Before the influx of single origin coffees that have since dominated the specialty industry, coffee blends were the most prevalent offering.
However, they fell out of favour with third wave coffee shop owners and roasters due to increasing concerns over transparency and quality.
Recently, there have been signs that coffee blends have evolved to appeal to today’s specialty coffee market in higher quality, more traceable form. As a result, the popularity of coffee blends is slowly rising as experts in the sector aim for specific flavours while maintaining high quality.
The majority of roasters blend coffees in order to create a more well-balanced beverage by bringing together the best characteristics from each bean. Therefore, their main focus is combining complementary flavours.
Equally important is to match the solubility of the beans used in the blend in order to improve flavour and extraction rates to produce a smooth and enjoyable drinking experience.
To learn more about whether roasters need to blend coffees with matching solubility, I spoke with WBC-certified judge, Danilo Lodi.
Why do roasters create coffee blends?
Coffee blends are a product that often have two or more origins.
Typically, they do not exceed more than five coffee origins, as variability increases alongside the number of origins used.
Often, coffee blends are created for commercial purposes. “Blends are an effective way for roasters to put their signatures on a coffee offering,” explains Danilo, who also works as a roaster consultant.
By blending coffee beans, roasters can avoid the seasonal variations of coffee supply and offer a more consistent product that consumers will keep coming back for.
While single origins have taken centre stage in competitions over the past decade, coffee blends are once again on the rise. Notably, Matt Winton became the 2021 World Brewers Cup champion using a blend of Colombia eugenioides and Ecuador catucai.
There are multiple advantages to blending coffee, but Danilo highlights two main goals that it achieves.
First, blends offer a way for roasters to reduce costs. For instance, one component of the coffee may be cheaper, but can still be an asset to the entire blend.
This is especially beneficial if the cheaper component comprises most of the blend, which can help further reduce the cost for the roaster.
Second, coffee blends can allow roasters to create a flavour profile and replicate it with ease. Consumers tend to gravitate towards predictable and consistent products, and reliable blends allow for this level of familiarity.
Additionally, blends can provide an avenue for those who are not overly familiar with specialty coffee but are still searching for high quality offerings.
It is important to note blends are not the lesser option.
“Great roasters should aim to create amazing blends,” Danilo says. “This is an effective way to provide a flavour profile which anyone around the world can enjoy.”
What is solubility matching?
Solubility is the property in which a substance, also known as the solute, can dissolve in a solvent.
When brewing coffee, the grinds act as the solute that is being dissolved in water, also known as the solvent.
Before diving into the concept of solubility matching when creating coffee blends, it is important to note that when coffee is roasted, there are essential elements the roaster must consider.
Time and temperature are the primary factors that play a crucial role in creating solubility in coffee. These refer to the time the beans spend in the drum and the end temperature the bean achieves.
“Longer times and higher temperatures help create more solubles,” Danilo explains. The idea of solubility matching is to blend coffees with similar solubilities to improve extraction, which may lead to a tastier, more desirable cup.
“The importance of solubility is about roasting coffees in such a way so they achieve a very approximate solubility, instead of finding coffees that will match,” he says.
This is especially important to note when blending coffees with differing densities. For example, matching solubilities in a blend containing Brazilian and Kenyan components may be challenging, as Brazilian coffees tend to be less dense than those from Kenya.
These variances in density may alter the way in which both coffees need to be roasted. If the coffees are roasted together, the less dense component may reach a desired solubility while the may be underdeveloped – possibly leading to a disjointed cup.
Additionally, water hardness, as well as the amount of minerals the water contains, may significantly affect solubility.
Danilo notes that some roasters may overlook this aspect when roasting for customers. For instance, when brewing with water that contains few minerals, it may be beneficial to roast longer and darker to compensate for this deficit.
For water that possesses a high amount of minerals, it may be best to use coffee with a lighter, shorter roast.
“Less developed coffees will require a higher water temperature for the water to dissolve the coffee solids,” Danilo says. “In contrast, more developed coffees will require a lower water temperature for those solids to be dissolved.”
In both instances, taking note of water balance and quality is key when roasting so the extraction can be optimised.
Why roasters should blend coffees with matching solubility
Understanding solubility matching when creating blends is important, since extracting the best desired flavours in the coffee is the goal.
As extended roasting times and higher temperatures affect solubility, Danilo says the darker the roast, the more soluble it tends to be.
Therefore, light roasts are the least soluble, medium roasts are more soluble, and dark roasts are the most soluble. This should be taken into consideration when blending coffees.
There are multiple benefits of matching solubility in coffee, as can help maximise extraction rate and improve the blends overall flavour.
At the cupping table, it is important to identify whether the coffee components have been extracted correctly.
Danilo notes underdeveloped coffees that are insufficient in solubility tend to have a green, cereal-like astringency. Likewise, overdeveloped coffees may present an ashy, papery, and burnt taste.
Roasters should focus on finding the correct balance of each origin before combining them to create the blend.
Danilo also mentions the dangers of under and over extracted coffees. If one component has not been sufficiently roasted and is less soluble than the other in the blend, less flavour and undesirables may come through.
Likewise, the more soluble components will extract easily, in which over extraction may occur. By matching solubility, the roaster can minimise these issues.
To help with solubility matching, Danilo has some advice for roasters: “If two origins are roasted together, they must achieve a point of solubility at the same temperature and the same time,” he says.
Additionally, if the coffees are significantly different in density, the components should be roasted separately and then blended after to maximise solubility.
Ultimately, a good blend can help roasters reach a wide audience of customers who will keep coming back for the same flavour.
At MTPak Coffee, we can help specialty roasters find the perfect packaging to complement their unique coffee blend. We offer a range of high-barrier coffee bags made from 100% recyclable materials, including kraft paper, rice paper, LDPE, and PLA.
In addition to our water-based inks, which are low in volatile organic compounds, we can use digital printing to customise coffee bags to highlight the unique characteristics of your coffee.
We also have a fast 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time, allowing us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging.