You may have a coffee preference based on taste, habit, or dietary concerns that keep you from drinking one style over another. If you’re a fan of lighter roasts, or the blonde roast, you may think you know all there is to know about what’s in your cup.
There are quite a few misconceptions out there, though, starting with what a blonde roast coffee actually is, how it’s made, and whether it’s truly the lightest of the light roasts.
What is a blonde roast?
The term “blonde roast” may have been popularized by the Starbucks blonde roast within the last few years, but the coffee roast style has actually been around much longer than that.
The blonde roast was previously known as cinnamon roast because of the light brown color of the coffee in your cup. After much confusion from coffee-drinkers who were either ordering or avoiding it with the expectation of cinnamon flavoring, the name evolved.
Today, it describes a lighter roast. However, there are variations of blonde roast and the broader term “light roast” across brands.
The coffee beans used in a blonde roast by your barista at that one coffee giant we mentioned are actually closer to a medium roast coffee than a true blonde, for example. Roasts described as light city or half city are just a bit lighter than a medium roast.
Is a blonde roast a light roast? A blonde roast is essentially the same as a light roast. It has a lighter body and higher acidity than darker roasts, sometimes described as the coffee’s “brightness.”
There is a spectrum even when it comes to lighter roasts, with white, gold, and blonde roasts all falling under what’s considered light roast coffee.
The general difference between a blonde roast and a dark roast is in the roasting process. To roast blonde coffee, you’ll want to roast the beans at a lower temperature and for less time.
You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with something called the “crack,” the audible signal that those beans have hit light roast territory.
The Light Roast Difference
There’s a spectrum of lighter roasts before you get to the medium and darker roasts, even if you’re just going for ground coffee:
- White: Even lighter than a traditional light roast, the beans for a white roast are pulled just before their first crack, and roasted low at around 325°F.
- Gold: A gold roast is roasted a little more than a white roast, retaining a high caffeine content with low acidity and a smoother taste.
- Blonde: A blonde roast is a lighter roast of coffee with a more acidic flavor profile than other coffees, even its light roast counterparts.
Blonde roasts typically have a few things in common when it comes to flavor, the level of caffeine, and acidity.
Blonde roasts have a higher acidity than dark roast coffee. Beans used in dark roasts have been roasted longer and hotter, which causes unique flavors to come through.
Is there any difference in taste between a dark roast and a blonde roast? There is an obvious difference in taste between a dark roast and a blonde roast.
The higher acidity in a blonde roast can make for a slightly sour taste with citrus notes. Fans of blonde roasts may like that they can taste more of the bean’s flavor. Some even describe a lemony aftertaste.
That unique flavor may be a deterrent for some who like a sweeter, buttery, more caramelized taste from a bean that’s been roasted longer.
Compared to a blonde, a gold roast will have a milder flavor, with low acidity. Our gold roast coffee is often compared to the taste of a robust tea, rather than a traditional coffee.
A blonde roast is not as full-bodied as a dark roast. It doesn’t taste as strong as what you’d sip out of a French press or an espresso roast.
We’ll get into the caffeine in a minute. But that bitter flavor in a dark roast that makes it taste so strong on your palate doesn’t mean it’s higher in caffeine.
In fact, a blonde roast contains more caffeine than a dark roast, compared scoop by scoop.
The idea of strength in a coffee can be pretty subjective. depends on whether you’re talking about flavor or the energy boost that cup is packing. Whether a blonde roast is the strongest coffee out there depends on how you’re measuring strength.
Generally, the coffee that is the strongest has more caffeine than the others. Lighter roasts would fit that definition. A gold roast has more caffeine than most.
The beans used in a great coffee can affect the body, too.
You’re most likely to see brands and coffee shops use arabica beans, followed by robusta in popularity. Robusta typically has a stronger flavor with more caffeine, while arabica can be more acidic.
Some countries only produce arabica beans, like Colombia, while many Latin American nations will produce both. Body can then depend on cultural preferences, too.
Dark roasts go through a roasting process where the beans hit temperatures between 437-446°F.
To make a blonde roast, the whole beans are roasted to temperatures between 355-400°F, just before or just after the beans start to crack in the roasting process. White roasts are pulled before any crack at all.
Expert coffee roasters know that the crack is actually the difference-maker when you roast beans. It’s a big way to tell whether the end result will be a lighter roast or a darker roast.
Just like popcorn popping, you should hear an audible popping sound as the beans expand and crack open and the moisture in the roast evaporates.
Listen for two cracks and you have a dark roast, which is what’s used most often in your latte. Anything in between that first and second crack is considered a medium to medium-dark roast.
The beans used for light roasts are very hard, by the way. They won’t do if you want to do chocolate-covered beans. Light roast beans may even wear down a grinder after time.
There’s a prevailing myth out there that darker roasts have more caffeine than lighter roasts, but that’s not true.
The caffeine content in a lighter roast cup of coffee is actually more than a dark roast if you’re using the same amount of beans.
Blonde roasts have more caffeine scoop by scoop than dark roasts.
If you measure the beans out by weight, though, the two roasts have virtually the same amount of caffeine.
Darker roasts are just less dense because they’ve been through two “cracks,” expanding more than beans that haven’t been roasting as long.
Caffeine content across the different roasts is important to keep in mind if you’re looking to start cutting caffeine. The more you’re consuming, the worse your potential caffeine withdrawal symptoms can be.
Health Benefits of Lighter Roasts
Coffee no matter the roast has a number of health benefits, including links to cardiovascular health and the energy boost you get even from just one cup.
Lighter roasts have a number of added benefits over darker roasts, a reason why some have made the switch away from their French roast.
One study showed that the lighter the roast, the more antioxidants you’ll get from the chlorogenic acid content found in coffee.
Lighter roasts tend to have more anti-inflammatory properties as well. As inflammation is related to a whole host of chronic diseases, it can make sense for many to choose light roasts over medium to dark varieties.
That doesn’t mean darker roasts lack health benefits — lighter roasts just pack more of a punch.
When you go even lighter, you may reap even more health benefits, especially if the acidity in blonde roasts is giving you problems.
A white and a gold roast will be less acidic than a blonde roast, with a gold roast the lower-acid of the two.
A low-acid option gives you the health benefits of drinking coffee without the digestive issues some experience when consuming foods and beverages with too much acid.
Lighter Than Blonde Roast?
A blonde roast is on the lighter end of coffee roasts, but it’s still not the lightest coffee out there.
A gold roast is roasted just a little bit, offering up a smoother flavor that even the tea-lovers out there will enjoy. It’s easier on your teeth than a dark roast with less acidity than a light, blonde roast.
Gold roast also has more caffeine per gram than all the others, although you can customize that somewhat with how long you allow your brew to steep.
It’s a great option for those who want that morning pick-me-up without any of the side effects of a high-acid coffee.
Taste The Difference
A gold roast coffee like Golden Ratio is an easy-drinking, low-acid coffee that could be the answer for you if you’re sensitive to the acidity in a blonde roast.
Try the mild coffee flavor of a gold roast, instead, and keep the caffeine boost you need to start your day without any bitterness.
Gold roast is drinkable hot or as a cold brew, with one of the easiest brewing methods out there.
The coffee comes in single-serve, environmentally sustainable pouches like a tea bag, in several different flavors. If you’re not sure whether to go for our original styles or flavored offerings, try a variety pack.
Golden Ratio has taken what you love about coffee (and tea!) and made it even better. Taste what we’re talking about already and see if you’ll be tempted to make the switch to gold roast.