Despite the rise in popularity of single origin coffees over the last few years, coffee blends have remained a staple for many specialty roasters. They offer consistency and reliability while delivering a well-balanced flavour profile.
Defined as coffee made from beans from more than one origin, blends are generally considered to be a good option for those looking to create a high-quality yet cost-effective product that a broad range of customers can keep coming back to.
What Is A Coffee Blend & Why Do Roasters Offer Them?
In simple terms, a coffee blend is a mixture of two or more single origin coffees. They are generally made with no more than five different coffees, with one coffee making up a significant proportion of the blend, known as the “base”.
It is a broad term, as some coffee blends consist of beans from different regions in the same country, while others are from different countries altogether. This is in contrast to a wine blend, which is a blend of different grapes usually from the same vineyard or village.
There are a number of reasons that specialty roasters may choose to create coffee blends. One of the most significant is to meet consumer demand for consistency..
While some coffee drinkers may enjoy regularly trying new flavours, many just want the same, repeatable experience all year round once they find a coffee they like. By blending coffee beans, roasters can avoid the seasonal variations of coffee supply and offer a more consistent product that consumers will keep coming back for.
A blend can also create a more well-balanced coffee by bringing together the best characteristics from each bean and hiding anything that will be overpowering or unappealing. For example, a roaster may decide to pair the bright, apple-like acidity of one coffee with a more mellow coffee to create a well-balanced blend that’s likely to have widespread appeal.
Similarly, if targeting consumers who prefer milk-based coffees, then roasters can choose to replace the high acidity of one coffee with the nutty, chocolate, or caramel notes of another. This blend will often be bolder, darker, and more intense, allowing the flavour of the coffee to shine through the milk drink, such as a cappuccino or a latte.
Furthermore, for some roasters, blending coffee is a practical and economic choice. Like all commodities, coffee is affected by many external factors, from extreme weather to political unrest.
By using multiple coffees in a blend, roasters can substitute one coffee for another should supply issues arise to maintain a consistent flavour profile. They can also mix cheaper, slightly lower quality beans with high-quality beans to reduce their costs without sacrificing too much flavour.
What To Consider When Creating A Coffee Blend
Coffee blends offer roasters a number of benefits, but there are a few important aspects to consider before developing your own.
Danilo is a roaster consultant and WBC certified judge based in Brazil. He tells me that while many specialty coffee roasters choose to blend coffee to create a “signature” coffee, there are more effective ways of approaching it.
“If a roaster wants to create a coffee that’s his or her ‘signature’, I would say a better way is to find a green source specifically for their coffee, and focus on achieving a roast profile that’s perfect for that coffee,” he says.
“The reason for this is because unless you’re making a blend for espresso where an uneven roast isn’t as problematic, there’s always going to be a degree of variance when using multiple coffees.”
Danilo suggests that it’s common among those attempting blends for the first time to roast multiple coffees to the same level all at once, which can result in an uneven roast profile and an unappealing flavour. This is because coffee beans from different origins will react differently when exposed to heat due to a range of factors, from moisture content to density. A dark roast for smaller beans may end up only being a medium roast for larger, heavier beans, for example.
Instead, he advises roasting each coffee separately to find a roast profile that suits each bean, before blending them together afterwards. This is what’s known as “post blending”.
Post blending has become a popular option for specialty coffee roasters because it helps bring out the best characteristics of each coffee, while maintaining the specific ratios of a blend.
Danilo also says that there’s some debate around consistency. Although a blend offers the option of substituting one coffee for another should there be any supply issues, it can be difficult to manage consistency when there are more than two different coffees in a single blend.
“I would recommend using no more than two origins per blend,” Danilo says. “Choose one as the base, accounting for 60 to 80% of the blend, and the other to ‘spice things up’. If you have lots of origins, it’s more difficult to control variance.”
Packaging For Coffee Blends
For many coffee consumers and roasters, freshness is best defined as providing drinkers with the “original, unimpaired quality” of a certain coffee. However, preserving freshness, whether for a single origin coffee or a coffee blend, can be a challenge for roasters.
One of the most important factors that affect freshness in coffee is its packaging. Packaging that protects the coffee, prevents exposure to external factors, and supports components for keeping the product airtight can have a significant impact on the quality of the coffee.
Danilo says that when preserving the freshness of coffee blends, roasters need to consider degassing. Degassing is a natural process that occurs when the build up of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the roasted coffee is released over the following days and weeks. However, because blends consist of more than one type of bean, the coffee may degas at different speeds.
Arabica-robusta blends are a particularly pertinent example of this, as the two are very likely to degas at different speeds. One study on the speed of degassing found that ground robusta beans degassed quicker thanks to higher sucrose and carbohydrate levels when compared to arabica.
To solve this problem, roasters can include degassing valves that act as one-way vents for releasing CO2 without letting oxygen enter. Degassing valves can be attached either during or after manufacture to multilayer packaging, helping to create an impermeable product.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer compostable, BPA-free degassing valves that can be added to pouches made from kraft paper, rice paper, PLA, or LDPE to create a sustainable packaging solution.
Specialty coffee roasters have offered coffee blends for decades. Not only do they allow roasters to deliver consistent flavour profiles, they also allow roasters to bring out the best from a range of origins, while allowing them to mask or hide undesirable flavours.
Although a reliance on them for creating a “signature” brand is disputed, a good blend can help roasters reach a wide audience of customers who will keep coming back for the same flavour.
At MTPak Coffee, we can help specialty roasters find the perfect packaging to complement their unique coffee blend. From multilayer pouches to degassing valves, our packaging solutions will ensure your coffee will arrive at the customer as fresh as it can be.
For more information on coffee packaging for coffee blends, contact our team here.
Photo credits: Cris Flores, MTPak Coffee
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