Blending - MC Grecof

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Some personal proposals

Filter-Drip Blending, Dark Roast Blending, Espresso Blending and Different Roasts

Blending Basics

Coffees from different origins are blended together for several reasons. Presumably the target is to make a coffee that is higher in cup quality than any of the ingredients individually. But high quality Arabica coffee should be able to stand alone; it should have good clean flavour, good aromatics, body and aftertaste. So one reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend. Another reason might be to create a proprietary or signature blend that leads consumers to equate a particular coffee profile with a particular brand image; consumers don't often call Starbucks by the origin names used in the coffee but simply as "a cup of Starbucks" as if the dark carbony roast tastes were somehow exclusive to that brand. Coffees are also blended to attain consistency from crop year to year. This is done with major brands that do not want to be dependent on any specific origin flavour so they can source coffee from the least expensive sources. Such blends generally reduce all the coffees included to the lowest common denominator. But let's put aside the less-than-noble reasons that coffee is blended and focus on details that concern the quality-oriented roaster.

Before blending any high-quality coffees you should know the flavours of the individual coffees and have some targets for an ideal cup that cannot be attained by a single origin or single degree of roast. It would be a shame to blend a fantastic Estate coffee ...after all, you are supposedly trying to attain a cup that exceeds the components and it is not likely you can do this with top coffees. And given that you have both a reason to a blend and a logical process for doing it, there will be little need for more than around 5 coffees in the blend. Blends with more than 5 coffees are considered to be fanciful, or indulgent, or confused by more than a few expert coffee trade people I know.

The Case Not to Blend

While blending requires the expert skill of knowing each ingredient coffee, having a clear cup profile as the goal in mind, and knowing how to achieve it, blends should not be considered a "higher" form of coffee by any standard. As indicated above, the opposite case is often true. There is much more satisfaction in enjoying single-origin and estate coffees roasted to their peak of flavour. In my opinion, even a so-so single-farm coffee is more intriguing than a blended cup ...even if the blend is admittedly superior! Why? Because when one taste an unblended coffee it is the end result of a long road from crop to cup, without any one person deciding what one will be experiencing. While one enjoy that cup, one like to think about that process, and it informs the opinion about that region or that specific farm. I enjoy feeling connected to the origin of the coffee and the process in this way...

Blending Before or After Roasting

I get a lot of questions about blending before or after roasting ...which is better? Well, if you have an established blend it certainly is easier to blend the coffee green and roast it together. If you are experimenting with blend ingredients and percentages you will want to pre-roast each separately so you can experiment with variations without having to make a new roast with each change. The case for roasting coffees individually is strong with the Melange type blend (see below) and with a handful of particular coffees, such as Robusta in espresso blends. Some coffees are more dense, or have extreme size variations. These will roast differently than standard wet-processed arabicas. All dry-processed arabicas require roasting to a slightly higher degree of temperature. But in most cases the coffees can be roasted together and I would advise this: roast the coffee together until you encounter a situation where the results are disappointing and for success you must roast them separately. Every coffee roasts a bit differently but there is a great deal of averaging that occurs between coffees in the roast chamber, especially in drum roast systems. And then there's the coffees that do not roast evenly as single origins either: Yemeni, Ethiopian DP coffees, etc. Uneven roast colour is not a defect, and only when it occurs in a wet-processed arabica that should roast to an even colour (and sometimes not even in this case) is it of any consequence.

Blending for Filter-Drip Brewing: the Melange

One of the most compelling reasons to blend coffee is the Melange. This is a blend of coffees roasted to different degrees of roast, so they must be roasted individually. In particular, you may want the carbony flavours of a dark roast but also want the acidy snap of a lighter roasted Kenya or Central American coffee.

Here's an idea for a blend that has dark roasts flavours, good body, and an acidy snap to it:

40% Colombian Tuluni

full city roasted

to preserve body (var. other Colombian, Nicaragua La Illusion, or perhaps Brazil Monte Carmelo)

30% Mexican Altura

french roasted

for sharp, carbony flavour (var. other Mexican)

30% Kenya Estate

city roasted

for bright acidy snap (var. bright Costa Rican or other Central American)

If you want a Melange that has good body, good bittersweet flavour, but still has acidity, and without the carbony flavors:

60% Colombian exc.

full city roasted

to preserve body

40% Kenya

city roasted

for bright acidy snap

With a really good Central American that has nice balance, acidity and body, you can even blend two roasts of the same coffee with each other:

60% Colombian Tuluni, or Nicaragua La Illusion, etc.

full city roasted

40% of the same coffee

city roasted – just past the finish of first crack.

Blending for Filter-Drip Brewing: the Mokha-Java Blend

It is provocative to contemplate the fact that blending is as old as domesticated coffee production itself. The full body, low-toned Java from Dutch estates was combined with the medium-bodied, enzymatic (floral-fruity), more acidy Mokha coffees from day one it seems, and those were the only two coffees in existence. Was it only done by habit? Or was it done solely to improve taste, the fact that the two complimented each other and resulted in a more complex cup than either provided by itself. With the crude roasting and brewing devices of the time, isn't it amazing that they could taste the improved complexity of the Mokha-Java blend! It's not difficult to take 2 excellent coffees and make an decent blend from them. Much commercial blending occurs to improve the "cup quality" of a coffee made from soft, uninspiring coffees or defective coffees.

The original blend, the Mokha-Java, with Yemen Mokha and estate Java as the constituents. Mocha-Java can be interpreted literally, or, as is usually the case, as a blend of some Indonesian coffee with either a Ethiopian or Yemeni coffee. They are commonly blended in equal parts 50-50, or with a little bias towards the Indonesian, like 40-45 African, 55-60 Indonesian. We have had excellent results with blending our Yemen Hirazi or Dhamari, Ethiopian Harar and either Sumatra Batak Mandheling (washed) or Sulawesi Toraja (washed).

· Harar 50%, Sulawesi 50% brought to a City Roast (last dry stage before oil appears): Excellent delicate version of the Mokha-Java blend, with a wonderful floral aroma, fruity acidity, and a medium-full body. Java is the cleanest Indonesian coffee we offer, and the most nuanced. This is a superbly complex cup, that alternates between its low tones and the fragrant high notes.

  • Harar 50%, Sumatra 50% brought to a deep Full City roast: A more aggressive Mokha-Java, with a deeper, fuller body, and more earthiness in the bass notes. The roast's bittersweet adds to the complexity, and reduces the lovely Harar acidity somewhat.

  • Harar 50%, Sulawesi Toraja 50% : The cleaner taste of the Sulawesi vs. the more aggressive Mandheling results in a better, more focused blend. Sulawesi provides a better backdrop to the Hair's enzymatic flowery aromatics.

  • Yemen 25%, Sulawesi Toraja 75%: By far the best Mokha-Java blend, the Mattari is a great coffee to use almost as a spice is so powerful that straight roasts of it can be a little "too much" for me. The Sulawesi provides a syrupy body and deep tones, the Hirazi just sits atop that and "does what it does", berry-like fruitiness and intense aromatics.

  • Ethiopian Djimma 15%, Harar 35%, Sumatra 50%: Djimma less acidy and bright and more chocolate and earth. It swings the blend in that direction...

Espresso Blends

In general, the goal of espresso blending differs from the goal of filter coffee blends (and some may argue that there are blends specific for French Press brewing or for serving with cream/milk). Filter coffees may be blended for complexity or for balance, but an espresso blend usually must be blended for balance or particular varietal qualities that would be favourable in a filter coffee brew might overwhelm the espresso extract.

Most espresso blends are based on one or several high quality Brazil arabicas, some washed, some dry-processed. They often involve some African coffees for winey acidity or enzymatic flowery /fruitiness, or a high grown Central American for a cleaner acidity.
Dry processed coffees are responsible for the attractive crema on the cup, among other mechanical factors in the extraction process. Wet-processed Central Americans add positive aromatic qualities. Robustas, or coffea canephora, are used in cheaper blends to increase body and produce crema and in a few decent blends. They add crema and a particular bite to the cup. The notion that true "continental"espresso blends have Robusta. Nonsense! In fact the coffee samples from small Italian roasters I have (in green form) appear to be very mild, sweet blends with about 40% Brazil Dry-process, 40% Colombian and 20%+ Centrals, like Guatemalan. For bite and earthiness you can use a DP Ethiopian like Sidamo or Djimma. Its fun to play with Robusta but I personally don't like it too much beyond experimentation and I personally don't enjoy having more caffeine in my coffee than is necessary,

A Colombian-based espresso blend offers a sharper, sweeter flavour but won't result in as much crema production. Here are a couple interesting espresso blends we have fooled around with.

Either you can blend by the seat of your pants (not recommended) or make your process of establishing the coffees and the percentages logical. Start by developing the base, the backdrop in terms of flavour and a coffee that provides the kind of body, roast flavour and crema you like. I suggest Brazils, although Colombian or Mexican are reliable options.

Practice roasting this base coffee to different degrees of roast, and pulling straight shots of espresso. Get familiar with this cup and imagine what you would like to improve in it (because if you find it just fine as is, then you have no need to continue!)

Do you want it to be sharper and sweeter, with more aromatics: perhaps you will want to add Central American coffees. Watch out with percentages above 25%, particularly if you like a lighter espresso roast. You will be losing some crema and body.

Do you want more body and sweetness: use a clean Indonesian like a Sulawesi or a premium Sumatra. You will be losing some sharpness. You can go up to 50% with one of these ...heck, they are nice at 100%!

Do you want an earthy aggressive bite and more pungency: try a dry-processed Ethiopian. Harar is brighter and more aromatic with fruitiness and ferment. Sidamo has great pungency in the darker roasts, fruitier in the lighter roasts. Djimma is not so fruity and less bright but adds earthiness. These produce great crema. I often enjoy straight shots of these coffees, but keep it to 25% or so in most blends.

Do you want spicy pungency: try a Yemeni coffee. These add ferment too, and great crema. I keep this to 50% or less (normally 25% or so) in blends.

Do you want extreme bite: try an Aged coffee, a Monsooned coffee (Indian or better yet the Sulawesi Rantepao) or Robusta. Aged coffees and Monsooned add certain funky tastes that you will love, or perhaps hate. You just have to give them a try to find out but that is part of the fun. Robusta --- I would not go there unless you have too. I personally do not like the added caffeine they bring. They increase crema, but you also need to keep them below 20% in the blend, I personally never go above 15% with them. The Monsooned Robusta can get up to 25% it seems...

Arabica vs. Robusta? Arabica coffees (that means every coffee we sell except those at the VERY end of our list under the Premium Robusta heading) produce a fine crema, with good aromatics, and a lighter brown-yellow color. Robusta coffees (from the species coffea canefora) make a greater volume of crema, but it has larger "bubbles" and dissipates faster. Robusta has about 2x the caffeine of arabica, 2.2 to 2.4% compared to 1.1 to 1.3% in arabica. It can have a very rubbery-medicinal flavor when there is too much in the espresso blend. At a low percentage, 10% to 15%, it delivers a nice bite and it's negative features can be minimized.

What coffees won't I use in espresso? Kenyas are just too much acid for my purposes. Other East Africans don't make any sense to me either. They are really filter-drip or press-pot coffee to me. Washed Indonesians could certainly be used but they are not adding as much to crema, and they are not going to lend the sweet aromatics of a Central American, so what's the point? Island coffees: Why?

There's a lot of ways to achieve great espresso. Its fun to experiment and I don't know if there is some terminal point where you achieve the perfect trans-subjective espresso.

Following recepture is from one of the biggest soluble producer of the world.

It's not intended by me to say something about their espresso system or about their coffee quality. It«s only intended as a contribution and general basis for different espresso blends for the homeroast group and how these guy`s try to match different tastes of customers (without AND with Robusta).

Their different blends:

Type 1

Full-bodied, the most Italian espresso.
Arabica from South and Central America with a touch of African Robusta for intensity. Very long roast and very fine grind. Pronounced bitterness and strong body. Savor without stirring in a demitasse filled halfway, with or without sugar

Type 2

The most intense, full-bodied espresso.
Pure Arabica from the Grands Crus of Central America with Brazilian Santos for balance. Strong roast and fine grind. Very aromatic, full-bodied, fine bitterness, long lasting aftertaste. Enjoyed strong in a demitasse filled halfway or with a dollop of frothed milk for a "Macchiato".

Type 3

The strong, espresso of Italian "baristas".
A blend of Latin American Arabica and Brazilian Santos with a touch of Central African Robusta. Long roast and fine grind. Pronounced bitterness, full-bodied, well balanced, long lasting aftertaste. Served strong in a demitasse filled halfway or as the ideal base for "Cappuccino" or "Caffe Latte".

Type 4

A satisfyingly smooth Italian espresso.
Latin American Arabica and Brazilian Santos with Central African Robusta. Medium roast and medium grind. Smooth bitterness, rich body, well balanced, long lasting aftertaste. Savored in a demitasse or topped with whipped cream in a cappuccino cup for a "Viennois".

Type 5

The perfect morning espresso.
Pure Arabica from the best Crus of Central and South America. Long roast and medium grind. Well balanced bitterness, fully-bodied, very fine aftertaste. Served in a demitasse or cappuccino cup, with or without milk.

Type 6

A fruity espresso appreciated throughout the day.
Pure Arabica from Central America and East Africa with a touch of Brazilian Santos. Light roast and medium grind. Pronounced acididy, body, aromatic, light aftertaste. Enjoyed in a demitasse or cappuccino cup, with or without milk.

Type 7

A light and mild espresso, perfect any time of the day.
Pure Arabica from Latin America. Light roast and medium grind. Delicate body, balanced bitterness and fine acidity. Served in a demitasse or cappuccino cup, with or without milk.

Different Roasts

Coffee was first roasted in the late 14th century. The earliest method was by roasting the green coffee in a heavy pan over charcoal fire. Late last century, a new process was introduced where beans were spun in a hot air chamber heated by natural gas; this system remains the most widely used to date.

The chemical make-up of the coffee bean changes during the roasting process: water dissipates in the bean and a series of chemical reactions change sugars and starches into oils, which give coffee much of its aroma and flavor. When roasted, the coffee bean doubles in size, and the caramelization of the sugar turns it from green to brown.

The color and appearance of the roasted bean depends on how long it has been roasted for. The longer it is roasted, the darker the roast. Coffee is usually roasted for about 10 to 20 minutes at temperatures ranging from 400ºF to 425ºF.

The secret to developing the aroma and flavor of coffee is found in the roasting of the coffee beans. The length of time, as well as temperature of the roast, are crucial in producing a quality cup of coffee, as well as determining which characteristics will be emphasized or muted. If roasting is too short, the oils won't be brought to the surface and the coffee will have a nutty flavour and lack consistency.

Dark roasted beans contain less acid, have slightly less caffeine than lighter roasted beans and have a shorter shelf life, due to the amount of oils on the surface. In darker roasts, it is the roast's smoky, pungent, burnt taste that dominates overtaking the bean's natural flavor. Many times the dark roast's burnt taste will mask beans that are low in flavor and quality. Contrary to popular belief, a dark roast does not equal a richer, stronger cup. Roasting plays no part in determining the strength of a cup of coffee: you do when determining the amount of water and coffee to be used when brewing.

Lightly roasted coffee beans have a sharper, more acidic taste than darker roasts. The coffee suffers less heat exposure, which maintains the bean's qualities. Because flavour is revealed, light roasts are used with higher quality beans.

Several roasting levels have their own characteristics and may be suitable to different tastes or specific uses; they are the following:





Cinnamon Roast

light roast, light cinnamon tone

Pronounced nut-like flavor, high coffee acidity

American Roast

Medium roast, chestnut hue

Pronounced caramel like flavor

City Roast

Medium roast, medium brown with no surface oils

Full coffee flavor, with some loss of acidity

Full City Roast

Chestnut brown, slightly darker than the City Roast

Full coffee flavor, good balance of acidity and sugar


Dark brown, with traces of oil on the surface

Dark roast flavor

French Roast

Dark brown, nearly black, oily on the surface

Bitter, smoky taste and pungent aroma


Dark chocolate brown, oils on the surface

Burnt flavor


Dark roast, used specifically for espresso machines

Burnt flavor that is strong and sweet

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