Espresso is typically brewed using dark roast coffee beans, so the idea of a blonde espresso seems like an oxymoron. But what exactly is blonde espresso, where did the idea come from, and what are the best ways to pull a great shot of it? This article answers all those questions, so you’ll know precisely what it refers to next time you see blonde roast advertised.
What Is Blonde Roast?
Blonde roast is a medium-light roast blend introduced by Starbucks in 2012 for coffee lovers who prefer a more mellow option over the dark and more bitter roasts you’d typically use for espresso. It promises a balanced, easy-to-drink coffee that pairs well with milk.
Starbucks’ move into the lighter roast market was interesting because the company was better known for its dark roasts. Those dark roasts were deemed too intense for many customers, hence the introduction of the blonde roast. However, even though the Starbucks blonde espresso roast is marketed as a light roast, it is still more like a medium roast when compared to light roast coffee from other companies.
What Is Blonde Espresso At Starbucks?
Starbucks blonde roast is available in their Veranda Blend and Espresso Roast beans. Meanwhile, the coffee is sourced from Latin American and East African coffee beans, known for their consistent flavors and quality. You can choose the signature blend, decaf, or blonde espresso when you choose an espresso-based beverage at Starbucks.
Starbucks says it spent almost 50 years researching and perfecting the blend to offer a “boldly mellow roast.” The company states that the coffee has sweet, vibrant notes and is soft and balanced to make blonde espresso beverages without the roasty edge you’d typically associate them with.
Nevertheless, despite being more mellow, the coffee still has a high caffeine content, so it’ll satiate those who want a morning coffee kick.
The coffee is polarizing, with many coffee enthusiasts dismissing the coffee as coffee for coffee haters thanks to its mild taste. Still, despite its detractors, blonde espresso has demonstrated its staying power, suggesting plenty of people prefer it over a dark roast espresso.
Blonde Espresso vs Regular Espresso Coffee Beans
To understand how blonde roast is made, it’s worth briefly looking at the roasting process of each roast level.
Blonde roast is towards the lighter end of the roast spectrum. Light roast coffee beans are complete almost before making the first crack and typically reach temperatures of 350F to 400F during roasting.
Medium roast beans are typically roasted for longer than light roast coffee – until after the first crack. Temperatures of medium roast beans reach between 400F and 430F during roasting.
Usually, dark roasted beans are roasted for the longest, reaching the second crack at temperatures of between 430F and 450F.
As we mentioned earlier, Starbucks is known for using darker roasts, and its signature espresso is no different.
The longer roasting processes of the different roast levels lead to several differences between them. So let’s take a closer look.
Lightly roasted coffee bean has a light brown color because of the shorter roasting time, hence the name “blonde roast.” For this reason, a light roast is called a cinnamon roast. Meanwhile, they’re not oily. In contrast, dark roasted regular espresso beans are a very dark brown and have an oily layer. Check out more details about different coffee roasts here.
Starbucks blonde espresso roast is smoother and creamier than its signature espresso roasts, accentuating the natural sweetness of the beans. There’s also a mellow coffee taste with vibrant notes, including citrus. However, it tends to have more acidity than darker roasts in keeping with other light roasts. Meanwhile, the brewed coffee has a lighter body.
Regular darker roasts like Starbucks’ signature espresso roast have an intense, bold flavor profile with a lingering finish. Meanwhile, sweet caramelly and nutty chocolately notes are present. Also, the espresso shot will have a more syrupy mouthfeel. If you find espresso brewed with dark roast beans too strong, or don’t like the bitter coffee, Starbucks blonde espresso is milder and slightly sweeter.
Brewing Tips For Blonde Espresso Roast
Because lighter roast beans have more density, extracting the flavors is harder. As a result, it’s worth experimenting with a slightly higher brew temperature to extract soluble compounds from the ground coffee more quickly.
Of course, not all espresso machines have a temperature option. Therefore, making a smaller dose also helps easier extraction.
If your blonde espresso is too acidic, you can try a lower brew temperature. Again, if your espresso machine doesn’t have that option, try to grind beans finer and brewing for longer. If it’s too weak, reduce the espresso yield.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, even though it’s called espresso roast, you can still brew blonde espresso beans using any other brewing method such as French press or pour-over. It works perfectly for iced coffees as well.
Is Blonde Espresso Stronger? How Much Caffeine In It?
Considering its relatively mild flavor, you may be surprised to learn that Starbucks blonde espresso have just as much caffeine as its signature espresso, even more. Still, it’s not so much more as to make a huge difference. Indeed, there is around 150mg of caffeine in Starbucks’ signature espresso, while blonde espresso has more caffeine, around 170mg.
Therefore, if you enjoy an early morning caffeine buzz, whether you’re buying coffee from your local Starbucks or brewing it yourself, espresso blonde will provide it for you, even as you enjoy its decidedly more mellow flavor.
If you want more caffeine, check out the most caffeinated Starbucks drinks here.
Starbucks prides itself on the sheer number of coffee options it offers, so it was perhaps inevitable that it would move into an espresso market catering to those who prefer less intense beverages, as it did in 2012. The fact that Starbucks blonde espresso has been on the market for so long indicates its decision to do so was justified.
Yes, there are certain coffee enthusiasts who frown upon the idea of milder espresso, arguing that to lower the intensity is to defeat the object of the brewing method. Still, there is clearly a market for espresso-based beverages that work well with milk and offer more balance and sweetness.
If that describes you, blonde roasts may be perfect. You might need to experiment with elements including batch size and temperature to find your sweet spot, but if you do, you might just find your new favorite espresso blend.