We talk a lot about single origins, blends, brew methods, and tasting notes here, but when you’re new to the coffee world those terms can be intimidating! This week we want to look at some basic coffee vocabulary.
There are two main types of third wave coffee that you can buy, blends and single origins. Some people think the term “single origin” is just a snooty buzzword used to sell expensive coffee. On the contrary! Its just a designation to help people understand what they’re drinking. A single origin roast is one who’s beans come from the same processing station (and often the same farm) in a region. Typically you’ll see names like Counter Culture’s “Ethiopia Idido
” or Tony's “Kenya Kiganjo AA
.” These names can be confusing! The first thing to look for is the country. This is the most simple element of single origins, as coffees from a single country tend to have similar flavor profiles, with the details worked out in the processing and roasting. In the case of our first example, the word “Idido” refers to the Idido cooperative where the beans were produced and processed in Ethiopia. In our second example, the term AA refers to the grade of the beans. AA beans are the largest and most dense coffee beans, something that effects flavor. On the flipside, the word “peaberry” would denote a specific type of smaller bean, preferable for other roasts. These elements of a single origin’s name are often explained on the bag, but if they aren’t covered there you can usually search for the coffee on the roaster’s website for the full story! We try to share anything especially unique on our product pages as well!
We usually recommend trying single origins as pourovers to get the most out of their complexities. Once you have some experience with selecting different single origins, you can start experimenting with different brew methods!
Most coffee drinkers consume more blends than anything. A blend is simply a combination of single origin beans mixed together! Most grocery store coffee you find will be blends, but plenty of micro-roasters get creative with them too! Often blends will be developed to highlight a specific tasting note or region. Most blends will feature a creative name, such as Stumptown’s “Hair Bender
." A blend of South American beans may provide a jumping off point for you to find other South American origins that you enjoy! In other cases, roasters work to find a combination of beans that when roasted in a specific way create a particularly intense chocolate flavor. In these cases, blends can help you dial in specific notes to look for in the future. Most blends tend to be signature or seasonal, and are also often offered for specific brew methods as well! Intelligentsia’s “Black Cat Espresso” is a combination of beans perfect for espresso, and a great place to start for the new home barista.
Blends tend to stay in stock for longer than single origins as well, because the beans can rotate in and out with less noticeable changes to their flavor profiles. In some cases, roasters may offer seasonal blends to celebrate specific holidays, or feature freshly harvested beans that are only available seasonally themselves. We update our product pages when we get a new batch of a blend in so that the page stays accurate to any bean changes!
Notes and Additives
One question we get a lot is whether or not roasts contain the items listed in their tasting notes. It’s important to know that those notes are simply a roasters interpretation of the flavors in the coffee. If a coffee notes strawberry, it simply means that it has a strawberry like flavor in the mix, not that it actually includes strawberries. In some cases, coffees DO feature additives, but this is always very clearly noted. The only coffee available through SCG with additives is Coast Roast’s “New Orleans Blend With Chicory
We’ll dig into tasting notes and cupping in a later post, but we hope this helps outline some differences in different types of coffee!