Advanced Techniques



Coffee Blending

Coffee Blending is necessary for espresso since a single coffee origin will lack the complexity desired.  It is important to remember that the advantage of espresso over other brewing methods is a result of the formation of the crema.  Without the crema the espresso would be strong, thick coffee.  The crema is an emulsified layer of tiny, smooth bubbles that trap aromatic compounds.  This layer coats the tongue and these small bubbles break over time allowing espresso to be enjoyed long after it has been consumed.  An aromatic coffee, therefore, is essential to a well prepared espresso blend.

The majority of the espresso blend is made up of a base of coffees from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Panama or any other origins that contribute a non-overbearing flavor while still contributing to the body and sweetness of the coffee.

Small ratios of coffees from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Venezuela are used to add body, acidity, and flavor to a coffee blend.  Since these coffees are often very acidic, they are used in small amounts.

To add complexity and brightness when blending espresso, Ethiopian Harrar, Kenyan, Yemen Mocha, Zimbabwe, and Zambian coffees are used.  Ethiopian Harrar adds a powerful aroma of blueberries or raspberries while Kenya coffee adds a powerful brightness.

To add richness and body when blending for espresso, coffee from the Asian Pacific, such as Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java, East Timor, New Guinea and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe are used.  Yirgacheffe has a potent, flowerlike aroma.

Blending for Espresso Coffee

  1. Cup each of the coffees separately.  Record aroma, fragrance, flavor, acidity, body, and aftertaste.  Cup coffees next to each other to determine which coffees augment the flavor of another.  Remember that blending coffee beans is an art and there are no clear espresso blending rules. The goal in espresso blending is that the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts.
  2. Start with a base of a sweet and heavy bodied Brazilian coffee(s) and add a small amount of another coffee to it.  Understand the flavor profile of your base and understand your goal.  Ask yourself what coffees might be added to this base to achieve the espresso blend you want.  Note the change incurred by adding this coffee and repeat with other coffee origins.
  3. Next try mixing 3-4 other coffees together until you get a blend that displays the flavor characteristics you desire.
  4. After determining what type of coffee you would like to use in your espresso blend, begin experimenting with different ratios until you have determined the best ratios to bring out the flavor, sweetness, body and aftertaste desired.
  5. Experiment with different roasts of each coffee in the blend in the same manner you experimented with adding other coffees to the Brazilian base.  Roast one coffee a little lighter or darker than the other coffees in the blend and note any differences.  It is usually preferred to roast each coffee separately to its own individual peak and then blend coffee to create the most complexity.

Creating a good espresso blend is not as difficult as it may initially appear.  Within a few hours you should have an acceptable espresso blend that will surpass commercial competitors for the simple reason that it is fresher.  To perfect the espresso blend by altering the roast to achieve the perfect crema, flavor, acidity, body and aftertaste takes time and patience, but is a rewarding and educational experience.  It is often difficult to balance the intense acidity of a shot of espresso which contains a brighter coffee which is used to contribute complexity and liveliness without roasting through the second pop.  A successful espresso blend, therefore, should balance this acidity via creative mixing coffee rather than excessive roasting the beans.  Do not roast your espresso past or even more than half way through the second pop.  By not over roasting, you will preserve the delicate aroma and sugars in the coffee.

For more information about espresso blending techniques, visit Sweet Maria's or

Related Articles

Espresso Blending by Tom Owen

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Perceived Acidity in Espresso Coffee

Coffee Aftertaste

Espresso Aroma

Espresso Body

Espresso Roasting

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