Those delicious coffee beans from Colombia … the local coffee roasters you discovered on your last trip to Costa Rica … the Guatemalan coffee farms you support because they’re women-operated …
True coffee lovers go to great lengths to identify their favorite beans, roasts and roasters, coffee-growing regions, and brew methods. Some go to the extent of supporting specific farms or roasters. And some coffee fans, even casual coffee drinkers, are seeking out single origin coffee more so than ever before.
So what exactly is single origin coffee? What does that mean? How does it affect the taste of what you brew in your cup?
We’re about to explain what single origin coffee really is, why it matters, and why you should try some — if it’s not already your favorite.
What is Single Origin Coffee?
Single origin coffee doesn’t refer to any specific type of bean, roast level, or drink. If you see a package of coffee beans marked as single origin, it simply means that your coffee beans come from a specific region in the same country. If it doesn't say single origin on the label, they contain a blend of beans from different areas.
It's common for coffee roasters to combine various types of beans from different regions into one roasted blend. Coffee roasters often mix expensive, high-quality beans with less expensive ones as a way to reduce costs (and produce more desirable flavors).
Blends result in an incredibly delicious cup, but because the mix comes from different sources, it can be hard to pinpoint the flavor and origin.
Sometimes the label for single origin coffee says single farm or single estate. This indicates that they harvested every bean in the package under the exact same growing conditions in the same micro-lot.
What coffee lovers appreciate about single origin coffee is its traceability.
You can actually trace the entire process back to a specific farm or grower and identify a set origin point with a particular flavor. Drinking single origin coffee is a way to gain a deeper understanding of where your coffee comes from and why it tastes the way it does.
The popularity of single origin coffee inspires farmers to grow the best coffee beans possible. It encourages them to invest in innovative harvesting techniques and different processing methods. All for the sake of developing distinct, unique flavors specific to their farm or region.
Single Origin Coffee Can be a Blend
While some single origin coffee comes from a particular farm or estate, others are blends from different farms across the same region. As long as all the beans come from the same region of the same country, they count as single origin.
Most respectable coffee roasters state where the coffee was grown on their packaging.
- If you see single estate or micro-lot, all the beans came from the same coffee farm.
- If you simply see “single origin,” it usually means the beans were grown on different farms throughout the same region.
Technically, all coffee beans start out as single origin. It's once they combine with other beans that they can no longer hold that coveted description. Yet, in some cases, they combine to create an incredible flavor.
Jamocha is a perfect example of this.
Jamocha, or Mocha-Java, is a blend of two different single origin coffees from two of the best coffee-growing regions in the world.
Mocha is a port city in Yemen; Java is an island in Indonesia. Nearly 5,000 miles separate them, yet both regions produce fantastic coffee beans.
On their own, each one could classify as a single origin coffee. A blend of the two takes them out of the single origin category, despite how delicious they are when combined.
Learn more in our article: How To Choose a Coffee Blend.
Does Single Origin Coffee Taste Different Than Coffee Blends?
Are you the type of coffee drinker who can differentiate between the taste of Ethiopian, Guatemalan, and Colombian coffee?
If so, it’s probably because you’ve come to identify certain flavor profiles with specific regions. That’s what single origin coffee is all about.
Whether or not single origin coffee is “better” is a judgment call for the individual coffee drinker. But most coffee experts will answer this question with a resounding “yes!” And that’s because, in comparison to coffee blends, single origin coffee always has a more specific taste and flavor profile.
With single origin coffee, you can taste the over and undertones of the beans more than with blends of beans grown in different regions.
Why Blended Coffee Tastes Different Than Single Origin
Blended coffees are always a mix of different types of beans from other countries with different flavors.
Often, they're also harvested and picked in different growth cycles, which results in different flavors. It's much more difficult to zero in on one taste because there isn't one specific flavor. Blends have many flavors because they are grown in different climates at different times.
Single origin coffee has a distinct, notable taste because every bean was grown simultaneously and thus tastes the same. This allows for the beans' natural notes to come through in a much more obvious way.
You may also like: When and How to Drink Light Roast Coffee.
What Kind of Beans Are in Single Origin Coffee?
Single origin coffee has nothing to do with the type of beans. It can consist of Arabica beans, Robusta beans, or Liberica beans.
It has nothing to do with the roast level. Single origin beans can be a light roast, medium roast, or dark roast. It also has nothing to do with whether the coffee beans are decaf or contain caffeine.
Single origin only refers to the fact that all the beans in one package of coffee were grown in the same place.
Where Does Single Origin Coffee Come From?
Single origin coffee can come from anywhere. Yet, it's typically produced in countries known for growing excellent coffee. Low-quality beans from less desirable coffee growing regions get blended with better beans to create a nicer flavor.
Many coffee-growing countries produce single origin beans, and each has its own unique style and flavor profile.
Here’s what to expect from single origin coffee grown in various parts of the world:
Colombia produces mostly Arabica beans with a medium body. Chocolate, caramel, berry, citrus, and spice flavors often come through in the beans. They have lower acid levels than beans grown in many other parts of the world.
Because Colombia is directly on the Equator, coffee farmers have a unique advantage. They get two harvests per year, as opposed to most countries that only have one.
High in acidity with a full and heavy body, coffee beans grown in Kenya have a syrupy, floral flavor. All Kenyan coffee is Arabica, but it’s unique in that it’s grown in volcanic soil, making the beans more flavorful.
Brazil grows 40% of all the coffee beans in the world. About 70% of their beans are Arabica, and they have sweet flavors with chocolate and nutty notes as well as a subtle citrus taste. Brazilian coffee is popular for its smooth body and low levels of acidity.
Guatemala grows great coffee due to its volcanic soil, subtropical climate, and high elevations. Sometimes considered to have a smoky flavor, Guatemalan coffee tends to be on the sweet side, with chocolate, nut, and toffee notes.
The majority of Peruvian coffee is grown on small farms in the Andes Mountains. With a medium level of acidity, Peruvian coffee is smooth with hints of chocolate, nuts, and floral aromas.
Coffee drinkers love Ethiopian single origin coffee because it's well balanced in terms of body and acidity levels. Most Ethiopian coffees are naturally processed; resulting in earthier flavors with fruity overtones.
Never had coffee from Burundi?
That’s not that surprising, considering that this African country produces less than 0.2% of the world’s coffee beans. If you can get your hands on some Burundi beans, take notice of their delicate flavor, rich feel, and sweet floral and berry notes.
Single origin coffee from Tanzania tends to be creamy with a medium body and sharp levels of acidity. Most beans grown in Tanzania are Arabica. They have fruity tastes and berry flavors from growing in high altitude regions around Mount Kilimanjaro.
Coffee farmers in Nicaragua primarily grow high-quality Arabica beans. Nicaragua coffee beans have mild acidity levels with flavors of vanilla, nuts, floral, and citrus.
Related: Why Coffee Acidity Matters and Which Roasts are Most Acidic.
How is Single Origin Coffee Brewed?
You can brew single origin coffee with any process. However, most third wave coffee shops owners, baristas, and specialty coffee roasters prefer the pour over method.
What You’ll Need To Brew Single Origin Coffee
To make a great cup of pour over coffee, you’ll need:
- Fresh beans
- A burr grinder
- A digital scale
- A pour over coffee maker, such as a Chemex.
Making a great pour over cup requires several manual steps, but it's easy to do once you get the process down.
How To Make Pour Over with Single Origin Coffee
To make pour over coffee, you’ll need to:
- Boil some water in a tea kettle on the stove
- Weigh and grind your beans
- Put your filter inside the top vessel of your Chemex
- Place your coffee grounds inside
- Pour hot water directly onto the coffee grounds until you see the coffee bloom
- Let the coffee bloom for about 30 seconds (this helps to enhance all its flavors)
- After the bloom, pour the rest of the water over the grounds, being careful to saturate each one
- In about three to four minutes, the coffee will start to drip through the top vessel into the bottom vessel
- Once it drips through, just pour it into your cup and enjoy
For a complete step-by-step guide to making pour over coffee, check out our Chemex Brew Guide. It includes details about how much coffee to grind and how much water you should use per cup.
How NOT to Brew Single Origin Coffee
You can also brew single origin coffee with:
- A drip machine
- An AeroPress
- A French Press
- A Moka Pot
In fact, the only way that you shouldn’t brew single origin coffee is with an espresso machine.
Pulling it as an espresso shot is the worst way to brew single origin coffee.
Pulling it as an espresso shot is the worst way to brew single origin coffee. That's because the espresso shot brews so quickly that it can actually offset the balance of complex flavors. (Which is the whole point of drinking single origin coffee in the first place!)
Slower brew methods, such as the pour over method, result in better, more balanced flavors.
Looking into upgrading your brew game? Here are The Pros And Cons Of The Electric French Press.
Why Choose Single Origin Coffee?
Coffee lovers usually choose single origin coffee for its unique depth of flavors and traceability back to a particular region. It offers you a way to identify flavors you enjoy and to gain an understanding of where your coffee was grown.
The downside of purchasing single origin coffee is that it tends to be a bit pricier than blended coffees. Single origin coffee beans are always higher quality, which means they almost always cost more.
But that slightly higher price tag results in a much more flavorful cup, assuming that you brew it the right way. Whenever you buy single origin coffee to brew at home, be sure to use it when it’s fresh. No matter what type of coffee beans you buy, fresh beans are the secret to making a great cup!
Support the Third Wave
Single origin coffee has helped to support the third wave coffee movement and vice versa. It’s yet another way for coffee enthusiasts and independent coffee shop owners to encourage the growth, production, and brewing of better coffee beans.
The third wave coffee movement also encourages sustainability. That’s one of the best reasons to start drinking single origin coffee from a third wave shop if you ask us!
The next time you head to your local coffee shop (which is Taylor Lane if you’re in Sonoma County!), ask your trusted barista to recommend their favorite single origin roast. And if you love it, be sure to ask where it came from so you can make it a point to start buying other beans or roasts from that region as well.
All single origin coffee is unique, so we recommend sampling some from different regions so that you can zero in on the flavor you like the best.
Ready to make your own single origin coffee at home?
Check out our Kintamani Bali Natural Single Origin from Indonesia and our Las Colinas Single Origin from El Salvador.