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Easy DIY espresso blends?

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I suppose this discussion is primarily targeted at home roasters but those folks with access to good fresh whole bean roasted coffee might also consider doing some of this blending.

I love the infinite variations that can come from espresso blending but sometimes I want a simple and easy to execute blend that to whip up in a hurry without paying much attention to minute details.

Over at coffeegeek the inimitable Jim Schulman (he's a great guy, very coffee savvy and well known on alt.coffee) made this suggestion for someone looking for a lower acidity blend that would have chocolatey undertones

2 parts Sulawesi,  1 part Colombian, 1 part Uganda Bugisu/Budadiri, 1 part DP Ethiopian like Harar and take it to the first pops of the second crack on your roaster.

I'm curious to know if any of you have a more general formula or is that not practical?

I'm thinking along these lines:

x parts base bean (Brazil or Colombian), x parts African, x parts Central American, x parts Indian, x parts Indonesian

Perhaps this is just way too generalized an approach as various African beans, Central American etc can vary so much from one country or region to the next. That said.... is it or isn't it true that beans from one region will tend to have an overall domininant characteristic?

For example.... not necessarily accurate enough but a thought

  • Central American = bright flavor notes and mildly acidic - perhaps some fruity undertones
  • African = chocolatey and darker fruity undertones - less bright
  • Yemeni = earthy, winey and wilder flavor
  • Indonesian = smoother less acidic and very rich flavor
  • Colombian and Brazilian = relatively clean and neutral flavor profile

I know that this aproach is overly simplistic but I have a large stash of green beans of many varieties. I'm just trying to establish some easy rules of thumb for making simple blends, then document the results and refine from there.

One little blend experiment I tried recently that was ridicuolously easy (and kind of cheating but who cares?) came from a tip I saw at coffeegeek

1 part Uganda Budadiri (or Bugisu - can't recall the exact name ) to one part Sweet Maria's Moka Kadir blend.

I bough some Moka Kadir by mistake when I meant to order a Yemeni Moka. Never really did care for the Moka Kadir blend by itself but when I roasted a half pound until early second crack, roasted a half pound of the Uganda to about the same level and mixed them... wow! It's one of the better espresso blends I've ever tried and worth another visit.

If I recall correctly eGullet's slkinsey blends some high quality Robusta into the Sweet Maria's Liquid Amber blend and is very happy with the results. Perhaps he'll weigh in on this topic but I'm all ears to any and all blending ideas.

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it's really not possible. as an example, cup the three following beans at Full City:

- Brazil Fazenda Laranja Cravo

- Brazil Sul de Minas Carmo Estate

- Brazil Sitio Araucária

you'd think that three such similar beans would taste very similar.

instead you get one bean that has an intense bittersweet chocolate note and a heavy, creamy body - one bean that is incredibly mild and nutty with no real dominant flavour characteristics to speak of - and one bean this incredibly bright and citric with a light body and strong nut tones.

a better (though perhaps less helpful) way to look at your question would be...

Chocolate Espresso Blend = 5 parts base bean, 3 parts accent bean A, 1 part accent bean B, roasted to Roast Degree; where

if Roast Degree = Full City or lighter;

Base Bean = very low acid, soft and round with no fruit or wine flavour notes (if any, just chocolate or nut)

Accent Bean A = low acid, big body, round, no fruit or wine notes, chocolate tones

Accent Bean B = heavy chocolate tones, some mild dried fruit tones or wine tones; or

if Roast Degree = Full City Plus or darker;

Base Bean = low acid, big body, very round, chocolate tones

Accent Bean A = big body, heavy chocolate, round

Accent Bean B = big body, chocolate and fruit tones, acidic

of course, as a wild card, you'll note that both are just three-bean blends. this is going to mean that you'll have to pick the coffees based on their balance but also will have to forgo robusta which means that, to get decent crema, you're going to need to focus on dry-processed coffees.

feel free, if you want, to tell me what your green inventory looks like if you want more concrete suggestions - though in general i think experimentation is a good thing.

as a starting point, you might want to start roasting individual origin beans and pulling shots with them. this will allow you to not only tune your palate, you'll also be able to identify the complete flavours of the beans and become more adept at blending. and, of course, you might find you actually prefer single origin shots to blends!!


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