Ever since Starbucks released its first new roast in over forty years, coffee fans have been obsessed with it – the blonde espresso. This lightly roasted espresso has a distinct taste that's ideal for specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, or so people say. How does blonde espresso compare to the original, and what should we know before ordering it?
Blonde Espresso is coffee roasted to only the first crack, while a regular Starbucks espresso is a dark roast. This light roast gives blonde espresso high caffeine content and acidity, light body, and floral and citrus notes. Any specialty drink can be made with a blonde roast coffee.
Read on to learn the details of blonde espresso – where it comes from, what it tastes like, and why Starbucks' version of it is so popular. We'll also compare it to regular espresso, helping you decide which to order and how you can make it and blonde espresso drinks at home.
Blonde Espresso Explained
Blonde espresso is a popular drink, and it is also one that we can understand in several ways. It differs from regular espresso in its history, roast and blend, appearance, and more.
Starbucks introduced the blonde espresso back in 2017, initially marketing it in Canadian stores. However, it took off when it came to America the following year, in 2018. Since then, blonde espresso has been a mainstay of their menu.
The introduction of a blonde roast was a big deal too – and considerable risk. That was the first time that Starbucks introduced a new roast to their menu in over forty years.
However, the world-famous café chain was not the first to lightly roast coffee beans. They started using the term "blonde roast" to refer to their lighter roasts in 2012, although the concept dates back to before even that.
Initially, light roasts were called Cinnamon roasts due to their orange-brown color. Unfortunately, many people thought this name referred to the coffee's taste – and were disappointed when it didn't taste like Pumpkin Spice whatsoever.
Roasteries considered names like Half City, Half Roast, and New England Roast, but the blonde roast was the one that stuck. It became the standard term for beans heated until the first crack, so Starbucks logically called the espresso made from these beans blonde espresso.
Roast And Blend
Blonde espresso comes from beans roasted to the first crack when the fresh beans break open for the first time due to heat. In contrast, regular espresso uses a darker roast, where the beans are roasted to the second crack.
Another difference between blonde and regular espresso is the temperature at which they're roasted.Blonde espresso beans are roasted at between 350F and 400F, while traditional dark roast espresso is heated from 437F to 480F.
Furthermore, the Starbucks blonde espresso uses beans from Latin America and East Africa. In contrast, their regular espresso uses coffee from Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific.
However, other brands of espresso can come from any coffee-growing region. So while blond espresso is sweeter than Starbuck regular espresso, the same might not be accurate for another café or espresso you make yourself.
Also, keep in mind that Starbucks tends to roast their beans for abnormally long periods. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this, and millions of people enjoy Starbucks' regular espresso. This quirk does mean that the difference between its blonde espresso and another café's traditional espresso will be less prominent, though.
Starbucks blonde espresso is, therefore, more comparable to another company's medium roast espresso. Authentic blonde roasts don't make for good espressos since they're often too light and don't work well with the high pressures needed for espresso.
The lighter roast gives blonde espresso beans an overall more golden color, with a matte finish. Like the name would suggest, they are blonder than regular coffee beans.
Conversely, the dark roast of the regular Starbucks espresso will have deep brown beans. Their longer roast at a higher temperature also gives these beans an outer oily layer, making them appear shiny.
The same applies to the grounds, with blonde espresso grounds being noticeably lighter. This distinction doesn't apply to brewed coffee, though, and certainly not to specialty drinks. The dilution from water and milk makes the color difference minimal.
Taste And Flavor
Many Starbucks fans enjoy blonde espresso because it is far less bitter than the house blend. Not only that, but blonde espresso is noticeably sweeter, having a slightly higher sugar content.
It also leaves a citrus aftertaste with floral notes. Don't be surprised to pick up hints of lemon, orange, and even a faint caramel when you try it. It's surprisingly light and aromatic for coffee.
The blonde roast also makes the coffee smoother and more mellow – another reason why it's famous for being so easy to drink. All the harshness of your standard dark roast espresso is avoided entirely, leaving an enjoyable creamy drink even before the barista adds milk.
Overall, the lighter and more aromatic taste of blonde espresso makes it perfect for people who need a kick of energy but can't stand bitter coffee. This more subtle flavor is also great for specialty drinks. It doesn't overwhelm the beverage like a regular espresso can.
On the other hand, the regular espresso Starbucks makes is quite bitter, with a bold, earthy flavor. The darker roast makes it richer, too, with caramel, nut, and chocolate hints.
If you want an espresso with more character, stick to the regular. Its also better for mocha, Frappuccino, and some flavored lattes because of its strong, distinct flavor and caramel notes.
Of course, this difference in flavor isn't just because of the roast level. Origin also plays a role. Blonde espresso has some East African beans, while regular espresso uses beans from the Pacific and Asia.
Suppose you compare Starbucks blonde espresso to a different franchise's regular brew. In that case, you'll get different results depending on the origin of their beans.
Similarly, another coffee shop's blonde roast will probably be even sweeter and lighter. Starbuck's blonde espresso is more comparable to a generic medium roast.
You'll be surprised to know that blonde espresso contains more caffeine than regular espresso – but you wouldn't be alone in thinking otherwise. On average, blonde espresso has about 20mg more caffeine (170mg) than the 150mg found in the signature espresso.
This difference comes from the lighter roasts preserving slightly more caffeine than their darker counterparts. However, most people aren't going to notice this difference, and it can also vary based on the quality of the harvest or the way the coffee is brewed.
Nevertheless, despite being reasonably sweet, blonde espresso is stronger than the standard version of Starbucks espresso. If you do want the extra energy, give it a shot.
However, if you want that caffeine kick from your coffee, don't drink espresso. Yes, it is more potent than other coffee. But the serving sizes are so small that you get less caffeine overall.
If you need to stay up late or wake up properly, drink a big cup of filter coffee instead. If you wish, you can make it with blonde espresso beans, too – despite the name; espresso beans can be used with any coffee maker if they're ground correctly.
Making Blonde Espresso At Home
It is possible to make blonde espresso at home since Starbucks sells its blonde espresso blend – it's available in its stores. If you prefer social distancing, you can also buy it online. Starbucks blonde espresso is available in whole beans, grounds, and even two types of Nespresso pods.
We don't recommend that you try and emulate its flavor using different beans, though. Sure, you could get close, but it would take a lot of time and heavily depend on the beans available to you. It would also be a lot of effort.
Similarly, unless you know what you're doing, roasting the beans yourself is complex and not worth the trouble. Starbucks is everywhere. If you want blonde espresso, they've made it as easy as possible.
To make blonde espresso at home, you'll first need the coffee that's appropriate for your machine. If you don't own a grinder, ensure you buy blonde espresso grounds, not beans. Check first since many espresso machines have built-in grinders.
Likewise, if you have a Nespresso machine, buy the correct pods for it – either original pods or the newer Vertuo ones.
Of course, it won't taste identical to what you'd order at the actual coffee shop. The machine you use to make espresso will affect its taste somewhat, so unless you own a prosumer machine, don't expect miracles
This disclaimer isn't to say that homemade blonde espresso is undrinkable. Quite the opposite – making it fun and convenient, and the beans are still identical. So, if you use good water and a decent machine, you'll have a perfectly lovely, sweet, and light espresso.
You can make other coffee in other styles with blonde espresso beans too. We recommend getting the grounds since other coffee makers generally use a coarser roast than the finely ground espresso. Of course, what you make will determine the taste and texture. However, blonde roasts are, on average, still lighter and creamier than average.
Lastly, you could also make blonde espresso from another coffee shop's blonde roast beans. Although this would not taste like Starbucks' blonde espresso, it is still worth a shot to try it if you enjoy the taste of blonde roast in general.
Remember that if you specifically want coffee like Starbucks blonde espresso, ask for medium roast beans, not a lighter roast. Starbucks roasts their beans for longer than average, so their blonde roast tastes more like a standard medium roast espresso.
Blonde Espresso FAQs
There’s still more to blonde espresso, although its exactly as fascinating as everything else we’ve covered. Now that we know what the drink is, we can address some misconceptions about it.
Is Blonde Roast The Same As Blond Espresso?
Blonde roast is a type of bean, whereas blonde espresso refers to the espresso made from those beans. They aren't the same since you can make other styles of coffee from blonde roast beans. However, all blonde espresso is blonde roast coffee.
Starbucks packages their blonde roast as blonde espresso roast coffee, although you can use the same beans for other styles if you want to.
Is Blonde Espresso Stronger Than Regular Coffee?
Blonde roast contains more caffeine than regular coffee, so it is stronger – this applies to everything from espresso to drip coffee. The less time that beans are roasted, the more caffeine is preserved. Regular coffee uses medium or dark roasts, which heat the beans for longer but lower caffeine content.
On the other hand, blonde roast coffee doesn't have a strong taste. Instead, it's sweeter, more aromatic than regular coffee, and much less bitter.
Of course, the brewing method you choose matters here too. Espresso is the most robust style of coffee that's straightforward to get in America. Still, the volume of a single espresso shot is so small that you'll get more caffeine overall from a regular cup of coffee, blond roast, or otherwise.
Is Blonde Roast Bitter?
Blonde roast is far less bitter than regular espresso, pulled from a darker roast. In comparison, it is refreshingly light, sweet, and creamy.
However, blonde espresso is still espresso – just made from blonde roast beans. Even though it is lighter, some people with sensitive pallets still find it bitter and prefer the taste of coffee brewed with a pour-over or a drip machine.
Likewise, Starbucks also roasts their beans for longer than average. So, even if you find that their blonde roast is too bitter for you, don't give up just yet. Many coffee shops will serve a blonde roast if you ask, which might be more to your preference.
Is Blonde Espresso Healthy?
Blonde espresso, and all blonde roasts, are healthier than regular espresso. Because they're roasted for shorter periods at lower temperatures, they have a higher oxidation level than the default. Blonde roasts will contain more antioxidants than regular coffee.
Furthermore, blond espresso also contains a higher level of chlorogenic acid than regular espresso. That's an anti-inflammatory – and CA reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Coffee can also help weight management since it prevents hunger pangs and food cravings. Therefore, it can help you lower your calories – blonde espresso isn't especially beneficial, though. Still, you might prefer its sweet taste more than the regular bitter espresso.
However, blonde espresso also has higher caffeine levels. For the genuinely health-conscious, this will matter. The amount is relatively small, though, so it won't make a significant difference unless you're drinking many shots of espresso per day. And then you have other issues already.
In conclusion, Starbucks blonde espresso is made from lightly roasted beans from East Africa and Latin America. Because of that, it has a sweet, creamy taste with citrus notes. It is much less bitter and lighter than regular espresso, too, despite its slightly higher caffeine content.