The world runs on money, and people run on coffee. That much certainly holds, but there’s variety in the coffee we drink. Espresso remains one of the most popular kinds of coffee available.
But what makes regular espresso different from its cousin, blonde espresso?
The Short Answer: What Is Blonde Espresso
Blonde espressos aren’t exactly new. They were formerly known as Cinnamon Roast. However, the name never really caught on with people who assumed cinnamon referred to taste rather than color. “New England roast” is another name for blonde espresso that never became popular.
It was Starbucks who, due to its ubiquity in the coffee market, eventually established the name blonde espresso. They introduced the drink way back in January 2012, and we have been drinking blonde espresso ever since.
Blonde espresso has a much lighter color than its usual dark espresso counterpart, which matches its more delicate taste. It makes it more palatable to those just starting to drink coffee, like teens and young adults.
Because of blonde espresso’s lack of bitterness, people sometimes jokingly refer to it as “the coffee for people who hate the coffee flavor,” which isn’t exactly wrong. It’s a good drink for those that want espresso’s pep up but can’t stand the bitterness.
What Kind of Beans Are Used?
Starbucks likes to pick the beans for their blonde espressos from South America and East Africa because these beans stand out for their sweeter profiles. The location the beans come from is essential if you’re looking for lighter-colored beans.
Costa Rica, while a famous exporter of many kinds of darker beans, exports some of the world’s best light roasts.
This fact is due to Costa Rican soil having a high acidity. The acidity helps to keep the bitterness out of the coffee beans, making them perfect for light roast blends. These blends are used in your blonde espresso.
To give the final product its color, beans with light roast beans are the main ingredient, and they are given a short roast time to keep the color and delicate flavor.
Many light roasts go well with sweetened additives to complement the flavors of the beans. Starbucks’ Veranda Blend specifically has additions of toasted malt and baking chocolate, making a notably sweet experience that’s good with milk.
The blonde espresso’s light profile is preserved thanks to the roasting process that differs from most other kinds of roasting.
When beans are put into the boiling water, they crack due to compounds in the beans evaporating and the Maillard reaction.
The reaction is one of the fundamental cornerstones of cooking. It’s why meat, vegetables, and coffee beans get dark. It’s the sugars inside of them being caramelized as the food gets hotter and hotter.
This “first crack” happens at around 150 to 200 Celsius. It creates most of the flavor compounds that we associate with coffee; the flavors only get darker and more intense the longer it lasts.
Rather than continuing after the first crack, like other roasting methods, the beans for blonde espresso are taken out right after. This preserves the bean’s light color and flavors.
Tasting Notes & Flavor Profile
The flavor profile of blonde espresso is generally less intense and bitter than most other blends you can find.
The bean’s light roasting lets them keep a lot of their acidity, giving the espresso a lot of citrusy notes reminiscent of fruits like oranges or green apples but not overly sour ones like lemons.
This makes sweeteners like milk, sugar, and other things a good thing to add to your drink.
The milder flavor, when compared to the usual brown roast, makes them a more leisurely drink. You won’t have to take a few sips at a time. Rather, you can have a big gulp.
The light roasting also gives blonde espressos a lot of variety in character. You can easily find man blends with many unique flavors, so try them all to see what you love.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Blonde Roast?
The amount of caffeine, at least when measured on a per scoop basis, is usually higher than its darker counterparts.
When considering Starbucks’ blond espressos, for example, they have 10mg more caffeine than a typical espresso shot. This amount gives you the most bang for your buck caffeine-wise when ordering a shot.
A common misconception is that the reason for the higher caffeine content is the roasting process. In reality, the caffeine content of your drink has much more to do with where the beans came from.
The fact is blonde roast beans usually come from South America and Africa, with soil suited for acidity. The same can be said for Costa Rica and its soil.
How Are the Shots Pulled?
Pulling a shot of blonde espresso is different from pulling other kinds of roasts. This difference is because of the bean’s low roast time and their unique flavor composition.
The low roasting time impacts how you want to grind them. Because blonde roast beans can only crack once, their shells can be tougher than what you’re used to with darker beans. So be prepared to put more elbow grease in if you have a hand grinder.
The density can make it hard to grind your beans at the correct time. Measure it out carefully and be aware of what you’re doing, lest you over-extract your beans, making them bitter and unpalatable.
When pulling a shot of blonde espresso, you’ll want to pay attention to its color. You’ll want to stop once you reach the desired golden or pale brown color, or you’ll dilute the body of the shot.
If you find your beans are often too fine, you may want to adjust the grind size or improve your equipment by going for a conical grinder.
A properly extracted espresso shot will go through something called “mottling” or “tiger-striping.” It refers to the darker brown or reddish patches on the crema. It’s what you see baristas on TikTok make all those cool designs in.
The crema is the top layer of your shot that should be golden brown if you did it correctly.
The crema layer is a vital part of the process, as it adds most of the flavor to your drink. The spots are emulsified oils released into the liquid by your coffee machine’s high pressure.
They contain many of the aromatics that will give your blend its flavor.
Differences Between Blonde Roasts & Dark Espresso Roasts
The first thing you should notice when differentiating the two is the beans used for each kind of roast.
As their names imply, the dark espresso roast will have beans of a much darker color than the blonde roast, whose beans will have a gold or brown tinge to them.
While this isn’t always the case, sometimes the blonde roast beans are noticeably bigger.
The most significant difference between the two comes from their flavor profiles.
Dark roasts are bold and robust. This gives them a bitter flavor that’s not dissimilar to dark chocolate. The long roasting process also gives them a toasted flavor.
Blonde roasts are almost the complete opposite flavor-wise. The short roasting process allows the natural uncooked flavor of the bean to stand out more. There will also be a citrusy tinge to the drink and the aftertaste.
The color of the final product will also tell you whether you’ve roasted too much. As the name suggests, dark roasts are dark, and blonde roasts are unmistakably light.
Brewing a Blonde Espresso at Home
When making yourself a cup of espresso at home, be they blonde or dark roasts, there are a few steps to be observed that are the same.
We recommend you start with whole beans. They allow you to have more control over the final product.
You’ll want to grind the whole beans a satisfactory amount to bring out the flavor. You’ll want to make the grounds as fine as you can to extract most of their flavor with dark roast.
When you’re grinding a blonde roast, go easier on the grinding. Otherwise, you’ll extract all the bitter compounds, which will ruin the blonde roast’s flavor.
Packing and Tamping your grounds is the next step in the expresso process. It’s when you place the grounds into the portafilter of the machine.
You’ll want to place enough grounds into the machine so that it’s slightly over the edge of the portafilter. Then pack it down as evenly as possible for a smooth filtration.
Finally, you’ll want to pull the shot. Usually, this requires you to press a button or pull a lever. It depends on what kind of espresso machine you have.
Now you can enjoy your nice shot of espresso. Maybe mix in a bit of milk or cream. Vanilla syrup goes well with it to offset the citrusy flavor.
So, what is blonde espresso? It’s a unique coffee flavor that makes for a fun change of pace for your daily dose of caffeine.
I hope this article was helpful in explaining what blonde roasts are and, hopefully, more appreciation for what makes blonde roasts so unique.