Blonde Espresso vs Regular: What’s The Difference?

a mix of arabica and robusta beans on a wooden spoon, with other beans in the background. 

A few years ago, Starbucks came up with a new signature espresso roast that soon conquered the heart of many coffee lovers: Starbucks’ Blonde Espresso

It had a different color and taste than your usual espresso shot, thanks to selected beans and a different roasting method. 

It was the first time Starbucks introduced a new core espresso in more than 40 years, and it was a great success. In this article, I’ll show you the main differences between blonde and regular espresso, and give you some tips on how best to enjoy it and where to find it. 

a mix of arabica and robusta beans on a wooden spoon, with other beans in the background. 


What is a regular espresso?

You surely already know what’s an espresso. Here in Italy, it’s the default way of having coffee at the bar, and it’s the base of many other Italian coffee drinks.

But what makes it different from other types of coffee? The answer is: the brewing method

While other coffee drinks are usually made by infusion or with a French press, espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans under a high pressure (usually 8 to 10 bars). This creates the typical espresso cream (crema) and gives it its typical full-bodied flavor. 

It is often confused with mocha coffee, as Italian coffee makers also use high pressure to do their job. However, they can’t produce enough bars to create the crema. If you want a real espresso, you’ll need a proper espresso machine.

Espresso is strong and concentrated, and has higher levels of caffeine compared to many other coffee drinks. For this, it is usually consumed in small cups. 


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And what is a blonde espresso, instead?

The main difference between blonde espresso and regular espresso lies in the type of roast used. 

Regular espresso beans are made with darker roasts, while blonde espresso beans are made with light roasting. This gives them a lighter color and a more delicate flavor. 

Also, blonde espresso beans are usually sourced from East Africa and Latin America, and usually have a higher caffeine content than those used for regular espresso. 

These are the main differences. Now let’s make a more in-depth comparison. 

Blonde espresso vs regular compared

Blonde espresso vs regular compared

The different beans and type of roast give blonde espresso a unique color and taste, and different caffeine levels. Here are all the details. 


As I was saying, blonde espresso beans are made using a lighter roast and a lower temperature. This type of roast was not invented by Starbucks, and has been around long before 2012. It was mostly known as “cinnamon roast“.

The method consists in roasting the beans at a temperature under 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and only until the “first crack”. This is the sound coffee makes when it starts expanding from heat, much like popcorn. Light roast coffee beans stay light in color and have a mild, sweet flavor.

Dark roast coffee beans, on the other hand, are roasted for a longer time, at temperatures up to 460 degrees Fahrenheit. After the first crack, the espresso bean starts to get darker in color and takes on the well-known deep, dark hue we are all familiar with.

dark roast coffee beans

Caffeine levels

It is a common misconception that blonde espresso has lower levels of caffeine. But the roasting process does not actually affect caffeine levels, which depend more on the type of beans used. 

In fact, a shot of Blonde espresso at Starbucks has about 10 mg of caffeine more than a regular espresso – 20 mg more if you take a grande. 

Yeah, don’t let its milder flavor trick you. If you’re trying to lower your caffeine intake, it’s better to switch to decaf. 


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Color and Taste

Traditional espresso has a deep, dark color and an intense, rich flavor.

Blonde espresso, on the other hand, has a lighter color, and its mild flavor is also a little less intense. It is usually sweeter than regular espresso, and many say it can have citrus notes and hints of chocolate or malt. 

Finally, blonde espresso has lower acidity and will go easier on your stomach. 

According to Starbucks, this makes it a great choice for those who are just getting to know coffee. Others say that blonde espresso is the perfect coffee for coffee haters. I guess these are two different ways of looking at the same thing 😀


an espresso machine making a double espresso


Is blonde espresso healthier?

As I was writing this post, I noticed that one of the main related searches on Google was: “blonde espresso vs regular calories”. So, let’s spend a few words about this drink’s nutritional value

Both blonde and classic espresso are usually considered healthy drinks and are often included in diets along with tea as an alternative to sugary drinks. 

However, there’s not a healthier option between the two, as they are quite similar from a nutritional point of view. 

A single shot of espresso usually has 2 calories. Starbucks’ regular and blonde espresso both have 5 calories per shot. 10 calories, if you’re having a doppio

Also, a 1.5 fl oz portion of regular espresso has 2g of total carbohydrates and 1g of proteins. From what I can read on Starbucks’ website, the same amount of blonde espresso has less than half the amount of both. 

So, yes, there is a slight difference, but it is so minimal that it won’t make a difference in your health.

Does it have dairy or sugar?

No. Like regular coffee, blonde coffee typically does not contain dairy or sugar, but you can add them, if you want, and make a lot of different drinks. 

a cappuccino made with blonde espresso on a wooden tray with decorations

Can blonde espresso be decaf?

Although they have allowed for a while to order this option, decaf blonde espresso isn’t actually a thing-at least at Starbucks. 

From what I gathered by reading some conversations on Reddit, bartenders were instructed by their superiors to simply make regular decaf and explain the mistake to the customer. 

However, you can easily find other light roast decaf blends online that will have a similar aroma to the Starbucks signature blonde espresso roast, without the caffeine. 

This leads us to the next question…

Where can I buy blonde espresso?

You can buy Starbucks’ Blonde Espresso beans or capsules in stores and online. And as I mentioned before, you can also find other brands that sell lightly roasted beans. Some of them are:

  • Coffee bros;
  • Peet’s Coffee; 
  • Costa Rica Coffee;
  • Lifeboost Coffee;
  • Fresh Roasted Coffee;
  • and many others.

Each of these brands has at least one signature light roast coffee blend that you can easily find online.

espresso roasts

Best ways to enjoy blonde espresso

Blonde espresso can be enjoyed as an alternative to espresso or iced coffee. However, given its milder flavor and its chocolatey notes, many think it gives its best in coffee drinks that have milk. 

Try it on a cappuccino, a mocaccino, or a macchiato. I think it’s also great for all those coffee drinks that are made with ice cream and whipping cream. And next time you go to your local Starbucks, try ordering a blonde vanilla latte. You’ll thank me later. 

Final thoughts

So, to recap, blonde espresso is an alternative to regular espresso made by light roasting coffee beans that are sourced from East Africa and Latin America. The roasting process takes place for less time, and at lower temperatures than traditional espresso roasts, which gives the coffee a more balanced and delicate aroma, along with less acidity. 

I know many coffee enthusiasts who want their espresso dark and bitter, but in my opinion, blonde espresso can be a way to explore all the flavors that are usually lost to intense roasting. 

Also, for a caffeine addict like me, it’s nice to have a less acidic alternative on the days when you’re not fully on your game. 

What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments! 😉


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