Roasters and specialty coffee shops generally offer coffee beans that fall into two main categories: blends and single-origin.
In this article, we cover the most important differences between single-origin coffee and coffee blends.
We also discuss the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best option for your brewing method and personal tastes.
What is a Coffee Blend?
A coffee blend is a coffee that has more than one origin. A blended coffee usually has a mixture of multiple beans from different parts of a region (or even the world) and it is often cheaper than single-origin coffee. Coffee blends are popular with coffee shops because the beans complement each other in flavour while offering profiles that most people love.
If you ever had any espresso-based drink, it is most likely that it came from a blend. The majority of espressos are made out of coffee blend as the flavour profile tends to lean towards chocolate, caramel, and earthy notes which are the most common notes. Some coffee shops do offer single-origin espressos as well, but this can be rare.
Most people look for smooth flavours in their coffee and coffee blends offer this option at a cheaper price. You can get a great cup of coffee at a fraction of a price, which is why coffee blends are so popular.
What is Single Origin Coffee?
Single-origin coffee means that the coffee comes from either a single region, a particular country, crop or producer.
Usually, single-origin coffees have a very descriptive label stating the producer’s name, country, region and varietal.
Single origin coffee is usually very transparent when it comes to identifying the origin and processing method, giving the consumer a deeper understanding of what they are buying.
Traceability is one of the most important characteristics of single-origin coffees.
Single-origin coffee started becoming very popular within the coffee industry when the third wave movement started (the movent that introduced specialty coffee).
Single-origin beans are known for their distinct flavour that represent the origin as well as the processing conditions and unique characteristics.
A great example of a popular single-origin coffee is Ethiopian coffee. This coffee is known for its floral aromas and smooth flavour profiles. Tea, jasmine and lime are some of the bright flavours that you can find in Ethiopian coffee (flavours that could be dull if blended with coffee from other origins).
Why do Roasters Create Blends?
The main reason why coffee roasters create blends is to have availability all year round.
Consumers want flavours that are consistent and well rounded all year, and this can be achieved with blends.
Single-origin coffees are only available after their harvest dates (usually 1-3 times a year) but thanks to the multiple origins in coffee blends, coffee roasters can offer the same blend throughout the entire year.
Roasters also create blends to stand out from other roasters, as the coffee blend will be unique to them and might offer a combination that you can’t find elsewhere.
Blends also allow consumers to try coffee from different origins at a more affordable price point.
The Pros and Cons of Single Origin and Blends
Blends offer quite a few advantages for the average coffee consumer.
Firstly, as mentioned above, a blend will be available all year round, meaning that you can get your hands on that coffee that you love no matter what time of the year it is.
A second advantage is that roasters often offer a low acidity blend, which can work for both espresso and pour-over coffee, containing flavour profiles that most people enjoy and are not too exotic.
Finally, buying a blended coffee costs less than buying single-origin coffee meaning that you are still getting specialty coffee, but for a cheaper price.
One of the downsides of blends is that traceability can be difficult. Most roasters won’t specify which farm or producer the coffee comes from (sometimes they won’t even tell you the origin), which makes it harder for consumers to be informed.
Single-origin coffees are known for their exotic fruity aromas, with various flavours jumping out of the cup and clearly identifiable even for non-experts.
Another key advantage of single-origin over blends is their traceability. When buying single-origin you will generally always know where the coffee came from, the processing method, and that fair prices were paid to workers and roasters.
A final advantage of single-origin is the fact that consumers can try coffee from different parts of the world without leaving their hometown. The beans have a flavour profile that can go from something light such as lemon, jasmine, or rose to more exotic coffee profiles such as those with fermented notes.
A downside of single-origin coffees is they tend to be more expensive than blends. The cost can start to add up for regular coffee drinkers.
Another would be that they are not available all year round as they depend on the harvesting season, which changes according to the country. Consistency in processing might change as well depending on what the coffee producers want to offer for the next harvest.
Is single origin better for espresso?
The advantage of having single-origin instead of a coffee blend for espresso is that the distinct flavours of a single origin bean can shine through and offer the distinctive notes and aromas the origin is known for. This does not mean that one is better than the other. As always, it all comes down to personal taste. Sometimes, single-origin can be way too exotic for milk-based drinks, which is why most coffee shops use blends for their espresso in order to serve a well-rounded coffee that has balance, acidity and notes that complement each other.
Why is single origin more expensive?
Single-origin coffee tends to be more expensive as it has a higher quality than regular coffee blends. These coffee beans are picked by hand, following very strict guidelines to ensure that the coffee you are getting is of the best quality, with workers hopefully being paid fair wages as well. Single-origin coffee is also more expensive due to its traceability. The coffee can be traced to a single farm and place, meaning that what you are buying is specialty coffee beans from that specific region.
Some single origin coffees might not be available throughout the entire year, which means that when they do come out, as the availability is limited, the prices will be slightly higher than regular coffees.
Where is the best single origin coffee from?
We believe that there is no such thing as the best coffee as taste is a very individual experience. What some people might enjoy others might dislike. However, most people in the coffee world agree that many of the best single-origin coffees come from African countries like Kenya or Ethiopia due to their fruity and earthy notes as well as their exotic flavours.