What is a single-origin coffee, what is a coffee blend, and is one better than the other? The short answer to that last question is no. While the difference matters when it comes to single-origin vs blend, that difference is not a matter of which one tastes better than the other. They both have the potential to provide a fantastic coffee experience.
Single-Origin vs Blend Coffee
The differences between a single-origin vs blend begin at the roots, where the coffee beans are harvested, and carry all the way through the roasting process. With a single-origin coffee, the coffee beans must come from the same general region; with a coffee blend, the roaster chooses complementary coffee beans from at least two different locations.
Whether you are drinking a blend or single-origin coffee, traceability and transparency in where coffee beans are sourced from are important to the integrity of any high-quality coffee roaster. Let’s break down the main character differences between single-origin vs blended coffee.
What makes them unique and sets them apart from one another? Diving into the qualities that set them apart from each other can help you, as the coffee drinker, decide what will provide the best coffee experience for you. It will also help you discover if single-origin coffee or coffee blends are ideal for your morning routine.
The Main Types of Coffee
- Single-Origin Coffee
- Blended Coffee
What will surprise most people, coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers alike, is what actually qualifies as a single-origin coffee. The term “single-origin coffee” is much broader than it appears. To be classified as single-origin, the coffee beans have to be grown or sourced in the same general region. Single-origin coffee can be broken down even further into four main categories:
Single-Origin Coffee Categories
- Single Origin
- Single Farm/Estate
- Single Cooperative
- Micro Lot
For both single-origin coffee and coffee blends, the top three exporters of coffee beans are:
So, for a Colombian coffee bean to be considered a single-origin coffee, the beans all have to come from the same region in Colombia. While they might all come from the same farm or producer, they can actually come from different farms in different locations with different growing techniques, as long as the farms reside in the same region of that country.
This is where the single-origin breakdown categories can come into play. If the coffee beans have a distinction of single cooperative, you know they came from different farms that are all a part of the same co-op and abide by the same growing techniques. With a micro lot, the coffee beans not only come from the same farm, but they will all come from the same section of that farm.
Single-origin coffee vs blends is going to give you the most consistent flavor profile because, despite variations in growing or farming techniques, the coffee beans are all sourced from the same region. Coffee beans sourced from the same region are all going to have the same environmental factors.
Environmental Factors That are Consistent in Single-Origin Coffee Beans
- Weather patterns
What Role Does the Roaster Play in developing Single-Origin Coffee?
Developing and roasting a single-origin coffee is not as simple as picking out coffee beans. Coffee roasting is an art. To truly capture the full potential of the coffee beans, the roaster needs to know and respect the region and farm the coffee beans originated from so they can translate that into the ideal roasting style.
Environmental Factors That are Consistent in Single-Origin Coffee Beans
- Weather patterns
It is the role and responsibility of the coffee roaster to factor in the special characteristics of the single-origin coffee beans and determine which roasting level is ideal.
The 3 Roasting Levels
- Light roast
- Medium roast
- Dark roast
The roasting levels do not indicate the amount of caffeine in the coffee beans; they reflect how long the coffee beans are roasted and the flavor profiles that were evoked during the roasting process. The different roast names are very straightforward; they refer to the color of the coffee bean after it has been roasted.
Light coffee beans are roasted the least amount of time. They make it to the first crack and then are ready to be cooled. Dark roast coffee beans are roasted the longest amount of time, and in some cases, make it past the second crack. A longer roasting time creates a darker color.
The beautiful thing about the art of coffee roasting is that the amount of time the coffee beans are roasted develops the coffee’s flavor. If you have two coffee beans from the same farm and one is a light roast while the other is a dark roast, they will have completely different flavor profiles and aromas.
Just like with baked goods or savory meats, different ingredients require varying degrees of cook time to bring out their best flavor. A scallop takes less than 5 minutes to fully cook; however, chicken will take more than twice as long to fully cook on the stovetop.
Single-Origin Coffee Needs HIgher-Quality Coffee Beans
The single-origin coffee options we have in coffee shops and stores may seem straightforward; however, much thought, science, and skill go into creating the perfect single-origin coffee before it ever reaches your cup. When it comes to single-origin vs blends, it is easy to visualize the skill that goes into a blend but not always as apparent that the same skill is required for creating a great single-origin coffee roast.
When discussing a major difference between single-origin vs blends, the quality of coffee beans comes into play. With single-origin coffee, the bean quality is on full display - the roasting process can only hide so much. So, choosing high-quality coffee beans with a traceable lineage is incredibly important to creating an appealing single-origin coffee.
Due to the nature of single-origin vs blends, with single-origin profiles needing to be strong and bold enough to stand on their own, we recommended single-origin coffees for any slow-brewing process such as pour-over or cold brew. With a slowed-down brewing process, all the subtle notes from a single-origin coffee vs blends can shine.
What Is a Coffee Blend?
Coffee blends are carefully curated mixtures of coffee beans from at least two different locations. While blends can include coffee beans from a wide variety of locations, a blend can also refer to coffee beans coming from two different regions in the same country. Coffee blends are where the true personality and creativity of the roaster can shine.
What Factors Create a High-Quality Coffee Blend?
- Flavor profiles
- Acidity levels
When comparing single-origin vs blends, both coffee blends and single-origin coffee will require locating the best coffee beans and selecting the preferred roasting style; however, a blend also requires the roaster to match and pair different coffee beans to create a whole new drinking experience.
Is Single-Origin or a Blend Better for Espresso?
Due to the flavor intricacies that develop during the blending process, coffee blends are highly recommended over single-origin. When drinking an espresso shot, the complementary flavors in a blend come together to give the coffee drinker a desired mouthfeel that is complex and well-balanced.
The main advantage of brewing espresso is the development of the crema - the flavorful and aromatic froth that rests on top of the espresso. A strong crema indicates a high-quality espresso shot. The espresso absolutely needs to be complex and multidimensional in flavor and, when deciding between a single-origin vs blend, the blend hands-down wins in this situation.
When it Comes to Single-Origin vs Blend, They Both Win
While the debate between single-origin vs blends focuses on which is better, both of them have so much to offer. At Stone Street Coffee Company, we know that there is no correct answer to the best brewing method or if single-origin vs blend is better because each one of us has our own coffee preferences.
Our Top Picks: Single-Origin vs Blend
We’ll break down our favorite coffee brews and divide them up between single-origin vs blend, taking the time to focus on what makes each option unique and special. When it comes to blends, just like in a relationship, compatibility is the name of the game.
Our most popular blends truly capture the authenticity and individualism of the locations they are sourced from and reflect the diversity we love to see in our own communities.
Top 3 Coffee Blends:
Brooklyn: Welcome to New York! Our Brooklyn roast perfectly captures the essence of the city that we love so much. We married the brightness of a light roast with the deep syrupy boldness of a dark roast to create something truly magical. What might seem contradictory on paper blends flawlessly to make a coffee blend that pays homage to the rich diversity of the city we call home.
Dark Blend: Our Dark Blend once again captures the qualities of two seemingly opposite coffee beans to create an amazing flavor sensation. The Stone Street Dark Blend takes coffee beans from South America and joins them with their perfect match from Indonesia. It is smooth, silky, and full of rich chocolatey flavor, just like you like it.
House Blend: We will forever be proud of our House Blend. It encompasses all that we believe coffee should be. The coffee beans are sourced from multiple regions in South America and are medium roasted for a smooth and elegant coffee drinking experience. With a bright acidity matched with a smoky finish, it is no wonder that it is consistently one of our most popular coffee blends.
Top Single-Origin Coffees:
- Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
- Tanzanian Peaberry
- Sumatra Mandheling
- Mexico Soconusco
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe: This single-origin coffee is light roasted and not widely known, but we’re not trying to gatekeep it from you. Harvesting occurs between October and December in this ideal climate for growing coffee beans. With a distinctive floral aroma and rich body, it creates a smooth and mellow flavor sensation that is all its own.
Tanzanian Peaberry: Medium roasted to perfection, this Tanzanian Peaberry blend is clean, crisp, and sure to please the palate of those who love medium or dark roasted coffee. We partnered with Sweet Unity to source these single-origin coffee beans to not only create an amazing experience for you but also to support millions of family-owned coffee farms in Tanzania.
Sumatra Mandheling: Dark roasted, kosher, single-origin coffee sourced from Indonesia. The name “Mandheling” comes from the ethnic group, as opposed to the location like many other coffee roasts are named after. One of our most full-bodied coffee options available, it is heavy, syrupy, and has very little acidity.
Mexico Soconusco: This surprising single-origin coffee has many environmental growing conditions that provide it with a unique aroma and flavor profile. It is sourced in Soconusco, Chiapas, on the Guatemalan border, where the soil is naturally enriched by the heavy rainfall and volcanic ash from the Tacana Volcano. It is bright and brisk while also being light and delicate with floral and chocolatey notes.
Single or Ready to Mingle? There’s No Wrong Answer
When it comes to deciding between single-origin vs blends, you do not have to pick! The joy of being a coffee lover is there are myriad different possibilities and flavor combinations to choose from. Starting with high-quality beans will always be step one, so choose a roaster that you trust. Experiment with different countries of origin, roast levels, and brewing methods.
Single-origin vs blend doesn’t have to be an either/or situation; it can be the “and” that your coffee routine has been missing. Single-origin coffee and blends both have amazing qualities that accentuate the natural flavors of the coffee beans and pay homage to their cultural roots.
You can have espresso and cold brew, dark and light roast, Indonesian and Peruvian. Mix up your morning routine as little or as often as you want and continue to discover and explore new tasting adventures from the comfort of your own home.