What is Blonde Espresso?

Starbucks recently released their first new espresso blend since 1975 – Blonde Espresso.

Given that the company accounts for about 3% of the world’s coffee production, this is a big deal. If you haven’t already seen it, you should expect this new coffee to hit one of Starbucks’ 30,000 stores near you soon. Copycat roasters are already appearing too.

But what exactly is blonde espresso? And is it any better than their classic dark roast espresso?

I’m drinking blonde espresso as I write this – doppio blonde ristretto, to be specific. And I’m excited (for me, caffeine does that) to share what makes this blend unique, how to order, and why you’ll love it!

blonde espresso

Espresso Basics

To understand what makes blonde espresso unique, it’s helpful to know a few espresso basics first. I’ve already covered espresso in depth elsewhere, so I’ll do my best to stick with the “need to know” details here.

What is espresso?

Contrary to popular belief, espresso is not a type of coffee bean. It’s also not defined by a specific caffeine threshold. Rather, it’s the brew method.

Espresso is brewed (also referred to as being “pulled”) by a powerful mechanical machine that forces nearly boiling water through a compressed puck of ground coffee at high pressure. The pressure used to pull espresso is much higher than a person could create without the assistance of a machine.

It’s often referred to as the “purest” form of coffee because of the intense flavor and full body that espresso provides compared with other brewing methods like a pour-over, French Press, or drip pot.

What Is Blonde Espresso?

Starbucks came out with blonde espresso in 2018, after years of research and testing for a drink that was more subtle and sweet than their classic espresso. A lot went into making it. At one point, their small product development team sampled 650 cups of coffee daily to fine-tune the flavor.

Here’s what they came up with.

Flavor

Blonde espresso uses a new bean blend, which makes for a different flavor than classic Starbucks espresso.

Blonde is smooth, citrusy, and subtly sweet. It also has distinct nutty caramel quality.

If a classic espresso was too intense for you, then blonde is likely to be much more “drinkable” and less bitter when taken as a straight shot. It offers a pale flavor with a sensation that focuses on the front of the palate.

If you’re new to espresso, the lesser intensity of blonde makes it a great introductory experience.

Appearance

While you may not be able to see a big difference between a doppio blonde resting side-by-side with a regular espresso, there is an incredible contrast between the beans.

Blonde espresso beans, as the name implies, are very light in color compared to typical espresso beans. 

Typical espresso beans follow a roast curve that brings them to a very high temperature, cooking them thoroughly and creating a deep chocolate color. Blonde beans appear more like burnt honey.

Acidity

Light roast coffee tends to have more flavor acidity than darker espresso. How you experience these flavors will depend (in part) on how the coffee is brewed. As a rule of thumb, you can expect the taste of blonde to be “brighter” than other espressos.

Caffeine

There isn’t a meaningful difference in caffeine between Starbucks’ blonde and standard espresso. If you order a doppio (double shot), both should yield about 150 mg of caffeine.

Counter to what you may have read elsewhere, the roast level of your coffee beans doesn’t change their caffeine content. An equal weight of beans, roasted differently, will provide the same caffeine content.

What does change with a darker roast is the volume of the beans. A darker roast means more volume. So if you measure by volume, a lighter roast would have more caffeine for the same number of scoops.

More important than if your beans are blonde or dark is their origin, age, and how they are brewed.

What Makes It Blonde?

Blonde refers to the roast level of the coffee beans. 

Within the Starbucks Blonde Espresso label, “blonde” also refers to the specific origins and blend of the beans in the bag – primarily sourced from South America and East Africa.

Technically, espresso can be pulled using any type of coffee beans. But, in general, most espresso is made using a dark roast coffee bean. The oils in a dark roast help create a full body and excellent crema.

Blonde espresso is prepared at a lower roast level – meaning that the maximum temperature of the beans is less than that of a darker roast. 

The result is that, with blonde espresso, the beans are lighter in color. And the flavor of the cup is more crisp and acidic.

Ordering Tips

There are as many ways to drink blonde espresso as there are types of coffee drinks. Here are a few to get you started,

Doppio

If you really want to know what’s different about blonde, start with a double shot espresso (doppio). 

Better still, take a doppio blonde side-by-side with a doppio signature. Cleanse your palette with sparkling water between sips for the cleanest taste of each drink.

If you want a more distinct contrast in flavors, take your doppio short – also called Ristretto. This preparation shortens extraction time and creates a slightly lower-volume fuller-body cup. Just beware, it can get intense! 

If straight espresso is too bitter and biting for you, try a Lungo. You’ll still catch the drink’s flavor profile, only in a diluted cup.

Honey Almond Milk Flat White

If you like coffees that are sweeter and creamier – this one was engineered specifically for Starbucks Blonde Espresso. This Australian-inspired drink is much less frothy than your traditional cappuccino.

The hint of honey and the nuttiness of the almond milk combine with the already nutty qualities of the blonde espresso blend, to make a sweet and smooth drinking cup.

A Honey Almond Milk Flat White goes great iced, though I’d certainly recommend it hot.

Blonde Vanilla Latte

Vanilla Latte is the classic coffee drink that made American specialty coffee come to life. It adds a subtle sweetness to any drink, which makes it incredibly drinkable and refreshing. 

Vanilla is a natural flavor pairing for coffee, a fact that is especially true with a blonde espresso roast. The citrusy caramel flavor of the coffee melds with subtle sweet vanilla.

Try this coffee iced or hot. 

Blonde Roast Beans

If you are brewing at home, pick up a bag of blonde espresso beans and prepare them using your favorite method. Besides Starbucks Blonde, you can find blonde espresso at several other roasters. 

Yes, you will need an actual espresso machine to prepare a cup that is true blonde espresso coffee. And there are a lot of affordable espresso machine options these days.

The good news is that you can also get an espresso-like coffees for under $50 using an Aeropress. Or prepare using any other method.

FAQ

Is blonde espresso stronger than regular espresso?

Blonde espresso is a gentler light roast coffee compared to regular espresso. It offers more sweetness, less bitterness, and body to espresso recipes. There is a similar amount of caffeine.

Is a blonde roast the same as a light roast?

Yes, in simple terms, a “blonde” roast is a light roast coffee bean. It’s called a blonde roast because of the color of the coffee beans compared with traditional dark espresso roast coffee used for espresso. This roast level is sometimes called a light city, half city, light roast, or medium city roast.

Where can I get a blonde espresso?

Starbucks Blonde Roast is a trademark of Starbucks, used for their second (lighter roast) espresso blend. Light coffee or blonde roast coffee isn’t new, but the “blonde” terminology has only been around for a few years. You can order “blonde” roast whole bean coffee from a handful of roasters, or visit Starbucks for one of their signature Starbucks blonde drink recipes.

Want more coffee fun? Check out these posts!

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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