Customize Your Coffee: Five Steps to Your First Coffee Blend
Professsional coffee roasters often spend years learning about the qualities that go into a stellar coffee blend, but just as you don't have to be a professional pastry chef to make a tasty cake, you don't have to be a professional coffee taster to create a coffee blend that you'll enjoy. It does help, however, to understand some of the basics of coffee blending.
Why Blend Coffee?
Roasters create blended coffees for three basic reasons:
- Mask defects. In the larger coffee world, masking defects is a major reason for blending two or more coffees together. In the specialty coffee world, the reason is far more likely to be:
- Create consistent flavor. A restaurant that serves a "house" blend, for example, needs that blend to taste the same all the time, as do roasters who sell specific coffee blends.
- Enhance favorable qualities. When it comes to expert coffee blending, the aim is to create a unique flavor profile that is greater than the profiles of the individual coffees.
If you're not a professional roaster, those reasons may be irrelevant to you. There is, however, another excellent reason to try creating your own coffee blends -- it's fun.
Creative Coffee Blending 101 - 5 Steps to Your First Blend
Deconstruct your favorite blended coffee.
- The simplest way to start blending coffee is to work from a template -- a coffee blend you already like. While most coffee roasters closely guard their recipes, many do label their blends with the origins of the coffees they use. Some will even go so far as naming specific countries and growing regions. Brew up a cup and take the time to truly taste it and figure out what you like about it. Consider all of these factors:
- Roast level: Is it dark? Medium? Light? A blend of roast levels?
- Body: How heavy does the coffee feel on your tongue? Is it light? Does it coat your tongue like milk? Is it rich and buttery?
- Acidity: Does each sip burst with brightness? Is it citric and tart or smooth and mellow?
- Flavor: Try to identify the flavors you taste. Some of the most obvious are berry, cherry and lemon fruitiness, chocolate and cocoa, honey or maple sweetness, almond or walnut nuttiness and cardamon or cinnamon spiciness.
- Finish: How long does the flavor linger after you swallow? How does the flavor change?
Explore single origin coffees.
- Read the labels on single origin coffees, looking for the qualities that you found most appealing in the blends you like best. If you can, taste each separately and distinguish the cup qualities that are most prominent in each, and where the flavors occur. You're looking for two or three coffees that will combine their flavors into a harmonious experience rather than battling each other for your attention.
Choose two to three coffees that, in combination, have as many of your preferred qualities as possible.
- Remember that your goal is to choose coffees that complement each other. If you're looking for full body, lingering finish, cherry acidity and undertones of chocolate, hazelnut and honey, for example, you might choose El Meridiano for the cherry and brightness and complement it with Cuvee Coffee Laguna Las Ranas for the creamy body, honey sweetness and chocolate finish.
Blend brewed coffees together.
- Now the fun starts. Brew a pot of each coffee separately and start experimenting with proportions. Start by pouring a cup with even proportions of each coffee. Taste. Want more chocolate? In a clean cup, pour a cup with a higher proportion of the chocolate-y coffee. Taste again. Fuller body? More acidity? Adjust the proportions until your coffee is just right. Keep careful notes of the proportions you use so that you can replicate the blends you like again.
Replicate the blend with beans.
- Finally, combine roasted coffee beans in the same proportions you used in the cup. Shake them well to make sure the beans are evenly distributed. Grind, brew and enjoy your own signature coffee blend.
A Final Note
Start with drip or press blends. Espresso blends are notoriously finicky and difficult to get right, even for experienced, professional roasters. Most important of all, have fun experimenting. The more you blend, the more you'll learn about your own tastes and how to achieve them with your own custom coffee blends.
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