Single-origin coffee vs blend: perhaps you have a preference, but do you know the difference?
Almost all coffee drinkers will have come across the terms ‘single-origin coffee’ and ‘coffee blend’ at some point.
But do you know what they mean? And do you know the difference?
If not – don’t worry! Many coffee lovers are unaware of the main difference between blended coffee and single origin.
Once you know, however, you’ll have a much better grasp on what’s in your cup – and will be able to ask for exactly what you want next time you order a cup of coffee.
In short, a single-origin coffee is one that is made from beans from a single origin. A coffee blend is one that consists of beans from multiple origins.
That’s the only difference!
But it’s not the only thing you need to know… Keep reading to find out how this difference affects the unique flavour profile of your coffee, plus how to know if you should order a single-origin coffee or blend coffee.
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What is a single-origin coffee?
A single-origin coffee is a coffee whose beans come from a single origin, i.e. a single source.
Usually, this refers to a single geographic region or country, but may also refer to one single region within a country, one single producer or even a specific farm.
Single-origin coffee beans are more common in the specialty coffee world than they are in commercial coffee chains or supermarket coffee aisles.
In fact, some specialty coffee roasters only offer single-origin coffee, both in the coffees served in-store and the coffee beans that you can buy online or in-store.
Benefits of single-origin coffee
While it may not always be the case, single-origin coffee tends to be of higher quality than coffee blends. It is also often more traceable and part of a more transparent supply chain.
This is largely because single-origin coffee is more common in specialty coffee shops that, by definition, use coffees with a cupping score of 80 or above, but also because it is the coffee in its purest form.
One of the main benefits of single-origin coffee is that you can enjoy the unique flavours more strongly.
In this way, single-origin coffee can offer a more unique tasting experience, where one or two flavours really stand out.
This is why single-origin coffee sometimes lacks any kind of “coffee” taste at all, tasting more like black tea, fruits or any of its other tasting notes.
For example, our Wahundura Kenya coffee smells like honey and tastes more like blackcurrant juice! Meanwhile, our Del Rio Coco Nicaragua coffee smells and tastes just like hazelnut and chocolate.
When two or more coffees are blended, the different flavours merge together – and sometimes create entirely new flavours altogether!
What is a coffee blend?
To be clear, then, a coffee blend – or a blended coffee – is when coffees from two or more different origins (i.e. different regions or different countries) are mixed together.
The different beans blend together to create an entirely different coffee experience.
This can result in a coffee that shares tasting notes from each of the coffee. For example, a coffee with orange as a note mixed with a coffee that has strong chocolate notes could result in a “chocolate orange” flavoured coffee blend.
However, this isn’t always the case.
Whereas independent coffee shops often use single-origin coffees, the larger coffee shop chains and commercial coffee shops tend to only use coffee blends.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t come across blended coffee in the world of specialty coffee.
Far from it, many roasters blend coffees for a number of reasons.
For a start, it allows them to offer a more affordable product to their customers. It also allows them to experiment with creating new flavours.
Many roasters also like to create seasonal blends – for example, a winter blend or summer blend – in addition to a house blend.
Many customers and home brewers also prefer to buy blends for their consistency. While single-origin coffee is limited by the crop and season, a blend of coffees can be recreated over a long period of time and are less affected by seasonal changes.
Blended coffee also tends to have more body than single-origin coffee, and generally has more of the typical ‘coffee’ taste that many drinkers expect.
Is single-origin coffee better?
As with most things coffee-related, the choice between single-origin coffee vs blend options really comes down to personal preference.
Whether you choose to use single-origin coffee or a coffee blend will likely depend on the brewing method you choose, whether you like the typical ‘coffee taste’ or something more experimental, and other personal tastes, among other things.
One thing is for sure: you can make great coffee at home from both single-origin coffee and blended coffee.
While coffee aficionados and specialty roasters might swear by single-origin beans from a specific region or a single farm, there are different coffees out there for a reason.
After all, there’s no point investing in the finest beans if you just want something quick and easy to make and don’t care much for the unique characteristics of the coffee.
Difference between single-origin and blended coffee
While we’ve covered what differentiates a single-origin coffee vs blend coffee, here are a few more differences to keep in mind:
- a bag of single-origin coffee will usually have a higher price than a bag of blended coffee
- the roasting process can be quite different, with single-origin coffee generally roasted lighter to maintain the delicate tasting notes
- most coffee shops stick with blends for their espresso-based drinks because the consistency and body make it easier to work with
- blended coffee is generally easier to work with
- single-origin coffee is usually sweeter and fruitier than blended coffee
Why are blends cheaper than single-origin?
From a commercial perspective, one of the biggest benefits of using coffee blends is the cost.
Blended coffee can help keep costs down because roasters can use a mix of higher-cost beans and lower-cost beans to create a blend that averages out at a lower price point.
Unlike single-origin coffee, where the beans need to be roasted as consistently as possible, there is more leeway when it comes to roasting blends.
It’s also easier to keep things consistent when working with coffee blends. This makes blends more cost-efficient for coffee shops because staff don’t demand as much time and care from baristas.
Dialling in an espresso shot with a coffee blend is also much easier – and much more forgiving – than it is with single-origin beans, meaning less coffee ends up being wasted.
Single-Origin vs Blend Espresso
For this reason, most coffee shops – even those that serve specialty coffee – still opt to use blends for their espresso shots.
This is especially true for milk-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos, where the flavour of the milk has to be taken into account also.
Aside from the cost benefits, single-origin espresso can take customers by surprise.
Single-origin espresso sometimes tastes nothing like coffee at all – and that can be a strange experience the first time you try it.
But it can also be a lot of fun. Espresso allows you to pull out strong-tasting notes from a single-origin coffee, whether that’s an earthy Indonesian coffee or fruity African coffee beans.
We choose to serve single-origin espresso in our coffee shops because we enjoy the experimental side of things, but it does require trained baristas to constantly check the coffee is running as it should be.
Which origin of coffee is best?
So, now you know what to expect from a single-origin coffee, only one question remains: which origin produces the world’s best coffee?
You can find single-origin beans from practically any coffee that produces coffee. However, when it comes to deciding which country has the best coffee of all, there is no right answer. Only your taste buds can decide.
We have found that Colombian coffee tends to be a winner for most drinkers, whether they are new to speciality coffee or not.
On the other hand, African coffees tend to be the most polarising among our customers and staff. They tend to be on the fruitier side, which can make for a very juicy filter coffee – or can make for a very exotic coffee when used for espresso!
The best thing you can do is experiment and find what type of coffee you enjoy best.
Just because you don’t like one single-origin coffee, it doesn’t mean you won’t like another. Far from it, single-origin beans can have such varying flavours that there’s really something for everyone – you just need to find it!
Buying single-origin coffee beans
One of the downsides to drinking single-origin coffee is that the beans can be harder to find.
They’re not always available in the supermarket and, even when they are, they’re usually the lower-quality beans that won’t give you the full tasting experience.
Buying from coffee roasters is the best way to ensure fresh, well-roasted coffee that tastes the way it should. This is true for blended coffee but is especially important for single-origin beans.
All of our single-origin specialty coffee beans are available right here on our website, as well as in our coffee shops.
We’re more than happy to help if you’d like help choosing, so get in touch or send us a DM on Instagram.
Or, if you’d like to try different origins, sign up for our unique specialty coffee subscription to receive two different coffees every month!
Looking for a coffee blend?
We currently only produce blended products for our wholesale coffee clients.
However, this is something we are likely to offer in the near future, so make sure you subscribe to our community newsletter to be the first to know!