All About Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

You know when you’re drinking Ethiopian Yirgacheffe—it’s not like other coffees. To those who never venture beyond Central American roasts, the taste may seem as exotic as it’s origins. We imagine some wise, old sage sitting upon a cliff proclaiming: “Entry to coffee geekdom starts with a cup of Yirgacheffe.”

There’s a reason why Ethiopian Yirgacheffe consistently ranks among the best coffee in the world, and certainly the among the best in Ethiopia itself.

Origin of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee

Yirgacheffe (also spelled Yirgachefe, Yergacheffe, or Yerga Chefe) is a micro-region within the much larger region of Sidama (or Sidomo) in southern Ethiopia. It is widely considered the birthplace of coffee.

ethiopia yirgacheffe

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe has a light to medium body (although they can be full body as well). As is typical with other coffees from this region, it has a distinctively fruity flavor profile and a bright, floral aroma thanks to wet-processed beans cultivated at a high elevation (between 5,800 to 6,600 ft).

FACTOID: Ethiopia is the motherland of all Arabica coffee. When coffee was taken to other countries, people had to find ways to adapt it to the local climate. That’s Arabica coffee grows best in places that have climates similar to that of Ethiopia: mountainous, tropical, with moderate wet and dry seasons. Ethiopian Coffee Buying Manual, USAID, 2011.

What to Look For in a High Quality Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

It’s difficult to generalize the flavor of Ethiopian coffees. Each region has its own unique flavors, which can vary from farm to farm, season to season. Plus, the method of processing (wet vs. dry) and roast level can significantly alter certain highlights even from the same bean. But the high elevation of Ethiopia produces a hard bean, resulting in intense flavors and aromatics.

Top grade Yirgacheffes have a very clean taste and exhibit bright acidity along with complex floral and citrusy notes (generally the washed or wet-processed beans). Dry-processed beans may exhibit slightly nutty or chocolaty qualities, but it tends to be overshadowed by the Yirgacheffe’s robust fruitiness depending on the roast level, and won’t taste as clean as the washed varietals.

Why Wet-Processed Beans Matter

Most people enjoy a quality Yirgacheffe for its floral, fruity, and tea-like finish. These qualities are attributable to wet-processing.

So what is wet processing? As soon as the beans are harvested, and still moist, the coffee cherry is washed off to remove the skin and pulp of the fruit. Then, the beans are soaked in water fermentation tanks for 24-72 hours, then dried. Wet processing results in higher acidity than dry processed methods, which gives Yirgacheffe that “clean” taste.

There’s nothing wrong with naturally (dry) processed Yirgacheffe. It’s a matter of taste. We prefer the washed Yirgacheffe because it has more clarity. Unwashed Yirgacheffe tends to have less acidity and a fuller body that doesn’t taste as “clean” as washed Yirgacheffe.

Brewing Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Whatever the brew method, use fresh-roasted and fresh-ground Yirgacheffe to experience the distinct flavors and aromatics of Yirgacheffe. Its floral and citrus profile make Yirgacheffe ideal for cold brew or iced coffee. And if you’re brewing with hot water, be careful not to over-extract the beans or you might lose some of the more delicate fruity flavors. Yirgacheffe brews great in a chemex with a metal filter to allow more oils to pass through. It’s also great brewed as a French Press.

BPR Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Black Powder

“A bright beginning to the cup, a sweet citrus in the middle, and a clean, dry finish without tartness or any musty aftertaste. The Yirgacheffe region has the best opportunity for our desired flavor profile, but variations from farm to farm requires extensive cuppings each season. We prefer a simple pour-over drip with 9g coffee to 6 oz. water on a City Roast. A close second is a French Press to really drive the flavor with very slow tumbling during the infusion and brew phases.”

** Reposted with permission from  Link **