Do blondes really have more fun?
Credit: Courtesy of Starbucks

A group of Cooking Light’s editors (and one coffee-loving nutritionist) took a pilgrimage over to the nearest Starbucks to sample various drinks made with the new blonde roast espresso. (I know, I know, our job is really hard sometimes.)

Our initial thoughts: It was good, but decidedly different from Starbucks’ OG signature espresso.

The classic version is a dark roast—which is strong, full-bodied, and has a deep caramel finish. The new blonde espresso is much lighter—almost tea-like. It’s brighter, more acidic, and has a fruity-sweet finish.

Starbucks hasn’t published nutritional info on the blonde espresso yet, but comparing a black blonde roast coffee to a dark roast, reveals the new espresso is likely to have about 28% more caffeine as well—meaning you may want to think twice before getting extra shots.

Since the blonde roast is so much lighter tasting, we were curious to see how it fared in classic drinks, like a cappuccino or iced latte. We measured and compared it against Starbucks’ signature espresso for reference.

The verdict? The lighter roast is delicious on its own, but it disappears almost entirely when paired with too much hot or cold milk. The signature espresso tasted better in both hot and iced lattes and cappuccinos.

Cooking Light’s Assistant Nutrition Editor Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, said, “In the iced and hot lattes, the blonde espresso gets drowned out. It’s like espresso with training wheels—you’d almost need an extra shot to get the traditionally rich taste you get with one shot of the signature espresso.”

Vespa recommends getting the blonde espresso as a shot on its own. It would also taste fine in an Americano. If you prefer a little milk, try the new roast as a cortado or a flat white.

She recommends shying away from flavors, syrups, and whipped cream, as they will overpower the espresso—and add major sugar and calories.

“You can choose to add soy, skim, or almond milk in a cortado or flat white—both of these drinks use less milk than a latte, so the flavor of the espresso comes through more prominently and you're getting a lower calorie drink overall.”

Bottom line: If you like an acidic, fruity flavor, try the blonde espresso. But you’ll want to choose a drink that highlights—not hides—its unique characteristics. And luckily, because you’re letting the espresso shine—instead of relying on milk or sugar to tone down the bitterness—those drinks also tend to be pretty healthy.