What is Blonde Espresso?

Coffee Education
Kirkland Gee
July 14, 2023

If you’ve been around the coffee world long enough, you've heard about "blonde espresso." Some people have a conception that it’s an entirely different kind of coffee beans (especially the starbucks blonde espresso), but that isn’t exactly right.

We're here to explain this coffee trend for you, discussing everything from what it is, how it's made, and where it originated from, to the best places to buy it. Ready to dive into the world of blonde espresso? Let's get started!

Understanding Blonde Espresso

When you hear "blonde espresso," your first thought might be, "Is it really blonde? And how different can it be?" These are both excellent questions, and the answers are quite fascinating. Blonde espresso is indeed lighter in color than its traditional espresso counterparts, often presenting an appealing golden hue that gives it its distinctive 'blonde' title.

This isn't just a superficial difference, either. The blonde espresso's color is a reflection of the roasting process, which we'll cover later. For now, it's essential to know that while blonde espresso might seem lighter, it boasts a strength and flavor profile that can stand toe-to-toe with any dark roast espresso.

What Does a Blonde Espresso Roast Taste Like?

If you're accustomed to the robust, slightly bitter taste of darker roast espresso, blonde espresso may strike you differently. It’s bright and acidic, dancing on your palate with a sweetness that's more pronounced.

It has a different kind of richness that balances perfectly with its gentle acidity. You'll likely detect subtle yet vibrant notes of citrus that gradually give way to a comforting caramel undertone. The result? A delicate symphony of flavors that makes each sip an experience to savor.

And for those of you who may find the intense, slightly bitter profile of traditional espresso a bit too much, blonde espresso is a welcome revelation. Its smoother and less acerbic taste introduces a gentleness that can make your coffee-drinking journey more enjoyable. It offers all the complexity and depth you'd expect from an espresso, but with a lighter, sweeter twist.

If you’re into specialty coffee, most espressos you taste at a third-wave/specialty shop are “blonde,” as it ultimately just means the coffee is a lighter roast than regular espresso.

How Is Blonde Espresso Made?

Creating a blonde espresso involves a meticulous process. The magic happens during the roasting stage. While traditional espresso beans are roasted for longer periods to achieve a darker, more robust flavor, blonde espresso beans are roasted for a shorter period.

This light roasting technique highlights the flavors inherent to the coffee, rather than over caramelizing and bringing out the “roasty” flavorss. Often, blonde roast coffees are bright, lightly sweet, and wonderfully balanced.

Levels of Roasted Coffee

To take a short detour—it’s helpful to understand the different roast levels in coffee. Generally, here’s a breakdown of the different roast profiles you may find:

  • City Roast (Light Roast): Beans are roasted to an internal temperature of about 435-450°F, right at the first crack. This roast retains most original flavors of the bean, often exhibiting complex fruity, floral, or herbal notes.
  • City Plus Roast: A slight step above the City Roast, it yields a bit more body and sweetness while still maintaining the unique qualities of the bean.
  • Full City Roast (Medium Roast): Roasted to temperatures between 465-470°F, just before or at the beginning of the second crack. It produces a darker, sweeter coffee with more body and a balanced flavor profile with reduced acidity.
  • Full City Plus Roast: This roast pushes into the second crack, creating a darker roast that starts to showcase the flavors influenced by the roasting process itself.
  • Vienna Roast (Medium-Dark Roast): Beans are taken to the middle of the second crack, yielding a coffee that is bolder with flavors leaning towards caramel and chocolate notes.
  • French Roast (Dark Roast): Beans are roasted to temperatures above 475°F, well into the second crack. This roast results in a coffee with pronounced bitterness, low acidity, and flavors that heavily reflect the roasting process rather than the original bean characteristics.

Each of these roast profiles offers a distinct taste, body, and acidity, providing a unique coffee experience. Your choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the specific flavor profile you seek in your cup of coffee.

The Origins of Blonde Espresso

Blonde espresso has its roots firmly planted in the specialty coffee movement that took the world by storm in the early 21st century. As consumers began seeking a broader range of flavors and experiences, roasters started experimenting with lighter roasts, and the blonde espresso was born. While it's hard to pinpoint its exact place of origin, its popularity really took off when large coffee chains like Starbucks began featuring it on their menus.

Does Blonde Espresso Have More Caffeine?

One of the most common questions we come across is, "Does blonde espresso have more caffeine?" It's a sensible query, especially if you're seeking that extra caffeine kick in your cup. The answer is - yes, blonde espresso typically does contain more caffeine than darker roasts, including traditional espresso.

This might seem counterintuitive because darker roasts have a stronger, more robust flavor that might be associated with higher caffeine content. But here's the thing: the roasting process is key.

When coffee beans are roasted, the heat of the process actually breaks down the caffeine molecule. So, the longer the beans are roasted, as is the case with dark roast coffee, the more caffeine is lost. As blonde espresso is a light roast that spends less time being heated, it tends to retain more of its original caffeine content.

That said—the difference isn't massive. While there's a bit more caffeine in a blonde roast, it's not going to be double or anything quite so dramatic.

So if you're seeking a serious caffeine boost, blonde espresso can provide a little extra, but remember that factors like the type of bean, the brewing method, and serving size can also influence the caffeine content in your cup.

In a nutshell, blonde espresso is a vibrant, full-flavored brew that offers a refreshing alternative to traditional espresso. Its lighter roast translates into a smooth, sweet, and subtly complex taste, and yes, a bit more caffeine. So, if you're seeking a different kind of coffee adventure, blonde espresso is definitely worth exploring. Get ready to switch things up on your next coffee run, because blonde espresso might just become your new go-to!

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