“Cinnamongate”: The Intriguing Science Behind El Diamante’s Aroma

“Cinnamongate”: The Intriguing Science Behind El Diamante’s Aroma

El Diamante is one of our most exceptional coffee varieties. This coffee first made its grand appearance on the World Brewer’s Cup stage in 2016, marking a significant milestone for Keen Coffee. The sensation that made El Diamante stand out was its compelling and potent cinnamon-like aroma and taste, which intrigued coffee connoisseurs worldwide.

cinnamon coffee specialty coffee el diamante

Image: Esteban at Danilo’s farm

This unique trait, however, stirred a series of questions within the coffee community. The way that the coffee’s producer, Esteban Villalobos, could cultivate such distinctive flavour notes through his anaerobic fermentation process remained a mystery. So, how did Esteban manage to bring out cinnamon, apple, and pastry-like notes? 

cinnamon coffee specialty coffee el diamante

Image: Rob and Bonne with Esteban and his fermentation tank

A key element to note is that Villalobos does not incorporate any additives into the fermentation process. Despite this, there were still speculations that cinnamon additives could have contributed to El Diamante’s unique flavour profile.

Driven by curiosity and the pursuit of truth, we decided to delve deeper into this enigma. We trusted Dr. Samo Smrke, a wonderful chemist and coffee scientist, who conducted an explorative research to scrutinise the claims. The objective was simple: to determine if there were any traces of cinnamon in our El Diamante coffee. Dr. Smrke meticulously examined the green and roasted coffee beans, and then performed a gas chromatography-olfactometry (GC-O) analysis to detect potential cinnamaldehyde, a chemical compound characteristic of cinnamon. If cinnamon sticks were indeed added to the fermentation tank, traces of cinnamaldehyde should be detectable.

To our surprise, the results showed no trace of cinnamaldehyde. We further tested for eugenol, another compound found in cinnamon, yet again, the results came back negative.

What was even more fascinating, however, was the fact that even without any tangible presence of cinnamon, we perceived cinnamon-like notes in the coffee. Instead, we found other flavours, such as apple pie and cinnamon bun. This brought up an interesting question: how does our brain interpret the complex flavours in coffee?

Dr. Fabiana Carvalho, a notable neuroscientist, provides a fascinating explanation: our brain is excellent at recognizing and interpreting sensory experiences based on our past experiences. When the bag of coffee is labelled with ‘cinnamon’, our brain tries to match the flavour to our internal model of what cinnamon should taste like, even if the actual spice isn’t present.

However, this model can accept only so much variance. Once we compare the coffee’s taste with actual cinnamon, our brain can’t reconcile the difference. But when we describe the coffee’s flavour as ‘apple pie’ or ‘cinnamon bun’—flavours commonly associated with cinnamon—our brain comfortably accepts the ‘cinnamon’ descriptor.

cinnamon coffee specialty coffee el diamante

Image: Danilo’s farm in Costa Rica

In conclusion, the cinnamon-y notes of El Diamante coffee aren’t a result of cinnamon additives but rather a fascinating interplay of unique flavour compounds and our brain’s recognition capabilities. This mystery solved gives us an even greater appreciation for this extraordinary coffee, and shows us that the world of coffee is full of intricacies waiting to be discovered.

Read more about Samo Smrke’s projects: https://www.zhaw.ch/en/about-us/person/smrk/

cinnamon coffee specialty coffee el diamante
cinnamon coffee specialty coffee el diamante

Click on the images to see Esteban’s coffees in our shop!

Exploring the Art of Coffee Tasting: A Journey Through Flavours and Aromas

Exploring the Art of Coffee Tasting: A Journey Through Flavours and Aromas

A coffee tasting is very different from the typical coffee drinking experience. You taste to learn about the coffee, to describe the entire sensory experience that you have when you sip and smell it. We think it’s nice to taste with other people to share your experience and learn from each other.

So, how do you get the most out of a coffee tasting? We’ve got five tips for you (including cupping instructions):

Visit open cuppings
A cupping is a very specific type of coffee tasting, and usually they’re held by roasteries and coffee bars. By going to open cuppings, you can learn about coffee from the people who know most about it. Follow your favorite roasteries and bars on social media to learn about events near you, or visit Mindful Coffee Tasting Experience at the Amsterdam Coffee Festival!

Compare different coffees.
It’s hard to assess a coffee on its own. Comparing multiple coffees to each other is much easier, and more fun! Try them all, then list the differences you notice. Is one more acidic? Is another more floral? Maybe two of them are chocolatey, but one slightly more chocolatey than the other! Comparison is the fastest way to learn how to describe different coffees.

Beware of outside influence!
Your environment has a huge influence on your taste experience: smells, colours, sounds, and the opinions of the people around you will affect your perception of the coffees you’re trying. If your neighbor is raving enthusiastically about the banana flavour notes in her coffee, chances are her words will influence your taste buds! So, if you’re tasting with others, try to do it quietly. Write down your thoughts, then share your experiences after you’re all done tasting.

Use our flavour wheel

Do a cupping at home
What you will need:
Filtered Water – Kettle – Selection of Fresh Keen Coffees – Scale (0.01 gram increments) – Grinder – Timer – Cupping bowls or cups of the same size (2 per coffee) – Cupping spoons – Glasses filled with water (1 per taster) – Spitting cups – Cupping forms – Pens – Napkins – Coffee lovers


  1. Measure the whole beans into cups. Keep track of which is which by assigning a number to each coffee and tagging each cup with the corresponding number (use a sticky note, or a bit of tape).
  2. Use two cups per coffee being evaluated, and use the ratio of 55 grams of coffee per 1 litre of water.
  3. Start your water kettle and bring it to a boil (95 degrees celsius).
  4. Grind each cup individually by emptying the beans from your tasting cup into the grinder, grind all of the coffee at a coarse setting, and then put the grinds back into the tasting cup.
  5. Always cleanse the grinder before each new batch by grinding a small amount of the next batch of beans and then discarding those grinds.
  6. Use the time before the kettle has boiled and after the coffee is ground, to smell and evaluate the coffee from each sample.
  7. When the water is boiled, remove it from the heat. You want it to be 95 degrees celsius when you pour.
  8. Pour the water into your cups in the order that you ground the coffees (the oldest grind gets water first.)
  9. Pour slowly, making sure all the coffee grounds are saturated – try to avoid any dry clumps on the top of the coffee.
  10. Start your 4 minute timer.
  11. Smell the coffee and note the aromas.
  12. After the 4 minutes is up, get your face close to the cup, take your cupping spoon and puncture the ground crust while breathing in the aromatics that waft up. This is called ‘breaking the crust, and it’s awesome!
  13. Gently scoop the crust out of the cups with 2 cupping spoons.
  14. Rinse off your spoons and repeat the process with each coffee.
  15. Begin tasting the coffees (about 10 minutes after you started the timer), by taking a spoonful at a time and “slurping” it into your mouth.
  16. Rinse your spoons (in the water-filled glasses) between each cup. The goal is to avoid cross-contamination of the samples.
  17. Move around the table, sampling every cup. Evaluate each coffee, noting the flavour, aroma, acidity, body, balance, and after taste on your cupping form.
  18. It is totally ok to spit out your slurps of coffee as you go so as not to get over caffeinated, that’s what the spitting cups are for!
  19. Once you’ve tasted each coffee, and finished taking notes, reveal the names of the coffees that you’ve tried.
  20. Does your evaluation match the description of the coffee on the bag? Did any of the coffees surprise you? How did your experience match up with the other tasters?
  21. Share your experience with #keenoncoffee
Unlocking the Flavour Journey: Exploring Coffee Processing Methods

Unlocking the Flavour Journey: Exploring Coffee Processing Methods

Coffee processing plays a crucial role in determining the flavour profile and characteristics of the coffee we enjoy in our cups. From the moment coffee cherries are harvested, farmers employ various processing methods to transform the raw fruit into the beans we grind and brew. With constant innovation and experimentation, coffee producers strive to enhance the quality and uniqueness of their coffees. In this article, we will explore the three main coffee processing methods and delve into how they influence the final cup of coffee.

Natural or Unwashed Coffees

Also known as the dry process, natural coffee processing is characterised by its simplicity and minimal intervention. During this method, the coffee cherries are left intact, and the beans undergo a drying and fermentation process within their skin and mucilage (fruit pulp). This natural fermentation takes place under controlled conditions for a period of 25 to 35 days, depending on the climate. Once the beans have dried, the pulp and skin are removed through a process called dry milling.

Natural coffees often exhibit inconsistencies due to the higher risk of mold development during the extended drying period. Each bean possesses its own unique levels of sugars and alcohols, which can affect the overall uniformity of the cup. However, when properly handled, natural processing imparts a distinct and complex flavor profile to the coffee, often characterised by fruity and vibrant notes.

Wet Process or Washed Coffees

The traditional wet process begins when fully ripe coffee cherries arrive at the mill. The cherries’ skin is mechanically removed using a depulper, separating the beans from the fruit. Following depulping, the beans undergo fermentation in clean tanks to remove the remaining mucilage (sugars). This fermentation period typically lasts between 12 to 48 hours. Once fermentation is complete, the beans are thoroughly washed to eliminate any remaining traces of mucilage.

Various methods can be employed to dry the washed coffee beans, such as patio drying, raised bed drying (African method), or mechanical drying. A dry climate is essential for producing high-quality washed coffees. The washed process yields a clean and transparent cup, characterised by a bright acidity and liveliness. These coffees are often cherished by coffee enthusiasts for their pronounced flavour clarity.

Honey Processed or Honey Coffees

The honey process is a unique and relatively newer method that involves the removal of the skin and pulp from the coffee cherries, while retaining some or all of the mucilage (sugars). After depulping, the beans are dried rapidly for a shorter period, typically around 10 to 15 days. During this drying phase, the beans must be regularly agitated to prevent the growth of mold.

Honey coffees can exhibit different levels of coloured parchment during the drying process, often categorised as yellow, red, and black. The darkness of the parchment corresponds to the remaining mucilage content and imparts complexity to the resulting cup of coffee. Honey coffees strike a balance between the body and sweetness of natural coffees and the acidity found in washed coffees, offering a unique sensory experience for coffee enthusiasts.