What is Blonde Roast
The more we learn about coffee, the further down the rabbit hole we find ourselves. It appears a new coffee phrase, or trend, pops up nearly every day. One popular phrase that seems to be misunderstood is blonde roast coffee. So, what is blonde roast coffee?
Blonde roast coffee is kind of what it sounds like, a lighter roasted coffee. Unlike its brunette counter parts, the dark and medium roasted coffees, blonde roast really gives the coffee bean a chance to shine. Instead of asking what is blonde roast coffee, we should instead be asking where to find good quality light roast coffee. Let’s break down the process that goes into producing a fine quality blonde roast coffee.
Blonde Roast Coffee
At the forefront of the roasting process is choosing high quality, specialty coffee beans. Specialty beans are crucial when roasting at a lighter roast due to the fact that the flavor of the coffee bean itself really begins to shine in these roasts. Higher quality beans will provide the solid foundation the blonde roast process requires. The “special” in specialty coffee is actually a measurable characteristic. All of our coffee at Black Ink, that we purchase from our importers, is classified as specialty quality.
Roasting Light Roasts
Next up comes the actual roasting process. As you may know, the typical medium roast coffee goes through the first crack and is then dropped a little while after, before reaching the second crack. Dark roast coffee gets pushed into that second crack phase, sometimes during it and sometimes long afterwards. However, blonde roast coffee is dropped from the roaster, right after the first crack! Some experienced roasters even drop the batch of beans right before, or during, the first crack. Due to the minimal amount of time in the roaster, the blonde roasted beans are relatively dense compared to dark roasted beans.
Extracting Light Roasts
The density of the beans brings us to the next crucial step in a good blonde roast cup of coffee, the method of extraction. Lighter roasted coffees are less porous than medium and dark roasted coffees, which require more steeping time in order to allow the flavors of the beans to extract and develop properly. We believe that the best method for brewing blonde roast coffee is the pour over method. The Black Ink team is often spotted using a Chemex pour over system and a Lido manual hand grinder which can be seen in the links below.
Grinding Light Roast Coffee
A proper grinder is crucial for light roasts as the beans are harder than the typical medium or dark roasted coffee beans. This causes them to wear out quicker over time, which is why we recommend excellent quality burr grinders than are mechanical or that can be replaced easily. The grind size on your grinder should be adjusted to produce finer coffee grounds. The finer grind will allow for the water to pour through the coffee more slowly, increasing the time it takes for the coffee to brew, really extracting all of the flavors within the beans.
Water Quality For Light Roast
Not only is it important for the water to pass through the coffee grounds slowly, but the water itself is important. Using hard water can result in a less desirable taste when brewing blonde roast coffee. Typically we advocate for hard water as it is crucial for extraction as it aids in pulling out more caffeine and body from within the coffee grounds. However, soft water is crucial to steep through the beans gently and allow the natural flavors of the bean to do their dance. Something that is as delicate as the light roast itself.
Light Roast Blends
Light Roast Single Origins
Traditionally, there are two approaches to producing great coffee. The first approach is what is known as the Single Origin, which is when you roast the coffee beans together that come from the same country, region and/or farm. Rather than mixing them with others, you keep them separated based on where they come from.
Some roasters swear that this is the only way coffee should be consumed as it allows for you to enjoy the subtle nuances of the particular coffee beans. Although we do agree that light roast Single Origins are special, as it allows for you to enjoy the subtlety of the cup that the farmer worked so hard for, it may also lack many desirable characteristics that coffee drinkers have known to love.
Light Roast Coffee Blend
The other approach to coffee is blending, which is the art of combining different Single Origins into one delicious concoction of caffeinated joy. When you blend different coffees into a specialty coffee blend, you are allowing for the roaster to craft an artisan experience by taking the best qualities from each Single Origin.
The only setback to blending is that some desirable characteristics of certain Single Origins may become masked if they are thrown in with too many contenders. Also, extracting coffee from various regions that have differing density levels will also play into the mix, so that is something that an expert coffee roaster will know to take into consideration, especially when crafting a light roast coffee blend.
Starbucks Blonde Roast
Many blonde roasts boast bright and fruity flavors, sometimes even floral or tea-like. The typical flavor of a blonde roasted coffee doesn’t have that classic “coffee taste”. Some of you who have tried the Starbucks blonde roast might now be thinking “well that’s not true, Starbucks’ blonde roast is smooth, creamy and one of my favorite cups of coffee.”
While we agree that it’s smooth and creamy, and probably one of their better options, it’s not actually a blonde roast. The Starbucks blonde roast is more of a medium roast, maybe with a few highlights and low lights thrown in there. A traditional blonde roast is certainly not the roast for everyone since it doesn’t always hold that classic coffee taste, but when done right it can provide a warm (or iced) cup full of flavor and culture.
Final Thoughts on the Blonde Roast
If you are part of the first wave or second wave generation of coffee drinkers, you’ve probably never experienced a high-quality cup of blonde coffee, like our Ethiopian coffee. Despite what you were taught, coffee doesn’t need to taste like motor oil, especially if you are pairing it with certain foods that bitterness doesn’t jive well with. Also, calling our Ethiopian Single Origin a blonde roast isn’t entirely true as it is in between a blonde roast and a medium roast. Regardless, you should try light roast coffee when given the chance as you are not only getting more of the subtle nuances from within the bean, you’re probably drinking higher quality coffee, too!
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