Blends can sometimes have a bad rap. There is a misconception that roasters use them as a way to cover up cheaper coffees. Maybe historically, that has been true, but that is not true for modern third-wave specialty roasters. They use blends as a way to have consistent roast profiles while working with the seasonality of coffee. We chatted with Jonathan Cox, Head Roaster at Propeller Coffee Co., to learn more about blending and how it’s done.
- How does seasonality impact blending different coffees together?
You want to buy coffee that is in season and as fresh as possible. But with single origins, you never have something consistent month to month, year-round. So blends are a way of doing that without buying a year’s worth of coffee and using it until it’s really old. With blending, even if the coffees in the blend change, you can balance them against each other and maintain a particular character in the blend year-round. So you can have consistent profiles throughout the year with coffee that is always fresh.
- What is your approach to roasting blends?
We always blend after roasting. Blending before you roast can limit what you can blend because the coffees will have different responses in the roaster as the beans are physically different from each other they will absorb different amounts of heat and have different chemical changes. In the end, you need to be able to properly brew both coffees using the same methodology.
How does the roast impact the way the coffee brews?
The darker your roast, the easier it is to extract the flavours. But it’s not just in terms of the colour of the coffee; it’s about how broken down physically the bean is. So, a light roast with a very long development time could brew like a dark roast. Essentially, more-developed roasts brew faster than less-developed roasts. So, for example, African coffees tend to be denser than South American coffees. Therefore, they need a longer development time. So, if we roasted them the same way for the same time, the African coffee would be less developed than the South American coffee, making it harder to extract.
- What is the theory behind the components in the Foundry blend?
We want Foundry to essentially be a house blend for a third-wave cafe. It’s approachable but still interesting. To achieve this, we take two very different coffees, like an African that is delicate, floral and fruit-forward, and we blend that with, something like, a South or Central American coffee that is more chocolatey and rich with muted acidity. Then, we tailor the roast profile to balance the coffees and make a cup that is a good everyday coffee with some interesting touches.