As a new home coffee roaster, I have started to get the basics down. I came across the idea of coffee blends and decided to take a look at it. Little did I know the can of worms I was opening up.
Some things go together, some don’t – strawberries and bananas – yum, strawberries and coffee? Yuck. Ethiopian Harrarr and Sumatra – Yum, Kenyan coffee for espresso? Yuck.
With some simple guidelines and education we can help avoid coffee blending disasters.I guess blending coffee is not that much different than home roasting coffee in that you can go very basic or get extremely intricate and complex. My research led me in many directions. And I discovered there are distinct reasons different groups of people will blend coffee.
Commercial roasters blend for a specific set of reasons. Home coffee roasters blend for a different set of reasons. Home coffee roasters can range from newbies who really want to learn about the hobby and develop a pallet, two experts who speak a language I sure can’t figure out yet.
Some people want to coffee simply does its job every day. “I know what it will taste like, it gets my eyes open in the morning, and keeps me going all day”.
So, in a roundabout way what I’m getting at is that coffee blending can lead a lot of different people down a lot of different roads.
Your job is to find out exactly what it is you’re looking for and then go down that path. One thing that may help is getting samples delivered to your door on a daily basis:
At my current state of “newbie-ness”, I am in an experimental stage. You may be more advanced or less advanced. Nevertheless, will discuss some common concepts about bonding coffee may refine your point of view and point you in a different direction and get you there faster.
French Press Coffee Maker
Why Do People Blend Coffee, In General?
Why do people blend coffee? Because we can. Human beings are blessed with an insatiable curiosity especially when it comes to things that tastes good.
Is somewhat more serious answer to why people one coffee is simply this: the general idea is to make a better coffee, more consistent, and generally more pleasing.
Sometimes in coffee blending we discover an additive effect. If you add one coffee to another you get a blended taste. Sometimes in coffee blending we discover a synergistic effect where one coffee actually propels another coffee you get something greater in the sun the individual components.
Commercial Coffee Blending
Let’s discuss commercial coffee blending briefly. A large manufacturers such as Maxwell House is blending different coffees to achieve a specific taste, that has little variance from can to can and batch to batch, and season to season. In fact, their product depends on consistent flavor.
Let’s face it, commercial blenders are into it to make a profit. Blending allows the use of cheaper coffee beans to be mixed in with some more expensive beans to provide a palatable cup of coffee.
Also, there is the concept of blending for a geographical taste. An example of this would be ordering a cup of Colombian coffee. Colombian coffee is known to have a certain taste profile. A person ordering a cup of Colombian coffee would not expect a complex light fruity coffee, or earthy “heavy” coffees such as Sumatra.
Lastly, there is the concept of brewing to coffees that are very similar in taste profile. For example a single grower may have some slight variations in his coffee crop within a given location. Blending allows him to maintain his identifiable “taste”.
Why Do People Blend Home Roasted Coffees?
My first attempt at home coffee roasting was documented in another post on this blog. I tried using a popcorn popper but bought the wrong type. The result was so where is with coffee beans exploding all over the place. I soon realize that while this roasting method works for many people and they swear by it is not for me.
While waiting for my new we ordered SR 500 Fresh Roast machine I ordered a 5 pound bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffee Washed Grade 1 Coffee Beans. After a few roast batches at the recommended medium to medium dark level I produced a coffee with a smooth medium body and a long lingering finish I thought to myself “I’ve got this down.”
Experimentation and curiosity. I got a little bored with the idea of working my way through a 5 pound bag (I’m a single retired guy drinking one pot per day). In one of my road trips to visit local roasters and chat them up, one provided me with two 250 g “sample bags” of Colombian Excelso, Origin Cauca by Negritas Coffee. That roaster said it should be roasted to a medium dark finish also. So essentially what I did is after roasting I combined the two together ground them up and made myself a cup of coffee. It was interesting in that it did not taste like either coffee did individually but I created a new flavor. What I discovered through self-experience is that home roasters will tend to blend coffee out of curiosity or simply what’s on hand. Another common reason home roasters tend to blend is because they have “leftovers” of different coffee beans insufficient into themselves of roasting but that can be combined to produce a roast. Blend to cultural tastes. Within the coffee world there have certain flavor and taste profiles have become common knowledge. For instance, Milan espresso is distinctly different than San Francisco espresso. So people blend to get “that San Francisco taste”. Another example might be blending to achieve that perfect Colombian cup of coffee.
French Press Coffee Maker
Coffee Blends Types And Coffee Blend Building Blocks
Home Coffee Roasting, Revised, Updated Edition: Romance and Revival by Kenneth Davids For the concepts in this next section I’m going to give credit to the book “Home Coffee Roasting by Kenneth Davids. He speaks of blending coffee by role. As I went through his descriptions, in my mind I started to think about building blocks. When I was a kid my absolute favorite toy was this wooden wagon full of different size building blocks. I could amuse myself four hours with the different sizes and combinations I could put together. Blending coffee is similar to using building blocks. Kenneth Davids separated coffees into different ‘roles’, I think of them is different building blocks you can use to structure your coffee blends. There are five different coffee roles (building blocks)
- Category One: Big Classic Coffees.
- Category Two: Softer Classic Coffees.
- Category Three: Highlight And Exotic Coffees.
- Category Four: Base Note Coffees.
- There is a fifth category, Robusta coffee which typically is a low-grade coffee used by commercial blenders. That is not us, so I won’t confuse the issue.
1: Big Classic Coffees. These coffees are basically, they have a high degree of acidity and good body. They may be too strong to form the base of a coffee blend, but can act as a turbocharger to pump it up a notch. Examples would be high altitude grown Costa Rica coffees, Colombian coffees in Guatemalans. 2: Softer Classic Coffees. The following coffees are considered to be good candidates for base coffees. They tend to have solid flavor but are not intrusive. If they are roasted to a darker degree they can become favorites for espresso blends. Examples of these coffees would be coffees from Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Santos coffee from Brazil, Santo Domingo or Dominican Republic coffees and wet processed or washed coffees from India. 3: Highlight And Exotic Coffees. These coffees function exactly as the name suggests they can add that little bit of “extra something” to a coffee blend that makes a distinctly unique. On their own, they are a bit too powerful for use as a base. Examples of these coffee would be Ethiopian Harrar, Yemen Mocha, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and Zimbabwe coffees. 4: Base Note Coffees: The function of a base note coffee is to add body and richness it also helps other coffees to blend and get together nicely. Most of these base note coffees come from Indonesia. They can be thought of as being an anchor in a coffee blend. But, like an anchor on their own they may be too heavy for most tastes. Examples of this class include my favorite Sumatra Mandheling. Also, coffees from Timor, Papua New Guinea, Sulawesi As you can see, certain groups of coffees can perform certain functions in blends. To use my first experience at blending which was strictly coincidental and accidental, I combined Ethiopian Yirgacheffe with a Colombian. In other words, I combined a ‘highlight and exotic’ coffee (Ethiopian), with a ‘big classic’ coffee (Colombian). I accidentally made a good guess at two coffees that would go well together. Perhaps if you visualize the building block or coffee blend role model it might guide you toward putting two or more coffees together in a blend that will work. It can also help you avoid some perils and pitfalls.
Some Home Coffee Roasting And Blending Ideas
This may not come out right but I’m going to say it anyway. You have to determine whether you’re just an experimenter in fooling around with coffee blends or whether you want to take this meticulously and seriously.
Each type of person will have their own approach to coffee blending. I have a bit of perfectionism in my personality, but have to admit that right now I’m just experimenting in fooling around while I become more proficient at coffee roasting. I can serve my needs with bare basic information. I am scratching my itch for curiosity in good taste.
A more serious and meticulous person will definitely want to keep records and become an expert in their own personal tastes and desires.
Here are some ideas and questions to answer to get you started:
- For a starting point, think about your normal “go to” coffee. For me, and for years that has been Sumatran Mandheling, which is a base note coffee with heavy body and richness.
- Next, think about how you would like to “tweak it”. For me I would like to “lighten it up a bit”. That points me in a direction of a secondary coffee to blend with my favorite, perhaps a “lighter classic” coffee such as a Panamanian coffee.
- Roast and brew a pot of each and start experimenting with different ratios. For instance, I pour myself three quarters of a cup of Sumatran and one quarter of a cup of Panamanian.
- Now you can have some fun with the taste test mixing and matching the two coffees If I like that flavor I can now blend the beans at three parts Sumatran to one part Panamanian.
Apparently there is a huge controversy about whether to blend beans together before they are roasted or after they are roasted. There are dedicated proponents each side of the question.
If you are trying to blend coffee beans that are of significantly different sizes, density or moisture content, each will roast differently. In that case, it makes sense to roast the coffees individually and then to blend them together at the grinding process. Intuitively, that makes the most sense to me.
However, most coffees can be roasted together and it will work, until it doesn’t. If you’re going to roast beans together here is a huge tip:
How To Blend Coffee Beans For Espresso
I have to be honest admit I have little experience with blending coffee espresso simply because I’m not a huge fan of it. I can, however pass on some of my research and hopefully this will provide some information for you.
Most people were blending coffee for espresso are going for an Italian style espresso. In order to get true Italian style espresso a blend is necessary as there is no “perfect” espresso being – that is a holy Grail that people searched for for a long time.
The base coffee for an Italian style espresso is Brazilian. To the Brazilian, Colombian or Costa Rican beans are often added to provide some extra body. And lastly, Sumatran Mandheling (one of my favorites) will give it a slightly smoky, earthy feel.
Blending espressos can to get extremely sophisticated and complicated. There are many people who are searching for a gold standard.
At this point, being so early in my coffee roasting career, I have not become that sophisticated.
I provided some guidelines or recipes that people of used as a starting point to create their own espresso blends.
Espresso Coffee Blend Recipes
While espresso is not my particular forte, and does not appeal to my particular taste I did come across some interesting information and espresso recipes which I will share. I was trolling through some for coffee forms were I found this comment:
“(There is a)… terrific medium bean available almost every year is Bolivia Cenaproc, which produces an incredibly sweet caramel and almond shot SO. It’s almost magical as a cappa.”
The reply was:
“Per your recommendation Jim I ordered a 5 lb. bag. Roasted a batch and pulled my first SO shots of this offering this morning. Very nice! Reminds me of a liquid cup of an Almond Snickers candy bar”
That sounded really good to me. Another being competent composition for espresso was given:
- 25% brazil yellow bourbon
- 25% yemen
- 25% sumatra mandheling
- 8-10% robusta
- 15-18% la minita
I hope this little post on an introduction to home roast coffee blending was helpful to you. The intention of the post was not to be a complete and thorough coverage of the topic but rather an introduction.
I have stated in this post and elsewhere in the blog that I am new to the experience of home coffee roasting and delving deeper into coffee as a hobby and evocation.
There is plenty to do for me to perfect my roasting skills and explore all the wonderful coffee beans available in the world. I believe, however, there is also a place for exploration.
That’s were blending coffee comes into play. With a huge number of coffee beans available in the world and the ability to blend them in any combination in any proportion the sky is the limit. In fact, I kind of like that there is many different possible blends of coffee as there are stars in the sky.
Okay, no more poetic visions.
I just wish you the best of luck in your coffee enjoyment.
Coffee Lover’s Accessories:
Here are some gift ideas to help make your coffee experiences richer. We selected these gifts based on practicality and usefulness any coffee lover would appreciate.
Zevro Indispensable Coffee Dispenser, Silver – 1/2 PoundOzeri Pronto Digital Kitchen and Food Scale, Elegant BlackZoku Grey Iced Coffee Maker, Travel Mug – Hot Coffee In – Iced Coffee OutCup Holder Desk Clip Silver – Durable, Portable, and Foldable!
1. Ground Coffee Dispenser. No need to measure every time.Designed to measure one tablespoon at a time, the dispenser can be used to place ground coffee directly into coffee makers or espresso machines. It is constructed to keep ground coffee fresh for maximum flavor, and the included base keeps counter tops clean of ground coffee spills. Holds up to half a pound of ground coffee. Click & Check it out here.
2. Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale An accurate scale is a must for precision coffee making and coffee bean roasting. This is a top seller. Precision Tare Button calculates the net weight of your ingredients by automatically subtracting the weight of any bowl or container.Runs on 2 AAA batteries (included) that automatically power-off after 2-minutes to preserve battery life. Click & Check it out here.
3. Grey Iced Coffee Maker – Travel Mug Pour hot coffee in – get iced coffee out. Make chilled iced coffee or tea in as little as 5 minutes, no ice needed and it works with any brewing method, including single cup machines, drip, and pour over methods 4 designer colors to choose from. Click & Check it out here.
4. Portable Cup Holder With Clamp – Durable, Portable, and Foldable! This is not cheap plastic – it is aluminum with great clamping power. It fits many sizes of cups and appears safe and secure when holding a 32oz filled cup, a mug (up to 3″ in diameter), a thermos, a water bottle, or a soda can. Click & Check it out here.