How many times have you walked into a high street coffee shop and stopped at the specials blackboard and wondered why coffee is being touted as a single origin. These coffee terms are being thrown around in the new wave of specialty coffee, but what do they mean? Which one is better?… And should you even care?
That sip of coffee you just took could be from different places all over the world. It could have coffee beans from Indonesia, Central America, South America, or Africa; you’re tasting coffee from all over the world in one drink! This is a coffee blend. So know you understand what a coffee blend is, what about single-origin coffee, what’s that all about? Single-origin coffee is one that comes from one single producer, one growing region, crop, or region in one particular country.
When you think about the differences, it’s kinda obvious. Single-origin coffees coming from one origin (place) and blends combine different coffees from up to several origins (places). However, it’s important to fully understand what makes each of these coffee types so unique. So if you want to beef up your coffee knowledge keep on reading because I aim to shed some light on the fundamental differences between single-origin vs. blended coffee in this article. Next time you can wow your local barista with some new coffee lingo!
Single Origin Coffee
Single-origin coffee is driven by the demand of consumers wanting high-quality coffee to be enjoyed in the purest form. Single-origin removes a lot of the marketing hype of blended coffee and relies on the origin story and quality of the beans to appease coffee aficionados.
You’ll often find that single-origin coffees are typically more expensive than a coffee blend. Single-origin beans are the best offerings from local farmers and showcase a country’s unique coffee profile. They tend to be lightly roasted and are best enjoyed with manual coffee brewing methods such as the Chemex.
Using a manual brewing method opposed to a push-button brewer will allow for the complexity of the bean’s characteristics to shine, you’re treating the beans with the respect they deserve, and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of flavor with light and delicate notes.
Because single-origin beans tend to be more delicate in nature than a coffee blend they typically don’t hold up well as an espresso. For example, one origin might have the required sweetness but is lacking in the acidity or can’t produce a good crema. This is why most coffee shops prefer to use a coffee blend for espresso because a blended coffee will combine specific coffee ratios from different origins ticking all of the boxes for a more balanced and better-rounded, shot of espresso.
You will find that no two single-origin coffee beans taste the same, each origin is characterized by a particular flavor quality.
Most of the coffee blends in the marketplace are geared towards everyday mainstream milk coffee drinkers. Typically roasters will focus on the caramelized and roast notes in cup character which are amplified towards a darker roast, or commonly, the second crack in the roasting process and beyond. Blended coffee mixes many beans from all over the world with the intention to create a flavor profile that is more exciting.
Most coffee roasters will create blends because it increases profitability, spreads supply, improves consistencies over different seasons, helps to reduce any quality-related risks, and as a marketing tool. You’ll even find roasters will combine different beans as a means to disguise cheaper varieties with more popular beans to keep costs down while still producing a delicious cup of coffee. Coffee roasters tend to have their special recipes for blended coffee depending on seasonal crops and current selections.
However, large-scale roasting is no easy feat especially if you are producing a product for a big name high street chain; blended coffee is all about the consistency. Coffee roasters have to create similar blends consistently and tweak different types of beans to buffer seasonal changes in the flavor.
Although there isn’t a fixed formula, there is usually a base recipe that’s used to create the standard blend. As the crops change from season to season, the exact formula will be altered so that the end-resulting blend remains roughly the same.
When is Coffee Blended – Before or After Roasting?
There is no set in stone rule, and most roasters will use both methods depending on which beans they are using at the time.
However, some will say that blending and mixing coffee beans before roasting will create a unique flavor that cannot be created by blending beans individually after roasting. Other coffee roasters will say that you have to maximize the flavor of every single-origin as they require different roasting times, so blending after roasting is the better option.
Typically, blending post roasting occurs because:
- Beans with varying moisture contents will roast at different rates.
- Smaller beans will roast at a different rate to larger beans
- Beans with a different density or hardness will roast at different rates.
The Verdict: Single Origin vs. Blend Coffee
Single-origin coffee versus blended coffee boils down to personal preference. One type of coffee isn’t better than another or one blend any better than another. For some coffee drinkers, the full, homey taste of a house coffee blend may be all they want for their morning routine. For others, having an interest in various coffee regions and varying flavor profiles can lead to trying new single origin coffees and to then maybe venturing deeper into the world of coffee.
All I can say is that if you own a good manual coffee brewer buying single-origin beans after drinking blend coffee all your life can be a refreshing change. How many varieties have you tried?