Roasts & Blends
When it comes to coffee, I tend to keep things simple -- roast light enough to retain the flavor of the coffee, use only two or three beans in espresso blends, drink single origins. There is some pressure to produce blends, especially from restaurants who want to have their own blend to distinguish themselves from other restaurants. (Of course, if they knew how to brew and serve coffee in the first place, they wouldn't need a custom blend in order to stand out. But that's another issue.)
Coffee to brew as espresso is always based on a low acidity bean since the espresso brewing method of accentuates acidity. Most espressos are based on coffees from Sumatra, Brazil, or, more recently, India. Using something high in acidity -- a Kenya, say -- is an interesting taste experience, but not something you'd want to drink all the time. The base coffee of an espresso blend is at least half of it, while the rest is used to add the flavor notes you're seeking. We keep ours simple -- the base is 60% Sumatra and the other 40% is Colombia. We used to put more stuff in -- Kauai, Ethiopia -- but we think it tastes better the way it is.
French Roast has, of course, nothing to do with France, and it's not a particular coffee -- you can French Roast any bean. It's an imprecise term that usually implies a dark brown to black bean with some to a lot of oil on the surface. Our roast level is on the light side of the trend in French Roasts. The beans are oily after a day or so out of the roaster, but they're dark brown not black. This roast level balances the desirable smoky and caramel-ly taste French should have, with retaining some of the acidity and character of the origin. We've found over the years that there is a local preference for a milder flavor that suggests a choice of a mild bean to roast. So we do usually roast a mild bean such as a Salvador or other Central for French.
Ours includes neither Mocha nor Java. Here's why: The original Mocha Java blend of a century ago used coffee from Yemen shipped through the port of Mocha. Nowadays, Mocha is silted over and coffee from Yemen is expensive, inconsistent, and the supply is uncertain. A similar coffee is available just across the Red Sea in Ethiopia -- Harar -- so that's what we and many other roasters use instead of Yemen. As for the Java, the current processing method there is washed, while the Java of a century ago was processed more like the Sumatra of today, so that's what we use.
There is at least a tradition (in the US if nowhere else) of a blend using a combination of light and dark roasts called Viennese, or sometimes Vienna. This is the blend we use in Toddy iced coffee -- you definitely need some dark roast there. This is the blend for you if you like a dark roast taste, but can't quite face 100% French. Our Viennese is 60% Colombia and 40% French.
The origin of this blend here at MCCR is lost in the fog of time, but I think it was requested by a customer of yore and we just kept on doing it. 50% Colombia, 30% Sumatra, 20% French Roast.