Sprudge.com first reported to you in early July about Counter Culture Coffee’s new Espresso Apollo, a seasonally evolving blend quietly introduced into select East Coast cafes (including Philadelphia’s Ultimo Coffee) under the moniker “Espresso X”. Since then, Apollo has begun appearing in exclusive Northeast hot spots, sporting a sleek new bag design and still glowing from New York Times writer Oliver Strand’s recent write-up. Though still not available to order online, Sprudge.com was generously sent a sample of an early-release bag of Espresso Apollo 1.1: 65% Honduras Dulce Nombre de Jesus and 35% Ethiopia ECX Grade 2 Yirgacheffe Sidama.

Here are our thoughts, based on shots pulled over two consecutive nights at two different shops. The following notes are a collaboration featuring group contributions from noted competition baristas, coffee wonks, and a USBC champ.

Using an Anfim Caimano grinder and a 3-group special edition Synesso Cyncra, we dialed in the Apollo with two settings (the Synesso was set at 200 degrees F and pre-infusion was set at 3 bars)

First Setting

18 grams dose

7-second pre-infusion

30 seconds extraction

Volume: 2 oz

This yielded ripe sweet pears, with a chewy taffy caramel layer underneath. Viscous and buttery!

Second Setting

19-gram dose

5-second pre-infusion

27 seconds of total extraction

Volume: 2 oz

Deep red fruits, subtle floral notes, and a silky mouthfeel that kept lasting and lasting.

Big smiles all around!

Probably our most common note was “chewy”, though it should be stressed that we weren’t getting Brazil peanut butter out of it, but instead an entirely different sort of butteriness. Those bright shots we liked strayed towards lime at times, but when dialed in right, tasted like some kind of heavenly prickly pear candy. The red berry shots would layer in and out between sweet and floral.

To break the rules a little bit, we tried Apollo at home on a Bee House pour-over. Cantilevered layers of high and earthy notes, most notably a lush red jamminess in the front of the cup and a prominent body provided by the Yirgacheffe. No sip was the same as the last, with a super silky mouthfeel as the cup cooled. Maybe the biggest surprise of the whole experience, Apollo kills it at home.

Perhaps our biggest test was confirming the claims made by Counter Culture Coffee’s chief poo-bah guru, Peter Giuliano; was Apollo truly “designed to be drunk for its own purpose”, a coffee that just wasn’t made to be consumed with milk? Well…did you ever order that disappearing ink from the back page of Mad Magazine? Apollo does a certifiable disappearing act in cappuccinos. Certain sets would hide just the same way in a cortado, or even a macchiato. We tried macchiatos that tasted like a tiny little glass of warm milk, just slightly sweeter from the high notes of the Apollo. It’s pretty remarkable what even a small amount of milk does to this blend.

Yum! Special thanks from Sprudge Northwest HQ to Ballard’s Equal Exchange Co-Op and the downtown Seattle location of Trabant Coffee, for kindly hosting our Apollo tastings and employing such lovely people. You can read more notes on Apollo over at espressoapollo.com.