Single-origin vs coffee blends: What’s the difference?
Single-origin coffee comes from, you guessed it, a single farm or crop or region in one country. Single-origin coffee is usually advertised as exotic, unique or special because it comes from a particular country or region. Single origins are generally preferred by coffee purists who enjoy the characteristics of single-origin beans from one specific area of the world.
Coffee blends are exactly what they sound like - several (two or more) different types of coffee blended together. Coffee roasters create blends to combine and balance the unique characteristics of multiple beans and develop flavours that aren’t present in a single-origin.. A typical case for coffee roasters is to pair a bright, exotic coffee with a deeper noted bean, which is why most blends you find are dark roasted.
Which is better? Single-origin or blends?
As with most things in food service, whether or not single-origin or coffee blends are better is a matter of your individual taste preferences. Some argue that a coffee blend creates something better than the sum of its parts. In contrast, others say that single-origin coffee offers the purest coffee drinking experience.
The argument for coffee blends
By default, coffee blends require more effort to produce than single-origin - so what benefits do they bring?
- Balance and consistency: Blending coffee produces a well-rounded coffee because once other coffee origins are introduced, weaker areas of the base coffee are strengthened.
- Complexity: Mixing various elements from different sources offers the ultimate complex and rare yet smooth flavour profile. For example, coffee with a good mouthfeel (e.g. Brazil) is no good without aroma (Papuan New Guinea) or aftertaste (Mexican Altura).
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Common coffee-blend flavour profiles:
- Hints of fruit
Popular coffee blends:
- Ethiopia + Sumatra - The exotic fruity aromas of Ethiopian coffee blend with the earthy, spicy, and woody notes of the Sumatran. The result is a low-acidity blend with a full body and complex contrast between fruity and earthy notes.
- Guatemala + Kenya + Mexico -The bright acidity of the Guatemalan mixes perfectly with the floral aromas of the Kenyan. When the earthy, full-bodied Mexican bean is added, the blend turns into a well-rounded symphony of bright flavours, smooth flavours, and deep flavours.
The argument for single-origin
Since they are sourced from one place only, single-origin coffees tend to be available exclusively at certain times of the year, depending on the growing season of the location. Single-origin roasts are typically appreciated by coffee “aficionados” who love tasting a particular flavour from a specific region in the world.
Single-origin coffee is often available as:
- Espresso roast
- Filter roast
Flavour density and clarity remain key contributors to the growing appeal of single-origin coffee. They also create a more personal coffee experience as drinkers can pinpoint the exact location where the beans came from, allowing them to appreciate the finer nuances of the taste (purists suggest that this is the only way to fully appreciate the true nature of each individual coffee).
Common single-origin characteristics:
- Light body
- Light mouthfeel
Popular single-origin coffees:
- Guatemala - Bright red apple-like acidity, a smooth chocolate flavour, mild floral aromas, and pleasant honey sweetness.
- Sumatra, Indonesia - Mild citrus tang, a pleasant earthy flavour, refreshing pine aromas, and a gentle molasses sweetness.
- Ethiopia - Gentle lime-like acidity, a mild fruity flavour, intense blueberry aromas, and a satisfying fruity sweetness.
- Peru - Crisp hibiscus acidity, a gentle fruity flavour, rich floral aromas, and a pleasant fruity sweetness.
Which is most popular?
Blends are the most sold in the coffee industry because blends tend to be more palatable to everyday coffee lovers. Blends are also more economical to sell (it’s easier to mix five uniquely flavoured beans into a single mixture everyone likes than try to sell five distinctively different types of coffee).
Single-origin is more of a specialty coffee served at boutique coffee shops. Single-origin is essentially a buzzword for beans derived from notable coffee farms, unlike what is available anywhere else.
Should you serve single-origin coffees or a coffee blend?
Whether you roast single-origin or blended coffee beans will depend on the type of coffee shop you have and who your customers are. If you’re mainly serving the general coffee-drinking public, then you’ll probably end up using blends. On the other hand, if you have a specialty coffee shop and want to attract coffee aficionados, single-origin would be the way to go.
Today, many cafes will have 2 offerings: a house blend for milk-based coffees and a seasonal single-origin served as a black cup.
Now that you know about the differences between single-origin and blends, you’re one step closer to providing your customers with the perfect cup of coffee.