With the rise in popularity of third wave coffee, single origin coffees are all the rage these days. However, is single origin really superior to blend? Find out which coffee is right for you as we delve into the case for single origin vs blend.
This article is part of our series on Coffee Labels. If you haven’t caught on yet, check out our other articles in the series:
- Roast Level: How Coffee Changes from Light to Dark.
- Processing Methods: Washed, Honey or Natural?
- Coffee Varieties: How To Taste Coffee by Its Variety.
- Coffee Origins: How Geography Relates to Taste.
The choice between single origin vs blend is one of the first considerations most Brewers would encounter as we start our coffee brewing journey.
While there are proponents and detractors of each camp, we will look into the case for each coffee in this article.
The Case For Single Origins
A single origin coffee is a coffee that is sourced from a single geographic region. This may refer to a coffee grown from a single country, a region, an estate, or a micro-lot.
The area in which the crop is grown and other factors such as soil, climate, altitude and shade can result in dramatically different coffees.
Learn more! Read: Stages of Coffee Production: The Journey from Seed to Cup.
Single origin coffees tend to be high-quality coffees with unique flavors and aromas – the kind that farmers feel may fetch a higher price by separating it from the rest of their harvest.
For supporters of a particular cause (e.g. Organic, Fair Trade, Bird-Friendly, etc.), single origin coffees are an obvious choice as they are traceable.
For coffee enthusiasts, single origin coffees can breathe new life to your daily brewing routine.
Since no two coffees are the same, it can be fun to discover new and distinct flavors for each batch of coffee that you brew.
Ideal for Alternative Brewing Methods
The nuances of single origin coffees are best extracted with alternative brewing methods such as filters, vacuum pot, French Press and cold brew.
They are best served as black coffee without milk or sugar to fully savor the origin’s flavor, body and acidity.
Challenging for Espresso
While it is still possible for some single origin coffees to be brewed as espresso, you would usually need finer tuning to pull a decent shot.
The concentrated espresso also tends to amplify the distinct flavors of a single origin resulting in an overpowering cup of coffee that may not be for everyone.
The Case For Blends
Blends are coffees created by mixing two or more origins, designed to get the best of each coffee in one complex cup.
There are two main reasons for roasters to choose to blend their beans:
- To produce a well-rounded coffee by mixing coffees that complement each other.
- To cut costs by mixing coffees with differing qualities and price.
Most roasters would consider both the reasons when creating their blends. However, it is blends created purely for profitability that give blends their undeserved reputation as a sub standard coffee.
A Demanding Craft
A roaster would have to go through multiple trials and errors to create a coffee with balanced flavor, body and acidity.
Moreover, blends would also need to maintain the same taste and consistency throughout the year while using coffees from different origins.
Ideal for Espresso
An espresso blend would usually combine a single origin that produces the flavor with another single origin that supplies the thick body and crema creating a wholesome cup of espresso.
Perfect for Milk Lovers
Blends go well with milk as their well balanced flavors are able to punch through the creamy milk to create a smooth cup of latte.
So, having now learned the case for both sides of the camp, which coffee do you think is right for you?
Single origin may be the right coffee for you if:
- You enjoy discovering new flavors each time you brew.
- You want to know the story behind your coffee.
- You care about a particular cause (e.g. Organic, Fair Trade, Bird-friendly, etc.).
- You brew with alternative brewing methods to espresso.
- You like your coffee black (or want to cut down on your sugar and milk intake).
Blend may be the right coffee for you if:
- You enjoy a balanced flavor, body and acidity of your coffee.
- You value consistency and would like to reproduce the same taste each time you brew a coffee.
- You are new to brewing and want an approachable coffee so that you can refine your Brewing skills.
- You mainly brew with an espresso machine.
- You like your coffee with milk or sugar.