COFFEE REVIEW: Kicking Horse 454 Horsepower

Saturday, April 30, 2011

ORIGIN: Indonesia

My time spent in Melbourne, Australia has made me not only addicted, but also a whole lot more knowledgeable about what to look for in a good coffee. Having worked at a boutique coffee roaster as a barista, not only have my coffee making skills improved, but my taste in coffee has become refined as well.

My coffee drink of choice is a doppio ristretto. If you're asking yourself "what the heck is that?" you best read my coffee terminology page before continuing on to read this review. Drinking a straight espresso shot gives you the true flavour of the coffee. Milk and sugar are only added to mask the deficiencies in the roasted coffee itself. A coffee should never taste overly bitter. Bitterness is often an indication of old, poorly brewed, poorly roasted and/or poorly grown coffee.


On numerous occasions, I've walked down the "Natural/Organic" aisle and have always seen this brand of coffee-- Kicking Horse. In the past, I would have walked right past it. What impressed me about Kicking Horse the most was how sustainable and ethical this company and its coffee are. Kicking Horse is the largest certified organic AND Fair Trade roaster in all of Canada. While organic may be a word you are familiar with; you might have not heard of Fair Trade. What is Fair Trade? Coffee is the largest cash crop in the world. It’s also the second-largest traded commodity - only oil is traded more. Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers are paid fair prices for their crop regardless of the world market. All Kicking Horse coffee comes from Arabica beans that are shade-grown in bird-friendly environments. Growing coffee in the shade means growing coffee under a canopy of varied vegetation at high altitudes. This creates not only a better growing condition and superior coffee cherry (bean), but an even better natural ecosystem. Another way Kicking Horse promotes sustainability is through financial contributions to one of my favourite environmental charities-- the Nature Conservancy of Canada


Kicking Horse 454 Horsepower, is thoughtfully named 454 as this is the temperature (in Fahrenheit) the beans are roasted at. This makes it a dark, extremely bold roast. This doesn't mean the coffee has more caffeine, but rather a dark roast gives your taste buds a bigger "kick" sorta speak. 

I extracted the coffee using a Saeco Espresso Machine. Almost immediately, the coffee streamed down from the portafilter with an incredibly rich, golden colour. After approximately a 15-second extraction, my ristretto shot was ready. The crema rose to the top of the espresso creating a good 5ml "cap" to the espresso. The aroma had a rich, slightly sweet earthy tone. As for the taste, simplest way to put it is SMOOTH. Subdued acidity, a complex earthiness, followed by slight cocoa undertone. I'd definitely recommend this coffee for anyone who enjoys a strong coffee to wake them up. I'm pretty sure the aroma alone could do that :)

Note: the beans I used were whole bean. It is highly recommended to grind right before using. A fine grind is good for espresso; whereas, a coarser grind for a french-press/plunger. All other methods including drip and stovetop are in the medium grind range. If you don't have a coffee grinder, I highly recommend investing in one. Here is one I recommend.

Where to buy: (Has a variety of Kicking Horse roasts; free shipping in USA)
Kicking Horse (Complete line, free shipping in Canada)



{ Greg } at: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 5:52:00 AM said...

the grinder you have recommended is not very good. It is a flat burr mill grinder which introduces heat in the form of friction when grinding. Any heat transferred to the beans alters the taste and robustness of your brew and it damages the oils in the beans. I use a Cuisinart Conical Burr Mill grinder - great machine with 18 settings. It grinds at low speed so there's no heat and no friction due to the conical grindstone. Easy to use and it cleans up fairly easily.

{ Giovanni Esposito } at: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:09:00 AM said...

Thanks for the feedback Greg. I recommended the grinder based on the price tag. Affordable alternative for the average North American home coffee drinker. There are many other amazing coffee grinders out there, but most require an even bigger investment. I personally use the Breville Smart Grinder.

FDD at: Friday, September 28, 2012 9:21:00 PM said...

Giovanni, thanks for the helpful review of this coffee and your overall recommendations.
You were also very gracious in response to Greg's "feedback," which -- while he does have a point -- could have been worded a lot more tactfully.
I think your consideration of affordability was wise, as most of us don't have unlimited funds to indulge our coffee whims.
My suggestion, however, is that you might give 2 recommendations: One "good and affordable" and one "best, but expensive" -- or something like that. Cheers

{ Giovanni Esposito } at: Sunday, September 30, 2012 10:19:00 AM said...

Thanks for the suggestion FDD. This blog is still very much a work in progress and will definitely take that into consideration for future product reviews.

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