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Coffee Basics

What Is a Coffee Blend & Why Do Roasters Create Them?

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Coffee beans from different origins blended together on a wooden table

While single-origin coffees may seem to be all the rage right now, the majority of coffee sold in grocery stores or used to make your favorite coffee drink at your local coffee shop is actually a coffee blend.

But what is a coffee blend? And how are they different from single-origin coffees?

In this article, we not only answer these two questions but dig into both the “why” and “how” of coffee blends and provide an easy way to determine if they’re right for you.

What Is a Coffee Blend?

What is a coffee blend infographic
Filtered Grounds/Dylan Van Gerpen

At its most basic level, a coffee blend is a combination of coffee beans from two or more different origins, but can also refer to a mixture of different types of coffee beans.

A coffee’s origin refers to the geographical location where it was grown. While “different origins” can mean different countries or growing regions within a single country, it can also mean different producers or farms within the same growing region.

Why Is Coffee Blended?

There are four primary reasons coffee roasters choose to blend coffees:

1. Reduce Production Costs

While it may be easy to assume that all coffee beans are created relatively equal, this belief couldn’t be further from the truth. 

A coffee’s quality frequently differs, sometimes significantly, from one producer or type of bean to another. Like most products, agricultural or otherwise, the better the quality, the more expensive it will be.

By blending beans with varying levels of quality, a roaster can mask some of the low-quality beans’ imperfections while at the same time reducing production costs. Unfortunately, this practice often leads to bad-tasting coffee.

2. Improve Availability

As with all agricultural products, coffee has its own growing and harvesting season. However, these seasons vary depending on where a producing country sits relative to the equator. 

Generally speaking, the further north a coffee is grown, the earlier in the year it’ll be harvested, and vice versa. This difference in seasonality can have a significant impact on a coffee’s availability.

Since blends are comprised of multiple origins, if one origin is out of season, a roaster can swap out those beans with beans from a different origin that is both in season and shares similar characteristics. This helps avoid shortages or fluctuations in production, ensuring a steady supply of coffee throughout the year.

3. Produce a Consistent Cup

Because of how coffee blends are developed, they’re incredibly consistent and balanced from one cup to the next. Generally speaking, they also do better with cream and sugar, flavored syrups, and espresso-based drinks.

Human beings are creatures of habit, so consistency is critical when it comes to keeping customers happy. This is why almost every cafe and coffee shop serves or utilizes some sort of house blend in the majority of their coffee drinks.

4. Create Unique Flavor Profiles

While single-origin coffees are great, they are what they are. There’s nothing you can do to change their innate flavor profile. Depending on the roast level, you can emphasize or highlight specific flavor notes, but that’s about it.

Conversely, blending allows you to take coffee beans with contrasting features or that have undergone different processing methods and create a complex, distinctive flavor profile that might not exist in a single-origin coffee.

How Is Coffee Blended?

The process a roaster uses to blend coffee beans is critical to ensuring the final blend’s desired flavor profile is properly and proportionately represented in each cup. 

There are two primary methods for doing this, each with its own set of pros and cons:

Pre-Blending

Pre-blending involves mixing the different green coffee beans prior to the roasting process. Large commercial roasters often prefer this method for its efficiency and cost-effectiveness since it only requires roasting one batch. 

However, because beans from different origins often have varying densities and moisture contents, this approach can lead to inconsistent roasting, with some beans being over or underdeveloped. 

While pre-blending can sometimes be suitable, depending on the specific blend’s characteristics, it generally faces criticism for its potential to diminish the beans’ distinct flavors.

Post-Blending

Post-blending, conversely, involves separately roasting each of the different bean origins to their ideal state before being combined. This allows the roaster to bring out the best in each bean.

The main advantage of post-blending is the heightened control over the final product’s taste, ensuring a more consistent and nuanced blend. 

Despite being more time-consuming and complex, post-blending is preferred among specialty roasters for its ability to achieve balance and showcase the individuality of each origin.

How Are Coffee Blends Different From Single-Origin Coffees?

Different coffee blends and single-origin coffees on a rustic wooden table
exclusive-design/Adobe Stock

While coffee blends combine beans from various origins, single-origin coffees are exclusively made up of beans sourced from a specific region, cooperative, or individual producer. This creates three main differences between blends and single-origins:

  • Taste: Coffee blends are designed to have a more balanced and harmonious flavor profile, whereas single-origin coffees are all about emphasizing the unique flavors and nuances of their respective terroir.
  • Seasonality: Due to their diverse composition, coffee blends are much more adaptable, ensuring a constant presence throughout the year. In contrast, single-origin coffees are dependent on the harvest seasons, making their availability more variable.
  • Traceability: Depending on the roaster, how the beans in a coffee blend were produced, processed, and sourced can often be ambiguous or even concealed, whereas transparency and traceability are defining characteristics of single-origin coffees.

How Do You Know if Coffee Blends Are Right For You?

Determining whether coffee blends are a better fit for you compared to single-origins ultimately comes down to personal preference. 

Here are four simple questions you can ask yourself that will help make deciding a little easier:

  1. Do you prefer your coffee to have a more balanced and harmonious taste, or does the idea of a unique and varied flavor profile interest you?
  2. When you go to your favorite restaurant, do you tend to order the same thing each time, or do you like trying something new?
  3. Are you typically okay with just about any coffee to brew your morning cup, or is it important to know the origin and story of where it came from?
  4. Is affordability most important to you, or are you willing to pay more for better quality?

If you find yourself resonating more with the first options in these questions, a coffee blend will probably be right up your alley. On the other hand, if you gravitated towards the latter, a single-origin coffee could be a fun way to mix things up.

The good news is, there’s no right or wrong answer. The best way to determine which is right for you is to experiment with both and see which tickles your taste buds the most.

Final Thoughts

Coffee blends can be a fantastic option if you’re looking for consistency and balance in your daily cup. Although they’re often viewed as lower quality due to certain commercial roasting practices, in the hands of a skilled roaster, they can rival almost any single-origin coffee. 

Lastly, if you’d like to continue furthering your coffee knowledge or if you’re looking for ways to improve your home barista skills, be sure to check out our brewing guides and the coffee basics sections of our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

A common misconception is that there’s a difference between espresso beans and coffee beans. However, an espresso blend is just a mix of regular coffee beans that have been optimized for espresso brewing. These are typically darker roasts that can stand up well to milk in lattes and cappuccinos, as well as produce a rich, creamy shot when enjoyed on their own.

While there isn’t an official definition of a breakfast blend, these tend to be light to medium roast coffees that are designed to be smooth and mild. They get their name for being easy to drink and pairing well with a typical morning breakfast.

Absolutely! You can either mix different single-origin beans before grinding or brew the single-origin coffees separately and then combine different ratios of the brewed coffees. Either method can be a fun way to explore the vast world of flavors coffee has to offer. However, blending coffee can be somewhat of an art, so don’t get discouraged if your first several attempts don’t turn out exactly the way you hoped!

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AUTHOR

Hey there! I'm Michael, founder and editor-in-chief of Filtered Grounds. In addition to being an entrepreneur, I'm also a bit of an endurance sports junkie. Whether it's working toward my business goals or training for my next Half Ironman triathlon, a good cold brew or cup of French press plays a role in fueling my performance.