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 in recent times. But what exactly is white coffee and is it worthy of your attention?
It seems as though the phrase has popped up overnight. Even coffee lovers and frequent coffee house guests will have noticed that it has transformed from an afterthought to the main feature on specials boards, particularly in the trendy venues aimed at business folk and health enthusiasts.
If you love coffee, you’ll naturally want to learn a bit more before deciding whether to give white coffee a try. Here’s everything you need to know.
So, What is White Coffee then?
While people may colloquially say they want a white coffee when ordering a coffee with milk/creamer, the term has nothing to do with a flat white or any other coffee that may utilize whiteners. On the contrary, it is all about the coffee beans and, crucially, how they are roasted.
Many people think that the white coffee roasting method is a new concept that was created by hip coffee houses in a bid to satisfy the changing landscape. In reality, like many coffee traditions, white coffee roasts first appeared in Yemen – the country that exported enough coffee to settle the global demand for over 200 years starting from the mid-15th century.
The roasting method is where white coffee has a unique situation that is responsible for all of the clear differences in look, taste, and the general outcome. Rather than being roasted at 450-480 degrees Fahrenheit (as is the case in traditional light to dark roasts), the coffee beans are roasted at just 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Consequently, the beans do not take on some of the characteristics taken on by traditional roasts. It’s still a coffee bean roast that produces a distinct coffee vibe, but there are clear differences.
The contrast in color is the most obviously unique feature, which is where the coffee gets its name from.
It should also be noted that due to the extra hardness of the beans, due to the low heat roast, they can only be ground through the use of a specialized grinder. Once this process has been completed, though, the consistency of the resulting product is very similar to what you’d expect from traditional roasts, it’s only after brewing the beans that you’ll see the very evident differences.
Essentially, then, 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, only with a vastly greater impact than the changes between light and dark roasts, and you won’t go far wrong.
What is the White Coffee Taste Profile?
While the white, or rather a light beige, color is the clearest indicator that this type of coffee is different from other coffees, it’s the taste that truly matters. If you’re only interested in seeking a unique-looking brew that stands out from the crowd, there are plenty of gimmicks found across popular coffee chains that will satisfy this requirement.
Opting for a white coffee gives you a taste profile that brings noticeable alterations from traditional brews, which is why roasters in Yemen introduced the method centuries ago.
Firstly, many 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 can also be attributed to the fact that the smaller market (in terms of brands) makes it easy for commercial and home consumers to find high-quality beans.
Natural sugars found within the coffee beans do not caramelize at the lower temperatures, which removes any hint of bitterness, particularly in relation to the aftertaste. Meanwhile, the short roasting times additionally stop the organic acids within the beans from evaporating.
This can lead to an acidic flavor that gives the coffee a unique punch. The other noticeable attribute found in white coffee is a nutty taste that is far greater than anything found in traditionally treated roasts.
Given that the term relates to a roasting method rather than a specific bean, it can be used on beans that have been sourced from around the globe. The versatility, combined with the characteristics gained from the low-temperature roast, also make white coffee an ideal way to embrace the unique taste profiles of beans from different parts of the world.
This allows you to taste the variances of Brazilian beans and Ethiopian beans, for example, with exceptional clarity.
Therefore, while white coffee will often be described as nutty, acidic, and not bitter, the final 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. After all, this is a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful and luxurious coffee-tasting experience.
As with the taste profile, the nuances of each region’s beans will have an influence on the outcomes.
Generally speaking, though, the specialized ground process results in a smooth coffee. This, combined with the aforementioned lack of bitter aftertastes bring comforting and luxurious taste experiences.
The type of beverage that the white coffee product is used for will naturally hold a huge influence on the situation too.
White coffee itself, though, is very smooth as long as the beans have been through an appropriate grind and not left as coarse or whole beans. When this happens, the texture profile changes beyond anything you could ever imagine – and not in a good way.
How are White Coffee Products Used and Served?
White coffee is best prepared as an espresso shot, 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, contrary to what the name may encourage you to think, the pale drink doesn’t need milk or creamer.
In fact, the vast majority of regular white coffee drinkers take it black to ensure the unique characteristics of the ultra-low roast are protected and undiluted by whitening agents.
It has, however, become relatively common for people to use almond milk in their white coffee cappuccinos, lattes, etc. This is done to complement the naturally nutty tastes of the brew itself while some users do this to capitalize on the reported health benefits of white coffee roasts – don’t worry, we’ll get onto those.
White coffee can also be mixed with flavoring components. In Yemen, for example, the tradition is to use a spice mix known as hawaij. Hawaijs have been adopted for as long as the low roast has existed, and continue to be seen in coffee houses to this day.
In addition to the key ingredients of ginger and cardamom, other strong sweet spices including nutmeg and cinnamon may be present, as are cumin, black pepper, and turmeric. The hawaij 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, then, there are several tasting options available. Ultimately, then, users will largely be tasked with finding a solution that suits their personal taste profile.
Even as a connoisseur of coffee, it’d be an impossible task to suggest a solution for all. With a little trial and error, though, you’ll be sure to find a winning solution.
Ordering a White Coffee at a Coffee House
Most large coffee house chains and bars now offer white coffee variants, stocking beans that have been through the ultra-low roast and grind. Meanwhile, a growing number of independent coffee bars have joined the revolution, thanks to the resurrection of this long-standing roasting technique.
When ordering one, though, you need to be sure that you’re not ordering a flat white. If white coffee is offered at an establishment, it should be available to order in various forms.
All of the espresso-based beverages that they serve should come with this option. In bigger coffee outlets, it’s likely that the white coffee beans will be available from different continents, giving you the chance to embrace the varying hints synonymous with each order.
While the roasting technique is different, the in-house coffee preparation processes are relatively similar to those used for traditional blends. The espresso will be made by pushing boiler hot water through the beans to produce the beige shot.
This is followed by the necessary steps to create the chosen drink, whether it be a latte, cappuccino, or whatever. Foamed milk, milk, cocoa toppings, and other elements will follow the same practices.
Knowing your order with clarity is essential, especially if you want to consider distinct features such as using almond milk.
Making a White Coffee at Home
If you’re a fan of creating instant coffee at home, you 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 a white coffee at home. Aeropress, French press, and Moka pot facilities are all good options too.
Of course, if you wish to create cappuccinos, lattes, and other beverages, it’ll be necessary to ensure your machine (or other coffee making facilities) area capable of producing the desired outcomes.
Nevertheless, 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.
The fact of the matter is that, despite the fact that millions of white coffees are consumed each day, far fewer roasters focus on this method compared to traditional light and dark roasts. This is especially noticeable in North America, but they are still available.
Some of the best brands are;
The New Mexico-based roaster uses Brazilian Arabica beans, offering them in coarse, medium, fine preground, and whole bean variants. They also offer their bags in 12oz and 5lb bags, which gives you the chance to try a small volume before saving money with bulk buys if you decide that it’s the right choice.
Poverty Bay is a brand that boasts over 30 years of experience, preparing small batches from its Pacific Northwest roasting facility. The 2lb bags last a decent length of time while knowing that the coffee beans are sourced in a sustainable and ethical manner makes every sip all the more satisfying for the consumer.
Wired Willey’s from Lowerys Coffee, based in Washington State, is available in 16oz, 32oz, and 4lb bags. 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 huge popularity despite minimal marketing. There are literally 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.
You can tailor the beverage to your tastes, but will probably find that pre-ground solutions are better than the whole beans. This is another reason to choose a brand that is known to make fresh batches, though.
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 small 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 terms relating to flat whites. The Malaysian white coffee beans are actually tan colored but produce a beige result because condensed milk is added after brewing.
The taste of Malaysian white coffee is very sweet 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 a process where coffee beans are roasted to a light yellow roast. The outcome is a thin yellow brew with a high acidic note.
The coffee beans are still roasted at a far lower temperature than traditional roasts and are used for espresso-based drinks.
They remain particularly difficult to grind, which is why most brands sell the product as a pre-ground solution rather than a whole bean option. It is still a bitter-less java while baristas are known to discard the first pour in favor of the smoother second pour.
The U.S variant is very similar to the Yemeni version, and the two options are often interchanged by baristas as well as home users.
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 have undoubtedly piqued your interest – especially as a pre-work morning brew.
Coffee shops know that this is an appealing USP, which is why they are happy to shout out about it. In reality, you needn’t pay it too much attention.
Caffeine levels are reduced due to roasting, which means the ultra-low roast of the white coffee will retain a great 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. Low roasts increase the chlorogenic acid levels, which can aid the body’s natural defenses against cardiovascular disease while additionally decreasing inflammation thanks to the antioxidant molecule.
Scientific studies into the benefits show that there is some benefit, but it is minimal and probably doesn’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 that suffers from acid reflux will want to add milk to counteract the presence of the higher acidity within the beans.
Does white coffee aid your appearance?
I’ve not seen enough evidence to suggest it definitely does. However, there’s no question that your diet impacts the appearance of your skin, hair, and body image.
A lot of people that switch to white coffee incorporate 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 prior to roasting, and they do not become white after the roasting or grinding procedures either.
The beige appearance is noticeably lighter than any other black coffee, though, especially in its espresso form.
When is the best time to have a white coffee?
Given the versatility of white coffee, you could potentially enjoy a beverage whenever fancying a cup of java. In reality, though, 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 flavor. As with the other key factors, though, it is largely 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 to be due to the acidity. As already covered, the shorter roasting time is shown to have a hugely positive impact on the acidity levels.
In turn, then, it is possible that consumers will avoid those withdrawal symptoms, which is another perceived positive of white 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, acidic but not bitter coffee that can be enjoyed in an espresso-based beverage. White coffee drinkers will need to choose the region of beans and presentation to suit their individual preferences, but the versatility makes it an area of coffee drinking that many will wish to explore.
On a personal level, since trying white coffee, it has become a semi-regular treat for me. 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 house could unlock the door to new opportunities, and if you like it, incorporate it into your home brewing too.