A blonde espresso is where the coffee bean is only lightly roasted as opposed to the more common medium roast. Easily confused with the term ‘blonding’ – which is a transition of colour in espresso extraction from dark brown to light blonde. The blonde espresso is a fad that popped up with coffee franchise giant: Starbucks. They added it to their menu in January 2018. For better or for worse – it exists. Just kidding, it’s for the worse! Here’s why it sucks.
Starbucks has done it again – confused the world by adding to its menu. You may have actually had, what Starbucks calls, a ‘blonde espresso‘ before – just under a different name. ‘Light city roast’, ‘half city’ and ‘cinnamon roast‘ are all mostly the same thing. So if you’ve had any of those before, that’s what the blonde espresso is. But, if none of those alternate titles rings a bell, read on!
Coffee beans all start as a ‘green bean’ (actually a seed found inside the fruit of a plant called Coffea) that has yet to be roasted. Once it’s at the roastery, it starts the transformation of becoming a drinkable bean. The temperature and time determines the roast lightness or darkness. The blonde espresso is the lightest roast you can get, which is heated to 196 C or 385 F. For reference, the darkest roast is heated to 245C or 473 F and is called an Italian Roast. Generally, the darker the roast, the more “roasty” and bitter your coffee will be, the lighter the roast, the more sour it will taste.
The issue with the blonde espresso is that it’s just a trend that caught a bit of popularity. Slowly, it’s dying out because people try it and realise that in fact, lighter roasts don’t taste that good, especially in espressos!
Lighter roasts generally allow for a smoother, more delicate tasting, non-harsh coffee when in filters. In espresso coffee, however, it creates an intense, fruity, and sour taste. This is because lighter roasts contain a lot more carbon dioxide, so when you apply the same amount of water pressure from your machine (around 9-bars) it makes the coffee taste extremely sour. To counterbalance this sourness, a method called pre-infusion was introduced. Pre-infusion is a method where you “wet” the puck before applying pressure. The water simply drips onto the coffee without being forced. This lasts for about 4-6 seconds before the water pressure ramps up. So more work for a less than average coffee? No thank you!
The introduction of the blonde espresso by Starbucks does bring up a topic of growing concern in the specialty coffee industry. It’s the waves of trends like the blonde espresso that are advertised by large franchises – which would be fine – if the coffee and processes were half-good. When they’re not good; however, it creates a ripple effect of people pretending they love lousy coffee.
If you’re tempted to get the blonde or light roast beans – for the love of the coffee world – please limit it to filter brewing methods only; otherwise, you’ll make coffee experts cry themselves to sleep.
Be considerate. Buy good coffee.