An In-Depth Take a look at the Prime 30 Coffees of 2019


Espresso Evaluate’s listing of the Prime 30 Coffees of 2019 represents our seventh annual rating of essentially the most thrilling coffees we examined over the course of the 12 months. This annual effort helps our mission of serving to shoppers establish and buy superior high quality coffees and, within the course of, serving to drive demand and improve costs to reward farmers and roasters who make investments time, ardour and capital in producing high-quality espresso. The Prime 30 celebrates and promotes espresso roasters, farmers, mill operators, importers, and different espresso business professionals who make an additional effort to supply coffees that aren’t solely excellent in high quality but additionally distinctive in character.

Rigoberto Herrera, co-owner of the Cafe Granja la Esperanza farm in Colombia.

Rigoberto Herrera (background), co-owner of the Cafe Granja la Esperanza farm in Colombia, grower of No. 12 modcup espresso. Courtesy of Jefferson Jimenez, modcup.

In 2019, we tasted greater than 1,300 espresso samples and printed greater than 300 critiques. The critiques centered totally on the highest-rated coffees, that are of most curiosity to our readers. This 12 months, round 23% of the greater than 1,300 coffees we examined scored 90 factors or greater, and over 100 of them, a powerful 8% of the whole, rated 94 or greater, a tribute to the ever-intensifying innovation and dedication of the world’s main espresso producers and roasters.

Nonetheless, you will need to remind our frequent readers, that the coffees that seem within the critiques on our web site symbolize the tip of the iceberg by way of distinction and high quality. Keep in mind that we cup blind; we decide scores and foremost descriptors for a espresso earlier than we be taught the place it got here from and who roasted it. For these interested by how we conduct our testing and ranking processes at Espresso Evaluate, see How Espresso Evaluate Works. For what scores imply in respect to the wide selection of espresso types and qualities, see Deciphering Evaluations.

Nonetheless, regardless of our efforts to make our scores constant and significant, numbers taken alone have limitations. It’s possible you’ll effectively like a lower-rated espresso that matches your style preferences greater than a higher-scoring espresso that isn’t your type. We do our greatest to characterize a espresso’s character within the “Blind Evaluation” paragraph of our critiques and much more succinctly within the “Backside Line” paragraph that concludes every evaluate.

Exhausting Decisions: Narrowing Down the Record

Amavida Coffee's Martin Trejo, roaster of No. 21 Espresso Mandarina

Amavida Espresso’s Martin Trejo, roaster of No. 21 Espresso Mandarina. Courtesy Aleighsa Wright, Wright Media PC.

The entire coffees that rated 94 factors or greater in 2019 are worthy of celebrating, as are the distinctive coffees that hovered simply behind them in ranking. Clearly, not the entire greater than 100 coffees incomes 94 factors or extra in 2019 can seem within the Prime 30.  We compelled ourselves to pick the 30 we felt had been essentially the most thrilling and essentially the most worthy of recognition.

As in previous years, we chosen and ranked our Prime 30 coffees and espressos based mostly on high quality (represented by total ranking), worth (mirrored by most reasonably priced value per pound), and consideration of different elements that embody distinctiveness of favor, uniqueness of origin or tree selection, certifications reminiscent of Truthful Commerce and natural, and common rarity.

Prime 30 Statistics

Common Rankings. The typical total ranking of the coffees on the Prime 30 listing for 2019 was out of a potential 100, usually according to previous averages of 94.6 in 2018, 94.9 in 2017, in 2016, and 94.Eight in 2015.

Price per Pound: From Very (Very) Excessive to Cheap. One can’t straight evaluate the worth of Prime 30 coffees from 12 months to 12 months as a result of the combo of coffees varies dramatically.

Tamas and William receive Best Of Panama Award

Tamas Christman and Wilford Lamastus obtain Better of Panama award. Courtesy of Specialty Espresso Affiliation of Panama.

In 2019, the outlier in regard to cost was the Elida Property Geisha Inexperienced-Tip Pure from Dragonfly Espresso Roasters, the No. 1 Espresso of 2019. Not solely was it the primary espresso in Espresso Evaluate’s 22-year historical past to earn 98 factors (see At Lengthy Final, A 98-Level Espresso), this espresso additionally took first place within the 2019 Better of Panama inexperienced espresso competitors and subsequently was auctioned for the then highest value ever paid for a inexperienced espresso: US$1029 per pound. For the handful of high-rolling fans who had the possibility to style this distinctive espresso, Dragonfly Espresso charged an equally distinctive $100.00 per 21-gram pattern, or a whopping $2,187 per pound, for its 98-rated model. The Dragonfly model is bought out, however those that stay concerned with sampling this record-breaking espresso nonetheless can. As we publish this report, two roasters, Willoughby’s Espresso & Tea and Klatch Espresso, are providing their variations of the identical inexperienced espresso on the market. We rated each the Willoughby’s and the Klatch variations at 97, just one level behind the Dragonfly. We selected to not place both the Willoughby’s or the Klatch variations in our Prime 30, nevertheless, to keep away from dominating the listing with three variations of the identical inexperienced espresso.

Excluding average-busting 98-point Dragonfly Elida Geisha, the common value of the remaining 29 coffees on the 2019 listing was a record-setting $71.77 per pound.  The earlier document was a mean value of $53.11 per pound in 2017. The very excessive common value of 2019 was skewed greater by 4 coffees that had been priced at greater than $100 per pound, a fifth espresso that value over $200 per pound, and a sixth that value over $300 per pound.

As in previous years, greater scoring coffees in our 2019 Prime 30 tended to value extra:                

98-point espresso (1) $2,176.87/pound
96- and 97-point coffees (11) $122.18/pound
95-point coffees (8) $48.74/pound
<=94-point coffees (10) $34.75/pound


Nonetheless, one of many choice standards for the Prime 30 coffees is worth, measured by value per pound relative to coffees of comparable high quality. Most of the coffees on our listing are priced according to comparable, although normally much less distinguished, specialty coffees within the market. One third (10) of the coffees on the listing value $25 or much less per pound. Three had been priced at $20 or much less per pound, particularly: No. 25 Kakalove Café (Taiwan), El Salvador Cerro Las Ranas Honey Espresso (94 factors; US $11.76/16 ounces); No. 27 Paradise Roasters, Moonbow Decaf (92 factors; $14.95/12 ounces), and No. 29 Jackrabbit Java, Rwanda Nyarusiza Station (93 factors; $12.00/12 ounces). See our full listing of the Finest Worth Coffees of 2019.

Origins of the Prime 30 Coffees

In every of the seven years that we now have printed our Prime 30 listing, our prime decide has been a single-origin espresso — which means a espresso from a single nation and area (and normally from a single farm or cooperative). Earlier No. 1 coffees had been produced in Hawaii (2018), Yemen (2017), Kenya (2016), Panama (2014 and 2015) and Ethiopia (2013).

With six appearances within the Prime 30, Panama was essentially the most often showing origin in 2019, primarily as a result of presence of 5 excellent coffees of the Geisha selection, together with the highest, 98-rated Dragonfly Elida Property Pure mentioned earlier. Geisha has develop into a specialty of Panama producers within the years since 2004, when the Value Peterson household rediscovered this startling-tasting Ethiopian selection on their Hacienda Esmeralda farm in 2004. Colombia was second with 4 coffees, together with one Geisha. Origins with two coffees every on the listing embody Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Hawaii, Kenya, and Sumatra.

Roasters within the Prime 30

96-point JBC Harimau Tiger Sumatra at No. 7

No. 7 Harimau Tiger Sumatra by JBC Espresso Roasters. Courtesy of JBC Espresso Roasters.

Six roasting corporations positioned two coffees every on this 12 months’s Prime-30 listing: Dragonfly Espresso Roasters (No. 1 and 6); JBC Espresso Roasters (No. 2 and seven); Hen Rock Espresso Roasters (11 and 15); Klatch Espresso Roasting (17 and 24); Paradise Roasters (18 and 27); Kakalove Café, Taiwan (20 and 25). This focus of coffees from sure roasters is definitely not by design. We make a aware effort to extend the quantity and number of roasters that seem within the Prime 30.

The truth is, this 12 months we consciously restricted appearances within the Prime 30 to a most of two coffees per roaster, no matter what number of high-rated coffees that roaster produced. Whereas that will appear to be an arbitrary restrict – and it’s – it’s vital to do not forget that our listing represents our rendering of essentially the most “thrilling” coffees of the 12 months, not essentially the highest-rated. We felt that it wouldn’t be very thrilling (to us or others) if the Prime 30 listing had been an excessive amount of dominated by roasting corporations that produced a very giant variety of extremely rated coffees over the course of the 12 months. As a substitute, we felt readers is likely to be extra enthusiastic about an incredible espresso from a roaster that wasn’t already on the listing, quite than a equally unimaginable espresso from a roaster that already had two on the listing.

That mentioned, Espresso Evaluate has been, from its inception, dedicated to beginning with what we really expertise within the cup, not with product classes or advertising and marketing concerns or vogue. It’s true that we take note of extrinsic elements like worth, rarity and sustainable intentions under consideration once we slim the variety of candidates from over 100 to 30, however in the end, sensory high quality and distinction within the cup, as decided by blind-tasting and as mirrored in ranking, is the entry level for consideration and one of many major elements that influences the place coffees land on the listing.

Roaster Geography

Of the 30 coffees on the listing, 23 had been roasted by corporations in the US, and 4 had been roasted in Taiwan. Roasters from Australia, China and Hong Kong additionally positioned one espresso every within the Prime 30. Roasters from 14 U.S. states are represented — California roasters lead the rankings, with 5 representatives total. Three had been roasted in Hawaii.

Tree Selection and the Prime 30

Heather Brisson-Lutz with Gerry Ross at Kupa’a Farms

Origin Espresso’s Heather Brisson-Lutz with Gerry Ross at Kupa’a Farms, accountable for No. 16 Maui Kupa’a Orange Bourbon. Courtesy of Origin Espresso.

With effectively over half of the Prime 30 coffees, distinctive tree selection seems to play an vital position in producing an distinctive cup worthy of a excessive ranking. There are stars and superstars among the many tons of of sorts of Arabica grown on the earth right now, and coffees from these distinguished varieties often dominate the very highest scores at Espresso Evaluate, whether or not we would like them to or not. They embody the still-rare and costly Geisha/Gesha selection (eight examples on the 2019 listing); the traditional heirloom Bourbon (5), and the good SL28 and SL34 styles of Kenya (three). Additionally on the listing: Mocca, Sudan Rume, Bourbon Pointu, Bourbon Rey, Parainema, Caturra, and Catuai.


Processing Technique and the Prime 30

Front gate at Ninety Plus farm in Panama

Entrance gate at Ninety Plus Geisha Estates, producer of No. 10 Panama Perci Geisha Pure by Willoughby’s Espresso & Tea. Courtesy of Barry Levine.

Processing technique (how the pores and skin and fruit flesh are faraway from the beans and the way they’re dried) additionally appeared to play a big position in qualifying for the Prime 30. On this 12 months’s listing, for instance, of the 25 coffees for which processing technique is clearly recognized, eleven (vs. seven in 2018 and 6 in 2017) had been produced by some type of dry or “pure” processing, which means the beans had been dried contained in the fruit quite than after the fruit has been eliminated, as is the case with wet-processed or “washed” coffees. Till the final 10 years or so, dry-processing was seldom utilized to high-end specialty coffees like those who seem on our Prime 30 listing. This displaying is proof of the persevering with development towards use of different processing strategies as inventive instruments for crafting distinctive cup profiles.

Please get pleasure from our listing of the Prime 30 Coffees of 2019.

All the very best from Espresso Evaluate for a contented and affluent new 12 months, filled with each espresso surprises and the reassurance of the superb and acquainted.


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