Ever walked into your local Starbucks and seen ‘Blonde espresso’ on their menu and were wondering what type of espresso it is? The beverage giant coined the term, but by no means did they invent the beverage.
Blonde espresso has been around for years, going by other names such as ‘light roast espresso’ and ‘cinnamon-roast espresso’. It’s different from a regular espresso in many ways, and these differences should help you in deciding whether to try this drink or not.
What is Blonde Espresso?
Blonde Espresso is a type of espresso made using lightly roasted coffee beans. The beans are roasted only up to the first crack. As a result, the espresso has higher caffeine content, is more acidic, and has floral notes.
Blonde espresso also has a sweet, mellow flavor with a creamy aftertaste. This type of espresso was popularized by Starbucks in 2017. To make blonde espresso, the company sources beans from East Africa and Latin America.
Note: The Starbucks blonde espresso is quite similar to typical medium roast espressos, especially in terms of the light-bodied consistency and the cinnamon roast color.
What is Regular Espresso?
Regular espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that’s richer in flavor and thicker than regular coffee. To make espresso, hot water is passed through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure. It’s this brewing technique that gives espresso its concentrated profile.
Espresso also contains more crema than normal coffee. Traditional, Italian espresso is usually brewed using dark roast or medium roast coffee beans. However, in today’s diverse coffee culture, there are special types of espressos that are brewed using light roast coffee beans, such as the Starbucks blonde espresso.
What are the differences between regular espresso and blonde espresso?
Blonde espresso and regular espresso differ in terms of caffeine levels, flavor, taste, color, and level of roast. They can also be differentiated based on suitable pairings, the origin of the coffee beans used for each, and the grinding difficulty.
Here is a summary table of the differences between blonde espresso and regular espresso
|Has more caffeine
|Has a lower caffeine content
|Has a weak, mellow flavor
|Has a rich, chocolate flavor
|Tastes smooth and mildly sweet
|Has a bold, strong taste
|Has citrus and floral notes
|Has caramel notes with a bitter aftertaste
|Blonde espresso beans are roasted to a cinnamon-brown color with a matte finish
|Regular (dark roast) espresso beans are roasted to a medium-dark brown color with an oily finish
|Has a light roast profile; roasted for a shorter time
|Has an intense roast profile (roasted for longer)
|Works well as a base for light-bodied beverages
|Works well as a base for full-bodied beverages
|Coffee beans are sourced from East Africa and Latin America
|Coffee beans are mainly sourced from the Asia-Pacific region, as well as Latin America
|Blonde roast beans are dense and hard to grind
|Dark roast beans are less-dense and easier to grind
Blonde espresso has a higher caffeine content than regular espresso. This is because to make blonde espresso, the coffee beans are only heated up to the first crack, while coffee beans for making regular espresso are roasted up to the second crack (dark roast). A Starbucks blonde espresso contains 360mg of caffeine, which is 100 mg more than the caffeine content of a regular Starbucks espresso (260mg).
Blonde espresso has a weaker flavor compared to a regular espresso. It has a smooth, creamy flavor coupled with subdued sweetness due to its acidity; whereas standard espresso has a smoky, chocolate, nutty flavor with a bitter aftertaste and notes of caramel sweetness.
Blonde espresso has a smooth and mellow taste. You’ll also get hints of citrusy sweetness. On the contrary, regular espresso has a rich, bold, strong taste with a hint of bitterness.
Blonde espresso has a lighter color than regular espresso. This is because the coffee beans used to extract blonde espresso are roasted for a short time (light-roasted) and have a light, matte shade. On the other hand, the coffee beans used to extract regular espresso are dark-roasted and have a medium-dark brown, shiny appearance due to the longer roast time.
Level of roast
Blonde espresso has a light roast profile, while regular espresso has a strong roast profile. Coffee beans for blonde espresso are roasted for a short time at relatively low temperatures, resulting in smooth-bodied coffee. Comparatively, coffee beans for regular espresso are roasted for longer, resulting in an intense roast profile with an oily finish.
Due to its lighter profile, blonde espresso is best used as a base for light-bodied beverages like Americanos and iced coffees. Regular espresso, meanwhile, has a more intense profile and is better used as a base for full-bodied beverages like Frappuccinos and mochas.
Origin of Coffee Beans
To make blonde espresso, Starbucks sources coffee beans from East Africa and Latin America. Meanwhile, regular espresso is extracted from coffee beans sourced from Asia, the Pacific region, Central America, and South America.
Blonde roast espresso beans are harder to grind than dark-roast coffee beans used for regular espresso. The shorter roast time leaves blonde roast coffee beans with a denser feel compared to dark-roast coffee beans which are roasted for longer and feel easier to grind.
Is Blonde espresso stronger than regular espresso?
Blonde espresso is weaker than regular espresso. It has a rather mellow flavor and lacks the kind of bitterness characteristic of regular espresso. Various factors contribute to blonde espresso having a lighter profile and weaker flavor. They include:
I. The roasting duration
ii. The brewing method
iii. Size of the coffee grinds
Does blonde espresso have more caffeine?
Blonde espresso has more caffeine than regular espresso. That’s because the latter is extracted from coffee beans that are roasted for longer (dark-roast). The longer coffee beans are roasted, the lower the caffeine levels.
Is Blonde espresso stronger than a dark roast?
Dark roast (regular) espresso tastes stronger than blonde espresso mainly due to the longer roast time. Take note, though, that the level of roast is inversely proportional to the caffeine content. Therefore, blonde espresso has higher caffeine content, and despite the weaker taste, will give you a more powerful kick in the morning as you get ready to start the day.
Is Blonde espresso healthier?
Blonde espresso isn’t healthier than regular espresso. If anything, it has higher caffeine content. Caffeine is classified as a drug (a mild stimulant).
However, lovers of blonde espresso argue that, due to its mild sweetness, you don’t have to add any sugar or syrup to enjoy a blonde café. Sugary syrups, which have high-calorie content, are often added to regular espressos for a sweeter taste. Thus, when compared from this perspective, blonde espresso is the healthier beverage of the two.
National Coffee Association- USA: Coffee Roast Guide