffee is known, sure, but not on the level I would’ve liked.
I’m coming up on five bags now and I can safely say, without a doubt, I’ve found a real winner. If you’re new to this series, I review decaf coffee in all its beautiful complexity: flavor notes, brewing methods, packaging, you name it! If you’re too busy for a five-minute read, check out my Final Verdict at the bottom summarizing my thoughts. You can find my previous decaf coffee reviews on Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion and Partners Coffee Roasters’ Ghost Town.
Let’s get started on why the Decaf Kuichi is my current favorite:
It’s a little tough describing my ideal cup of coffee, when there are just so many I adore.
So far I lean toward medium roasts and robust flavor notes. The more punch, the better! I mean it, though, when I say I’m very open-minded. If the coffee’s light with a floral, tea-like aftertaste, I’m good! If it’s darker with some savory notes, fantastic. All I know for sure is it needs to be distinct. I just don’t see the point in purchasing specialty coffee if it’s just going to stop at ‘coffee’, you know? All the more reason I was so chuffed with this bag.
The Decaf Kuichi is a Colombian blend from Nariño. It’s made from the Castillo variety, is grown at a 1,700-1,800 elevation and uses sugarcane to decaffeinate the green beans before roasting. I will fully admit I had no idea there was a sugarcane decaffeination method. Science is crazy.
Counter Culture Coffee holds the distinction of being the first roaster I’ve reviewed in this series. They’ve been in the business for over twenty-five years and hail from California, providing both freshly roasted coffee and coffee education. I got my Decaf Kuichi bag freshly roasted (a mere few days prior) and could smell the difference.
This bag pops just a little more than Slow Motion with a splash of orange on the purple. It automatically gives me Halloween vibes, though I can’t help but be reminded of a heavy winter sunset, too. Like the rest of their line-up, they go for poppy colors and soft gradients. Just like Slow Motion, the little extra touch above the title helps to fill out the space without drawing attention away from the focal point. All in all, it’s lovely to look at.
The bag greets you with a stark scent of molasses, much more noticeable than Slow Motion, and just a touch of date. It’s when you grind the beans, however, you’re all but flooded with the black cherry. It’s a rich and particular scent that very nearly bowled me over. This roaster is going to go down in history in this series for having the most spectacular aromas. Whatever these guys do, they know how to do it.
I like to try good decaf coffee straight to start with. No frills, no fluff: just me and the brew figuring each other out.
I always start off with my French Press since it has a stronger body and a little more flavor than the pourover. That said, I’ve been picking up some new brewing methods thanks to the Perfect Daily Grind’s recent post on pourover techniques. They cover how long you should bloom (I’ve been doing it far too short) as well as how to pour the water or agitate your grounds. It’s illuminating stuff.
The Decaf Kuichi is a medium roast, leaning toward the lighter side at 76. The beans look beautifully oily, though that isn’t at all reflected in the thick-yet-smooth body. …Can I also say how confusing it is that the roast profile system goes 0 for darkest and 100 for lightest? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I mean, roasting beans darker is more work, so you think that’d be more points.
…Anyway. How does it taste?
Delicious. This coffee is delicious.
Black cherry is the dominant fruity flavor using the French Press, followed closely by the unique date, while the pourover flips it the other way around. Either way, this coffee is robust, tart and just bursting with flavor. The kind you can very easily drink straight, bearing little of the bitterness that can turn some off to the brew entirely. The medium roast forever remains a happy balance between taste and body, with the Decaf Kuichi leaning lighter at 76.
The molasses becomes a touch more pronounced when you add a little milk, as the creaminess softens the tartness and allows the more syrupy flavor to take center stage. Unlike Slow Motion, the molasses lingers more on the tongue than the fruitier notes do. If you don’t feel you’re getting the full range? Check out that pourover piece I linked above, double-check you’re using filtered water and make sure not to use boiling water.
I’m one happy camper. Slow Motion was a great introduction, but Decaf Kuichi is the showstopper.
I’m buying this coffee again. Point blank.
Delighting with fruity, tart and syrupy notes, this is a medley of flavor you’ll want to revisit before the bag’s even empty. The aroma is nearly as strong as Slow Motion and the mouthfeel is consistently thick. It tastes just as good in the pourover as it does the French Press (I can only imagine how delicious it’d be as espresso), and is great plain or with a little milk. The freshness of this roast also contributed to the experience, so make sure to buy directly from the roaster next time your cravings kick in.
No matter what kind of flavors or roast profile you prefer, Decaf Kuichi has enough strong points to make nearly any coffee lover happy. This isn’t just good decaf coffee: it’s great.
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