Roast Review: Critical Mass Coffee
Dec 12, 2023Daniel Kennedy

Roast Review: Critical Mass Coffee

Blog by: Sheila Murray

I feel inspired when I come across coffee roasters that are committed to quality coffee, sustainability practices, and giving back. Critical Mass Coffee hits on all the pieces of this trifecta. I was impressed to read that they specifically work with farmers that prioritize environmentally friendly methods, and to see the list of organizations they support. Their branding made me feel like they had gone to great lengths to get their roasted coffee just right, so I had to test it for myself and see!

As you’ll see, I was joined by some good friends and coffee tasting assistants. Sharing coffee among friends is one of my favorite ways to connect. It’s fun to hear how different people perceive different smells and tastes. 

Dynamic blend 

First impressions

James opened up the bag of coffee and inhaled the aroma of the freshly roasted beans. After a pause he told us he noted vanilla and some sort of fruit. He passed the bag over to Sean.

Sean smelled the beans a few times, taking time to consider. I showed him a coffee tasting wheel, to see if he could relate to any of the listed descriptions. While Sean considered, Lauren, the only non-coffee drinker in the group, smelled the beans. She said she smelled coffee, which made us all laugh.

“Hmm,” Sean said, “I’m getting something nutty and fruity. I think it could be almond but it feels crazy to get that specific!”

I smelled the coffee next, and for me it was reminiscent of a red fruit. There was something grounding and earthy in there too, but it wasn’t too darkly roasted. I handed the bag over to Kristina, who said she sensed nuts, cranberry, and cherry. 

It was time to taste the coffee! We used our Cuppamoka and made two pour-over coffees to share between the four of us for this taste test, knowing we would surely make more later.

Tasting notes

My first impression of the tasting notes was a sense of honey as well as sweet fruit. There was a tiny amount of acid, which brought out more of the flavors. It seemed like there might even be something airy or citrusy about it. I was so curious what the others were tasting.

“This is light and pleasant,” Kristina said, “and there is a nice mouthfeel!” It was true, the coffee had a medium to light body that made for a delightful drinking experience. 

James said that the nutty flavor he had smelled was more pronounced now and that it was more sweet than bitter.

Sean agreed that it wasn’t bitter and enjoyed the light and smooth taste. He said something seemed a little sour too, which might be citrus or just the experience of the acid.

 Lauren took the smallest sip of coffee humanly possible and told us she experienced quite a “kick” of caffeine!

The reveal

Critical Mass said this coffee has notes of orange, cherry, chocolate, and subtle nutty undertones. I’ll point you to the website to see the full breakdown they offer.

We agree that this would be the perfect coffee after a sunrise beach swim or after a lunch shared among friends.

Lady Bird Bali

First impressions

I instantly loved the name of this coffee, so I was eager to try it! I opened the bag and shook the beans around to release the fresh aroma. It smelled wildly delicious, sweet, and earthy.

I handed the bag to my sister, who put her nose toward the bag and inhaled.

“There is some distinct smell like paprika, popcorn, or toasted marshmallow,” Erin shared. I thought those guesses were fascinating and exactly why I love trying coffee with new people - everyone experiences something different!

James smelled the beans next and said it was so different from the one the day before (Dynamic Blend) and that there was some spice like nutmeg. I agreed that there was some earthy spice but couldn’t place exactly what it was… it was similar to oregano!

We were curious what Lady Bird would offer as tasting notes for espresso.  I prepared the Exagram, Exagrind, and Picopresso. James started boiling the water. We used the Picopresso to make 3 perfect Lady Bird espressos, topped with delicate crema.

Tasting notes

I took a sip of my espresso and was delighted by the honey-like sense on the tip of my tongue. I also noted sweet fruit and barely-there acidity.

“Hmmm,” Erin said as she took a sip and smacked her lips together, “More nutty, hazelnut, toasted sesame.” She remarked at how exceptionally smooth the espresso was, not bitter at all. 

She went on to say that it was a woodsy-type coffee, painting the picture of sipping it while in the forest, just after rain, and there being frogs. I absolutely loved this vision!

“Delicious!” James finally said. He noted that it was sweet at the beginning and morphed into lemons or some other citrus at the back of the tongue.

The reveal

Okay, I love this one! In their words: “Enjoy the delightful flavor notes of chocolate, vanilla, and cedar, as they intertwine to create a sweet and intricately layered experience.”

Erin was spot on with the “woodsy” piece. I couldn’t recommend this Lady Bird enough, especially for the adventurous coffee drinkers. 

Don’t forget to head to the Critical Mass website and take their coffee quiz! This was my first time seeing something like this offered and it was fun to see my personalized results.

Dec 12, 2023 Daniel Kennedy