Making the perfect cup of coffee starts with one key ingredient:
Fresh, delicious coffee beans.
With so many varieties to choose from, finding the beans you like best can take some time. But coffee expertise isn't something to rush, discovering your personal flavor preference is not a chore — it’s an adventure!
There are Arabica beans, Robusta beans, and Liberica beans. There are coffee beans grown in Ethiopia, Sumatra, Columbia, Hawaii, and dozens of other islands and countries worldwide. There are dark roasts, light roasts, medium roasts, and espresso roasts.
There are also single origin coffee beans and coffee blends.
Serious coffee lovers can narrow down their flavor preference to a specific bean from a single country at a particular roast level. Once you know how different beans from different regions taste, that’s easy.
But choosing a blend is a little bit trickier.
Do you value the flavor of high-quality coffee? Are you ready to try something other than your trusted single origin beans?
If so, pour yourself a cup, kick back, and read on …
What is a Coffee Blend?
A coffee blend is exactly what it sounds like — a blend of different coffee beans.
Those beans can be from:
- Separate coffee farms in the same region
- From other areas of the same country
- Or from different countries around the world
Coffee blends are the opposite of single origin coffee.
Single origin coffee refers to beans grown in the same region and sometimes even in the same micro-lot on the same farm. On the other hand, coffee blends combine different types of beans that can originate from anywhere in the world.
Many types of coffee are explicitly labeled as blends, but the fact is that most coffees are blends, whether they’re labeled that way or not.
For example, single origin coffees are always labeled as such, mainly because many coffee drinkers seek them out. But if you see a package of coffee without single origin on the label, it’s safe to assume that it’s a blend.
Learn more: Single Origin Coffee Explained.
Why Are Coffees Blended?
So if coffee aficionados so covet single origin coffees, why do roasters package blends at all?
There are several reasons why.
Blends Cost Less
Many roasters create blends because it allows them to mix lower-quality beans with higher-quality ones. Thus reducing their costs and increasing their profits. (It's also a way not to waste the product and not have to dispose of beans harvested in less-than-ideal conditions.)
If they packaged and sold lower-quality beans on their own, you probably wouldn't want to grind them and brew them in your cup. If you know coffee, you know that low-quality beans are never the way to go.
By mixing, roasters mask the subpar taste of less desirable beans with those of better quality.
The end result?
A great-tasting cup!
Blends Can Produce a Unique Flavor Profile
There are many coffee farms and coffee roasters in the business solely for its art. It's not always about making use of those less desirable beans to increase profits and keep costs low.
Many coffee blends come from mixing two or more different high-quality beans to create a unique flavor profile. Beans produce different coffee flavors. It stands to reason that by combining different beans together, you can create an incredible tasting coffee blend.
Combining and blending beans also creates contrast and can make a flavor with more acidity or more sweetness. Blending can create nutty notes, chocolate notes, or fruity notes, depending on the type of beans used and where they’re grown.
Coffee bean harvesting happens at different times throughout the year. Most countries harvest their beans once per year. While some countries, such as Kenya, have climates more conducive to twice-per-year coffee harvests.
When you harvest the coffee beans will also affect the way they taste.
By blending different coffee beans, roasters can maintain consistency in the type of beans they sell. If roasters only roasted one bean from one particular harvest, each batch would taste slightly different. Instead, the blending of various beans ensures that the roasters can sell a consistent product year-round.
And that means coffee drinkers can enjoy their favorite cup every morning — no matter what time of year it is.
Coffee Drinkers Love Blends
While we know plenty of coffee experts who love a single origin, we know just as many people married to their favorite blend. From the mocha-java blend to the breakfast blend, there are ample reasons why one might choose a blended coffee over a single origin.
Yet, it usually boils down to one thing:
Where Are Coffees Blended?
Coffee roasters typically do the coffee blending. Roasters source beans from different regions and then blend them to produce their preferred flavor and taste.
When roasters create a blend, they do it in one of two ways.
- Sometimes they combine and roast the different beans together.
- Other times they roast them separately and then combine them after they’re roasted.
This second method allows the roaster the option to blend beans of different roast levels.
Blending also takes place in many third wave independent coffee shops. Coffee shops often have a house blend or a signature blend that they've created on their own as a combination of two or more of their favorite beans.
Unless you’re committed to drinking single origin coffee, it’s always a good idea to sample a house blend from an independent coffee shop. You can discover flavor combinations that you never even knew existed!
It’s also possible to create your own blend at home.
How To Create Your Own Coffee Blends at Home
It’s blissfully straightforward to start playing with your own blends at home.
- Buy different beans you love
- Grind them together
- Brew them together in one cup
If you’re in an experimental mood, try creating your own signature blend at home.
Don’t worry — you don’t have to be a coffee expert or an experienced barista to do so. It's all about playing around with flavor combos and ratios until you find one that you love. (Sort of like making eggs a hundred times until you finally figure out how much pepper you should use as seasoning.)
We recommend the pour-over method for testing out your own coffee blends. You can find our helpful Pour-Over Brew Guide here.
How Are Coffees Blended?
Coffee is blended in different ratios using a minimum of two different types of beans and sometimes as many as five different varieties. As a result, endless coffee blends exist, but some typically blend in the same way.
Espresso blends often consist of:
- 50% Brazilian beans
- 25% Guatemalan beans
- 25% Colombian beans
Occasionally, substitutions happen. Like Central America beans replacing the ones from Colombia or Guatemala. This adds a slightly sweeter flavor and reduces the bitterness that some espresso blends have.
There are different ways to make an espresso blend. But high-quality Arabica beans from Brazil are essential in creating that coveted mellow flavor.
The mocha-java blend is another popular option.
This blend consists of a 50/50 mix of beans from:
- Yemen and Java
- Indonesia or Java
- Indonesia and Ethiopia
Love a breakfast blend to go with your morning bagel or avocado toast?
Your favorite breakfast blend is most likely a mix of beans from Central America and South America.
Some coffee blends combine washed beans with unwashed beans. Some consist only of unwashed beans, some only of washed beans, and some as a combination of washed and semi-washed beans.
There is no limit to how and which types of coffees you can blend. It's simply a matter of finding the ratio of various beans that will produce your desired result.
If the concept of washed coffee beans is new to you — you’re not alone! Check out: Natural Vs. Washed Coffee to learn what’s up with that stage of the coffee process.
Which is Better: Coffee Blends or Single Origin Coffee?
Since so many coffee experts swoon over single origin coffee, it's easy to assume that single origin coffee is better.
We’re not going to say that it’s better, but we will say this:
So why do so many specialty coffee shops and coffee lovers consider single origin to be the best?
There are a few reasons why.
One thing that people love about single origin coffee is its traceability. Because it comes from a specific farm or a specific region, it’s easy to trace the flavor back to its single source.
Coffee tastes differently depending on where it's grown. If you have a preference for one region, single origin makes it easy to identify it and enjoy beans grown in that particular place and climate.
For example, if you know you like the coffee beans grown in Ethiopia, a single origin blend from Ethiopia ensures that you’ll get that flavor you love.
With coffee blends, you lose that traceability and the ability to pinpoint one particular flavor. But that doesn't make it inferior to a single origin — it just makes it different.
Single origin coffee also encourages farms to grow and harvest their beans in more sustainable methods. Because it's traceable back to the source, single origin coffee farms work hard to produce the best beans and stand out in the business.
The type of coffee you choose to drink is a personal choice. Some people like a light roast drip brew with sugar and flavored creamer. Others prefer a rich, dark roast made as a shot of espresso and topped with milk foam.
There’s no right or wrong way to drink coffee — it’s entirely up to you. So if you know your favorite coffee is a blend, enjoy it! Don’t let your single origin-loving friends talk you out of it, no matter how hard they try.
Did you know most breakfast blends are light roasts? Read more in When & How To Drink Light Roast Coffee.
How to Choose the Best Coffee Blend
There are so many different coffees and blends to choose from that finding one you want to drink every single day can take time.
No matter what type of coffee you prefer, there are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a new coffee blend.
Regardless of the type of blend you buy, always make sure that your beans are fresh!
Check the package for the roast date or Julian date so that you know when they roasted your coffee. Fresh beans will always make a more flavorful cup than old, stale beans that have been sitting around for too long.
Finding your preferred coffee flavor is sort of like having to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. Depending on how particular you are or how in tune you are with your palate, you may have to sample dozens of different blends to find your ideal flavor.
One way to do so is to taste and experiment with different house blends at your favorite coffee shop. Then when you find one you like, ask your barista what the blend is so you know what to look for when you shop for beans to grind and brew at home.
If you know you love Indonesian coffee or Ethiopian coffee, or coffee grown in Kenya, look for blends that include beans from that country. The best roasters are transparent about where they source their beans and have that information on the label of each package.
There's no way to know what you're drinking without that information and no way to discern which beans from which countries you like or don't like.
Another option is to test out some single origin coffees before going on a quest for the perfect blend. By zeroing in on a particular country or two whose beans you enjoy, finding a combination can be a little easier. All you have to do is seek out a blend that includes coffee from that region.
Can’t Find Your Perfect Blend? Create Your Own!
When in doubt, get experimental and create your own unique blends. You can combine as many beans as you want from as many different countries as you want until you find the flavor that’s perfect for you.
Just be sure to keep track of which beans you’re using and the ratio you’re blending them in. When you hit on the perfect personal blend, you’ll want to be able to recreate it exactly the same way the next time.
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer fancy lattes, cold brew coffee steeped overnight in the fridge, or decaf coffee made in a French press …
Coffee blends make for a delicious cup of coffee.
Ready to start sampling some new blends now?
Check out our Organic Sweetwater Blend, a medium roast of washed and natural beans from Guatemala, Honduras, and Ethiopia. This blend has chocolate notes, which is why we use it at our own coffee bar as our house espresso.
Prefer fruity and floral notes?
Our Organic Rise and Shine Blend is a light-medium roast made from washed and natural beans from Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Peru. It’s our take on the traditional American breakfast blend.