I wasn’t sure if I’d write this review. In fact, I had completely scrapped it. In the introduction / mission statement of this website I said it was the intention of this site to draw intention to what we thought was great, not to criticise what we didn’t like. At a certain point though, if everything is positive, there is no context and it becomes one big generic advertisement for coffee. We didn’t seek out some coffee so we could break our negativity cherry; there are far more obvious targets for that. Instead we ambled down to the M&D stall in Georges Arcade fully ready to buy some nice fresh coffee beans, make a few cups of this and that, and start singing the praises. Reality got in the way though.
M&D (Moynihan & Dent) operate a stall in the funky Georges St Arcade. They sell a veritable plethora of
beans and teas, and have probably the best selection of Moka pots and other quirky little brewers in Dublin. They also have a stall in the Farmer’s Market in Howth on a Sunday (and possibly elsewhere on other days). We wandered in anyway, and asked for a suggestion of something that would work well for espresso. The Cuban blend, which to me is one of the darkest, oilest roast I’ve ever seen, was not something I was eager to put in my grinder (the oil would linger imparting flavour on subsequent coffee). So the Java blend was suggested. I asked when it was roasted, and was told 4 days ago. Great I thought.
The beans, residing in big bins, were weighed and transferred to a plastic bag which was sealed. The bag had no valves, so I was slightly concerned that if it was 4 days post roast, the beans might still be degassing, and could cause a problem. Not the prettiest of containers, but functional. The sticker on the bag describes the blend as “A strong, dark roast coffee with an earthy flavour, lovely in the morning!”. The word Java has maybe lost its meaning in recent times and has merely become a synonym of coffee, or worse still a computer programming language. This Java, however, refers to the Indonesian island from which the coffee originates.
Normally we’d dial in the grinder and make a double espresso and a latté, but we didn’t get as far as the latté this time. On first inspection the espresso looked good; the colour was dark with some mottling. On closer inspection though, the crema was very bubbly, big bubbles instead of the expected microbubbles, and it seemed very thin for a coffee roasted only 4 days previously. Something was awry. To describe the taste as “rough” would be generous. The overriding flavour characteristic was earthiness (as promised), the body was thin, we debated whether there was a hint of sweetness and some brighter notes in the background, but we struggled hard. The thought crossed my mind that I’d been slipped a bag of robusta surreptitiously. We didn’t bother with a latté, and we didn’t finish the espresso. Instead we thought, maybe this really should be filter only, and we got the vac-pot out of the press to test this hypothesis.
Oh how I love my vac-pot, except when it clogs, which is frequent enough. On this day though, it behaved itself. Vac-pots (also known as siphon coffee makers) fall into the broader category of devices for making filter coffee, which includes press-pots, drip filters, and others. The basic principle is that you have two bowls separated by a filter. A long tube from the top bowl penetrates towards the end of the bottom bowl. In the top bowl you place the ground coffee, in the bottom bowl the water. Then you apply heat. As the water heats in the bottom bowl, the increasing gas pressure forces the now hot water up into the top bowl. You keep the heat on for a couple of minutes to brew the coffee, and then remove the heat. As the bottom bowl cools the gases contract creating a vacuum. This vacuum draws the coffee through the filter leaving the grinds in the top bowl and beautifully smooth tasty coffee in the bottom.
At least that’s the theory. No matter what you’re brewing with you can’t improve the bean you start with. As a filter coffee M&D Java seemed somewhat more suited. Still though, it wasn’t great. It all tasted a bit flat, apart from the aforementioned earthiness. In fairness to them, they say on the front of the bag that it’s “earthy”. It’s earthy at the expense of nearly everything else though. Some people like Marmite, so maybe I can appreciate the possibility that this is to someone’s taste, but neither of us liked it. If you had told me someone put some soil in the end of my cup, I might have believed you, and that’s where I’ll finish flogging these beans to death.
Perhaps it is unfortunate that this is the first coffee from M&D we have chosen to review. I don’t want this review to paint them in a bad light; I think they do some interesting coffees. The Cuban coffee I mentioned before, I have had previously, and I’ve seen merit in it. It’s roasted to the point where the roast flavour is very prominent, but there are some cool funky flavours lurking in there too (you just might have to clean your grinder when you’re finished). We’ll endeavour to look at another M&D bean sooner rather than later and see if we have some kinder impressions to offer.