Roast Review: Northbound Coffee
Sep 01, 2023Daniel Kennedy

Roast Review: Northbound Coffee

Blog by: Sheila Murray

What initially caught my eye about Northbound Coffee is their unique and beautiful location! Northbound’s coffee is roasted at the base of the Mount Shasta volcano in California! If you don’t already know it, I encourage you to look up photos ASAP, so you know just how magical this place is. As I looked into this company deeper I learned about their intentional and “ritualized process” of sourcing and roasting beans. This is no ordinary coffee roasting company - there is clearly a tremendous amount of heart within each small batch. With over 10 years of coffee roasting experience and a commitment to outstanding quality, my expectations were high! Read on to hear how it went tasting a sample of their coffee and espresso. 

Ethiopia Duromina Agaro Gera

It was a rainy morning on the East Coast, and I drove up to a family gathering just as the morning fog was lifting off the pavement. I thought of the Boston Marathon runners, 60 miles south, that were gearing up for their big race and hoped that the cool rain would be welcome during their athletic pursuit. On the other hand, my only goal for the morning was to sip coffee with family and friends! For this coffee tasting I was joined by James, Parker, Martin, and Holly. Sharing with four other people offered a wider range of perspectives on the tasting notes, which is always fun!

First impressions

James thoughtfully opened the bag of beans and poured a handful into a glass bowl. I pushed the glass bowl to the other side of the counter, so we could all take turns smelling the beans and sharing the notes we noticed. James inhaled the aroma from the bag and considered for a moment.

“Ah,” he said, “I’m getting toasted nuts from this one. There is also something earthy coming through that I can’t quite put my finger on.”

Holly smelled the beans and shared that she was getting something “nutty.” I showed her a coffee tasting wheel and, after looking around the wheel, she said she was specifically experiencing a peanut aroma!

Martin said that it smelled delicious and that it was more of a chocolatey smell. Parker agreed with the chocolate but added that there was something citrusy about it too.

I was so curious about all these different answers and wondered how experiences might change once we were actually drinking the coffee. For me the beans were actually quite fruity, light, and airy.

I ground the beans and poured the grounds into our Cuppamoka, sharing with everyone along the way how easy it was to use it when we were on the go. Standing in a kitchen it can be easy to forget how challenging it is to brew quality coffee when you are traveling, camping, hiking, etc. They were especially impressed with how light and compact the Cuppamoka is!

Tasting notes

I set the ground rule that no one was permitted to add anything (milk, sugar, etc.) before tasting the coffee and sharing their experience! This helps to preserve the authenticity of the flavors and is why I almost always drink my coffee black. Once everyone understood their mission, we did a coffee mug cheers and each took a sip. 

Martin, who had taken a coffee cupping class in the past said, “I think you’re supposed to slurp the coffee.” None of us fact checked but we tried slurping just for kicks. Martin added that he tasted brown spice and something sweet!

I shared that it was acidic in a good way for me and that it was delightfully fruity. I noted that it was also light and airy, reminiscent of the tea-like coffees I had tried in the past. James agreed on the fruit. He specifically tasted a fruity finish along with orange and toasted spice. He said that there was a certain “zest” to it!

Parker and Holly talked about how it was different than they had imagined from just the smell. Holly, who smelled peanut originally, now recognized notes of citrus and apple. Parker said that there was something a bit smokey and earthy to it.

To say the least we were very eager to see how Northbound described the coffee!

The reveal

Northbound says that this coffee has notes of stonefruit, citrus, jasmine. You must read the full description of its origin to get the full, fascinating origin story!

American Beauty (Seasonal Espresso)

James and I tasted this next coffee on a sunny morning on the seacoast of New Hampshire, after a nice long trail run! 

First impressions

I opened the bag and handed it to James, who would be grinding the beans using our Exagrind. He inhaled from the open bag and exclaimed how good it smelled! He then smelled the beans twice more before sharing that he noted nutmeg, chocolate, and another spice he couldn’t quite name. 

“Hmm,” I said as I considered, “it’s dark but also bright!” I could sense caramel, chocolate, earthiness, and brown sugar. 

While James prepared two perfect espressos using the Picopresso, I decided to make our experience extra fancy by preheating our mugs with warm water. Once he was ready to brew the espressos, I poured out the water and he refilled it with the beautiful caramel liquid. 

Tasting notes

I took a sip and said, “Wow! It’s so smooth and creamy.” I felt like I could drink this on its own any day, more so than the average espresso. I experienced notes that were soft and chocolatey and the more I sipped the more I tasted sweet honey and fruit.

James had just finished preparing his espresso and took a sip. He remarked on the notes of milk chocolate, lemon, orange peel, and coriander. Like me, James said that he was impressed with how drinkable the espresso was. It could easily become a staple in any coffee-lover's kitchen!

The reveal

Northbound says that this is a creamy espresso with notes of cocoa, almond, and pit fruits. They also describe it as a “classic, beautiful jam of a blend,” and I couldn’t agree more! This can be enjoyed as an espresso as well as a coffee. 

Sep 01, 2023 Daniel Kennedy