In today’s article, I would like to talk about a very controversial topic in the coffee world. I am referring to the differences between coffee blend and single origin coffee. I will explain clearly and simply what each coffee consists of and which one is the best according to your tastes, as well as other questions.
How to identify a coffee blend or a single origin coffee
The first thing we see when buying coffee beans is the brand name of the company that sells them, which may or may not be the same one that roasts the coffee. Most coffee shops that sell their coffee buy it from another roaster and place their brand on the package.
It is essential that the package specifies by whom it is roasted since roasting is a very important part of the chain of traceability of a coffee. This would be ideal, but unfortunately, this does not happen often.
After seeing the brand name, we observe the name of the coffee in the case of blends and the country in the case of single origin coffees.
What is a single origin coffee?
If you see that on a package, it says, for example, Peru region Rodriguez de Mendoza Amazonas, we will know that this is a single origin coffee. This means that all the beans we will consume from that bag come from the same country and region.
And if further down in the information, we see the name of a farm, it means that this coffee is produced only by that farm located in that specific region. In other words, we have precise information on where the coffee comes from.
This is the traceability we see in a specialty coffee, where we can know exactly where it was planted and harvested. Then we have more information on the label that tells us what type of plant it is, how tall it is, how it was processed, etcetera.
What is a coffee blend?
We often see a coffee with a name that has nothing to do with a country or region. A blend is a mixture of different coffees, that is to say, in the same bag, not all the beans come from the same region and country, but rather we have come from one place and others from another.
Is a coffee blend better than a single origin coffee?
It depends. What happens with blends is that, in most cases, this mixture is made to take advantage of an older coffee that is left over, reduce costs, or make a coffee yield better. If we talk about this type of blend, I am not in favor, and I would not recommend buying them.
However, we can also find well-made blends with the sole purpose and objective of finding an even better flavor than the separate parts. Of course, we must start with good-quality coffee, which is already rich. Otherwise, no combination is going to save it.
How is a coffee blend made?
To create a quality coffee blend, one must have a lot of knowledge about coffee and a very well-trained palate. The roaster must recognize each coffee’s flavors and find new flavors that emerge when we put them together (always tasting and evaluating).
Yes, the roaster is in charge of preparing coffee blends. He should be able to develop profiles of each coffee that potentiate the best of each one but simultaneously have the same level of solubility.
We cannot place in a blend a coffee with a dark roast and one with a light roast since, at the moment of preparation, some beans will be over-extracted and others under-extracted.
There are many details to take into account when preparing a good blend. It is not something that is decided to blend just for the sake of it.
How do we know if a coffee blend is good or bad?
Blend coffee packages should include all the traceability of the beans, as we find in each single origin coffee. It is not enough to know that, for example, a blend has a part from Peru and Colombia. We need to know where each one comes from, from which region, which farms, what process or benefit each one had, etc.
Another indication that we are dealing with a quality blend coffee is that the percentage of each coffee in the blend is indicated. This is something that I find very interesting because it also indicates that it is not something that is made just for the sake of it.
There are so many flavors in a single coffee, from a single variety, from a single estate, that it is worth taking the time to discover all each one has to offer.
But at the same time, the blend makes me a little curious; I like to see the different facets each bean can offer when it is united with others. I am currently experimenting with blended coffees and find them as good as single origin coffees.
Which is better, to buy a single origin coffee or a blend?
Let’s put the situation of buying a coffee; we see a single origin coffee and a blend, then the question arises, which one is better to buy? Well, first of all, make sure that it is a good quality coffee and make sure that it has as much information as possible.
If the blend only says what country each coffee comes from and nothing else, run away because it is surely a commercial coffee. We already know what this can mean; a coffee of poor quality, rancid, rotten, eaten by insects, with unpleasant flavors, etcetera.
If both have all the traceability information, it’s up to you. Assuming, of course, that both come from the same roaster because if they are from different roasters, you will have one that you will like more than the other due to the type of roasting that each one gives it.
Sometimes also, if the single origin coffee is very exotic (probably because of this, we see it unblended), you will need a little knowledge to get the best out of it. Sometimes blends offer less difficulty when it comes to extraction.
It should also be considered that a single origin coffee will have greater consistency in flavor since you are always preparing the same coffee. Once you have calibrated the grind and the recipe for each one, you already know how the cup should taste.
On the other hand, in a blend, even if we have, for example, 50% Peru and 50% Colombia, this does not mean that it will be the same in each dose that we use. Sometimes, the flavors may change a little about what we use; this is even more noticeable if there are more than two coffees in a blend.
So, in this case, I would say that you should be guided by the tasting notes each package indicates and the profile you like. Try different coffees to see which characteristics you like the most; this is the fun of coffee.
And if you want to learn how to read a coffee label, I will leave you an article where I tell you in detail each section of the label and what each thing means, to know how to choose a coffee.