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What is White Coffee?

It seems like every other week there’s a new way to drink coffee. It’s amazing that there continue to be new innovations around this drink that has existed for centuries. But here we are. One such innovation is white coffee.

What is white coffee? Perhaps you’ve seen it marketed at hipster coffee shops as the latest health fad or the best way to reach peak caffeine. Read on to find out what this drink is really about, and whether you should consider trading in your regular dark cup of joe.

The background and origins of white coffee

White coffee might be the latest trend, but it actually has a long history originating in the Middle East.

White Coffee infographic
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It has nothing to do with the addition of whiteners like milk or cream and should not be confused with the flat white; instead, it refers to an extremely light roast, which all started in Yemen. So light, that the beans don’t even adopt the characteristic dark brown of traditionally roasted coffee.

What brew style is best for white coffee? Espresso.
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The beans for this specialty coffee are roasted (1) at around 325 F as opposed to 450 to 480 F for standard light to dark roasts. As a result, they are extremely hard, and must be ground using specialized commercial grinders. Once brewed, the resultant cup of java is a pale beige color.

What to expect (taste)

The taste of white coffee (2) is most often described as nutty, with a pronounced acidity and very low bitterness. These characteristics are derived from the minimal roasting time.

The beans’ natural sugars are not caramelized so there is no bitter aftertaste, and the organic acids present in the beans do not evaporate, producing the brightly acidic flavor.

Typically, light roasts are used to highlight the subtle characteristics of single origin beans and this feature is further enhanced by an extremely light roast.

The choice of bean will have a significant impact on the final product and this roasting method is a great way to experience the nuances of beans from different regions.

In Yemen, where the beverage originated, it was traditionally served flavored with a spice mix known as hawaij, a practice still common in many coffee shops today.

Ginger and cardamom are always front and center in this warming, heady mix which, more often than not, features cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Hawaij is most often made up of cumin, black pepper, turmeric and cardamom, but numerous variations exist. It is this mixture, paired with the nuttiness of the brew, that makes white coffee so delicious.

Does it have more caffeine than regular coffee?

Many shops offering this pale coffee market it as having a much more caffeine than darker roasts. While caffeine content does decrease slightly with roasting time, there is little scientific support for the decrease to be significant. 

MYTH? often times, coffee shops claim that white coffee beans are 50-70% percent higher in caffeine content…the true figure is likely closer to 5%.

If you’re looking for a highly caffeinated brew, you’re better off seeking a particular bean rather than an especially light roast.

Is It Better For You Than Black Coffee?

White roast coffee is regularly marketed as a health elixir thanks to its low roasting temperature. Proponents claim that the light roast leads to a greater quantity of chlorogenic acid (3), an antioxidant molecule which protects against cardiovascular disease and decreases inflammation. This is certainly true, but not to the extent that it is worth switching from black coffee if you don’t actually enjoy the drink.

a cup of black coffee
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How Do You Drink It?

Ironically, this white-colored drink is most often consumed “black”, that is, without the addition of milk or cream. Many fans suggest adding almond milk, which pairs particularly well with the already nutty flavor profile of the beverage.

via GIPHY

If you are prone to heartburn or acid reflux, the addition of dairy may be a good option to temper the high acidity resulting from the light roast. As with all coffee, how you consume it is largely a personal decision.

Where to find good white coffee beans

While it’s hard to find, and you have to get it preground, it is starting to be possible to pick up a bag of white coffee without having to go to the coffee shop. Here are a few of the places where you can pick up some white coffee if you’re so inclined.

Poverty Bay ‘white tornado’

Coming from the Poverty Bay Coffee Company are their infamous ‘White Tornado’ coffee beans.

Roasted to 325 degrees and packing enough of a caffeine punch to get you going for 5 hours (according to the roaster), these beans have sweet and nutty notes with a light and mellow after taste.

Available pre-ground only – a special grind size to help you get the full experience. Click here to find out more

Abbey Roast – whole bean and ground available.

Coming from Abbey Roast, a roaster in southwest New Mexico located out of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, these white coffee options come in both 12oz and 5lb bags.

Roasted with Brazilian Arabica beans at those low temps and then pulled before the first crack, these beans (4) are the only ones in the list that come in whole bean as well as coarse, medium, and fine pre-ground options, giving you a little bit of variety. Remember, though, it’s difficult to grind these at home!

Alaska Artisan Coffee – pre ground only

This “Polar Blend” of white coffee comes from Alaska Artisan Coffee, a coffee company located out of The Last Frontier about forty miles north of Anchorage and that has been roasting artisan beans for over two decades.

The beans are very affordable and priced in several sizes from a tiny 5oz sampler to a whopping 8lb bag. However, be warned that in this case they only come with a pre-ground option.

Wired Willey’s – an easy option online

And finally, we have Wired Willey’s white coffee.

Coming from Lowery’s Premium Roast Gourmet Coffees, Wired Willey’s White Coffee comes in 16oz, 32oz, and 4lb options, is pre-ground, and ships fresh from the roaster. They also take care to warn drinkers that the grounds expand when brewing!

The coffee has received a ton of rave reviews on Amazon, and certainly is worth trying if you want to venture into the world of white coffee!

How Do You Brew White Coffee?

Despite growing popularity, white coffee is not yet widely available in coffee shops, particularly outside of major urban centers. Luckily, it is possible to concoct this beverage at home.

How to make white coffee step by step
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The first thing you need to do is purchase some ‘white beans. In this case, you’ll have to put aside your staleness concerns and buy them pre-ground, because your home grinder won’t stand a chance against these barely roasted whole beans.

Most experts recommend brewing the beans in an espresso style to get the most of their mild flavor.

Any device that yields a very concentrated brew, like an espresso machine, AeroPress or moka pot is ideal.

After brewing, you can add the hawaij spice mix (6) for an authentic cup, or a touch of almond milk for a new-age health drink.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So now you know – white coffee is not actually a type of coffee drink, its a bean from the middle east. Have you tried white coffee? Is it available in your local coffee shop or have you tried making your own at home? Were you buzzing from the extra caffeine or feeling a health boost from the extra chlorogenic acid?

Did the hawaij blend transport you to 18th century Yemen? Let us know in the comments below!

FAQs

No, white coffee is not bad for you. It contains essentially all of the antioxidants and nutrients contained in normal coffee, including chlorogenic acid which has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease.

Yes, white coffee is real coffee – it has simply been roasted to a much lighter level than the beans used in regular coffee. One notable difference: white coffee is normally used in espresso or other highly-extracted coffee drinks (such as the moka pot), as a way of concentrating the flavors. This is why you rarely see it in a pour over or drip coffee.

Yes, white coffee is different from Malaysian white coffee, or ipoh. In Malaysia, they serve a coffee drink which uses coffee beans roasted in palm oil margarine; these beans are ground, brewed, and served with sweetened condensed milk (much like Vietnamese ca phe sua neng). Sweetened condensed milk is commonly used in tropical locations because of its shelf life compared to fresh milk; it is also an ingredient in the cortadito, a coffee drink served in Cuba.


  1. lmstead, D. (2018, February 17). What is White Coffee? Retrieved from https://www.povertybay.com/coffee-blog/what-is-white-coffee
  2. What is the difference between white coffee and normal coffee? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-white-coffee-and-normal-coffee
  3. Castrodale, J. (2019, May 01). What Is White Coffee? Retrieved from https://www.thekitchn.com/what-is-white-coffee-251608
  4. Abbey Roast. (n.d.). Coffee : White Coffee. Retrieved from https://www.abbeyroast.com/collections/coffee-white-coffee
  5. Safia. (2008, March 05). Hawaij – Traditional Spice Mix from Yemen. Retrieved From https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/hawaij-traditional-spice-mix-from-yemen-290246
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    Alex is an Editor of Home Grounds, who considers himself as a traveling coffee fanatic. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee while in obscure locations, and teaching others to do the same.

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