What is Coffee Blending and Why You Should Do It.
By Jacob Wachtel
In any small roastery or coffeeshop, you've probably encountered two terms that cause more contention among coffee enthusiasts: "single-origin" and "coffee blends”.
To a purist, blending coffee is sacrilegious!
Tantamount to a yuppy Starbucks gold card member brandishing their lipstick-stained venti skinny quad shot white chocolate mocha. (I worked at Starbucks for a time)
Coffee purists see only single origin coffee and nothing else. But, before I go any further, let me give a brief definition.
Single-origin coffee is coffee from one specific location. Take for instance the famous Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. It hails from a mountainous region in southern Ethiopia and has taken the coffee world by storm due to its very bright floral and fruity tones.
Coffee blends, like the name implies, is simply coffee from different regions that have been blended together.
Despite the distress of many purists, if you visit any caliber roaster, they will likely have a blend on hand.
Blending is a beautiful way of combining different types of coffees to create a masterful flavor profile. You can create a coffee that has floral and citrus notes, but is still full-bodied and more balanced. Much like crafting a great beer recipe, I’m sure you can agree that blending isn’t that bad.
By the time you finish reading this piece, you will know HOW to blend and WHY you should. Including blends can be a great way to expand your roast lineup and build a great yet complex cup of coffee.
WHY ROASTERS CREATE BLENDS
It’s often for pragmatic reasons. Roasters will blend coffee because it allows them to mix a cheaper coffee Bean with a more expensive coffee bean. And there are often two main reasons for this.
First, it allows them to lower their costs. Most coffee shops margins are pretty slim, so by creating something like a house blend, it allows you to sell something customers love at a great price point while still making a profit.
Beans from different regions can vary in cost by a few dollars a pound. On a larger scale, that can save quite a bit of money. You pick a base bean to carry it, add in the more expensive bean as a smaller percentage, and know your 50lbs of Costa Rican and 50lbs of Ethiopian will carry you a lot further.
Second, roasters have production requirements to meet demand. The problem is creating a consistently good cup of coffee when you are dealing with a finite product. You only have so much of it. A coffee crop can only produce so much during the year. By including a blend you can still create a great cup of coffee while also allowing your beans to go further.
With a single origin coffee, you would only be limited to however much you bought.
Overall, blending allows coffee shops to consistently create a really good cup of coffee while also maintaining production levels.
HOW ROASTERS BLEND
There are two ways of blending roasts.
The first is simply to roast your blend together. If you are using a blend of Brazil, El Salvador, and Sumatra, you would mix them all together first, then load your roaster with the blended coffee to roast.
Most roast cycles last anywhere from about 9-12 minutes, and, like roasting barley, the longer you roast it the darker it gets. If you roast them all together, then the batch is roasted to the same level. That could be a lighter roast or that could be a darker roast but each of those three beans are roasted to the same degree.
This drastically cuts down on the time required to roast!
The second way, as you might have guessed, is by roasting them each individually. So, perhaps you want your El Salvador a little lighter to magnify the fruity notes within the beans, but you also want to create that even base that carries the cup with hints of chocolate and nutty notes in the Brazil. Then you add some Sumatra for the full-bodied mouthful.
This way you might include about 30% El Salvador roasted lighter, then you would include 50% Brazil roasted to a City Plus, then you would include the last 20% Brazil roasted to a full City Plus.
You spend way more time roasting three different beans to three different roast levels than you would if you roasted them all together.
And coffee shops or roasteries don't always have the time to roast each one individually. But if you can swing it, you have way more control over the type of coffee and the type of cup you are presenting to the customer.
Blending is really not that difficult. You are taking specific notes or the style you're looking for and working backwards from there. And, you try different roasting degrees because they bring out different flavors. After a little trial and error, you may find something that’s better than just one by itself.
BLENDS WORK GREAT FOR ESPRESSO
You will hardly find a coffee shop that uses a single-origin coffee for espresso.
Because espresso is such an intense, concentrated cup of coffee, when you pair an espresso made from an Ethiopian with a milk based drink, like a latte, it really doesn’t go well together. A sweeter, fruitier tasting Ethiopian Yirgacheffe paired with a mocha would not work. It would be like pairing a Sour with your dessert.
WIth a blend, you can really craft an espresso that is both unique and pairs well with milk-based drinks.
Not everybody likes blending. Not everybody sees the value. And with the rise of coffee drinkers expecting a single origin coffee it is becoming increasingly difficult to showcase the value of blends.
But blending is as much of an art as it is a science, as you learn to combine different flavor profiles into a single cup to achieve an overall desired taste. It allows you to dial in and fine tune what notes you're looking for and how much of that note gets expressed in the coffee.
And there are pragmatic reasons to blend as well! It allows you to produce more coffee at scale while maintaining good margins. So, there are definitely advantages to blending.
Though blending gets a bad rap, it may require a more refined palette than single origin coffee as you seek to find that perfect cup.
All contents copyright 2023 by MoreFlavor Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.