When most people think of specialty coffee, it is often a single origin that comes to mind.
However, an increasing number of roasters are embracing the possibilities that come with filter coffee blends.
Coffee blends are typically created to produce a consistent product, and can result in a unique flavour profile that combines features from multiple beans and origins.
As filter coffee blends tend to be roasted lighter than espresso blends, the quality of the beans is often higher. This means it may be sold for a premium.
For more information on filter coffee blends, we spoke to owner and head roaster at Sumo Coffee Roasters, Daniel Horbat.
What is a coffee blend?
Roasters typically make coffee blends by mixing at least two green coffees.
The green beans can be sourced from different farms or regions in the same country to create a country blend, or from entirely different origins.
Where filter coffee is concerned, single origin coffees from one micro-lot or those sourced from co-operatives in the same region are often more highly prized.
“For me, single origin or single estate coffees win every time,” says Daniel, who is also the 2019 World Cup Tasters Champion. “Because you don’t mix it with any other beans, you get to experience unique and clear cups.”
When the beans are grown in the same climate conditions and processed in the same way, roasters can get a feel for the unique qualities of distinct varieties and terroirs.
However, with single origin coffee, there is no opportunity for roasters to balance the flavour profile. For example, it can be difficult to harmonise particularly bright notes, such as those usually found in East African coffees, with something more earthy, such as Indonesian coffees.
Essentially, roasters are limited to revealing the innate characteristics of a single origin coffee.
There are several benefits to roasting and offering filter coffee blends. For roasters, it allows them to be more creative with balancing flavour profiles by using different green beans.
However, the focus on origin and producer can be lost when creating a blend. This may be one of the reasons it is less favoured within the specialty sector.
That said, roasters can focus on informative labels on coffee bags to counteract this. Printing the full producer’s details of each green bean component, as well as the blend ratio, can provide consumers with an idea of how the blend was created.
When producing filter coffee blends, roasters have an opportunity to create a distinct, recognisable product for their brand.
“There is nothing wrong with creating a consistent and recognisable brand,” says Daniel, who was also a finalist in the Irish Latte Art Championship. “Especially if that is your business model, and you are looking to find yourself a nice niche.”
A prime example of this is the Red Brick Blend by Square Mile. This blend is well-known for its reliability in offering a sweet, slightly fruity, textured and versatile cup. Additionally, the website lists the country of origin and percentage of coffees used in the blend.
Producing a blend that has a familiar and easily recognisable flavour profile can help roasters develop a strong brand identity.
The difference between an espresso and a filter blend
The main difference between espresso and filter coffee blends generally lies in the roast profile. However, these differences can be minimal.
“Typically, the difference in my roastery is 10 to 15 seconds more in development and around 2ºC to 3ºC (36ºF to 37ºF) in the end temperature,” Daniel says. “This difference takes the beans into caramelisation, which results in a rounder, richer body, and a higher sweetness in the cup.”
In some cases, roasters may prefer a slightly darker result to accentuate tones such as toasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate.
For others, including Daniel, filter coffees are best kept at the lighter end of the scale.
He explains that it is important not to over-roast single origins. “A more delicate treatment can help highlight the coffee terroir, the fruity notes, and the higher acidity.”
Why do roasters often charge more for filter coffee blends?
While espresso blends are often just as high quality as filter blends, the longer roast time can more easily hide any imperfections.
Filter blends, on the other hand, rely more on the inherent characteristics of beans themselves. As a result, the coffees used in filter blends must generally be high quality.
Therefore, it stands to reason that filter coffee blends from the same roaster are often sold at a higher price than their espresso blends.
For example, UK-based Curve Coffee Roasters charge £8.50 ($11.20) for their “house espresso” compared to £9.50 ($12.50) for their “house filter”.
That being said, this isn’t the case for all roasters. At Sumo, Daniel says he uses the same beans for both espresso and filter.
“We do not cut on quality because it is an espresso roast,” he says. “We are very quality oriented, and we only source coffee based on our preferences, what we love, and what we would love to drink ourselves at home.”
Regardless of the chosen roast profile and whether roasters blend for filter or espresso, preserving the quality of the coffee is essential.
Sustainable multilayer packaging can help protect coffee against moisture, oxidation, heat, and sunlight. This involves choosing coffee packaging that will prevent exposure to moisture, heat, sunlight, and oxidation.
Multilayered packaging is more reliable at preventing coffee from losing its freshness than single layered. This typically involves an aluminium foil lining with a bioplastic or kraft paper exterior.
At MTPak Coffee, we are dedicated to helping specialty roasters preserve the quality of roasted coffee while keeping the environmental impact to a minimum.
We offer several packaging options from quad seal to flat bottom, stand-up to side gusset. Additionally, we offer recyclable degassing valves that can be fitted to the bags either before or after manufacture.
Furthermore, our pouches can be made in a range of sustainable materials, including kraft paper, PLA, and LDPE, making them recyclable and compostable.
For more information about our sustainable coffee bags, contact the team.
Photo credits: Daniel Horbat