We’re often asked which coffee beans are better – single origin or coffee blends. We wish this was a simple question to answer, but it really all comes down to what you look for in your coffee. In this blog, we’ll explain the differences between single origin coffees and coffee blends, as well as give the pros and cons of each.
What’s the difference between single origin coffee and blends?
Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between single origin coffee versus coffee blends. According to our own glossary, a coffee blend is:
“…a coffee that is made up of beans originating from more than one place. These beans can be from different countries, different regions of a country, or even different parts of one coffee farm. Coffee roasters like ourselves use different beans to create blends that work for a wide range of coffee drinks as well as highlighting particular flavour profiles.”
Coffee blends can be very fun to create, as we can play with coffee beans from different parts of the world, in different ratios, to create incredibly unique flavours, acidity levels, and mouthfeels. Single origin coffees, on the other hand, are coffees from a particular region, farm or area within a farm. All single estate coffees are also single origin. (For more helpful definitions, head to our coffee glossary!)
Single origin coffees: pros and cons
One reason why you may prefer to drink a single origin coffee is because they are great at highlighting the unique flavours of a particular country or region. They’re similar to wine in that way. For example, Zimbabwean coffee tends to be medium-bodied with citrusy acidity and a woody and sweet flavour. Whereas coffee from Nicaragua has balanced sweetness with notes of chocolate and florals. If you really want to experience a country’s coffee in all of its glory, you’ll want to buy single origin beans to taste it for its unique characteristics inherent to its location. Want coffees like this on rotation every month? Why not try our coffee subscription service? Join the club today.
One of the interesting things about single origin coffees is that they all taste totally unique, depending on seasonal conditions. Because the coffee all comes from one area, this will mean that it will all taste slightly different if a particular region or farm has experienced particular weather. You can’t taste this as prominently in a coffee blend, as the small differences will be mellowed by the combination of different origins. Depending on how you feel about seasonal differences, you could see this as a pro or as a con.
Single origin coffees grew up popularity back in 2010 as UK coffee roasters began to experiment by roasting coffees lighter than ever before. Roasting lighter means that that the coffee retains lots of its natural sweetness rather darker, more bitter notes. Lightly roasted single origin beans work particularly well in filter coffees because they have more subtle flavours to be extracted. You can get the best flavours out of a single origin coffee by brewing them with something like a Hario V60 or a Chemex. Whereas using a single origin for espresso can be tricky because they are less versatile, and because they can get lost if you serve them in a milky drink such as a latte. This can be something that any aspiring home barista can play with, though.
You can see what single origin speciality coffees we currently have in stock here!
What is single origin coffee?
A coffee which is single origin, means that a particular coffee has been sourced from ONE single coffee farm in a given country and region. Sourcing, roasting and supplying coffee in this way means we can education ourselves on the relationship between a coffees location and it’s unique flavour characteristics. Particular regions and farms will have nuances that represent that region based on its altitude and soil conditions, just like wine.
Single origin coffees are exotic and unique, and their characteristics are closely linked to their geographical conditions. Here’s an example of the information associated with a recent single origin coffee we had land in our shop:
Roast Level: Medium Roast
Farm: Finca El Tambor
Altitude: 1,676 – 1,860 MASL
Processing Method: Washed
Why is single origin more expensive?
Single origin speciality coffees are more expensive because they are the harder crops to harvest. Often growing in high altitude conditions in mountainous regions, it means it takes manual labour for coffee farmers to pick and sort these coffees. Single origin coffees are generally from very small farms which naturally drives up the cost to import – this means the coffees are really unique and rare. Try a rare coffee from our online coffee shop.
Coffee blends: pros and cons
Coffee blends, on the other hand, are great for combining the best elements of different coffee beans. When the right coffee beans are mixed together, they can create an extremely harmonious coffee with perfect aromas, flavours, and mouthfeel. (You can read a fascinating post about how roasters make their own blends here.) In comparison to single origin coffees, blends can be more balanced, and perhaps a bit more appealing to anyone who doesn’t want to take a risk on a single origin that might be too acidic, or simply not to your taste.
Furthermore, blends tend to be more versatile than single origin coffees. For example, if you are making milk based drinks with an espresso machine such as lattes, flat whites and cappuccinos then blends might be a good choice as they are designed to taste great with milk. Even better, blends typically can be purchased year-round, whereas single origin beans may only be available for a limited time depending on the seasons.
However, coffee blends do have a reputation for being less unique, and for being less traceable, too. This isn’t the case with our blends – we include information about the beans in the coffees’ descriptions – but this might be something to look out for with other coffees. You can see what speciality coffee blends we currently have in stock here!
So, what should you choose? It’s really down to you and your coffee preferences. If you’re interested in experimenting with single origin coffees, we recommend looking closely at the flavour notes before you buy them. If you know that you like chocolate-y, fudge-y flavours, then try coffees which have those flavours! We’re also happy to give recommendations on Instagram or Facebook if you need a bit of help.
Also, take a look at what brewing methods you have at home. If you only have an espresso machine, it might be best to stick to coffee blends which have been designed to use in espressos. But if you have a range of brewing methods, then experiment with as many different types of coffee as you’d like.
We would absolutely encourage you to experiment with different types of coffee – you may try a single origin or a blend that absolutely rocks your world. One way to do this is through our coffee subscription. We’ll choose your coffees for you, and send them right to your door every week, two weeks, or month! It’s an easy and hassle-free way to try both blends and single origin coffees.
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