How to create a custom coffee blend that will stand out
Just like a chef who thinks about what ingredients work well together, a coffee roaster will carefully consider the ingredients that make up the perfect cup. While some beans are full-flavoured in their own right, they can also be used as ingredients in a blend – brought to life by the vision of the roaster.
“Strawberries, for example, can be amazing on their own,” says Raihaan Esat, General Manager of International Coffee Traders. “But they can also be used with other ingredients to make a dessert. This is why we blend coffee, to bring flavours together that create an experience.”
A coffee blend is made up of several different beans from various farms or countries, while single origin coffee means it comes from a single country, farmer or producer. Coffee blending is about finding a unique taste or developing a characteristic that you won’t find in any single origin green bean.
It’s important to note that blending coffee does not mean it is of any lesser quality. That specialty coffee brew at your local suburban coffee shop? It’s likely to be made up of a blend of several different coffees from various farms or countries. This is a unique skill of a true coffee roasting professional.
Blending in to stand out
If you are in the business of brewing or serving coffee, everything you do – from the way you train your staff to the type of beans that you use – all adds up to your customer’s experience. Blending coffee gives you the opportunity to create a signature roast profile that differentiates your brand from the others – a coffee that customers can only get from you.
“It’s all about taste – and everyone’s taste is subjective,” says Raihaan. “By blending, your business can deliver exactly what appeals most to your customers.”
For a roaster, the goal is to create a cup of coffee that arouses an emotional reaction.
“If you taste a coffee and immediately think of a dessert your grandmother used to make, that’s a strong emotional reaction. It transcends what’s in the cup,” says Raihaan.
He says the best place to start is by answering the question, ‘What do your customers want?’
“Think about the reactions you want people to have when they drink your coffee. Most people categorise their coffee into one of three segments – good, bad or memorable. A memorable coffee experience is much more than just a tasty coffee.”
Raihaan also says to consider what resources you have available to help execute your vision.
“Do you have someone in-house who can focus on the taste and help create the best coffee for your brand? Can you partner with a roasting facility that won’t compete in its own right with your brand?”
Finally, Raihaan says to make sure the recipe you choose is profitable and sustainable for your business.
“Think about whether the blend will boost your sales. This comes back to finding out what your customers actually want. Is it something that your customer base will love or are you just creating a coffee that you like?”
As our founder and industry expert Phillip Di Bella says, “It’s all about producing coffee worth coming back for.”
How to get started
If you are looking to create a signature blend of coffee for your business, the first step is to find an independant roasting facility that can assist you.
Christian Bianco, General Manager of Coffee Alliance, has helped many brands and cafe owners create their own branded coffee blend.
“We take a holistic and collaborative approach with cafe owners to assist them in identifying the opportunities in their business.”
In addition to Raihaan’s questions, Christian says the best way to find out what your market wants and the direction in which to take your coffee is to consider the following aspects of your business trade:
What do your current sales look like for take-away versus dine-in?
Are customers buying multiple coffees on each visit?
Do you sell take-home bags of coffee?
“We’ll sit down with you and take a look at the current opportunities that exist and those that are yet to be explored in your business. This process ensures we are not only helping you to create a great unique coffee, but also one that will help boost sales across your business,” says Christian.
Once you have a vision and an understanding of where you want to take your coffee, the next step is to sample and taste a variety of coffees to better understand different origins and flavour profiles (how you want your coffee to taste).
“We begin by providing small coffee samples for you to taste. This can be done on site at your cafe or at our facility at The Coffee Commune in Bowen Hills.”
When tasting coffee, think about the different flavours of the coffee and record your observations about the taste.
“Different coffees have different characteristics – strength, acidity, body, sweetness, aftertaste, bitterness, fruitiness, chocolatey-ness. Start with single origin blends to better understand the different flavours and then try to find a blend that adds to it,” says Christian.
This can usually be achieved with 2-5 coffee blends, but Raihaan says it’s not a hard and fast rule.
“Creating a blend is about flavour clarity and defining the blend’s character. Really, the roaster needs to understand the raw materials they are working with and layer the flavours together to achieve the intended outcome,” says Raihaan.
This comes back to that chef mentality – a plate of food can be absolutely delicious with just a few ingredients, or can be more complex with lots of elements.
Once you have established the desired flavour profile, the next step is choosing the right roast profile (how the coffee is roasted in order to achieve the desired flavours).
“Roasting enhances the flavour of the green beans. They start to lose their original flavour and absorb more flavours from the roasting process. The darker the roast, the bolder and heavier the coffee. Light roasts will be more acidic. It’s about finding the right balance of flavours,” says Raihaan.
If you have limited knowledge in these areas, you can lean on the expertise of professionals like Raihaan and Christian.
“If you are roasting at our premises, we can help out as little or as much as you would like. We have a lot of knowledge in house and we’re here for you,” says Raihaan.
Coffee cupping room at The Coffee Commune, Brisbane
Once the coffee is ready to go into production, The Coffee Commune will allow you to do a trial run first with your regular customers.
“We’ll produce a very small initial outlay first, roasting your coffee in small batches for a 1 or 2-day customer trial in your cafe. We want to ensure the coffee is exactly where you want it to be, so the transition is nice and smooth,” Christian says.
When you create your own signature blend at The Coffee Commune, rest assured that recipe belongs to you – and only you.
“We’ll keep the roasting profile in our system so that when you are ready to order again, we can produce the same, consistent flavour all year around.”
And if you want to scale up production?
“Our facility is set up to manage anything from 1 kilo right through to 1000s of kilos,” says Raihaan. “It’s a neutral territory, so there is no competition. We have a huge receiving bay and a massive array of equipment, so we can cater to small and large volumes of coffee production.”
Ready to take the plunge and create your own roast for your business or home? The experienced team at The Coffee Commune, together with Coffee Alliance and International Coffee Traders, can guide you through the process to deliver a consistent, unique coffee for you and your brand. Get in touch to start creating your very own coffee blend today.