A Shifting Blend or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Asymmetries


A Shifting Blend or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Asymmetries

Posted on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 2:15pm By Michael Harwood

There’s no doubt we love our single-origin coffees. From the Sumatra Simalungun to the Mexico Santa Teresa, we prize these special lots, grown and processed in one area, for their singular flavors and straightforward nature. When a customer demonstrates excitement about the return of a seasonal single-origin coffee like the Guatemala San José Ocaña, it gives us great pride. So why do we offer blends of different coffees?

Asymmetries Tasting Notes

A big reason why we blend is for balance and complexity. When we combine two or more coffees, we are thinking about how each component may complement each other. Take our Destoyer Espresso Blend with its three coffees, for instance. We start with Brazil Cerrado Gold as the base for its milk chocolate, caramel, and mellow orange profile. This deep, full-bodied coffee offers a lot on its own, but we are able to create a richer experience by adding contrasting coffees. Think of the Brazil as the bass notes. To those lower tones, we add in the Mexico Santa Teresa to fill out the mid-tones with notes of vanilla spice cake, cherry cola, and butter croissant. The Brazil and Mexico alone would be pretty delicious, but for the blend profile we’re going for, we’re missing a high note. This is where our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe comes into play. With floral, citrus, and berry flavors, this brighter, higher toned coffee harmonizes perfectly with the lower and medium toned coffees. When we bring these three together, the result is a very balanced and complex espresso blend that tastes great on its own and with milk.

It was this idea of balance and complexity we had in mind when we set to work on creating a new, seasonal espresso blend. Our perspective on a seasonal espresso is that if you use only fresh, in-season coffees, your beverage will taste livelier and often will be more flavorful. Starting from scratch, we roasted six different single-origin coffees and pulled shots of each. After sipping way too many shots, we had a solid list of flavor and body notes for each coffee. At that point, we assessed which combinations might make sense. We tried a few pairings and had some success, but we still felt like we could do better. Then one of us had the idea to pair the elegant, bright Ethiopia Wazzala with the bigger-bodied, heavily-fruited Ethiopia Worka. Starting with a 50:50 split, we were instantly smitten. The two coffees played off each other in a way that made them both even more delicious than they tasted individually, which is saying something. They complemented each other on body and flavor, making for a very balanced and complex espresso. We didn’t stop there though. Just splitting the coffee 50:50 was fine, but we had more exploring to do. “What happens if you change the proportions?”, we asked ourselves. To answer the question, we created four distinct blend ratios: an 80% Worka:20% Wazzala, a 60% Worka:40% Wazzala, a 40% Worka:60% Wazzala, and a 20% Worka:80% Wazzala.

Roaster at Work

After pulling a head-spinning number of shots, we were torn. We loved each variation for its own distinctive combination of the two coffees’ flavors and body. The more Ethiopia Worka we mixed in the blend, the bigger the body, the more berry we tasted, and the sweeter the espresso was. The more we shifted towards the Ethiopia Wazzala, the silkier the body, the more citrus we perceived, and the crisper the espresso became. Each of the blends showed its own unique balance and complexity and in the end, we decided that it would be a shame not to share each variation with you all.

That’s how Asymmetries was born – out of the desire to open up the blending process for each of our customers. So please join us as we release a different combination of Asymmetries every two weeks for the next two months. We hope that you’ll find value in tasting how the balance and complexity change with each blend – furthering an appreciation for this roaster’s art.