Last Updated on April 3, 2023 by brewthatcoffee
Have you ever heard of coffee terms like half city, cinnamon, and light city and wondered, ‘what in the world of coffee are you talking about?’ These are all terms that describe light roast coffees that have become popularly named by Starbucks as blonde espresso. But how does Starbucks blonde espresso vs. regular compare?
Blonde espresso is a lighter-bodied roast profile compared to a fuller-bodied regular espresso. It’s roasted to just past the first crack and retains its varietal origin characteristics, whereas regular espresso becomes more the characteristic of the roasting process.
Coffee is coffee, right? Wrong! Coffee can bring an abundance of profiles, flavors, and strengths, and it’s all determined by the beans and how they are roasted. Starbucks launched the term blonde espresso in 2017, and we look at what makes it different and some tasty coffee drinks to enjoy with blonde espresso shots.
Why Blonde Espresso Is Stronger Than Regular
Contrary to thought, the darker the roast is, doesn’t mean the more potent the coffee. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, where lighter roasts contain more caffeine than their darker counterparts.
Roasting green coffee beans is a process where it transforms the chemicals and physical properties of the coffee’s flavor. A blonde espresso may be higher in caffeine, but it does not make it more robust.
The Maillard process is a chemical reaction between amino acids and the reducing sugar in the beans.
The oils in the beans are what create the difference in flavors between the two roast profiles. The oils that are generally excreted during longer roasting is was gives dark roasted beans their shiny appearance. These oils coat the beans and give regular espresso its bolder taste.
While the light roasted bean of a blonde espresso is not removed in the same way, the flavor is much brighter and lighter as the sugars are not caramelized.
Starbucks Blonde vs. Regular Espresso Differences
Beans are classed in roast profiles which roast green coffee beans at varying degrees and for different lengths of time. Another way to determine the roast profile is at what stage of the crack the bean has been roasted to.
Apart from a slight difference in the caffeine content between blonde and regular espresso, the two differ in flavor profiles.
Light roasts, or blonde as it’s more commonly known at Starbucks, highlight more the origin characteristics of the coffee beans. This allows you to taste the variety of beans and processing. The altitude, soil content, weather conditions, and location can be more prominent in the lighter roast.
Whereas the origin of the flavors becomes less evident in darker roast beans, and the flavor is more about the roast process and the blend of the beans.
Starbucks blonde espresso is incredibly smooth and light-bodied due to its shorter roasting time and lower temperatures. It has a creamy mouthfeel with an underdeveloped sweetness and some bright, citrusy, and floral notes, bringing a unique flavor to the chain’s espresso range.
The dark roast house blend used in Starbucks beverages is more robust, with a bolder taste and more bitterness. The breakdown of sugars during the roasting process provides a caramelized flavor with hints of nuttiness and a lingering finish that offers some traces of chocolate.
The caffeine difference isn’t massive, with regular espresso containing 75mg per shot or a fluid ounce of espresso. Blonde espresso contains a slightly higher dose at 85mg per shot of espresso or fluid ounce.
Origin can significantly impact the flavor of the coffee. The growing conditions of the trees affect the flavors of the beans; while some beans are grown in higher altitudes and shaded from the sun, others grow in volcanic ash soils. Each absorbs different nutrients and adapts to the surrounding conditions, which affects its flavor profile.
Most beans are descendants of the Arabica and Robusta beans. They can be found on different continents, sometimes crossed with other subspecies of coffee beans.
The Starbucks blonde espresso is made with a blend of Latin American and East African Arabica coffee beans. Dark roast is also made from Arabica beans, cultivated from Latin American Asian Pacific regions that provide a slight difference profile.
There are three main types of roast levels, light roast, medium roast, and dark roast. Each has varying degrees of temperature and duration at which they are roasted.
Light roasts, or blonde roasts as the coffee giant refers to them, are roasted for the shortest period and are roasted at temperatures between 384° to 401° Fahrenheit and are stopped just after the first crack.
Dark roast is exposed to higher heat of 437° to 473° Fahrenheit for a more extended period and is roasted until after the second crack.
Contrary to some beliefs that coffee is bad for you due to its caffeine content, coffee can actually be healthy, taken in moderation.
Studies have shown that the difference in roast levels affects the quality and level of the beans’ anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, and acidity.
Studies have also identified that coffee beans reduce levels of anti-oxidants and polyphenols once the bean is taken past its first crack and exposed to longer and higher heat temperatures.
Coffee beans on the lighter roast of the spectrum have higher levels of anti-oxidants protecting the body against free radicals.
Higher levels of polyphenols have also been reported in the lighter roast, which helps improve lipid profiles in the body and helps with blood pressure, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation.
A third reason lighter roasts are healthier is the higher levels of chlorogenic acid that help the body against developing liver steatosis and block insulin from fatty diets.
Best Blonde Espresso Drinks At Starbucks
Here are some espresso drinks you can order from Starbucks that use blonde espresso.
Blonde Vanilla Latte
The Starbucks blonde vanilla latte can be found on the regular menu choices and comes in hot or iced versions. The extra smooth flavors of the blonde roasted blend provide a lighter twist to the latte with velvety steamed milk and 2% milk combined with vanilla syrup.
A Grande cup contains 250 calories and 35g of sugar, while the iced version is slightly lower with 190 calories and 28g of sugar. The caffeine is the same for both versions, with two shots of espresso containing 170mg of caffeine.
Blonde Flat White
If you need something with less of a roasty edge, then the Starbucks blonde flat white can be ordered from the regular menu, either hot or iced. Made with whole milk and creamy steamed milk, it packs a punch with high caffeine content with three shots of ristretto-style espresso.
The grande hot version contains 220 calories and 17g sugar, with the iced version on the lower scale with 150 calories and 17g sugar. Both versions contain a decent caffeine content of 225mg for a morning pick-me-up.
Blonde Caffe Americano
The great thing about a blonde roast is the ability to taste the bean flavor profile over the roast process. This Starbucks blonde Americano from their regular menu contains three shots of espresso in a grande cup and comes in hot or iced versions.
With a light layer of crema, it is subtly sweet with an extra smooth finish that contains 15 calories with 225mg of caffeine, which is the same for hot or iced versions.
Blonde Hazelnut Latte
Another delicious Starbucks drink is the blonde hazelnut latte that combines the subtle sweetness and citrusy notes of lightly roasted beans with the nuttiness of hazelnut syrup. Using the default 2% milk and foam, Starbucks adds two shots of blond roast espresso, which can be ordered iced or hot from the regular menu.
A hot grande blonde hazelnut latte contains 250 calories with 31g of sugar. In comparison, the iced version only has 180 calories with a reduced amount of sugar of 25g. the caffeine remains the same for both, with 170mg per cup.
Blonde Toasted White Chocolate Mocha
You can also enjoy a more decadent desert-like coffee with all the bells and whistles of dark roasted coffee with a blonde toasted white chocolate mocha which you can order on the regular menu.
The light-bodied coffee that doesn’t overpower other ingredients is made with 2% milk and steamed milk toasted white chocolate mocha sauce to add a layer of caramelized flavors to the brew topped with swirls of whipped cream and topped with holiday sugar sprinkles and crispy white pearls.
Nutritional values taken on the grande size, the blonde toasted white chocolate mocha contains 380 calories with 47g sugar and 170mg caffeine from the two shots of blond espresso.
Blonde and regular espresso can be made from the same coffee beans. The difference is the roasting stage. Blonde espresso is lighter with higher caffeine content, where origin characteristics are more prominent over the roasting profiles of dark roasts. So, if you need your coffee to be smoother and lighter, try the blonde roast; you may discover a whole new side to coffee.