What is White Coffee? Here’s the Definitive Guide for 2023

What is white coffee? Keep reading to find out!

Coffee consumption is a tradition that can be dated back to at least the 15th century, boasting rich histories in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and, subsequently, North America. Despite this, though, new habits and styles frequently surface.

One that’s grabbed a lot of headlines across the coffee community in recent times is the term ‘white coffee.’

Even casual coffee drinkers have probably heard the phrase “white coffee” in recent times. But what exactly is white coffee, and how is it different from dark-roasted coffee?

If you love the taste of coffee, you’ll naturally want to learn a bit more before trying white coffee. Here’s everything you need to know about white coffee drinks.

So, What is White Coffee, then?

White coffee has nothing to do with flat white or any other coffee drinks that may utilize whiteners. On the contrary, it is all about the coffee beans and, crucially, a special light roast. White coffee can also be referred to as light coffee, but what exactly does light coffee provide?

People think that the white coffee roasting method is a new concept that was created by hip coffee houses. In reality, white coffee roast first appeared in Yemen – the country that exported enough coffee to settle the global demand for over 200 years.

The roasting method is where white coffee has a unique situation that is responsible for all of the clear differences in look, taste, and general outcome. Rather than being roasted at 450-480 degrees Fahrenheit, the white coffee beans are roasted at just 325 degrees and pulled before the first crack.

White coffee beans do not take on some of the characteristics taken on by traditional roasts. A coffee white bean roast produces a distinct coffee vibe, but clear differences make white coffee special.

The contrast in color is the most obviously unique feature, where the white coffee gets its name.

Due to the low-heat roast, the bean’s extra hardness can only be ground through a specialized grinder.

Essentially, white coffee should be viewed merely as an additional type of roast and should not be confused with any other interpretation. Think of it as one below the light roast.

What is the White Coffee Taste Profile?

While the white, or rather a light beige, color is the clearest indicator that white coffee is different from other coffees.

White coffee gives you a taste profile that brings noticeable alterations from traditional brews, which is why local coffee roasters in Yemen introduced the method centuries ago.

People that try white coffee for the first time will report that it tastes bolder and stronger than their normal brew. It’s partly due to how the coffee reacts during the roasting processes, but it can also be attributed to the fact that the smaller market (in terms of brands) makes it easy to find high-quality beans.

Natural sugars found in coffee beans do not caramelize at lower temperatures, removing aftertaste bitterness. Meanwhile, the short roasting times additionally stop the organic chlorogenic acids within the beans from evaporating.

This can lead to an acidic flavor that gives the coffee a unique punch. The other noticeable attribute in white coffee is a nutty taste far greater than anything in traditionally treated roasts.

The versatility, combined with the characteristics gained from the low-temperature roast, also makes white coffee an ideal way to embrace the unique taste profiles from different parts of the world.

This allows you to taste the variances of Brazilian and Ethiopian beans, for example, with exceptional clarity.

Therefore, while white coffee will often be described as nutty, acidic, and not bitter, the outcomes can vary greatly depending on the origin of the beans that are to be roasted. As with all coffee, the quality of the beans is crucial.

What About the White Coffee Texture?

In addition to the taste, any true coffee lover will want to know about the texture of their brew.

The specialized ground process results in a smooth coffee. This, combined with the lack of bitter aftertastes mentioned above, brings comforting and luxurious taste experiences.

How are White Coffee Products Used and Served?

White coffee is best prepared as a shot in espresso machines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are forced to drink it as espresso. Latte, cappuccino, Americano, Macchiato, and other espresso-based beverage drinkers can consider the prospect of making the switch to white coffee too.

You can certainly see the difference between a white coffee espresso and a traditionally roasted espresso product. However, the pale white coffee drink doesn’t need milk or creamer, contrary to what the name may encourage you to think.

White coffee can also be mixed with flavoring components. In Yemen, for example, the tradition is to use a spice mix known as Hawaij.

In addition to the key ingredients of ginger and cardamom, other sweet solid spices, including nutmeg and cinnamon, may be present, as are cumin, black pepper, and turmeric. Moreover, the Hawaii process can be traced back thousands of years, meaning that white coffee can (in a sense) be dated back even further than coffee as we know it.

On a separate note, I have heard of people drinking it as an iced latte. However, I’ve yet to search the internet for a pre-made option and won’t be looking to create homebrew in this way any time soon.

As with most types of coffee, there are several tasting options of white coffee available. Ultimately, users will primarily be tasked with finding a solution that suits their taste profile.

Ordering a White Coffee at a Coffee House

Most large coffee house chains and bars now offer white coffee.

All espresso-based beverages they serve should come with the white coffee option.

While the roasting technique is different, the in-house coffee preparation processes are relatively similar to traditional blends. The espresso will be made by pushing boiler hot water through the beans to produce the beige shot.

Making a White Coffee at Home

If you’re a fan of creating instant coffee at home, it might be better to stick to whatever instant coffee beans and methods you’re currently using.

However, if you have a home espresso machine, you will be ready to make white coffee at home. Aeropress, French press, and Moka pot facilities are all good options too.

The biggest challenge revolves around sourcing the right white coffee beans. These can be difficult to find at the grocery store, but they’re still available in various places – particularly online.

Despite millions of white coffees being consumed each day, far fewer roasters focus on this method than traditional light and dark roasts. This is especially noticeable in the United States, but they are still available.

Best White Coffee Brands

Poverty Bay

poverty bay

Poverty Bay is a brand that boasts over 30 years of experience preparing small batches from its Pacific Northwest roasting facility.

As a result, the 2lb bags last a decent length of time while knowing that the coffee beans are sourced sustainably and ethically makes every sip more satisfying for the consumer.

Wired Willey’s

Wired Willey’s from Lowerys Coffee, based in Washington State, is available in 16oz, 32oz, and 4lb bags.

wired willey's

The pre-ground coffee is roasted in relatively small batches, ensuring orders are always fresh.

The nutty hints are particularly evident, which is why the brand has gained massive popularity despite minimal marketing. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of unique blends and options available.

When added to the fact you can use the beans for a wide variety of drinks, the appeal of white coffee for home consumers is clear.

The Malaysian White Coffee Variant

Each coffee-drinking nation boasts a unique relationship with coffee, and the white coffee arena is no different. Malaysian white coffee is easily the most noteworthy alternative to the Yemeni method.

Roasters use palm oil margarine, which leads to a trim level of caramelization even at the lower temperature – as low as 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the term white coffee in relation to the Malaysian roast is far closer to the misused words relating to flat whites. The Malaysian white coffee beans are tan-colored but produce a beige result because condensed milk is added after brewing.

Malaysian white coffee tastes delightful and creamy, while the texture is smooth. This is partly because the coffee has not been exposed to longer roasting practices but primarily due to the impact of the condensed milk.

The U.S. White Coffee Variant

Here in the United States, you may also hear the term white coffee used to describe the process of creating light yellow roasted coffee. The outcome is a thin yellow brew with a highly acidic note that makes coffee white.

The roasted coffee is prepared at a far lower temperature than traditional roasts and is used for espresso-based drinks.

They remain challenging to grind, so most brands sell the product as a preground solution rather than a whole bean option. It is still a bitter-less java, while baristas discard the first pour in favor of the smoother second pour.

The U.S. variant is very similar to the Yemeni version, and baristas and home users often interchange the two options.

White Coffee FAQs

If you’re new to the concept of white coffee, you’ll naturally have a host of questions that need to be answered before deciding whether it is a route you wish to pursue.

Is white coffee really stronger?

If you have recently seen white coffee advertised as boasting 50% more caffeine, it’ll undoubtedly pique your interest – especially as a pre-work morning brew.

Each Coffee shop knows that this is an appealing USP, which is why they are happy to shout out about it. But, in reality, you needn’t pay too much attention.

Caffeine levels are reduced due to roasting, which means the ultra-low roast of white coffee will retain a significant level of caffeine.

However, the gains are minimal (probably around 5% rather than 50%). Consequently, then, it would be wiser to prioritize the choice of coffee beans instead.

Is switching to white coffee beneficial for your health?

The modern success of white coffee can largely be attributed to clever marketing strategies that focus on the proposed health benefits. For example, low roasts increase chlorogenic acid levels, which can aid the body’s natural defenses against cardiovascular disease while decreasing inflammation thanks to the antioxidant molecule.

Scientific studies into the benefits show some benefits, but it is minimal and probably don’t justify the switch unless you like the taste. Others suggest that the popularity of having white coffee without creamer makes it a good option for weight loss, but the same can be said of any black coffee.

Anyone who suffers from acid reflux will want to add milk to counteract the higher acidity within the beans.

Does white coffee aid your appearance?

I’ve not seen enough evidence to suggest it does. However, there’s no question that your diet impacts the appearance of your skin, hair, and body image.

Many people who switch to white coffee incorporate it as part of a health kick. So, even as a placebo, it’s no surprise that many people claim to see benefits as a direct result.

Is white coffee ever fully white?

No. The beans aren’t white before roasting and do not become white after the roasting or grinding procedures.

The beige is noticeably lighter than any other black coffee, especially in its espresso form.

When is the best time to have a white coffee?

Given the versatility of white coffee, you could enjoy a beverage whenever you fancy a cup of java. In reality, most consumers prefer it as their morning brew or afternoon pick-me-up rather than an evening coffee.

The slight caffeine increase is one of the contributing factors, as is the bolder nutty flavor. As with the other key factors, it is primarily a matter of personal preference.

Is white coffee less addictive?

If you have experienced withdrawal symptoms when no longer drinking black coffee, it’s likely due to acidity. As already covered, the shorter roasting time has a hugely positive impact on acidity levels.

In turn, consumers may avoid those withdrawal symptoms, another perceived positive of white coffee.

White Coffee. Final Thoughts about Specialty Coffee

The confusion surrounding the topic of white coffee is understandable. However, rather than being either a coffee with creamer or a special type of coffee bean, it is merely a term that describes the roasting processes during the preparation of the brew.

The result is a pale, nutty flavor, acidic but not bitter white coffee that can be enjoyed in an espresso-based beverage. Of course, white coffee drinkers must choose the region of beans and presentation to suit their preferences. Still, the versatility makes it an area of specialty coffee drinking that many will wish to explore.

On a personal level, it has become a semi-regular treat for me since trying white coffee. I’m not going to suggest abandoning your current coffee habits unless there is a genuine reason to do it, but giving a white coffee a try during your next trip to the coffee shop could unlock the door to new opportunities, and if you like it, incorporate it into your home brewing too.

Want to try white coffee? We recommend Amazon.

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Nathan is the founder of The Darkest Roast (featured in the NY Times, Yahoo, and Tasting Table). He is a self-taught coffee expert and has tried 100s of coffees from around the world. Nathan's goal is to help you find the best coffee, so you only drink the best.