Coffee blending is done for several reasons. Presumably, the goal is to make a coffee that is higher in cup quality than any of the ingredients individually. But high-quality Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the taxonomic species name of the genus responsible for around 75% of the worlds commercial coffee crop.: Arabica refers to Coffea Arabica, the... ...more coffee should be able to stand alone; it should have good clean flavor, good aromatics, Associated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup, including all... ...more, and Aftertaste refers to lingering residual sensations in the mouth after coffee has swallowed. It might be distinguished from "finish" which is the final sensations of the coffee while... ...more. So one reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend. Another reason might be to create a proprietary or signature blend that leads consumers to equate a particular coffee profile with a particular brand image; consumers don’t often call Starbucks by the In coffee talk, it refers to a coffee-producing region or country; such as, "I was just at origin." Of course "Origin" for most product we use is not... ...more names used in the coffee but simply as “a cup of Starbucks” as if the dark carbon-y roast tastes were somehow exclusive to that brand. Coffees are also blended to attain consistency from month to month and crop year to year. This is done with major brands that do not want to be dependent on any specific Origin Flavor is a term we use to describe coffee flavors that are intrinsic to a particular coffee from a particular origin, and in contrast to flavor we... ...more so they can source coffee from various (or the least expensive) sources and attain a consistent flavor. Such blends generally reduce all the coffees included to the lowest common denominator. But let’s put aside the less-than-noble reasons for coffee blending and focus on details that concern the quality-oriented roaster.
Before blending any high-quality coffees you should know the flavors of the individual coffees and have some goal for an ideal cup that cannot be attained by a Single Origin refers to coffee from one location, in contrast to blended coffee. This term is particularly useful in discussing espresso, since most commercial espressos are made from... ...more or single Degree of Roast simply means the roast level of a coffee, how dark it has been roasted.: Degree of Roast simply means the roast level of a coffee,... ...more. It would be a shame to blend a fantastic A "coffee estate" is used to imply a farm that has its own processing facility, a wet-mill. In Spanish this is called an Hacienda. A Finca (farm) does... ...more coffee …after all, you are supposedly trying to attain a cup that exceeds the components and it’s not likely you can do this with top coffees.
Given that you have both a reason to blend and a logical process for doing it, there will be little need for more than say 5 coffees in the blend. Blends with more than 5 coffees could be considered fanciful or indulgent, depending on your perspective.
Blending Before or After Roasting
The case for roasting coffees individually is strong with the A blend containing a coffee that has been roasted to a different levels (or steps) - light to dark.: A blend containing a coffee that has been roasted... ...more type blend (see below) and with a handful of particular coffees, such as Ateng is a common name for Catimor coffees widely planted in Sumatra and other Indonesia isles.: Ateng, with several subtypes, is a common name for Catimor coffees widely... ...more or monsooned coffees in A small coffee beverage, about 20 ml, prepared on an espresso machine where pressurized hot water extracted through compressed coffee.: In its most stripped-down, basic form, this is... ...more blends. Some coffees are denser, or have extreme size variations; these will roast differently than standard wet-processed Arabicas. All dry-processed Arabicas require roasting to a slightly higher temperature. If you are experimenting with blend ingredients and percentages, you will want to pre-roast each component separately so you can experiment with variations.
If you already have an established blend, it’s much easier to blend the coffee green and roast it together. In most cases, in fact, the coffees can be roasted together. I would advise this: roast the coffee together until you encounter a situation where the results are disappointing and for success, you must roast them separately. Every coffee roasts a bit differently but there is a great deal of averaging that occurs between coffees in the roast chamber, especially in drum roast systems. And then there are the coffees that do not roast evenly as single origins either: Yemeni, Ethiopian DP coffees, etc. Uneven roast color is not a In coffee, a defect refers to specific preparation problems with the green coffee, or a flavor problem found in the cupping process. Bad seeds in the green coffee... ...more, and only when it occurs in a wet-processed Arabica that should roast to an even color (and sometimes not even in this case) is it of any consequence.
Coffee Blending for Filter-Drip Brewing: the Melange
One of the most compelling reasons to blend coffee is the Melange, a blend of coffees roasted to different degrees. A good reason for a Melange might be perhaps you want the carbon-y flavors of a dark roast but also want the acidy snap of a lighter roasted Kenya is the East African powerhouse of the coffee world. Both in the cup, and the way they run their trade, everything is topnotch.: Kenya is the East... ...more or Central American coffee is known for its "classic," balanced profile.: Central American coffee is known for its "classic," balanced profile. Centrals are primarily wet-processed since the climate is... ...more.
Here’s an idea for a blend that has dark roast flavors, good body, and an acidy snap to it:
- 40% Colombian, Nicaraguan or Brazilian roasted Full City to preserve body
- 30% Mexican (or other mild Central American) roasted French for sharp, A roast-related flavor term, referring to burnt flavors from dark roast levels. For some this is a pleasant flavor if residual sweetness is present, but plain carbon flavor... ...more flavors
- 30% Kenya Estate roasted City for bright acidy snap (var. bright Costa Rican, Guatemalan or other Central American)
If you want a Melange that has good body, Bittersweet is from the language of chocolate, and describes the co-presence of positive bittering compounds balanced by sweetness. It is directly related to caramelization, but has inputs from... ...more flavors, and Acidity is a positive flavor attribute in coffee, also referred to as brightness or liveliness. It adds a brilliance to the cup, whereas low acid coffees can seem... ...more without the carbon-y flavors:
- 60% Colombian roasted Full City
- 40% Kenya or bright Central American roasted City
With a really good Central American that has nice Suggests a harmony and proportion of qualities, and implies mildness since no one quality dominates.: Balance is both an obvious and slippery taste term. It implies a harmony... ...more, acidity, and body, you can even blend two roasts of the same coffee with each other:
- 60% Colombian or Nicaraguan roasted Full City +
- 40% of the same coffee roasted City, just past the Similar to aftertaste, but it refers to the impression as the coffee leaves the palate. Aftertaste is the sensations gathered after the coffee has left the mouth. We... ...more of First crack in one of two distinct heat-induced pyrolytic reactions in coffee. It is distinguished by a cracking or popping sound in the coffee, and occurs between 390... ...more.
I have found that the SCAA Expo is a great place to taste popular blends that are showcased by bigger roasters (they pay to serve their coffee between seminars) and taste what some roasters consider as benchmark quality blends. At the 1998 SCAA trade show in Philadelphia, it was amazing how many Melange blends feature 30%-40% Kenya for acidy snap. It’s an easy way to create dimension in the cup, and highlight acidity against the depth of bittersweet roast tastes and better How a coffee feels in the mouth or its apparent texture, a tactile sensation : A major component in the flavor profile of a coffee, it is a... ...more (body) than Kenya’s typically exhibit.
Coffee Blending for Filter-Drip Brewing: the Mokha-Java Blend
Amazingly, blending is as old as domesticated coffee production itself. The full-bodied, low-toned There are several types of Abyssinia, but they are not from Ethiopia but rather Indonesia. Abyssinia 3 = AB3. PJS Cramer, a Dutch plant researcher, introduced this variety in 1928,... ...more from Dutch estates was combined with the medium-bodied, enzymatic (floral-fruity), more acidic The Yemeni type of coffee, both in terms of the family of cultivars planted there, and the general trade name.: Mokha Yemeni type of coffee, both in terms... ...more coffees early on. Was it only done by habit? Or was it done to improve taste – that the two complimented each other and resulted in a more The co-presence of many aroma and flavor attributes, with multiple layers. A general impression of a coffee, similar to judgments such as "balanced" or "structured" ...more cup than either provided by itself? With the crude roasting and brewing devices of the time, isn’t it a trip that they could taste the improved complexity of the Mokha-Java blend!
Mocha-Java can be interpreted literally, with Yemen has a coffee culture like no other place, and perhaps some of what we enjoy in this cup is due to their old style of trade...: Technically,... ...more Mokha and estate Java as the constituents. Or, as is usually the case, it is a blend of some Indonesian coffee is known for its unique earthy, potent flavors. Some like it, some hate it, but it's certainly distinctive. Much of the coffee in Indonesia is processed... ...more (Indonesians are available as a unique wet-hulled or dry-hulled (washed) coffees. Giling Basah is the name for the wet-hulling process in Bahasa language, and will have more body... ...more or Sulawesi coffees are low-acid with great body and that deep, brooding cup profile akin to Sumatra. The coffee is sometimes known as Celebes, which was the Dutch colonial... ...more) with either (dry-processed) Ethiopian or Yemeni coffee. They are commonly blended in equal parts 50-50, or with a little bias like 40-45 African, 60-55 Indonesian.
- Harar (or other Dry Processed Ethiopian) 50%, Java 50% brought to a City roast is what we define as the earliest palatable stage that the roast process can be stopped and result in good quality coffee. City roast occurs roughly... ...more: Excellent delicate version of the Mokha-Java blend, with a wonderful Floral notes in coffee exemplify the connection between taste and smell. Describing the taste of a specific flower is near impossible...we always default to “it tastes like it... ...more Aroma refers to sensations perceived by the olfactory bulb and conveyed to the brain; whether through the nose or "retro-nasally": The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence its... ...more, In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don't exactly see... ...more acidity, and a medium-full body. Java is the cleanest Indonesian coffee typically, and the most nuanced. This is a superbly complex cup, that alternates between its low tones and the fragrant high notes.
- Harar (or other Dry Processed Ethiopian) 50%, Sumatra 50% brought to a deep Full City roast: A more aggressive Mokha-Java, with a deeper, fuller body, and more earthiness in the bass notes. The roast’s bittersweet adds to the complexity and reduces the lovely Harar acidity somewhat.
- Harar (or other Dry Processed Ethiopian) 50%, Sulawesi Toraja 50% : The cleaner taste of the Sulawesi vs. the more aggressive A trade name used for wet-hulled Sumatra coffees. It is an area and a culture group as well (spelled Mandailing often) but there is not as much coffee... ...more results in a better, more focused blend. Sulawesi provides a better backdrop to the Harar’s enzymatic flowery aromatics.
- Yemen 25%, Sulawesi Toraja 75%: By far the best Mokha-Java blend, the Mattari is a great coffee to use almost as a spice …it is so powerful that straight roasts of it can be a little “too much” for me. The Sulawesi provides a syrupy body and deep tones, the Yemen just sits atop that and adds berry-like fruitiness and intense aromatics.
- Ethiopian Djimma 15%/Harar 35% (basically two dry-processed Ethiopians blended), Sumatra 50%: Less acidity/brightness and more A general flavor or aroma term reminiscent of chocolate. But what type? Usually described with more specifics.: Chocolate is a broad, general flavor or aroma term reminiscent of... ...more and earth. It swings the blend in that direction…*** In early 2009 we retired our Puro Scuro blend – and short of giving away the recipe – the Puro Scuro was essentially a modified Mocha Java blend. Follow the comments above for the Harar/Sumatra approach to Mocha Java.
Traditionally, most espresso blends use a base of one or several high-quality Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, "they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil".: Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra... ...more arabicas, some washed and some dry-processed or pulped natural, to lend body to the blend. African coffees may be added for A taste term to describe a wine-like flavor with a similar perceived acidity and fruit, and some level of acetic acid. It is found most commonly in East... ...more acidity or enzymatic flowery /fruitiness, or a High Grown, or HG, is a coffee designation that can mean different things in different countries. : High Grown, or HG, is the highest quality Mexican coffee designation... ...more Central American can be used for a cleaner acidity. The past few years have seen a shift in the approach to espresso blends and even roasting for espresso, with brighter coffees and lighter roasts. The Espresso Workshop blends reflect this new thinking (more on this below).
Dry processed coffees are responsible for the attractive Crema is a dense foam that floats on top of a shot of espresso. It ranges in color from blond to reddish-brown to black. Blond crema may be... ...more on the cup (crema is a result of other mechanical factors in the Refers to the process of infusing coffee with hot water. Hot water releases or "extracts" the flavor from the roasted, ground coffee. The term is used mostly with... ...more process as well). Wet processed Central Americans add positive aromatic qualities. Robustas, or The botanical genus colloquially referred to as the “coffea genus,” which is comprised of over 120 individual species. These are generally opposite-leaved, evergreen shrubs or small understory trees... ...more canephora, are used in some blends to increase body, produce crema and add a particular bite to the cup. The notion that true “continental” espresso blends have Robusta usually refers to Coffea Robusta, responsible for roughly 25% of the world's commercial coffee. Taxonomy of Robusta is debated: some sources use “Robusta” to refer to any... ...more is nonsense! In fact, the coffee samples from small Italian roasters we have (in green form) appear to be very mild, sweet blends with about 40% Brazil Dry process coffee is a method for taking the fruit from the tree to an exportable green bean. The whole intact coffee cherry is dried in the sun... ...more, 40% Colombian and 20%+ Centrals, like Guatemalan. For bite and earthiness, you can use a DP Ethiopian like Sidamo or Djimma. It’s fun to play with Robusta, but I personally don’t like it too much beyond experimentation.
A Colombian-based espresso blend offers a sharper, sweeter flavor but won’t result in as much crema production.
You can blend by the seat of your pants (not recommended) or use a logical process of establishing the coffees and the percentages. Start by developing the base to act as a backdrop in terms of flavor – a coffee that provides the kind of body, roast flavor and crema you like. We suggest Brazils, although Colombian or Mexican are viable options.
Practice roasting this base coffee to different degrees and pulling straight shots of single-origin espresso. Get familiar with this cup and imagine what you would like to improve in it (if you enjoy the base as is, then you have no need to continue!)
- Do you want it to be sharper and sweeter, with more aromatics? Perhaps you will want to add Central American coffees. Be careful with percentages above 25%, particularly if you like a lighter espresso roast. You will be losing some crema and body.
- Do you want more body and Sweetness is an important positive quality in fine coffees, and is one of five basic tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Savory (Umami). In coffee, sweetness is a highly... ...more? Use a clean Indonesian like a Sulawesi or a premium Sumatra if you want to preserve some sharpness. You can go up to 50% with one of these …heck, they are nice at 100%!
- Do you want In some coffee taster’s lexicon, “fruity” means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and “fruited” means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don't exactly see... ...more acidity and more sweetness? Try a dry-processed Ethiopian. Harar is more A general characterization of pleasantly "natural" flavors, less sophisticated and less refined, but appealing. : What is Rustic? This is a general term we came up with... Dried... ...more with fruitiness and As an aroma or flavor in coffee, ferment is a defect taste, resulting from bad processing or other factors. Ferment is the sour, often vinegar-like, that results from... ...more. Sidamo has great pungency in the darker roasts, fruitier in the lighter roasts. These produce great crema. I often enjoy straight shots of these coffees, but keep it to 25% or so in most blends.
- Do you want spicy pungency? Try a Yemeni coffee. These also add ferment and great crema. I keep this to 50% or less (normally 25% or so) in blends.
- Do you want extreme bite? Try an Aged coffee is not the same as old coffee. Aged coffee typically has very strong earthy flavors, and can be very pungent, leather or tobacco aromas and flavors.:... ...more, a A method of ageing coffee in India where the unroasted coffee is exposed to humid monsoon winds.: Monsooned coffees are stored in special warehouses until the Monsoon season... ...more or Robusta. Aged and Monsooned coffees add certain funky tastes that people will either love or hate – give them a try to find out. Robusta — I would not go there unless absolutely necessary. I personally do not like the added An alkaloidal compound that has a physiological effect on humans, and a bittering taste. It is found throughout the coffee plant but is more concentrated in the seed... ...more they bring. They increase crema but you also need to keep them below 20% in the blend; I personally never go above 15% with them.
PLEASE NOTE: We “retired” Classic Italian Espresso Blend in late 2008, as we decided to start our Espresso Workshop limited edition blends. I liked Classic Italian blend, but don’t get excited about it the way I do about the new blends. After all, it’s a rather didactic premise: to demonstrate what Italian espresso would be like if it was local and freshly roasted. But espresso has changed a lot in the last 5 years and there are new flavor models for great espresso rather than constantly referring to Italian types. Anyway, this is a very simple blend, as it should be. It is dominated by Brazilian coffee. We chose 50% of a clean dry-process coffee (not fruity) and 50% of a Pulp natural is a hybrid method of processing coffee to transform it from the tree fruit to a green bean, ready for export. Specifically, it involves the removal... ...more (avoiding ones with too much acidity). There is a Central America component to add structure and some articulation; we greatly prefer a balanced El Salvador coffee had an undeservingly poor reputation for years, marred mostly by the inability to deliver coffee of high quality in an unstable political climate. Unfortunately, agriculture... ...more coffee of A coffee cultivar; a cross between Typica and Bourbon, originally grown in Brazil: Mundo Novo is a commercial coffee cultivar; a natural hybrid between "Sumatra" and Red Bourbon,... ...more Cultivar is a term used interchangeably with Varietal in the coffee trade to indicate plant material, although there are distinctions.: The naming of a cultivar should conform to... ...more here, such as the Matalapa Estate. Again, avoid acidity and choose a coffee that is balanced – there are balanced Guatemalas that also work well. Finally, there is the Robusta! It MUST be a clean washed type Robusta that cups well on its own. These are NOT easy to find and are often more expensive than arabicas. We relied on Indian coffees are under-represented in the coffee market: they are good balanced, mild coffees. You will find the pronounced body, low acidity and subtle spicy notes pleasing, and... ...more Green coffee still in its outer shell, before dry-milling, is called Parchment coffee (pergamino). In the wet process, coffee is peeled, fermented, washed and then ready for drying... ...more robustas for this. The recipe:
- 70% Brazil (a blend of a clean dry-processed coffee and a pulped natural one)
- 15% Central America (El Salvador Bourbon or balanced Guatemalan coffee is considered a top quality coffee producer in Central America. Due to our proximity to Guatemala, some of the nicest coffees from this origin come to... ...more, for instance)
- 15% Robusta (clean, washed)
There you have it: the “Open Source” code for Classic Italian. Not that complicated, eh? Most of the work is in selecting the right coffees to optimize the cup quality and maintain consistency – that’s the hard part! If you want to build this blend yourself, just avoid sharp acidic coffees, avoid fruity coffees, and look for A descriptive term I use to communicate a well-structured, classic, clean flavor profile from a wet-processed coffee. This would be in opposition to coffees with exotic character, flamboyant... ...more, balanced flavor profiles. It will turn out well if you do! -Tom
More Coffee Blend Recipes: Some Blends I Like
|What coffees won’t I use in espresso? Sometimes now it seems that anything goes; people are using just about every origin either in espresso blends or as single origin (SO) espresso. Now it is not uncommon to see Kenya as Short for Single Origin espresso, meaning using one origin specific coffee to make espresso, as opposed to using a blended coffee. ...more, for instance.
There’s a lot of ways to achieve great espresso. It’s fun to experiment and I don’t know if there is some terminal point where you achieve the objectively perfect espresso. These recommendations reflect my biases, of course!
For benchmarks, I would recommend trying our Sweet Maria’s Espresso Monkey Blend. Espresso Monkey will definitely give you a basis for comparison; it is a straight-forward sweet espresso blend. The Liquid Amber blend is an exotic pre-blended espresso so, if that’s what you like, you might want to look into Aged coffees and Robustas for your own blends, particularly Indian Monsooned Malabar. The Moka Kadir is a very fruity-winey North African and Yemen blend. So these three span the gamut of blends and can give you a good idea what direction to take with your own blend.
Here’s a great starter blend for a sweeter, cleaner espresso. The absence of North African or Yemeni coffee removes a little bite from the cup and possibly some fruity ferment flavor. This is, as noted above, a sweet blend used at a street level roasterie/caffe in Rome. They use a Guatemala Antigua for the Central:
I don’t think Colombians really pull their weight in a blend (though many people use them as a base or part of their blends), and prefer using Sumatra:
Some sharp sweetness (Central American) hides behind the Nutty is a broad flavor term, reminiscent of nuts ... but what kind exactly?: Nutty is a broad flavor term, reminiscent of nuts. It is tied intrinsically to... ...more Brazil flavors and the wonderful Yemeni aromatics. Mandheling adds body and depth. Yemeni coffees are fun for espresso blends, where they can be used like spice to give zest to aromatically or enzymatically flat blends. Roast to A machine and a color matching system used for quality analysis generally in the food industry, and specifically in coffee: Agtron spectrophotometers are used in the coffee industry... ...more 40 to 35. Good crema production from this blend due to the many dry-processed coffees:
Too sweet, too boring? You want something more aggressive, chocolatey? Drop the Centrals:
You can certainly keep going along this route by adding other coffees (Monsooned, aged, Robusta) to discover what they add and what they subtract from the blend.
For a potent Indian Monsooned-type blend you could do something like this:
For a potent aged coffee blend you could do something like this:
Decaf Espresso? Low-caffeine espresso? Ideally, use the same regions in decaf form when possible – we do try to stock Brazil decaf for this reason. Use this as 50% of your blend to cut the caffeine in half, then add your main “character” coffees as usual. Decaf Ethiopian is excellent in espresso. Try 50% Sumatra Decaf and 50% Ethiopian Decaf for a fantastic decaf espresso blend! If you want an all decaf blend I would do one of these:
For a half and half blend – just make one part decaf and the rest regular. Decaf coffees can lack some of the potency of their regular counterparts – so you may need to make adjustments to compensate. We also offer our own Sweet Maria’s Decaf Espresso Donkey Blend ready to roast.
A New Approach to Blends (from January-February 2009 Tiny Joy)
Something has been bugging me for a long time, something about the way we do things here at Sweet Maria’s.
It comes down to this: we hammer on the point over and over that “coffee is a crop, not a can of pop”, that coffee is variable, that each producing region has a peak harvest time, which is variable, that quality is … you guessed it, … variable and that small lots come and go, so availability is inevitably variable. Besides being one of the worst run-on sentences ever, you get my point. And we treat each and every lot we offer as a singular moment in this undulating and variable flow of coffee production. So, why have we made one great exception to this approach? Why have we maintained espresso blends that do not vary, that are always on the shelf, modifying their ingredients as the crop cycle rotates along? Good question. Part of it can be chalked up to “received wisdom.” Everyone else does it, they always have. It’s not a great answer.
To rewind and explain the logic of invariable blend offerings, I do feel that we have taken the best possible approach. If you kept the same blend ingredients year-round, if you bought a year’s supply of each lot for a blend, the cup quality would suffer. As the coffees age, The flavor of coffee that has been stored for too long, it has absorbed the flavor of whatever it has been stored in. : Coffees that are held... ...more flavors would emerge. Coffee does not last that long, and we are very sensitive about the age of our Green coffee refers to the processed seed of the coffee tree fruit. Coffee is a flowering shrub that produces fruit. The seeds of the fruit are processed, roasted,... ...more. We know that once we sell it, someone may have it for 6 months, or even a year, before roasting it. If we haven’t vacuum packed or “cellared” it here in our A multi-layer plastic bag with a gas barrier. The bags have been shown to extend the flavor life of the coffee significantly over storage in jute or burlap... ...more bags, we make sure we sell it rapidly. So, the alternative is to consistently change the blend, using newer arrivals that are good substitutes. That means the blend is never exactly what you intended … instead one maintains the “spirit of the blend,” its flavor theme, using new coffees to express that spirit. In this way, the blend is the best it can be, and is always high quality.
Still, it is never precisely the blend you intended. And these flavor themes can get old, unexciting, rote to the palate.
After a lot of consideration, I have decided to take two approaches simultaneously. I decided to change our blend offerings into Standards, blends with the same name we maintain and are consistently offered, and new Espresso Workshop editions. The latter are blends that are only offered for as long as we have the specific lots of coffee we used to design the blend, and then it’s gone. It’s a coffee-centric idea and allows for the exploration of newer espresso styles. In a sense, Espresso Workshop editions are pure and uncompromising: specific coffees are found that inspire testing, and a new blend idea is born. Instead of maintaining the blend and making ingredient substitutions down the line, the Workshop editions follow the crop cycle of the coffee; they come and go. The current Espresso Workshop and Standard blends are both listed on the current offerings.