If you go to a Starbucks chain for your pre-work brew or lunchtime invigorating break, then you will have likely seen that they offer a Blonde Roast.
This is on top of their Signature roast which is commonly used in most of their standard drinks already. But why is it a thing, and what exactly is it?
Well, the coffee giant’s original blend is made with dark roasted beans from Latin America and the Asia/Pacific region. There is a strong caramel flavour in there, and the coffee flavour really packs a punch too, with a depth of flavour which will wake up your palate.
The blonde version is instead from Latin American and East African coffee beans that delivers a sweet flavour, with a creamier more mellow aftertaste and hints of citrus. This will be softer on the palate. Starbucks suggests it is more for those who are after an enjoyable cup of coffee rather than something which will give them a boost, suggesting pairing it with pastries such as the butter croissant.
The History Of Blonde Roast
Before Starbucks really made it a mainstream ‘thing’, a blonde roast would have commonly been referred to as a Cinnamon roast. But this was not a term frequently used purely for the confusion it caused – of course, you would imagine it was sweet like a cinnamon roll in flavouring.
Starbucks says that a blonde roast does not refer to their colour, but rather the “light-bodied and flavourful” tones of the taste. However, they are still roasted a lot more ‘lightly’ than their Signature bean, or indeed the usual medium or dark roast you would buy in the shops to make a brew at home.
If you are familiar with the roasting process, you will be aware of the ‘cracks’. A Blonde roast will be just before the ‘first crack’.
This means that a more acidic flavour will come through because heat breaks down the acidity more as it roasts for longer, at hotter temperatures. So, it can make a bean which usually has woody or caramel undertones taste completely different.
A dark roast will see more of the Maillard reaction from the process, where (in short) sugars are caramelised to produce buttery, rich tones. A light roasting keeps the citrus tones, which to some is really appealing, and to others is completely off-putting.
Because they have not reached the ‘first crack’, they will generally be quite hard (which could affect your grinder).
Are Blonde Roasts Healthy?
Acidity can often be an issue in coffee. People with a particular aversion to acidic foods or drinks, such as reflux, may choose to avoid it entirely.
Because of the highest levels of acidity in a blonde roast, it is a definite no for anybody who needs to cut back on their acid intake. Many people will also avoid acidic foods because of the negative past links between excessively acidic diets and overall health.
Supporters of the acid-ash hypothesis claim that a diet high in acid-forming foods increases mineral bone loss, thereby increasing the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis. But it is worth saying that there is no proof of this.
It can, more commonly, produce a gastric upset, which is more common (and proven). High-fat foods, greasy food, fizzy drinks, acidic fruits and – you guessed it – caffeinated drinks, can all bring this on. While there are ways to combat it, such as antacid tablets, some people do choose to cut down on their intake.
This isn’t to say you need to avoid coffee altogether, especially if you come prepared, but do be aware that a darker roast may be better than one kept light, and especially at a blonde level. Our stomachs usually like things nice and pH neutral, but anything around the 5.0 level of acidity and under can start having adverse effects.
But many tests show that blonde roasts are around 4.4 level of acidity. This is perfectly demonstrated if using soy milk in your brew. This works at levels of 4.8 and above but will curdle in anything below – including acidic coffee. Medium roasts are usually 5.5 and above, in comparison.
So there is nothing to suggest that blonde roast coffee is unhealthy as such, especially on a broad term; it will just be slightly more acidic, and you won’t be able to use some non-dairy milk, which will not suit some people out there. We would also recommend not drinking it on an empty stomach, as it is closer in acidity to vinegar than dark roasted coffee!
The Benefits Of Blonde Roast
In contrast, the makeup of a coffee bean would suggest that keeping things this light also has its pros.
Research has previously found that coffee is an anti-oxidant, and the more it is roasted and brewed, the more these levels reduce. The lower the roast level, the higher the amount of many of the beneficial substances.
Green beans should be avoided at all costs, but the beans just need to be heated to 170° or more activate these anti-oxidants through a chemical change, and then they’re good to go.