Regular vs Blonde Espresso: What’s the Difference?

Blonde roast and normal espresso are two different types of coffee roasts that have distinct flavor profiles and brewing characteristics. Both are beloved by coffee lovers from around the world. 

Blonde espresso is Starbucks’ special light roast and was introduced early in 2012. Their idea was to create a lighter-bodied coffee with a mild flavor. This would give coffee enthusiasts who are not so fond of the intense flavor of dark roasted beans the chance to also enjoy traditional espresso-based drinks.

Basically, blonde roast is a lighter roast than the beans used for normal espresso. If you already know what each of those is, you can skip to the section with the differences and similarities between blonde and darker roast beans. You can also read my opinion on the two before you decide which to buy.

What is Blonde Roast?

Blonde roast, also known as light roast or cinnamon roast, is a type of coffee roast where the coffee beans are roasted for a shorter time compared to other roasts. This results in a lighter color and a milder and more mellow flavor profile.

Espresso in a white mug between roasted coffee beans.

Blonde Roast Flavor Profile

Blonde roast coffee beans have a lighter body with citrus notes. It also has a sweeter and smoother taste. This means that blonde roast espresso is often preferred by those who enjoy brighter, more delicate flavors with higher acidity.

Higher Acidity in Blonde Roasts

Because of the higher acidity in blonde roasts, you might find that your coffee might be a bit too sour for your taste. You could either switch to a darker roast or take a look at my tips on how to fix sour espresso.

What is Normal Espresso?

Normal or standard espresso is usually made with darker roast beans (medium roast beans are also sometimes used, though). It is roasted at higher temperatures over longer periods of time. This results in a darker color and different taste.

Normal Espresso Flavor Profile

As we are talking about Starbucks coffee, let’s use their espresso blend for reference. The reason for this is that the taste of different brands of coffee varies quite a bit. Starbucks’ signature espresso roast has a rich flavor and caramel sweet taste with nutty and chocolaty notes.

For this post, I used their “Pike Place” roast and it is my favorite coffee at the moment.

Differences and Similarities Between Normal and Blonde Espresso Beans

Roasting Processes

Although the roasting process is the thing that separates the different roasts, there are some key steps that are the same.

Similarities in the Roasting Process

For all of the roasts, the green Coffee Beans that are used are crucial. High-quality green coffee beans are carefully selected for their flavor profiles and characteristics. Beans used for blonde roasts are typically lighter in color and have a higher acidity compared to beans used for darker roasts.

After the beans reach the desired flavor profile, they are rapidly cooled to stop the roasting process and lock in the flavors. This can be done using air cooling or water cooling methods.

Next, the roasted beans are carefully inspected for any defects or inconsistencies. They are also sorted to remove any remaining husks or debris. Following this, they are packaged and sealed to maintain freshness until they are brewed and enjoyed as coffee.

Differences in the Roasting Processes

Blonde Roast Roasting Process

The roasting process is the main difference between these kinds of espresso. It is the thing that is responsible for the differences in taste. The roasting process for blonde roast coffee involves several key steps, including:

  1. Preheating: The roasting machine is preheated to the appropriate temperature, typically between 356-401°F (180-205°C). This depends on the specific coffee beans and desired flavor profile.
  2. Charging: The green coffee beans are loaded into the roasting machine, and the roasting process begins. The beans are heated gradually to bring out their natural flavors.
  3. Drying Phase: During this initial stage of the roasting process, the green coffee beans release moisture. This causes them to dry out and lose weight. The beans undergo a series of chemical reactions. These reactions include caramelization and the Maillard reaction, which contribute to the development of flavor and aroma.
  4. First Crack: As the roasting process progresses, the beans reach a critical point known as the “first crack.” This is characterized by a popping sound. The beans start to expand in size as they release more moisture and carbon dioxide. The first crack is an important indicator that the beans are approaching the desired level of roast.
  5. Monitoring and Development: After the first crack, the roaster carefully monitors the temperature and time to control the degree of the roast. For blonde roast coffee, the process is typically stopped shortly after the first crack. This helps to preserve the beans’ light color and higher acidity, resulting in a milder flavor profile.
The Roasting of Medium Roast Beans

The roasting process for medium roast coffee is similar to that of blonde roast coffee. There are just some slight differences in duration and temperature. Here are the key steps:

  1. Preheating: The roasting machine is preheated to a temperature typically ranging from 401-428°F (205-220°C). However, this depends on the specific beans and desired flavor profile.
  2. Charging: The green coffee beans are loaded into the preheated roasting machine before the roasting process starts.
  3. Drying Phase: The beans are gradually heated, and the moisture inside the beans starts to evaporate. The beans lose weight and undergo various chemical reactions. These include caramelization and the Maillard reaction, which contribute to the development of flavors and aromas.
  4. First Crack: As the roasting process progresses, the beans reach the first crack stage, which is characterized by a popping sound. At this point, the beans start to expand, and the sugars inside the beans caramelize, resulting in the development of more complex flavors.
  5. Monitoring and Development: The roaster carefully monitors the temperature and time to control the degree of roast. For medium roast coffee, the process is typically allowed to continue after the first crack but stopped before reaching a darker roast level. This results in a balanced flavor profile with moderate acidity, body, and sweetness.
  6. Second Crack (Optional): Some medium roasts may also undergo a second crack. This is characterized by another popping sound. However, this is not always desired for medium roasts. The roasting process may be stopped before reaching the second crack, depending on the desired flavor profile.
Dark Roast Coffee Beans Roasting Process

The roasting process for dark roast coffee is different from that of lighter roasts, as it involves longer roasting times and higher temperatures to achieve a darker color and more intense flavor profile. Here are the key steps:

  1. Preheating: The roasting machine is preheated to a higher temperature, typically ranging from 428-446°F (220-230°C), depending on the specific beans and desired flavor profile.
  2. Charging: The green coffee beans are loaded into the preheated roasting machine, and the roasting process begins.
  3. Drying Phase: The beans are gradually heated, and the moisture inside the beans starts to evaporate. The beans lose weight, and the initial flavors and aromas are transformed as the sugars in the beans caramelize.
  4. First Crack (Optional): Dark roast coffee may or may not reach the first crack stage. If the first crack is allowed to occur, it is typically very brief or may be skipped altogether, as dark roast coffee is roasted beyond this point to achieve a darker color and more intense flavors.
  5. Roasting to Desired Level: The roasting process continues, and the beans are roasted to the desired dark level. The longer roasting time and higher temperatures result in the beans taking on a darker color, with the surface of the beans becoming shiny due to the oils being brought to the surface.
  6. Monitoring and Development: The roaster carefully monitors the temperature and time to control the degree of roast, and the beans are roasted until they reach the desired flavor profile, which is typically characterized by smoky, bitter, and bold flavors.

Caffeine Content

The difference in the amount of caffeine isn’t necessarily very large and there is much contradictory information about it on the internet. Some say that blonde espresso has a higher caffeine content, while others believe that it has less caffeine. I found two scientific articles about this and both confirm that the darker the roast, the higher the caffeine levels[1,2].

This means that light roast coffee beans, like Starbucks’s blonde espresso roast, have less caffeine than medium roast and dark roast beans.

However, the origin of the coffee beans plays a much larger role in how much caffeine there is in a cup of coffee.

My Opinion

For an experiment, I bought both of these coffees. First I went to Starbucks and ordered coffee with blonde roast instead of the normal signature blend. Although it wasn’t bad, it was a bit too sweet for me. I have a thing for coffee that is a bit more on the bitter side of the spectrum.

Then, I decided to buy the beans for both and make my own coffee at home. I decided on the “Pike Place” roast for the roast to compare the blonde roast to.

I tried it in my French press and Moka pot. I even made cold brew in my French press with it. The results were quite interesting.

Hot Coffee and These Beans

For the coffee that I made in my Moka pot and French press, I preferred the darker roast. Like the hot coffee that I ordered at Starbucks, the bitterness of the coffee is very close to my heart.

Cold Brew and Blonde Roast

Much to my surprise, I preferred the cold brew that I made with the blonde roast instead of those made with the “Pike Place” roast.

My Recommendation

​I don’t think that either of these is a bad option. Both are good coffee and are 100% up to personal preference. I really recommend that you try both of these. You can buy the coffee beans here:

(The packaging on Amazon is different from the ones that I used, but it’s the same brand.)

Final Thoughts: Blonde Espresso vs Regular Espresso

In summary, the main differences between blonde roast and normal espresso are the roast level, flavor profile, acidity, body, and caffeine content. Blonde roast is lighter in color, has a milder flavor with higher acidity, and tends to retain more caffeine, while normal espresso is darker in color, has a stronger flavor with lower acidity, and tends to have less caffeine.

Blonde Espresso vs Regular Espresso

Coffee in white cup surrounded by roasted coffee beans.

Resources

1. Muzykiewicz-Szymańska, A., Nowak, A., Wira, D., & Klimowicz, A. (2021). The Effect of Brewing Process Parameters on Antioxidant Activity and Caffeine Content in Infusions of Roasted and Unroasted Arabica Coffee Beans Originated from Different Countries. Molecules26(12), Article 12. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26123681

2. Tsai, C.-F., & Jioe, I. P. J. (2021). The Analysis of Chlorogenic Acid and Caffeine Content and Its Correlation with Coffee Bean Color under Different Roasting Degree and Sources of Coffee (Coffea arabica Typica). Processes9(11), Article 11. https://doi.org/10.3390/pr9112040

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