Think of your favourite cafe and the delicious, wonderful coffee they serve. Chances are that it is an espresso blend.
Espresso is not just the short shots of dark deliciousness you see people sipping while standing near the coffee machine. At the base of your latte, cappuccino and flat white lies a shot (or two) of espresso.
An espresso blend is a mix of two or more coffees from different countries. Coffee blending is an art and skill that takes up much of our time. Sourcing fresh coffees that carry through milk and still taste good is a never-ending process.
Espresso blends produce delicious coffee through an espresso machine. That’s why are we roast them darker than our filter roasts.
The roast level of our blends is medium, with Shadow Boxer being our darkest roast.
Shadow Boxer is our big-bodied, full-flavoured blend with chocolate and dark berry notes. It’s the closest to a traditional Italian espresso blend but with transparently traded, ethical coffees and a medium-dark roast profile. We compose it of coffee from Brazil and Papua New Guinea.
Haymaker is crisp and juicy with orange and caramel flavours. We source most of the coffee for Haymaker from Colombia and Guatemala.
Street Fighter is the newest contender with a blend of washed and natural coffees providing blueberry, mandarin and cocoa. Street Fighter is coffee from Colombia, Ethiopia and/or Honduras.
A single-origin is a coffee from one country or region. The flavours are unique to that area.
Espresso blends require more depth and complexity than single origin coffees, which is why we blend two or three coffees together. They need to remain consistent throughout the year and cut through milk. These days they must also co-operate with a range of alternative milk, from soy to oat to almond and beyond.
Read more about single origins in our article here.
As you gain experience as a coffee roaster, you learn the different roles that coffees play in a blend and what to expect from each origin and process.
One classic combo is Brazil and Colombia. The Brazilian coffee brings chocolate and body and maybe some nuttiness while the Colombian adds sweetness and a hint of acidity. It helps that they are the two biggest coffee-producing countries and their coffee isn’t expensive.
In place of Brazils, some roasters use Indian or Indonesian coffee as the base.
Roasting each coffee by itself and blending afterwards lets us get the best out of each coffee. We try to enhance the sweetness and body of each coffee while reducing acidity and minimising roastiness. The coffee world calls this post-blending.
We solubility match each coffee so they extract at the same rate and work together in the cup.
Some companies blend their coffee before they roast (pre-blending). While that makes production easier but we don’t think it makes a better cup of coffee.
The truest expression of a coffee roasters art and skill is in their espresso blends. Single origins are a unique case. We let the coffee do the talking. But espresso blends are different.
By combining two or three coffees we create something greater than the sum of its parts. And it has to cut through milk. A 20ml shot of espresso needs to carry through 200ml or more of milk.
Our blends are all delicious as black coffee but where they shine is when they combine with milk.
An espresso machine pushes water through the coffee at high pressure. That is why espresso has the rich, dense collection of oil and foam on top called crema.
So your coffee brews slow enough to develop all the flavour we need, the grind needs to be extra fine. The best method is to brew lots of coffee while adjusting the grind. We call this dialling in. If you need a visual guide, think of it as fine as table salt.
Because we brew espresso at high pressure, it draws out more flavour and oils than other brew methods like plunger or filter, which creates the crema on top. Because espresso roasts are darker than filter roasts, they can also taste darker, making you believe they are stronger. But in terms of caffeine, brewed or filter coffee contains more.
Much of the awakening ‘jolt’ that you get from your morning coffee comes from the flavours and aromas waking up your senses.
We roast all our espresso coffees to a medium roast level. The darkest we go is with Shadow Boxer. But even Shadow is only medium-dark and well before the second crack.
Many other roasteries roast darker and plenty of people enjoy dark roasts every day. But we prefer a medium roast to keep the beautiful fruit flavours and acidity of great coffee while still developing a strong body. Dark roasts are at risk of over-roasting and developing burnt, baked or even fishy flavours.
Our espresso roasts are twelve minutes long whereas filter roasts will be around ten minutes