• QA 083
    What is the relationship between blending, and flavour or taste profiles?
    Your QA 081 explains why green coffee is blended. Your answer also refers to 'taste and flavour profiles' - can you expand on this?
    Asked by:
    Researcher - South Africa

    Flavour profiles are a description of the taste sensation the average coffee drinker will encounter from a particular coffee. The art of blending is the means by which a roaster strives to maintain the same taste. throughout the year or indeed throughout the life of a particular brand. Recording a specification of the required end result, i.e. the taste or flavour profile, helps achieve this.

    Basic profiles standardize certain objectives. For example 

    • For a fresh, clean cup with some acidity: use washed or mild arabicas;
    • For a more full-bodied cup: add natural arabicas;
    • For higher cup yield and lower prices: add robustas;

    The blending action combines any or all of these three basic taste groups in different proportions to achieve a certain taste sensation. But, within each base group there are of course many potential supply options. For mainstream blends the number of potential supply options usually is quite large whereas for higher quality and specialty blends the number of potential candidate coffees shrinks fairly rapidly. And for top quality blends the number will be quite small indeed. Water quality in the target market may also play a role, sometimes necessitating the production of slightly different versions of the same brand for different markets.

    The blend master will profile the taste of each component of his blend by recording acidity, body, flavour, after taste etc. He will record the proportion of each component used in the final blend and he will of course record the flavour profile of that final blend.

    The objective is three-fold

    • Stability: maintain the blend taste profile vis-à-vis the end user, batch after batch;
    • Security: select different coffees when availability changes or when the delivered quality of a purchase disappoints, by matching other coffees  against the required profile;
    • Profit: produce each batch at the lowest possible price by juggling components;

    The blend master of course has the choice to blend the green coffee components first and then roast the mixture. Or, he can roast the individual components separately and blend them afterwards. This choice will depend on his personal preference and his appreciation of the blend components that are to be used.

    Profiling incidentally also enables the blend master not to bother with coffees or origins for which he knows the flavour profile to be unsuitable... This is why so many samples that exporters send are never acknowledged or reported upon - the buyer knows they are unlikely to fit the required profile.

    Finally, some specialty coffee flavour profiles have become incredibly complex, to the point where the average coffee consumer probably becomes completely lost and simply accepts that what is claimed is true. At the other hand of the scale we find the erosion of blend quality, for example when quality is sacrificed because of higher prices or lack of availability…

    Posted 15 March 2006


    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    QA 081