Roast Profile | What Really Is A Blonde Roast?
All about roasts; Do blondes really have more fun?
Roasts from light to dark
Many different variables and factors contribute to a coffee bean's final flavor profile: among them, the region, climate, geography, and terroir create the natural and essential flavor of the beans.
Various methods used to process coffee cherries are another major step that helps to weave the final flavor profile for beans. The three primary methods for processing coffee are known as washed (or wet), natural, and honey.
A third step in the flavor creation process for beans includes how they are roasted. Light roasts, acidic, light in body, displaying more natural bean flavors. Medium roasts, balanced, showcasing both natural traits and developed flavors from the roasting. And dark roasts, robust in flavor and character, a new flavor has taken over after the natural oils, sugars and fats have come to the surface, making a new flavor palette to enjoy.
The roasting process for beans is a very important step in the development of the coffee beans' final flavor. The roast of the beans is a very contentious topic, too, and one deserving of an exploration into the nuance and subtleties of the different major roasting profiles. One, in particular, the blonde roast will also receive some attention because of its oftentimes confusing and somewhat opaque definition and use as a roasting type. Let's explore what each of these roasts has in store for curious coffee lovers and find our if we can get to the bottom of the "blonde roast" category.
What is a blonde roast?
We will begin here. What is a blonde roast? Blonde roast or blonde espresso as it is also known is a somewhat recent trend in the coffee world.
The blonde roast type claims to be "lighter than light" referring to the "light" designation of roast profiles. Originally known as "Cinnamon Roast" due to the coloration of the resulting coffee when its brewed.
This original name is a bit problematic because cinnamon is, of course, a flavor. And what's more, is that there certainly are coffee beans that naturally do have cinnamon flavor and aroma hints and notes in their palette.
To add to the confusion, many large coffee roasters out there advertise their blonde roasts as true light roasts. However, some keen roasters, baristas and coffee lovers alike have noted that these supposed "blonde" roasts are actually a bit closer to many Medium Roast profiles.
For many, blonde roasts seem to fall in a place defined as being lighter than light roasts. But what does this mean for your coffee and what is the flavor profile for a blonde roasted bean? Due to blonde roasts not undergoing a longer and more intense roasting process, many chemical reactions that unlock tons of flavor and aroma profiles in the beans are left, well, locked.
Generally speaking, blonde roasts come out highly acidic. For our friends interested in cupping or exploring this further, the flavor profile for blonde is usually described as being lemony, citrusy and even sour.
And before we forget, blonde roasts have a few other aliases that they run under, too, New England Roast, Light City, and Half City. What could be so confusing about those? They all fall under another roast profile. Light roasts.
To be fair, the demarcation of the roasts is at times a bit porous, but within the coffee community, there are some generally agreed-upon guidelines and factors that delineate one roast type from another. Blonde roast tends to throw a bit of a wrench in things because it is defined in a way that is hard to pin down and uses and includes roasts and names that fall under the already established light roast category.
Light roast versus blonde roast
For those familiar with the light coffee roasting profiles may be scratching their heads when it comes to blonde roasts. Mainly because the profile and names seem to eerily match some descriptors that are applied to the traditional light roast category.
Our philosophy on coffee roasts has us place a priority of light roast over the blonde roast designation, and so we have chosen to list some of the categories considered "blonde" among the light roasts.
Blonde roasts generally fall within the wider light roast category when it comes to the roasting temperatures, too. Light roasts are heated up within a range of 356-401 degrees Fahrenheit, blonde roasts are roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Light roasts, including blonde, are kept in the heat just before or right after the first crack appears in the beans. Light roasts retain some hardness and so are difficult to grind but well suited for cold brew, French press, and pour-over. Lightly roasted beans are light brown in color, feature no oil on their surfaces and highlight the natural and authentic flavors and aromas of the beans. They are often fruity and floral.
Medium roasts are the next level on the scale of light to dark coffee bean roasts. They are heated to a temperature of 410 to 428 degrees Fahrenheit and are removed from the roasting barrel between the first and second cracks.
Beans called Regular roast, American roast, Breakfast roast, and City roast are all medium roasts. They feature mild acidity and a decently full body. They offer slightly less caffeine than light roasts, but still a perky amount, hence the Breakfast roast name!
Medium-dark roasted beans may go by the names Full-city roast, Full-city+roast, After Dinner Roast, and Vienna Roast. Roasted at a temperature range of 437-446 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans begin to develop their more roasted and toasted flavor palette and have some spicy hints and notes and a considerably heavy body. Here is where the natural flavors found in the beans begin to become more flavored by the roasting barrels. The caffeine content starts to singe off and the beans become softer and more oily in appearance.
As for the dark roast category, these beans are roasted just below 482 degrees Fahrenheit, with many roasters choosing to roast around 464 degrees Fahrenheit. Dark roast beans are removed after the second crack in the beans. The dark roast will display flavors and aromas that reflect the roasting methods used and because of the high heat they are exposed to, the natural fats, oils, and sugars locked deep within the coffee beans emerge under the high heat. Dark roasts feature a wide flavor palette ranging from sweet to dark chocolate hints and notes. French Roast, Italian Roast, Espresso Roast, Continental Roast, New Orleans Roast, and Spanish Roast are all categories within the dark roast family. Dark roasts have less acidity than their lighter roasted cousins. They are also softer, oilier, and contain a little less caffeine.
Caffeine and roast types
Caffeine and coffee roasts, a lovely, and also contentious subject! Within the world of coffee, there exists a bit of debate about roast types and their caffeine level.
If one was to ask, "Which coffee bean roast type has the most caffeine" or "which coffee is stronger light or dark roast?" you would get the same answer both times. Light roast - but not by much.
This is because the coffee beans naturally possess a ton of caffeine in them when they are grown. Even the coffee plant's leaves and cherries have caffeine. But as the beans are roasted, the heat burns away some of that caffeine content. The surface area and mass of the beans decrease as they are roasted darker and darker.
While some folks may claim dark roasted coffee has more caffeine because dark roasts usually taste stronger, are ignoring the more subtle nature of caffeine, and the coffee bean's internal chemistry. Dark roast coffee's caffeine is nothing to worry about, though.
Even though lightly roasted beans possess a bit more caffeine on average compared to dark roasted coffee beans, factors like ratio of coffee grounds to water and brewing methods can also play a role in a cup of coffee's final caffeine level. Take for example espresso.
Almost all espresso shots are pulled from dark roasted beans. And yet, when packed tightly, densely and pumped with a rigorous shot of hot water, those espresso dark roasted beans can pack a concentrated caffeine punch. This would, of course, put medium roast coffee's caffeine content somewhere in between the higher caffeine levels that light roasts supply and the slightly lower caffeine levels of dark roasted beans.
Medium roasted beans are a great choice because they are right in the middle of the more acidic, lighter, natural flavors of the lightly roasted family and the rich, thick, and full-bodied dark roasted group. And of course, the caffeine level is just right.
The perfect roast
The roasting profile for a coffee bean is one of the many keys to crafting an excellent cup of coffee. Knowing the nuance and subtleties of each roasting type and how they synergize with different types of beans and brewing methods can make a dull cup of coffee become a super-charged and delicious work of art! Why not give each of the different roasting categories a brewing today? Finding the perfect roasting profile for you will be a fun adventure. One more final tip when it comes to coffee beans and their roasting types; grab your beans freshly roasted from a roaster you can trust, and grind the whole beans yourself at home. Trust us, it will be more than worth it!