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Barista Basics - Articles

In the End, It's All in the Blend, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Appearing in Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 10, 2005








There are many parallels between the coffee industry and the wine industry. Although they share growing and harvesting techniques, their main similarity is in the blending that is done to produce a complex-tasting finished product. Matthew Gee and David Gee look at why, how and when coffee is blended. A case study of the blend of a chain of Australian cafés is also analysed.

Why Coffee is Blended



Very few single origin coffee beans (beans coming from one place, for example Brazil, Kenya or Papua New Guinea) on their own offer what most consumers would perceive as a palatable coffee. Most mightn’t know why the coffee isn’t palatable but when they drink a coffee made from a single origin bean they’ll just know that there is something missing.

That "something" can be added by mixing in another type of bean which may have another desirable attribute or which may counter a negative attribute that the first possessed. For example if the first bean produced a coffee with a great aroma but little taste, then a bean high in taste could be added to the mix. If this combination was found to have a slightly offensive aftertaste another bean could be added so that the aftertaste became smooth and lingering. If after a few tastes one decided that the body of the coffee needed bolstering, a fourth bean could be added so that the espresso felt "full" on the palate and not thin and watery.

The process of adding different origins together to achieve an all-round coffee that suits the intended customer is what we in the industry call blending and to do it properly is a complicated and somewhat scientific process.

There are usually between two and eight different origins in most Australian coffee blends.

There are probably four main reasons that coffee is blended:

[1] Economy – some beans are used as fillers in blends. They aren’t offensive, they add body to the coffee and don’t counteract the brilliance that other beans in the blend may offer. Brazil is an example (see inset).

[2] Consistency – spreading risk should be an important part of a roaster’s job if they want to achieve a finished product that is substantially similar every time they create a batch of coffee for a certain café or restaurant. If clients are happy with their coffee then they are not going to want its taste to change from week to week. Seasonal differences and occasional hiccups in usual supply chains will result in consistency problems for a roaster which is more pronounced when there are only a couple of different origins in the blend. This problem is reduced when the taste is reliant on many beans, most of which are probably going to be reasonably consistent from roast to roast.

[3] Complementarity – if you think "synergy" is a buzz word only for high-tech companies and corporate boardrooms, think again. The concept is alive and well in the coffee industry. Blending to create a finished product that is stronger than the sum of its individual parts is an age-old pursuit by roasters all around the world who try to create that "knockout" coffee that is better than anyone else’s. As such, blends are usually trade secrets and if the origins going into making the blend aren’t, then the proportion of each origin in the blend is certainly going to be.

[4] Contrast – top chefs talk ab

In the end, it’s all in the blend


Effective Barista Training, Tea and Coffee Asia, first quarter 2006
Coffee The Australian Way, Tea and Coffee Asia, fourth quarter 2005
In the End, It's All in the Blend, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
Tools of the Trade, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
The Starters Guide To Coffee, Bean Scene, Issue 9, 2005
Cutting Edge Espresso - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Postcards from Seattle - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Making Great Coffee At Home - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 2, 2004
Buying a Home Espresso Machine - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 3, 2005
Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee? - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004
The Decline of Tea and the Dethroning of the Flat White - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 7, 2005
Coffee Indulgence - Loreals' Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 4, 2005
Coffee Appreciation
How to be a Gun Barista - Bean Scene, Issue 5, 2004
Affogato with a twist of Mocha - Australian Table, May 2004
Hygiene in the Café Environment - Bean Scene, Issue 3, 2004
Grind It, Baby - Eat Drink Magazine, May 2004
Coffee Myths, Dispelled!, Bean Scene, Issue 4, 2004
Coffee Art - Eatdrink Magazine, June 2004
Questions: Hospitality Magazine, May 2004


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