Last updated on September 26th, 2023 by Catherine Reed
The world of coffee is filled with a wide array of fantastic roasts, each with its own unique flavor profile. For espresso drinkers, one of the newer roasts on the market is blonde espresso, an option popularized by coffee giant Starbucks.
I’m adventurous when it comes to espresso, but like many others, I often want to know a bit about the different options before I partake.
So if you’re like me, you might be wondering, “What exactly are blonde espresso beans? And what’s the difference between blonde espresso vs regular espresso roast?”.
If you’d like to learn more about blonde espresso vs regular espresso, the traditional one, here’s everything you need to know.
- What is Blonde Espresso?
- What Is Regular Espresso?
- Difference Between Blonde and Regular Espresso
- Best Drinks for Each Type of Espresso
What is Blonde Espresso?
Blonde espresso is an espresso shot created with blonde espresso beans. What makes it unique is the roasting level, which is far lighter than the medium-dark roast mostly widely used for espresso.
Color & Taste
Traditionally, a blonde roast is one of the lightest roasts on the market, usually just a hair darker than a cinnamon roast. When a roast is actually blonde, it has a delicate tan color and a matte finish. The blonde espresso taste tends to be citrusy, but the coffee can come out acidic or sour.
However, when you order blonde espresso drinks from cafés, the espresso used may not actually be a blonde roast. Instead, it’s usually closer to a light-medium roast. For example, while Starbucks calls its lighter option blonde espresso, many believe that it’s closer to a light city or half city roast than a genuine blonde roast.
Light city and half city roasts also have bright citrus notes, as well as a bit of fruitiness coupled with a floral quality. There’s also a delicateness to the flavor, and there’s usually a touch of natural sweetness. Typically, the potential for sourness or high acidity goes away once the roast reaches the half-city level, too.
When it comes to the blonde espresso calories, drinks made with blonde espresso are usually low calorie.
What Is Regular Espresso?
What is the difference between a blonde espresso vs regular espresso?
Regular espresso is an espresso shot made using medium-to-dark roast coffee beans. Generally, the beans are roasted until they achieve a deep, chocolatey brown color, and there’s usually an oil sheen on the beans before they’re ground.
With darker roasts, there’s less acidity. However, keeping it slightly toward the medium segment of the scale helps avoid bitterness. The result is a smooth flavor profile, usually with a touch of nuttiness or hints of chocolate and caramel. These roasts are also fuller-bodied, making them bold.
When it comes to the origins, Latin American coffee beans are the most common. You might also see some Asian-Pacific coffee beans in the mix.
Difference Between Blonde and Regular Espresso
There are a few key differences between blonde espresso vs regular espresso. First, the blonde espresso caffeine levels are higher in many cases. The reason for the difference isn’t the roasting level. Instead, it’s that most blonde espresso blends feature different types of coffee beans.
The exact amount of caffeine does vary depending on the specific beans a café uses. But for a simple example of the caffeine difference, a single-shot blonde americano at Starbucks contains 85 mg of caffeine, while an americano featuring Starbucks’ signature espresso roast is closer to 75 mg.
Some other key differences are the color and flavor. Blonde espresso is lighter, and it typically has a milder flavor with pronounced citrus notes and a touch of sweetness. Regular espresso is classically darker and bolder, often with hints of caramel, chocolate, toffee, and nuts.
If you like citrus flavors, you may want to look into Espresso Romano which is coffee with lemon.
Blonde Espresso vs Ristretto
Ristretto isn’t a different type of espresso. Instead, it’s a type of volume “restricted” shot. Instead of pulling a full shot, the barista typically only does the first part of the pull. Essentially, less water goes through the grounds, and the end result is a smaller shot.
With ristretto, the level of flavor extraction changes. The end result is usually a full-bodied espresso with far less bitterness, making the flavor profile quite smooth. The flavor is also highly concentrated, and the shot usually has more sweet notes when compared to a traditional pull.
Blonde espresso is simply a reference to the type of roast used to create an espresso shot, not the pull length. Traditionally, blonde espresso is made with a full pull, but you could order one as a ristretto shot if you prefer. By going that route, you’d get more coffee flavor and more sweet notes.
At Starbucks, ristretto shots – both regular and blonde – are actually used to create the café’s flat white espresso drinks. So, if you want to experience the difference, that’s a simple way to try out a ristretto shot firsthand.
Starbucks Blonde Espresso vs Regular Espresso
Generally, the differences between Starbucks blonde espresso vs regular espresso are the same ones you’d see when comparing any blonde espresso to a regular one. Starbucks blonde espresso is milder and lighter. Essentially, it’s far more delicate in flavor than the company’s regular espresso.
The regular espresso at Starbucks is bold, typically with a slightly chocolatey flavor. You’ll also get a touch of smokiness, and there can also be a hint of sweetness in the mix, usually similar to the taste of caramel or toffee.
Blonde Espresso vs Signature Espresso
Typically, the term “signature espresso” is how cafés describe their go-to proprietary blend that they use for making espresso shots. Typically, a signature espresso blend is more traditional than some alternatives, which usually translates to a medium-dark roast that’s ground fine enough to create a wonderfully flavorful and aromatic espresso shot.
However, not all signature espressos taste the same. Espresso coffee beans can have any origin, and the exact roasting level can vary. What makes it a signature espresso is if the blend is unique to the café and whether it’s the default espresso shot for most of its espresso drinks. Technically, a blonde espresso could be a café’s signature espresso if that’s what the café chooses.
Blonde espresso is defined by its roasting level. As a result, a signature espresso can be blonde, but not all blonde espresso is a signature espresso.
Best Drinks for Each Type of Espresso
Technically, you can try nearly any espresso drink with regular or blonde espresso. However, regular espresso tends to work incredibly well if you want a mocha or another drink with chocolate. The boldness of the regular espresso balances out the sweetness from the chocolate well, and neither the espresso nor the chocolate will overpower the other flavors.
If you want to venture into the world of blonde espresso, try a blonde flat white. It’s delicate and subtly sweet, and whether hot or cold, it’s incredibly smooth. But if you prefer some flavoring, blonde espresso and vanilla work incredibly well together. So, don’t overlook a blonde vanilla latte as an option! Yum!
Blonde espresso does have caffeine, but if you are looking for a high-octane coffee drink, you should try the Dead Eye coffee.
Is Blonde Espresso Healthier?
Technically, espresso of any type isn’t inherently unhealthy. However, blonde espresso typically has more antioxidants than its darker counterparts. While darker espressos have antioxidants too, the higher quantity in blonde espresso causes some to consider the blonde version healthier.
Is Blonde Espresso Sweeter?
While the exact flavor profile you experience may vary depending on the brand of espresso you try, and your own unique tastebuds, blonde espresso does tend to have a slightly sweeter taste when compared to darker alternatives. Additionally, it’s usually less bitter and lighter, giving it a mellower overall flavor profile.
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Catherine Reed is a freelance writer and coffee enthusiast. She has been a lover of coffee, espresso, and various café-style concoctions for more than 20 years, and enjoys exploring everything the world of coffee has to offer. Whether it’s trying out new coffee technologies or exploring small-batch creations from independent micro-roasters, Catherine is open to any coffee experience, and aims to share everything she’s learned with discerning readers interested in leveling up their coffee game.