What is Single Origin Coffee?
A common question that we get asked is: “Is Single Origin Coffee Better?” or “What is meant by Single Origin Coffee?” In this ultimate guide to Single Origin coffee, we explain everything you need to know.
Never again will you be caught unawares at Starbucks or your local café when they try and ask you whether you would like to try their single origin beans. It is important to understand what single origin coffee is because it is a term that comes up quite frequently in the coffee industry. This guide will broaden your understanding of coffee origins generally, allowing you to also make better purchasing decisions when choosing blends. Experimentation with coffee beans is fun - but save yourself some time; get educated and find the specific type of coffee that you love more effectively!
Most coffee that the average person tastes comes from a blend. A blend contains coffee beans from a variety of locations that are roasted together, creating a symphony of flavours unique to the tastes of the roaster. Single origin coffee is different.
Why is origin important?
As the name suggests, single origins are not a blend of coffee beans from various locations, but rather single origin coffee beans are beans that originate from a single region. An important point to note is that single origin coffee does not necessarily mean that the beans are all from the same farm. Rather, the same region. If you want to be even more particular about where your coffee comes from, single estate, or single farm coffee, more specifically refers to beans originating from a specific cooperative, mill, or farm (located anywhere in the world).
Therefore, both the climate of the location where the coffee is grown, and the composition of the soil directly impact upon the flavour and quality of single origin coffee beans. Additionally, the processing method of the coffee beans themselves is incredibly important. We will explain each of these aspects of the coffee creation process in due course.
Single origin coffee is all about location and the different climates that exist in these locations. Different climates all over the world result in different coffee beans being grown. Different coffee beans mean different flavour notes. Therefore, coffee will taste different depending on where it comes from (as you probably already know).
Coffee plants generally require cooler temperatures and higher altitudes in order to grow productively. Oxygen levels, temperature, and water levels change at different altitudes. Higher altitudes have less oxygen and lower altitudes have more oxygen. In higher altitudes beans will have more complex flavour notes (they will generally be fruity - think of bright flavours) and in lower altitudes beans will have more toned down flavour notes (for example, nutty or earthy flavours).
Soil composition impacts the flavour of single origin coffees because coffee plants get their lifeblood from the soil. The soil provides coffee plants with all of their valued nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. Through effectively managing the soil, farmers can ensure that coffee plants have the best opportunity for absorption of the nutrients in the soil. If a coffee plant gets the right nutrients, so too will the coffee cherries and coffee beans. This means that soil directly impacts upon things such as the aroma, flavour, and body of the coffee.
Coffee processing methods is a complex topic. Our guide for coffee processing methods provides great insight into the way that different processing methods of coffee beans can impact upon the end flavour of your cup of coffee. Basically, it is important to consider what flavour notes you enjoy more - those coming from washed or unwashed coffee bean processing methods.
Is Single Origin Coffee Better?
Due to the accuracy of location, single origin espresso are usually favoured due to their unique ability to highlight delicate flavours that could be missed in a coffee blend. Highlighting specific flavour notes is what makes single origin coffee better. Specific flavour notes can be fragile and burnt away in the roasting process if beans from multiple locations are blended together during the roasting process. Roasting is often used to smoothen the rougher edges of some coffee beans. Tons of flavours mix together, and it can be hard to appreciate any specific flavour note.
However, a down-side of single origin coffees are their lack of consistency. Making the same cup everytime is difficult to achieve due to the fragility of the flavour notes that are highlighted in the roasting process. As noted above, these fragile flavours could be destroyed or warped during that roasting process if the beans are roasted for too long or for too short of a time. The flavour notes of single origin coffee can also be warped during the brewing process if the temperatures of the water being used vary to too great of a degree.
It is for this reason, if you are an at-home coffee brewing aficionado and you leap out of bed each morning out of excitement at brewing your favourite cup of coffee, that you need to experiment to determine whether or not single origin espressos are right for you. If you value having the same cup that you love, every morning, a blend may be the best option. Our marketplace sells many different types of beautiful blends from roasters all over Australia. We generally prefer these blends to single origins. But, that is just our opinion!
What is the Best Single Origin Coffee?
Determining what specific location creates your favourite single origin beans is a process of experimentation that is completely up to you and your own preferences. That is part of the fun of being a coffee aficionado! However, we can provide a rough guide as to some flavour profile examples. We are here to help you.
It should be noted that the largest producers of coffee in the world are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, and Indonesia - in that order. Many single origin coffee beans come from these regions, but you can also look to coffee beans coming from Africa or Asia for your caffeine hit.
Acidity and Flavour Profile Examples:
Low acidity: Colombia, India, Sumatra, Indonesia, and Nicaragua. Strong and dark - the reduced acidity of these coffee beans results in more fruity and earthy flavour notes.
Fruity origins: Kenya, Guatemala, and Mexico. Sweet and flowery - the high acidity of these coffee beans are accompanied with floral flavour notes.
We will briefly outline three of the locations that produce some of our favourite coffee beans.
Dark berries, melons, floral notes, lemon grass - these are the signature flavour notes from Ethiopian coffee beans. Loads of people love coffee that comes from Ethiopia. Fun fact: Ethiopia is where the coffee plant originates from. The first arabica was grown in Ethiopia. So, a great variety of flavours can come from Ethiopia - that is what makes the coffee that comes from this region so exciting. The flavour notes that come from Ethiopia are bright, with higher acidities. The flavour notes are more delicate than flavours from other regions.
Try an Ethiopian blend.
Earthy flavours of mushrooms, cinnamon, and cloves - these are the beautifully rich flavours that can be expected from the region of Sumatra. Sumatra is in Indonesia. Indonesia is thefourth largest producer of coffee beans in the world. Sumatran coffee is a coffee that aficionados either love or hate. Sumatra has fantastic conditions for growing arabica coffee beans that produce lower acidity coffees.
Try a Sumatran blend.
Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee beans in the world. Chocolate, nuts, citrus, caramel are the main flavour notes that you can look forward to tasting in Colombian coffees. Coffee beans that originate from here can be considered to tread the “middle-path” when it comes to flavours, and usually feature medium levels of acidity. However, there is a significant distinction in flavour profiles between coffee plants grown in different regions of the country.
Try a Colombian blend.
And There You Have It!
We hope you enjoyed our guide to single origin coffees. Understanding what single origin coffee beans are will broaden your general understanding of coffee. Understanding this term is vital for any coffee enthusiast, and will help you better understand all other aspects of coffee, including blends. If you are interested in trying coffees from different areas of the world, we can help! We work with some of the best roasters from all over Australia, who roast interesting coffee beans from all corners of the globe. It is our mission to connect you with truly great Aussie coffee.