My Tasting: Intelligentsia Coffee’s Organic El Gallo roast

by Nigel Ong

Intelligentsia is known as one of the main leaders in the third-wave coffee movement, alongside Counter Culture and Stumptown. I have had some Stumptown and Counter Culture Coffee, but not Intelligentsia. 

This made me pick up a couple of Intelligentsia bags to share my findings here. This time, it’s Organic El Gallo’s turn.

I will brew and sample Intelligentsia Coffee’s Organic El Gallo roast in this post. I will also compare its flavors against other relevant coffee and decide if you should try this roast.

About Intelligentsia Coffee Organic El Gallo

Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters is a major name for coffee fans, but may be less known to regular coffee drinkers. It was founded in 1995 by Doug Zell and Emily Mange in Chicago. 

Serious coffee fans would know Intelligentsia for being one of the major leaders in the Third Wave Coffee movement, alongside Stumptown, Counter Culture, and Peet’s.

The third-wave coffee movement looks at these improvements when making coffee: 

  • high-quality coffee production, 
  • direct sourcing from farmers and 
  • artisanal brewing methods.

The idea is to produce excellent coffee for drinkers and share wealth and prosperity with the farmers. This is done by buying only high-quality coffee from farmers who care for their farming practices and the workers.

Intelligentsia offers a wide-ranging collection of coffee roasts, such as:

  • single-origin coffees, 
  • blends, and 
  • limited edition releases

They also operate several coffee bars across the United States. The Organic El Gallo is a blend of coffee from Colombia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. These beans are organic and 100% Arabica. 

First Impression

The Organic El Gallo bag in my hand is a regular-sized, 12-oz coffee bag. For those that operate in metric, that’s around 340 grams.

One good thing about Intelligentsia Coffee is how it takes the issue of freshness seriously. Aside from the regular air-tight packaging with a one-way-valve, it also suggests a ‘best before’ date. 

This helps you to get the freshest coffee possible when you shop for their roasts, as you can quickly tell how recently the beans were roasted.

The packaging design is also unique; you will not miss them on shelves. It uses a bright orange-red color scheme with a huge wing in the center. 

The coffee’s packaging is also on point, covering all the expected essentials. There’s a foldable tab to help keep your beans fresh and a one-way valve that prevents oxygen from entering the packaging and ruining the beans.

When I opened the package, my nose was immediately greeted by sweetness and fragrant coffee. I went closer to the coffee and went for a more serious sniff. Here, I could pick up chocolatey notes from the coffee. 

The beans are roasted lightly, as the color is quite light. The color intensity reminds me of Starbucks’ Blonde Espresso roasts and should signal that this is a light roast.

On the coffee bag, Intelligentsia claims that the coffee has flavor notes of milk chocolate, cola, and honey. It will be interesting to see if I can pick up these notes from my cup. 

Reviews from Amazon seem to show drinkers enjoy how not-smokey the coffee beans are – this is something I completely agree with. The coffee in my bag is definitely not smokey, more like toasty.

How Does Intelligentsia Coffee Organic El Gallo Review Taste?

For the brewing, I will go back to the same three brewing methods I have been using:

French Press: This brewing style makes a murky, full-flavored coffee with floating particles. This should allow me to sample the coffee in its full flavor, with all its oils.

Pour Over With Filter Paper: This method produces a ‘cleaner’ version of the coffee without too much oil and particles floating about. This should help me to sample more of the subtle notes. 

Espresso: Espresso is coffee in one of its most concentrated forms. Like espresso, some coffee may have unique flavors and be more enjoyable than regular brews.

French Press

I turned to my trusty Bodum Caffettiera French press for the French press brew here. I retained the same brewing process here, keeping a 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio.

Combine 15 grams of coffee with 180ml of hot, off-boiling water. I aim for the temperature to be around 185°F (about 85°C). After stirring everything together, I let the coffee brew for 4 minutes before pouring.

This roast is not aromatic and not a shy one. When the hot water meets the coffee, the aroma quickly fills up my kitchen. The aroma is chocolatey, sweet, and inviting, with little smoke.

As I pour the coffee out, the coffee is quite light in color with some slight transparency. Definitely a light roast.

This coffee is light, easy, and quite fun to drink. There is little smoke or woody notes from the coffee. Instead, I get a soft caress on the palate. The lightness of the coffee reminds me of what I had at Luckin last time. 

In the flavor department, I can pick up a bit of chocolate, which is pleasant. There is also a bit of creaminess and sweetness. I was not able to pick up Cola’s notes, however.

The coffee finishes softly, losing its taste in my mouth quickly after I swallow. Light roasts usually do this, so I am not too concerned here.

Pour Over With Filter Paper

For the pour-over method, I made my cup of Organic El Gallo using these tools:

Keeping to my regular 1:18 ratio, I brought 15 grams of coffee to 270 ml of water. I slowly poured the water in during brewing and used hot, off-boiling water.

As expected, the pour-over coffee tastes lighter and less intense than the French press brew. The filter paper removed some coffee oils and particles, making the already light coffee earthy.

Replacing those are stronger doses of chocolate notes with a more pronounced sweetness. Here, I may be able to detect a bit of cola nut, although I would say it’s more about smelling rather than tasting it.

The coffee is light, satisfying, and makes me want to bite into some kind of bread or pastry – some focaccia maybe?


My Intelligentsia Organic El Gallo espresso looks beautiful, with rich, creamy, brownish crema. The crema layer is inviting and smells amazing.

I can pick up a bit of acidity and sweetness from the crema when I sniff it. This will be a soft, fun cup of espresso that you can slowly sip and nurse. No reason to gulp this down!

I was not wrong here. The usual palate-smashing smoke of regular espresso is not there, and the coffee is not strong. Instead, I get soft, sweet notes with chocolatey goodness.

I particularly enjoy the milk chocolate note in this espresso. It tastes a bit stronger because the espresso condensed the flavors into a small cup. Swallow the espresso down, let the aftertaste linger on your palate, and see if you agree. 

Intelligentsia Coffee Organic El Gallo Review vs Popular Light Roasts

Time for taste comparison time, as usual. To compare the taste of Intelligentsia Organic El Gallo with other popular light roasts I have in my collection, I selected:

I brewed all the coffee with my French press, then sipped them one after the other, together with the El Gallo. 

After trying it all, I’m torn between the El Gallo and the Breakfast Blend. All coffees here are easy to drink and should be enjoyable to many. The difference may be how light you want your coffee to be and the flavor notes you enjoy. 

I like my coffee with some sweetness and chocolate notes, and not too light. I still want a bit of coffee earthiness and all. This made me place the El Gallo first, ahead of the Breakfast blend, for a simple reason – the chocolate note in the El Gallo makes it a bit more enjoyable.

The El Gallo will be a clear winner if it is roasted just slightly darker. To my palate, that means a bit more ‘coffee’ taste, making it an even better roast to sip.

Should You Try Intelligentsia Coffee Organic El Gallo?

This is a very nice coffee, making it one of the most enjoyable light roasts. The chocolate-forward flavor is already nice, and then you pair it with sweet, honey, and cola-like notes.

This would be a great weekend or lazy morning coffee, as it is light and fun to drink. It would also work well with skimmed or low-fat milk. Both are lighter in flavor, which means they would probably complement instead of out powering the other in flavor. 

I would not rely on El Gallo for a coffee jolt or to beat the post-lunch slump. This would require something stronger, and the El Gallo will not be up to the task.

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