A guide to roasting specialty coffee blends
In recent years, blends have become more and more prevalent in specialty coffee. Whether it’s the growing number of roasters selling them or more World Coffee Championship competitors using them as part of their routines, it’s clear that blends have made something of a comeback.
However, while it certainly takes skill to roast single origin coffees, roasting specialty coffee blends also requires a high level of expertise. Each component of a blend needs to be roasted in a way that best highlights its flavours and aromas.
To find out more about roasting specialty coffee blends, I spoke to Tony Dreyfuss, co-founder and co-president of Metropolis Coffee, and Tony Konency, co-founder of YESPLZ Coffee. Read on to find out what they had to say.
There are an almost endless number of factors which roasters need to consider when creating and roasting new coffee blends. However, Tony Dreyfuss tells me that it’s important for roasters to ask themselves a set of initial questions to make the process more efficient. These include:
- What kind of consumer are you developing the blend for?
- Would the flavour profile of this blend align with these consumers’ taste preferences?
- How can you best highlight the qualities of each individual blend component?
- What brew methods will be used for the blend?
- What will be the roast style for the blend: espresso, filter, or omni-roast?
- How much will the blend cost?
- What role will the blend play on your menu?
- Will the blend be a temporary or permanent addition to your menu? (Such as a house or seasonal blend)
While there are undoubtedly more factors to consider, another important point is deciding whether to blend each component separately or together.
CHOOSING COFFEE FOR A BLEND
When it comes to narrowing down which coffees to include in a blend, there are many options to choose from. Roasters need to consider factors such as:
- Processing method
- Bean size and density
“Certain types of coffee are going to provide [the flavours] and mouthfeel that you’re looking for,” Tony Dreyfuss explains. “For instance, some customers may want a blend with more acidity and fruit flavours.
“In line with this, roasters can include coffees from Africa or Central America,” he adds.
Moreover, as coffee is a seasonal product, roasters must also have an understanding of when these blend components (or coffees with similar sensory profiles) will be available throughout the year.
Tony Konency explains that quality also plays a key role in building and roasting coffee blends.
“From our experience, many importers think that we’re looking to blend 83 or 84-point coffees,” he says. “However, we tend to prefer using 88 or 89-point coffees in our blends.”
For roasters focusing on more premium blends, making sure that all components are high quality will result in a product which better aligns with its branding.
Although all components of a blend are important for overall quality, the base coffee arguably has the biggest impact. A base component can be:
- When a blend contains two coffees, and therefore accounts for 50% or more of the overall product
- When a blend contains more than two coffees, and therefore accounts for the majority of the product
For example, the makeup of a blend with three coffees could be 40% Brazilian, 35% Honduran, and 25% Rwandan. This would make the Brazilian coffee the base component.