If you have been drinking coffee for any length of time, you have most likely noticed the term "blend" being used on coffee labels. Experienced coffee drinkers occasionally research the origin of the coffee beans in their coffee blends before purchasing. Although it's not a requirement, knowing how coffee blends are made can help you when choosing or crafting future coffee blends and espressos that you will like.
Single and Ready to Blend
Coffee that is comprised of two or more different coffee beans is called a coffee blend. The qualifications for the two different types of coffee beans required to make a coffee blend are surprisingly lax.
Therefore, there are two types of coffee you will come across.
- Single-Origin Coffee
- Blended Coffee
This coffee is made from one type of coffee bean. The name is very straightforward and comes from the fact that the coffee beans come from one single location. The beans are harvested in the same country, region, and harvest area.
Single-origin coffee beans are ideal for making cold brew coffee; this is due to the fact that the cold brew process creates a naturally less acidic cup of coffee. Therefore, the authentic flavors of the coffee beans are more vibrant and easier to appreciate.
This type of coffee has gained more popularity in recent years because consumers are showing a heightened interest in where their coffee beans are sourced from. In addition, they want transparency when they are making purchases for themselves or as gifts.
Smaller coffee companies understand the need for transparency and traceability in their products. They also know this needs to extend beyond their single-origin coffee options and into their coffee blends as well.
Blended coffee is made from coffee beans that originate from at least two different places. These coffee beans can be from different countries or the same country but different regions, or the same region but different growing areas. It can even mean the two coffee beans come from the same growing farm but are located in two different altitudes.
Blended coffee is a minimum of two different coffee beans coming together to create a new and exciting coffee experience. First, coffee makers will invest time studying the origin of their coffee beans—everything from their acidity, aroma, body, and flavor notes. Then, they use this information to pair complimentary coffee beans together in new coffee blends.
For some signature coffee blends, it will be a twist on a popular blend that highlights the acidity or body of the coffee. In other situations, multiple coffee beans will be joined to create flavors that are reminiscent of baked goods, holiday traditions, seasons, or classic flavor combinations.
If you are going into a coffee shop or buying online for the first time, going with the House Blend is typically a safe option for a consistently smooth cup of coffee that will appeal to a wide array of people. French roast is the other most common coffee blend that can be found in coffee shops across the country.
Both single-origin and coffee blends are available in caffeinated and decaf coffee options.
Three Main Reasons for Coffee Blends
The requirement for coffee beans in a coffee blend can be far-reaching or on a micro-level.
The goal is to unite at least two different coffee beans for the following reasons:
- Reduce Cost
- Create a Unique Signature Coffee
- Consistent Cup Profile
For more prominent commercial brands, this is the primary motivator in creating coffee blends. These larger roasters take the opportunity to blend higher quality and more expensive coffee beans with cheaper coffee beans. This allows them to have a lower overhead cost and then pass those savings down to their consumer.
Shop at any grocery store, and the price jump between commercial brands and smaller, craft-coffee brands can be significant. Typically, the smaller-batch brands will either produce single-original coffee or combine two higher-quality coffee beans for their coffee blends.
As the popularity of coffee continues to rise, so do the demands and desires for more inventive ways to make and create coffee flavors. While some coffee drinkers are happy to add creamer to their coffee, many coffee connoisseurs look to specific flavor blends that do not require them to include extra flavor additives.
This is especially popular during the holiday season; hello, pumpkin spice! It is also a fantastic way to grow your brand recognition. Most of us can think of a favorite food dish that we love and the place we associate with it. It might be our favorite guac at a local restaurant or the perfect chocolate chip cookie at a nearby bakery. We identify our favorite eateries by the dishes we love, and the same works for coffee roasters.
When a coffee brand is able to produce a coffee blend with a flavor profile that is absolute perfection on your taste buds, they have your loyalty. And then, you will most likely spread the word to your friends, family, and coworkers about this amazing and creative coffee flavor that you believe they must try.
Consistency is Key:
Larger brands that you find in the grocery store or those that operate chain coffee stores rely on a mixture of coffee beans to maintain consistency. They purchase a continual flow of coffee beans from multiple areas to blend.
This eclectic blending of coffee beans helps to account for any changes due to seasonal or environmental changes the coffee beans might experience. Essentially, the more coffee beans blended together, the easier it is to disguise any discrepancies between batches.
The priority to meet consumer demands for consistency is placed above cultivating and appreciating the unique character of the individual coffee beans. This works for larger-scale coffee operations and is what sets apart smaller local roasters. Small-scale coffee companies are still able to create consistent cups of coffee, but they put an emphasis on bringing out the natural flavors of the coffee beans.
Espresso coffee usually is made using a coffee blend. A high-quality espresso shot should be well balanced enough to be enjoyed on its own, in addition to pairing with another drink. The process of brewing espresso is a learned skill, and it all begins with the right coffee beans.
To achieve this ideal espresso shot, you will need to create a coffee blend that has the right amount of acidity, body, and sweetness. While this could be difficult to master with the narrow profile of a single-origin coffee bean, combining multiple coffee beans can create the desired flavor profile.
Experienced coffee roasters have the knowledge to create an espresso coffee blend combining coffee beans with the perfect amount of acidity with those that have enough sweetness and then others that provide a complimentary amount of acidity, sweetness, and body.
Altogether these coffee beans that feature different benefits fuse together to create the ideal espresso shot. When you see a coffee blend labeled as an espresso blend, it is an indication that the blend was created specifically with the intricate needs of espresso in mind.
At Stone Street Coffee Company, our espresso blend comes in a variety of forms:
As a consumer of coffee, how do you know what coffee blend is best for you? What elements should be factored into making your decision, and how can you use the knowledge you’ve learned to make that choice? The first thing to look for before purchasing coffee beans or ground coffee is the roasting date.
The quality of coffee immediately begins to decline as soon as the coffee beans are roasted. This does not mean that coffee needs to be made immediately after brewing. Buying pre-ground coffee is still a great way to make a high-quality cup of Java at home.
However, paying attention to the roasting date is essential in the same way you would check for an expiration date. For the best experience, we recommend brewing coffee within two weeks of the coffee beans being ground.
Storing coffee beans in a cool, dry place, like your kitchen counter, is ideal for your coffee blend to maintain its freshness for the entire two weeks.
Single-origin coffee and blended coffee have distinct differences, but one thing they both have in common is that whole coffee beans stay fresh longer than ground coffee. Having access to an at-home coffee grinder will always produce the freshest cup for your coffee experience.
Nothing quite compares to the intoxicating aroma of opening a brand-new bag of coffee beans. It is better than any candle and can fill your entire kitchen with an inviting and energizing scent.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can create your own specialty coffee blend in your own kitchen. This is especially popular with those that make their own espresso shots since the flavor of the coffee does not rely on outside flavors. If you enjoy trying new flavor combinations, this can be a fun experiment to do by yourself or a project to do with someone you love spending time with.
Choosing coffee beans that complement each other and also compliment your taste buds involves studying what different country origins bring to the table.
When choosing your single-origin coffee beans to create your signature blend, there are a few points to consider.
- Sweet Base Notes
- Mid-Palate Notes
- High Notes
Sweet Base: This is the base flavor that coffee contains, typically described as nutty, caramelized, or toasty. For a sweeter coffee blend, look for coffee beans sourced from Peru, Mexico, or Brazil.
Mid-Palate: This coffee-bean choice should be your favorite flavor to drink by itself. This is typically what is used to describe the overall flavor of the coffee from the first sip to swallow. Costa Rica, Columbia, and Guatemala beans are best for this.
High: High notes are what people are describing when they use descriptors like acidity and floral notes. This is most common in coffee beans that do best with a lighter roast. Kenyan and Ethiopian coffee beans are ideal.
The recommended blend ratio is equal parts mid-palate and sweet base, with the high-note beans finishing off the blend. This generally breaks down to 20% high-note beans, 40% mid-palate beans, and 40% sweet-base beans.
During the creation process, you might find that you want to increase the amount of high-note coffee beans and decrease the other two. Definitely get creative and discover the best ratio and blend for you. Adding in more beans to create your ideal cup of coffee is encouraged.
When choosing your beans, begin with your mid-palate beans since this should be your favorite single-origin coffee. Use this flavor profile that you already know and love to build the rest of your specialty blend from.
A sample espresso coffee blend:
- 40% Guatemalan coffee beans
- 40% Peruvian coffee beans
- 20% Kenyan coffee beans
This is not only an excellent way to perfect the acidity, body, and aftertaste of your morning espresso or pour-over coffee. It is also an engaging educational experience to learn about different coffee beans, their origins, flavor profiles, and how they interact with each other. Once you have developed a coffee blend you love, you can enjoy it on a regular basis or have the confidence to continue developing new and exciting coffee blends.
The Perfect Coffee Blend
Blended coffee takes the coffee experience to the next level. While large-producer stores can use coffee blends as a shortcut to save money, smaller coffee shops have taken the opportunity to develop new and exciting flavor experiences.
Smaller coffee companies use their coffee-roasting knowledge obtained from years of studying the origins of coffee beans and how their location and growing environments affect their aroma, acidity, flavor, and body. Knowledge about the overall coffee bean and what it has to offer, paired with the most sought-after flavors in their shop, gives them the ability to create signature coffee blends that appeal to not just their base but a broad audience.