Last Updated on May 22, 2022 by John Moretti
If you’ve ever wanted to create a coffee that had all the virtues and none of the vices, sooner or later, you’re going to want to experiment with blending. But how do you set about creating your coffee blend?
Mixing different single-origin coffee beans to create a blend allows you to create a signature coffee that guests can only have at your home. By selecting different varieties of beans that complement one another, you create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Whether it’s because you’ve got a small number of beans left from one batch, and you are forced by necessity into blending, or whether it’s in the spirit of experimentation, there are a lot of exciting opportunities to be created by blending.
Blending allows you to create a flavor profile more remarkable than the sum of its parts, with greater complexity and balance than each coffee would have on its own.
The Factors Affecting The Flavor Of Single-Origin Beans
Different varietals have different flavor profiles: Typica, Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, and Geisha all have different genetics that result in different aromatic flavor chemicals present in their beans.
However, where a bean is grown also affects how it tastes. Typica beans grown in Guatemala will have a different flavor profile than Typica beans grown in East Africa or Brazil.
Environmental factors that play a part in such geographical variation include latitude, altitude, soil type, and climate.
Latitude is how near the equator the beans are grown; altitude is the elevation at which the beans are grown: typically, high-altitude beans grow more slowly and are thus harder and more flavorful.
Soil type consists of factors such as the depth to which the roots can grow, the pH, and the mineral content of the soil. Climate consists of humidity, rainfall, and temperature: typically, beans that grow in cooler climates grow more slowly and are more flavorful.
Processing is also a significant factor in determining how a bean will taste. The two main processes are dry, which produces so-called natural coffees, and wet, which makes so-called washed coffees.
Each method extracts the coffee bean from the surrounding cherry, but the resulting coffees have different characteristics because the processes are different.
Dry processing causes a lot of sugar migration during sun-drying, which results in more soluble solids in the coffee. These solids give coffee its body, so natural coffees tend to have a better body.
Wet processing uses light fermentation in water, producing a coffee with fewer natural solids and a lighter body. However, the aromas tend to be more delicate.
So-called honey processing leaves a little bit of the fruit on the bean during processing and results in an intensely sweet coffee with honey notes.
The roast level also plays a role in how your coffee will taste. Many people make the mistake of thinking that dark-roasted coffee is stronger, whereas it tastes more like roast, with the roast flavors masking the characteristic notes of the bean.
If you want to create an exciting blend, avoid dark roast beans. Select a medium-to-dark roast for natural coffees and a light-to-medium roast for washed coffees. The more delicate aromas of the washed coffee will particularly benefit from a lighter roast.
Your Biggest Challenge In Creating Your Own Coffee Blend
You will need to take the time to experiment with different varieties. Some factors will be challenging to control, such as freshness and roasting dynamics and lot-to-lot variations in your raw material.
Because no two harvests are the same, you will have to play around with your blend to ensure that it consistently comes out the same.
As a result, your biggest challenge will be consistency, just like it is for the larger-scale blend makers.
The Best Coffee-Growing Regions For Desired Characteristics
Developing a good blend requires balancing three key characteristics: a well-rounded body, plenty of aromas, and a pleasing balance of bitter, sweet, and acid. The acid you’re looking for is the pleasing sourness of perfectly ripe citrus.
To do so requires looking to different coffee-growing regions for their signature characteristics.
The Body Of A Brazilian Coffee
1. Brazil Santos
Brazilian coffees are perennial favorites in blends for the excellent body they provide and their base note flavors. Brazilian natural Santos serves as an ideal base for a blend. The high soluble solid content produces a sound body and pleasing mouthfeel.
The aromas tend toward caramel and chocolate, provided you haven’t selected too dark a roast. When roasting (or buying) for a blend, steer clear of dark roast coffees, as the excessive bitterness produced tends to mask the more delicate aromas of the coffee.
Brazilian natural coffees will also provide you with the perfect bitterness for your blend, provided you haven’t selected a dark roast.
The Sweetness Of A Central American Coffee
1. Central America Coffee
To introduce sweetness into the blend, go for a Central America coffee from Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, or even Colombia (which is not strictly Central American, but the coffees are distinctly different from the Brazilian ones).
2. Costa Rica Tarrazu
The coffees of choice from this region are Costa Rican Tarrazu and West Valley. Coffees from this region often have excellent fruity, berry-like flavors and milk chocolate notes, as well as wine-like acidity, which contributes to mid-palate satisfaction.
3. Costa Rica West Valley
An alternative to Central American coffee is coffee from the western parts of East Africa, such as Rwanda or Burundi.
Be sure to avoid honey-processed coffee unless you are going to use it in small amounts in the blend or you want a distinctly sweet result.
The Acidity of An East African Coffee
1. East African Blend
For acidity and aroma, you should turn to East African coffee. Washed coffees from Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya are some of the most complex and flavorful coffees globally.
2. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Use a washed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe or Sidamo to add the desired acidity, along with fruity aromas and flavors and floral notes such as orange flowers and jasmine.
What Proportions To Use For Your Coffee Blend
Blending is not only about having the right ingredients but about assembling them in the correct proportions.
We recommend starting with 40 percent natural Brazilian, 40 percent washed Costa Rican, and 20 percent washed Ethiopian. A 30:30:40 ratio can also yield good results.
Taste and experiment, playing around with the proportions to achieve something that suits your tastes. Don’t use more than five types of coffee in a blend, and shoot for a minimum of 8 percent of any one coffee in a blend.
As you get into blending, you can start substituting the types of beans for others with similar characteristics and fine-tuning the proportions. Before long, you’ll have your signature blend.
Blending allows you to create exciting and well-balanced coffees that are impossible to obtain in any other way. By selecting single-origin coffees for the body, aromas, and bitter-sweet-sour balance, you can create a well-balanced blend that is certain to be a hit with your guests and which you will return to time after time.