What is a Coffee Blend?
Simply put a coffee blend is a combination of two different single-origin coffee beans. The explicit purpose of which is to create a delicious cup of specialty coffee out of two different coffee bean’s respective flavors.
Due to their well-balanced nature, coffee blends tend to be used as a base to make espresso-based drinks such as a cappuccino or latte. However, a coffee blend can work just as well with or without milk or as a non-espresso blend.
How is a Coffee Blend Different than Single Origin Coffee?
As stated previously, coffee blends differ from single-origin coffee due to being blended from two different coffee beans. Single-origin coffee, on the other hand, is coffee that is solely from one origin such as Ethiopia or Colombia.
Because of their “well-rounded” flavors, coffee blends can be a bit more “flexible” than single-origin coffees as the room for roasting errors is much smaller for single-origin coffees.
Single-origin beans will tend to be roasted to a light or medium roast to achieve their maximum flavors, and if roasted any darker their bitter flavors will start to overwhelm their unique flavor profile that occurs at light roasts.
How to Choose a Coffee Blend
It may be the case that you are not particularly interested in creating your own coffee blend, however, it never hurts to know how your favorite flavors work well together. Usually, both coffee shops and roasting houses create their in-house, high-quality coffee blends.
Understanding the flavor profiles of the single origin coffees and how the roasting process affects their flavor can allow you to make an informed choice. It can also expand your horizon of understanding of why the coffee blends complement each other.
Common Types of Coffee Blends
There are types of coffee beans that usually serve as common components in most coffee blends due to how the flavor profile can work well with other coffee flavors. This is not a hard and fast rule and any type of single-origin coffee can be blended. It is not uncommon to see more than two coffees be blended together to create a unique cup of coffee.
One of the oldest types of coffee blends in the world, the mocha java blend was created (by accident) in the 15th century when the earthy and bold Indonesian coffee beans from Java traveled by Dutch ships to the Yemeni port of Mocha where the coffees were lighter and fruiter. The combination of the two beans yielded a coffee blend that merged the two flavor profiles into a delicious cup.
A melange blend is another “traditional” coffee blend. But, unlike the mocha java a melange blend marries different coffees that have been roasted across the spectrum, from light roasts up to dark roasts. The idea behind this type of coffee blend is to mix the deep bitterness of dark roasts and the acidity of lighter roasted coffee beans. However, where the melange blend differs is that it is not restricted to any type of single-origin coffee. Thus, this type of coffee blend can be found in many different interpretations.
Black & Tan
Another common coffee blend is what is called a “black and tan” which uses medium and dark roasted coffee beans. This type of blend highlights the deep, earthy flavors that come to the forefront during the roasting process. However, the bitterness is reduced by “diluting” the blend with a medium roasted coffee. Commonly, South American or Central American coffee beans are used to create this type of blend, but again, this isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule.
While each type of coffee blends uses different single-origin coffees, all have one common denominator which runs through each; the marriage between deep and earthy flavors and bright, acidic flavors that exist at the two ends of the roasting process. Using that framework as a north star, you can begin to play around with the types of beans you like to drink and create your own DIY coffee blends that reflect your personal tastes.
Creating Your Own Coffee Blend
Creating your own coffee blend is a fun and a great way to further develop your coffee roasting prowess. Right out of the gate, it should be noted that if your taste for coffee is limited, meaning that you can’t determine what differentiates an Ethiopian coffee from a Colombian coffee, then you should work to develop that skill. However, that is not a deal-breaker. If you have more than one favorite type of coffee, you can work on developing your own blend and dialing in the flavor that you look between the two. After all, experimenting is half the fun of creating your own personal coffee blend.
Choosing Your Component Coffee
The first step in creating your “signature” blend is to find an appropriate flavor base to work off of. Most of the time this a personal preference. After all, this is YOUR coffee blend. There are some guideposts that can help you figure out what to start with.
High Notes: By high notes, what is being described is the acidity or floral aromas that are usually present within coffee beans that prefer a lighter roast. These, typically, tend to be Ethiopians and other African coffee beans like Kenyans or even Middle Eastern coffees.
Mid-Palate: This describes the taste from the first sip to swallow and what many folks describe as the flavor of a certain type of coffee. Ideally, this should be the coffee that you enjoy drinking by itself. However, be mindful of using appropriately matching coffee flavors to round out or further enhance the flavors.
Sweet Base Notes: This describes what is called by the Maillard reaction when coffee is roasted and assumes its distinctive grainy, toasty, nutty, or caramelly base flavor. You may want to select a coffee bean such as a Mexican or Brazilian that takes on these flavors during the roasting process.
Using these three high-level points can help you figure out flavor combinations you think would work well together or had not even thought of trying out before!
Whether that is using a Kenyan coffee to add aroma and acidity alongside a Brazilian with a sturdy body while rounding it out with the chocolate notes from a Guatemalan coffee bean and or something else entirely!
Getting Your Coffee Ratios Correct
After you have figured out the coffee components you want to use for your personal, homemade coffee blend, now comes the process of trial and error to figure out the “correct” ratios of each.
To make it easy, it is suggested that you take equal parts of your mid-palate and sweet base note component coffee and round out the rest of the blend with your high notes.
Taking our example from above; let us say you mix 20% of the Kenyan, 40% of the Brazilian, and 40% of the Guatemalan for your personal coffee blend. This type of ratio is just an example and the ratios can obviously be in different quantities such as 30:30:40 or 60:20:20. Really, the ratio choice is up to your personal taste and that’s part of the fun!
To cut down on waste while experimenting and dialing in your preferred ratios, you can roast each component coffee in small batches without waste. After brewing each component coffee, pour each in differing ratios to really tweak the ratios to suit your personal taste.
To Pre-Blend or Post-Blend?
Once you become more experienced with finding component coffees and ratios, you can level up your skills by deciding whether to blend them before or after roasting.
Pre-blending refers to mixing your green coffee components together in one batch and then roasting them, while post-blending is roasting the coffee components separately and then blending afterward.
Pre-blending ensures a consistent batch size, which in turn creates consistency in the roast. However, you may have to contend with differences and variations in the component coffee bean’s moisture levels and densities which can deeply affect the coffee blend’s overall taste if not closely and carefully monitored.
On the other hand, post-blending allows you fuller control over the roasting of each component allowing you to really dial in the roast levels and achieve excellent results. However, the trade-off is that your batch size consistency will suffer as you will have to roast varying sizes of each component. It is recommended that if you have varying batch sizes for each component coffee, post-blending is the more efficient route to go.
Ultimately, which is “best” comes down to personal preference; do you prefer a consistent batch size or a bespoke cup of coffee that is exactly to your preferences? There is no right or wrong answer which is the beautiful part of creating your own coffee blend.
Try Some of Our In-House Coffee Blends
If you’re not quite ready to create your own coffee blend, Coffee Bean Corral offers a variety of in-house unroasted coffee blends that can be pre-roasted and sampled that have been perfected over the years.
From our black roast called Big Black that marries African and Asian coffee beans to our Four Horsemen blend that brings together Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Costa Rican beans for a coffee blend that has a nice balance of body and fruity acidity with a smooth sweetness that gives a delicious flavor. We even have a sample pack in which has five of our blends so you can try a bunch!
Feel free to peruse our in-house blends and try them out! After you become a bit more familiar with our blends, you can begin to create your own using ours blends as a framework to experiment with!