The Best of Kona Coffee Blends
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Kona coffee blends, of course, are mixtures of two or more coffees. There are two basic reasons to blend beans: One is to create a Hawaii coffee blend with a flavor that is either better and more complete than, or at least different from, the flavor produced by a single-origin coffee.
The coffee blending is a relatively modern invention of roasters' companies that have been used it to characterize their productions and thus its business. ... Ultimately, Kona coffee blends have to be balanced with the right amount of sweetness, aroma, acidity, flavour and body.
Breakfast or morning blends are generally a lighter roast, but there is no industry standard for how light of a roast. As for differences between breakfast and morning blends, the key is in the word "blend". It is entirely up to the producer to blend different beans and different roasts and call it what they want.
Blending coffee is a fine art that marries coffee beans from different origins to enhance the best qualities of each. Roasters choose coffees that complement each other with a delicate, matching, say, a coffee with high citrus acidity and light body to one with smooth chocolate notes and full, velvety mouth feel.
The Basics of Blending Smooth Kona Coffee Blends
Why would you mix different varieties of Kona coffee blends together? Well, have you ever sipped a Kona coffee blend and wished that it had just a little more body and richness to it? Do you love the deep, rich notes of a traditional Sulawesi but miss the bright citrus acidity of a Kenyan coffee? When you blend single-origin coffees together, you can tailor the cup to precisely match your preferences by choosing coffees that complement and enhance each other.
There are three major reasons that coffee roasters—and we’re talking about everyone, including the huge commercial enterprises whose products grace supermarket shelves—create coffee blends: to reduce costs, to provide a consistent cup profile and to create unique, signature coffees.
Economically, blending coffees makes sense for large commercial roasters, who frequently combine cheaper Kona coffee blends with more expensive specialty beans to reduce the cost of their offerings. Consistency is also of particular importance to large roasters and distributors. Customers expect a brand of Kona coffee blends to taste the same from one cup to the next. Since qualities like body and flavor can differ markedly between farms, regions and even harvests from the same farms, the only way to ensure consistent flavor is to blend coffees from several different regions in order to minimize the differences among them. The result is often a bland (though they’ll call it balanced) cup of coffee with no predominant flavor notes. While consistency may be one of the factors considered when specialty and artisan roasters blend coffees as well, their main goal in blending is to create a specific flavor profile. This is where the true artistry of coffee blending lies—in discovering and melding the unique qualities of two or more coffees to create new Kona coffee blends that is more than the sum of its parts.
Artisan roasters aren’t the only ones experimenting with best Kona coffee blends signature blend these days. As more and more coffee aficionados delve into coffee cupping and roasting their own coffees at home, it’s becoming common for them to try their hands at creating their own Kona coffee blends. If you’re interested in creating your own signature Kona coffee blends, you’ll need a basic understanding of coffee flavors and cup qualities as well as an intimate knowledge of your own likes and preferences in the best Kona coffee blends.
How to Choose The Best Kona Coffee Blends
Even if you don’t want to create your own Kona coffee blends, it’s helpful to know what flavors you like and how they work together. Many specialty roasters list the origins of the coffees they incorporate into their blends. Understanding the typical cup profiles of the various origins, and how these are affected by roast, can help you make an informed choice among them. If you’re not sure which coffees produce the flavors that you prefer, check out our articles on coffee botany and coffee qualities.
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can try building your own signature blends at home.
What to Blend
If you frequent best coffee blend forums and discussion groups, you’ll find dozens of “recipes” for blending coffee, especially for espresso. Consider trying these blends to get a feel for coffee blending before devising your own blends.
To Robusta or not to Robusta, that is the question. At least, that’s one of the burning questions facing coffee roasters who offer espresso blends. The traditional wisdom is that coffee blends made expressly for espresso benefit from a bit of Robusta, mainly because it provides bite, bitterness and crema. Many artisan roasters disagree with this, and point out that most dry-processed coffees will provide all one needs in terms of these qualities. If you want to attempt your own espresso blends, you might start by sampling the blends offered by the best specialty roasters and then trying to approximate them.
Creating Your Own Kona coffee Blends: An Artistic Approach
Don’t let the idea of creating your own signature coffee blend intimidate you. Think of it as customizing your coffee to your own liking, which is really not much different than varying the amount of coffee and water you use when brewing. You can easily drive yourself crazy if you try to follow some of the more technical conversations about which coffee to blend with which beans, how long to roast the beans, how to measure precisely so that you can duplicate your results consistently and other topics. The best advice of all is to have fun with it—approach it from the perspective of an artist experimenting with a new medium.
In The Art and Craft of Coffee, offers this novel approach to devising your own blends.
1. Start with a base coffee that you like, brewed the way you typically brew your coffee.
2. Think about what you would add to make it “better.” More body? A hint of cocoa? More sweetness? Choose a second coffee that has those qualities.
3. If you’re really daring, choose a third coffee blend and a fourth—up to five coffees. Beyond that, most experts agree that you’ll start canceling out the benefits of blending.
4. Brew a cup of each coffee blend and transfer them to insulated, covered vessels to keep the coffee hot.
5. Once you have all of your best coffee blend samples brewed, start mixing and keep a running list of the ratios you use. For example, pour 3 ounces of one coffee blend into a cup and add 1 ounce of a second coffee blend into the same cup. Taste. Adjust the blend proportions to highlight the qualities you want to accent.
6. When you get a blend ratio you like, mix roasted beans in the same ratio and brew to see if it retains the qualities that set it apart.
Blending coffee is a fine art that marries coffee beans from different origins to enhance the best qualities of each. Roasters choose coffees that complement each other with a delicate, matching, say, a blended coffee with high citrus acidity and light body to one with smooth chocolate notes and full, velvety mouth feel. A talent for choosing complementary coffees and pairing them in the right proportions is one that is highly sought after in the coffee world, but you don’t have to be an expert to create your own signature blends. You just need an adventurous spirit and love of the best coffee blends.
Coffee Language : Traditional Blend Names
Deduction is even more in order when dealing with blended coffees. Blends, of course, are mixtures of two or more coffees. There are two basic reasons to blend beans: One is to create Kona coffee blends with a flavor that is either better and more complete than, or at least different from, the flavor produced by a single-origin coffee. The other is to cut costs while producing a palatable drink.
Nearly all commercial coffees sold pre-ground in cans or bags are blended. Commercial roasters might want to market a pure Sumatra coffee, for instance, but they cannot count on obtaining an adequate supply of the best coffee blend month after month to warrant the risk of offering a name that is not immediately recognized and valued by consumers.
Best coffee blends are found in specialty-coffee stores, the name gives some clue to the origin of the coffees involved. The simplest to interpret is the famous combination of Yemen Mocha and Java, the Mocha Java of tradition. Such a blend is not designed to save money, but rather to combine two coffees that complement one another. Yemen Mocha is a sharp, fruity, distinctive best coffee blend medium-bodied , whereas Java (usually) is smoother, deeper toned, and richer. Together the two coffees make a more complete beverage than either one on its own. Although even here, blend ambiguity reigns: a similar coffee from Ethiopia, Harrar, is often substituted for the Yemen in Mocha-Java blends, and coffees from Sumatra may be substituted for the Java. The philosophy of the blend remains the same, however.
Best coffee blends are named after the dominant single-origin coffee and combine an inexpensive coffee with a more costly name coffee. Thus we have Jamaica Blue Mountain blends or Hawaii Kona blends. Ideally, the characteristics of the name coffee still come through, less intensely than in a single-origin coffee, but distinctively enough. There is also a savings for the consumer (and a profit for the seller). In other cases, the blender may use lesser-known coffees to mimic the characteristics of a more famous and expensive coffee, producing mountain style or Kona coffee blends style.
Another tendency in blend nomenclature might be called the generally geographical. We find a Central America blend, or a Caribbean blend. Or, we meet blends named for the time of day we presumably might drink them: Breakfast blend usually means a blend of brisk, medium-bodied coffees roasted more lightly than after-dinner blends, which generally consist of heavier-bodied, heavier-flavored coffees carried to a darker roast.
Best Kona Coffee Blends v Single Origins
In previous articles, we’ve looked at coffee blends and single origin coffees separately. Now let’s take a look at why coffee roasters favor blends, at what stage of the process they do it and finally whether drinking single origins or blends is better.
Why Do Kona Coffee Roasters Favor Blends?
Why is it that it is rare to walk into a café and get your coffee made from just Kona coffee blends?
Simply put, roasters try to give their consumers the best coffee blends as complex as possible. A coffee with good mouth feel (eg Brazil) is no good without aroma (add some Papuan New Guinea) or aftertaste (add some Mexican Altura). Coffee aficionados love tasting single origin coffees to taste the nuances in those coffees, but if you are a café trying to maximize your revenue by satisfying as many people as possible, you will want to give them espresso with mouthfeel, aroma, aftertaste, good crema, acidity and smoothness but not bitterness.
Think of a coffee roaster like a chef mixing in many ingredients to make his/her signature dish. Those ingredients (for arguments’ sake let’s say they are celery sticks, cream, butter, pumpkin, spices and stock) on their own are not overly inviting, but mixed together and cooked for the right amount of time and they transform into an amazing gourmet cream soup that can fetch $20 a bowl at a good restaurant! Just as a chef tries to create synergy (the end product being much better than the sum of its individual parts), so too does a coffee roaster.
Roasters can create Kona coffee blends for complementary sometimes and at other times to create contrasts – depending of course on what their wholesale customer may think their consumers would be interested in drinking. They may find a couple of beans that go really nicely together, such as Kona and Kauai and another couple that stand in stark contrast with each other such as Maui and Honolulu and tailor blends based on those similarities and differences.
What is really interesting about the blending process is that a roaster’s blend may need to change from time to time and the large coffee companies will have cuppers who continually cup their Kona coffee blends to ensure that their integrity of the blend does not change over time. For example the roaster may use a Kona bean from a particular plantation in their signature blend. Over time, the taste of the roasted beans from that plantation may change due to a number of factors: climate change, a change in the way those beans have been fermented, dried or stored or a change in the soil conditions. This in turn will impact on the overall taste of the roaster’s blend. Now the roaster won’t want the overall taste of the blend to change because they have loyal wholesale customers who like it and they in turn want to keep their paying customers satisfied from week to week. This will mean that the roaster will have to re-assess those Kona beans and either substitute them with something else or change their weighting in the best Kona coffee blends.
The golden rule for roasters is to create a flavor profile and be consistent with it.
Examples of some blends we have created in the past and which we now use in our training rooms:
* 2 beans : Mexico and Honduras
* 4 beans : Brazil, India, Ethiopia and Timor and another
with Brazil, Mexico, Honduras and India (both Arabica and Robusta)
* 5 beans: Costa Rica, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea
* 7 beans : Brazil, Timor, Ethiopia, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua
When is Kona Coffee Blended - Before or after Roasting?
Some argue that blending pre-roasting can achieve a unique coming-together of flavours that cannot be achieved by roasting individual origins then blending. Beans that have been blended before roasting are typically characterised by all being the same colour.
Others argue that you have to maximise the flavour of each origin as they will not all want the same time in the roasting chamber. Beans that have been blended after roasting are typically characterised by being different colours.
Generally, blending post roasting occurs because:
- A small bean will roast at a different rate to a large bean
- Beans with different “hardness” or density will roast at different rates
- Beans with different moisture contents will roast at different rates
As past coffee roasters ourselves, to be honest there is no right answer. Most roasters these days practice both methods depending on which beans they are using.
Single Origins v Blends - Which type of coffee is better?
Purists would argue that you cannot top a great single origin coffee and that you must be very careful not to destroy the greatness of a coffee by mixing it carelessly with another.
But most coffee companies in Australia sell blends therefore arguably blends must be better. These companies probably want to offer their wholesale cafe customers and in turn their consumers a complex tasting best coffee blend, giving them more than just one attribute that a single origin may be able to offer them.
At the end of the day though, nobody can say that which of the particular Kona coffee blends is better than another or one blend any better than another.
"All we know is that if you have a half-decent machine at home, buying single origin coffees after drinking Kona coffee blends all your life can be a refreshing experience and a thoroughly enriching one".