What is Blonde Roast Coffee? Let's Explore the Lighter Side of Roasting

What is Blonde Roast Coffee? Let's Explore the Lighter Side of Roasting

By Jamie Cattanach

I have a secret. I worked at Starbucks briefly, slinging blonde roast coffee and other drinks. I know, I know—but I did it because there weren't many job options for someone with an English degree who needed healthcare.

The store was in Ponte Vedra, Florida, where a famous golf course is regularly played by professionals. One of those professionals—or ex-professional; he was an older gentleman—would frequently come to the counter while I was working. He would always say, "I'd like a tall blonde." Then he would wink at me, a short brunette, and add, "But wouldn't we all?"

What is blonde roast coffee?

As much as my customer’s weird flirtation amused me, I understood his preference for a lighter roast with its barely-there mouthfeel and higher acidity. (And yes, “blonde roast” is another name for light roast coffee—one potentially made popular by my ex-employer.)

Roast level, as you know, is a spectrum, and what each coffee roaster means by “blonde” can differ. Blonde coffee refers to beans pulled from the roaster just before or after first crack. (And, as you also know, blonde coffee is not the same as white coffee. When roasting coffee only halfway through, the roaster pulls it to create a white coffee.)

Blonde coffee is less popular than darker roasts. Yet, it can add an intriguing new dimension to your café’s beverage selection and pack a caffeine punch. Let’s take a closer look at the lighter side and what you need to know before you add it to your menu.

Offering blonde roast coffee at your café? Here’s what you need to know

From the first crack to your first cup in the morning, here’s the scoop on blonde coffee.

What are blonde roast coffee’s most common tasting notes?

Blonde roast undergoes minimal roasting. This results in a lighter body, higher acidity, and a brighter flavor profile. Its shorter roasting process releases less oil. Some consumers believe this allows the bean's authentic characteristics to shine through.

Specific flavor characteristics will vary by bean, origin, roast, and even specific crop. Blonde coffees tend toward subtle fruit, floral notes, and citrusy flavors. Here's an interesting fact: Coffee companies have marketed blonde roast as "cinnamon roast." They did this because of the color it produces in the cup. But cinnamon is not a common blonde coffee flavor characteristic, so the name fell out of favor because it confused customers.

Does blonde roast coffee really have more caffeine?

It's true: Prepared blonde coffee has more caffeine than darker roasts, cup for cup. The caffeine content of the beans is fairly equal by weight. But blonde coffees, because they're roasted for less time, are denser; the longer a coffee bean roasts, the more it expands. This means that blonde coffee has more caffeine per sip once it's ground and prepared. Just how much caffeine, though, is a topic of much debate in the barista community. It's believed to be fairly insignificant, further offset by the fact that some coffee shops use a smaller scoop for blonde roast's smaller beans.

How is blonde coffee roasted?

To make blonde coffee, roast beans at a lower temperature for less time than medium or dark roast coffees. Roasters recommend reaching a temperature between 355 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out the beans just before or just after their first crack.

What are the best beans for blonde roast coffee?

Arabica coffee beans are the best for going blonde, but other beans from different places work, too. Roasters sell light roast blends and single-origin coffees from Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Central America, and Africa. Each crop has a distinct flavor, so it's fun to mix and match from different regions.

What about prepared beans?

You have many great roastery brands to choose from if you want to sell pre-roasted blonde coffee in your shop. Here are our top three picks:

Greater Goods—Fresh Perspective (Ethiopia)

CEPros client Greater Goods from Texas presents its lighter-end single-origin blonde roast coffee, Fresh Perspective. It delivers classic blonde roast brightness. Tasting notes feature strawberry candy, creamed honey, and blueberry muffins.




PT’s Coffee—Flor de Sol (Guatemala; Ethiopia)

PT's Coffee, based in Topeka, has won international acclaim. It's an enviable product to stock in your store, and its Flor de Sol blend is its lightest roast. Flor de Sol’s flavor profile includes cocoa powder and raisin. It has a sweet lemon finish that’s characteristic of blonde roast coffee.



Sisters Coffee—High Desert Sunrise (Latin American Blend)
Oregon’s best coffee isn't limited to Portland! Sisters Coffee, named for the three stunning mountains that stand sentinel over the town of the same name, calls its blonde roast High Desert Sunrise. They note flavors of candied hazelnuts, honey, and—of course—citrus on the palate. 

How do blonde roast beans impact coffee grinders?

You can grind blonde coffee for many applications. It drinks well as both brewed coffee and espresso. Remember, the beans are dense compared to medium and darker roasts, so they can be harder on your grinder. If you’re planning to grind your own blonde beans, be sure you’ve got a high-quality burr grinder in your café!

Does blonde roast coffee carry specific health benefits?

Most people in the coffee world already know—and are proud to proselytize—the health benefits of coffee. Some studies link coffee consumption to better heart health, and it also appears to lower cancer risk.

Blonde coffee might have more antioxidants than medium or dark roasts. It might also maintain more anti-inflammatory properties.

Like many things, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Due to its higher caffeine content, limiting the consumption of blonde coffee in one sitting is wise.

What are the best ways to serve blonde roast coffee?

You can serve blonde coffee as a brewed cup, and it works well with pour-over setups. People are also making it as espresso to give beverages a lighter flavor. The world is your oyster! And your customers—as mine did back in the day—will likely tell you exactly what they want.

A delightful departure from darker brews

So there you have it. Blonde roast coffee offers a delightful departure from darker brews, with its nuanced flavors and vibrant acidity. Whether blondes (vs brunette roasts) have more fun dancing on your tongue is a matter of personal preference. But by understanding its origins and attributes, you can confidently introduce blonde roast to your menu and promote it effectively to your customers.

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