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What is Blonde Roast Coffee?

Coffee roast terms can be so confusing — French, Italian, City, Cinnamon, New England, Vienna, etc. And just when you think you’ve got them all straight, something new comes along.

So what’s up with the sudden popularity of Blonde roast? What is it, and do you want to drink it? Let’s find out!

What is a Blonde Roast?

While Blonde roast might feel like a new addition to the roast spectrum, it’s actually just a simple rebranding.

In the past, Blonde Roast was known as a Cinnamon roast because of its light brown color.

But this confused consumers expecting a cinnamon flavor. So a few years ago, Starbucks marketed their light roast as a blonde roast. It can also be called a Half City or New England roast.
Of course, the confusion continues because there is no firm definition of a Blonde roast. Blonde, as a color, suggests an ultra-light roast, lighter than normal light. And many roasters interpret it in exactly this way.

However, the Starbucks Blonde roast, which is the best known to many consumers, is actually closer to a medium.

Blonde roast infographic
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How do you make it?

To achieve a Blonde roast, you roast coffee beans low and slow until they reach the first crack. The first crack occurs around 356 – 401 ℉ when the moisture inside the bean turns to steam and bursts out via an audible crack.

This video has some great details about light roast coffee:

The beans are hard and dense at the first crack stage, with a pale brown color and none of the oily sheen you find on dark roasts.

What Does a Blonde Roast Taste Like?

The defining characteristic of any light roast is its high acidity. As long as the coffee is from a skilled roaster, this acidity should taste bright, with flavors like lemon, orange, or green apple. If the acidity comes off as sour or acrid, the beans were either roasted too fast or the coffee is under-extracted.

Light roasts are known for having subtle and complex flavors, with fruity and floral profiles. You’re tasting more of the coffee bean itself rather than the flavors added through the roasting process. So you won’t get the same caramelized, toasted, or chocolate notes associated with darker types of roasts, like an Italian or French roast.

According to Casey Lalonde, Head of Coffee at Girls Who Grind Coffee:

Lightly roasted coffee can be clean, bright, and full of delicate floral and fruit notes with great acidity. It’s in light roasts that the natural characteristics of the coffee can be tasted.

Because Blonde roasts highlight the coffee bean’s inherent flavors, they’re a great way to experience single-origin coffees. Excellent origins for light roasts include East Africa and Latin America.

Blonde roast coffee usually has a light body, and a pour-over brewing method is a great way to showcase its subtleties. Try something like a Hario V60 or Kalita Wave. Light roast espresso is rare because it is prone to under-extraction, which yields a sour and flat-tasting shot.

Final Thoughts

A Blonde roast doesn’t have a strict definition, so don’t get too hung up on the name. Choosing a coffee is about finding flavor profiles you enjoy. If you like a bright coffee with complex fruity and floral flavors and a light body, a Blonde roast may well be for you.

FAQs

White coffee is just an extremely light roast. The green coffee beans are roasted at a low temperature for a short time so they maintain a pale color. White coffee is rich in antioxidants and has a pleasant nutty flavor.

Blonde roast coffee isn’t bad for your health. In fact, it has more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties than darker roasts. However, it is more acidic, so it could have a negative health impact on those sensitive to acid (1).

Light roasts don’t have more caffeine; they are just denser than darker roasts. So one light roast coffee bean will have more caffeine than one dark roast bean simply because it is more coffee. But equal weights of light and dark roast coffee will have equal caffeine (2).

  1. Brown, N. (2017, June 27). Lighter Roasts Better for Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Properties, Research Shows. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2017/06/27/lighter-roasts-better-for-antioxidant-and-anti-inflammatory-properties-research-shows/
  2. Lee, J. (2016, November 17). Debunked: Do Light or Dark Roasts Have More Caffeine? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2016/11/debunked-do-light-or-dark-roasts-have-more-caffeine/
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I come from a country where people drink domestic coffee (what the rest of the world knows as Turkish coffee) and where Nescafe designates all instant coffees ever made. So, imagine my first encounter with, say, Hario V60...Yes, it was love at first sight.  Today I’m a moderate coffee connoisseur and a huge coffee lover. My favorite brewing methods are the V60 and traditional espresso-making. Yet, despite my country’s long tradition of Turkish-coffee-adoring, I somehow cannot stand it. That’s just too dark, even for me.

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