I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the easiest way to avoid having a bad coffee is to know which one you will like.

The way to do this? Learning the basics of coffee. Like every other subject, coffee can be broken down into many smaller categories: such as roast type, espresso, drip coffee and so on.

I’m going to be completely honest and say that I initially thought white coffee was just another term to talk about lattes, flat whites & other milk drinks. but it is far from it!

Today we will be learning about the 3 main roast categories and specifically what white coffee is.

There will also be some common flavor notes for the main roasts on the market to help you decide which roast might be the best for you!

So, without further ado…

Black Vs. White Coffee: What's the difference?

Now, before we get into discussing anything, you need to learn about the process of roasting coffee beans. Hint: It’s the most important step in making coffee

Coffee Roasting & The Most Common Roasts

The coffee roasting process is one of the most important steps in creating a great tasting cup of coffee.

Without this process, the coffee beans would stay green (yes, green!) and would have no taste, smell, or pretty much any flavor profile.

The flavors & smell that coffee lovers adore, comes majorly from the roasting process.

The roasting process can be incredibly complex as it varies from roaster to roaster and essentially is a giant chemistry project to make great coffee.

So, to start, we are going to take a quick peek into the three main coffee roasts to see how they are roasted. This will set the baseline for talking about black and white coffee late on.

Do you already know about the coffee roasting process? Click here to skip learn about white coffee!

The Three "Pillar" Coffee Bean Roasts


The majority of coffee on the market will fall into three main roast categories: light roast, medium roast, and a darker roast.

There are many more types of coffee beans that fall into sub-categories of these three.

For instance, you will find your city or cinnamon roasts in the light roast category. But for the most part these are going to be your three most commonly seen roasts on the market.



The coffee roasting process only begins after the harvested beans are processed and dried. After this has been done, the green coffee beans will be placed in roaster.

The amount of time the beans are roasted depends solely on the type of roast the company is trying to achieve.

In general, the green beans are roasted anywhere from 356 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit over a period of 7 to 20 minutes. As you might expect, the longer the beans stay in the heater, the darker the roast it will be.

Note: Black coffee is defined as a dark roast or darker roasted bean.

During this roasting period, a chemical reaction, called the Maillard reaction, takes place between the sugars and amino acids in the unroasted coffee beans.

This reaction creates the delicious flavors we coffee drinkers know and love!

Note: If you want to learn about the nitty gritty of coffee roasting and more about the Maillard reaction, check out the following posts & videos!

Now, a very important point in this roasting process is called the first crack.

At around 385 F, a cracking noise will occur when a lot of the moisture inside the beans has evaporated and needs to escape. 

This first crack is important to roasters as the coffee beans have approached the stage of being a light roast once it happens.

The iconic groove you see on coffee beans is from the cracks during the roasting process!


Now, because the beans are roasted for different periods of time, the flavors vary from roast to roast. Acidity and bitterness are two major flavors that change with how long the beans are roasted.

Below is a breakdown of the flavor basics for each main roast.

P.S. this is a great way to see which type of coffee you may like! I personally hate acidic coffee so I almost never go for a light roast.

  • Light Roast Coffee: roasted at about 356-401 F for 5-7 minutes
    • least bitter
    • more “origin characteristics” (unique flavors from the area the coffee beans were grown)
  • Medium Roast: roasted at about 410-428 F for 8-10 minutes
    • a middle ground for acidity and bitterness!
    • bright flavor profiles
  • Dark Roast Coffee: roasted between 464-482 F for 12-15 minutes
    • most likely to have a strong bitter taste
    • many dark roasts taste similar as the origin characteristics are lost due to the high heat
    • Produces oily, black beans depending on how dark the roast is

What is white coffee & where did it come from?

White coffee beans

Now that we’ve covered the basics of roasting and the most popular roasts, what exactly is white coffee?

I was surprised to find out that white coffee isn’t a type of drink like a latte or flat white.

Instead, white coffee is a roast of coffee that is even lighter than a light roast coffee.

Like I said earlier, there are the three main roasts when it comes to coffee, but there are many coffees that fall within or outside of these roasts. White coffee is a great example of this!

This extremely lightly roasted coffee originated in the middle east in Yemen, back in the early 1900’s, and was initially combined with hawaji, a spice mix from Yemen.

Hawaji, made up of cardamon, turmeric, cinnamon and more, deepens the nutty flavors of the drink while adding an earthy component as well.

If you want to try out Hawaji for yourself, you can find a great recipe here!

White coffee is typically only roasted at low temperatures, between 300 and 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and only for 5 to 6 minutes.

Now, the beans do undergo some of the roasting process, hence the color change from green to white, but they are taken out of the roaster before that important first crack.

What does white coffee taste like?

Now, as we mentioned, the beans don’t undergo “first crack” with white coffee, so unlike your typical coffee beans, white coffee has a unique flavor profile that is much more consistent, and subtle.

White coffee has been known to be more acidic than other coffee roasts and also have a nutty flavor component to the roast as mentioned before.

Due to the short roasting process, this roast has almost no bitter aftertaste to it!

I personally have yet to try white coffee so these flavor notes are based off of other people’s experiences and research, but hopefully I will get my hands on some soon!

Although I have yet to come across white coffee in my day-to-day life, the better health benefits of white coffee and increased caffeine content have helped popularity grow over the years.

Let’s go back and talk about that important roasting process now. There are two more topics that come into play with the popularity of white coffee: caffeine content and chlorogenic acid.

Caffeine Content

Remember when I talked about how the first crack happens because of some liquids in the green coffee beans evaporate and need to escape?

The caffeine in the coffee beans makes up some of the liquid that evaporates as the beans are heated.

Therefore, when the beans undergo a shorter roasting time, the higher the caffeine content will be.

White beans will have a higher caffeine content as they are roasted at a much lower temperature for a short amount of time. Comparatively, black coffee beans are roasted at higher temperatures for longer. Thus, more caffeine evaporates, and you are left with less caffeine in your cup of coffee.

Now although there is a difference in the caffeine levels, it is not drastic.

According to Latte Love Brew, the difference in how much caffeine is in a normal espresso shot vs a white coffee espresso shot is only around 4mg of caffeine.

but hey! when you’re looking for a caffeine kick, an additional 4mg doesn’t hurt!

Chlorogenic Acid

While you may have not heard about this ingredient in coffee beans, you probably have heard of the term antioxidants.

Antioxidants are found in a variety of healthy foods that you and I probably try and eat on a normal bases, such as fruit, veggies, whole grains and so on.

The antioxidants found in these foods are known to help your body stay healthy by fighting off free radicals.

Free radicals, or unstable atoms can occur in the body from a variety of things such as smoking and alcohol and can cause damage to the healthy cells in your body over time.

Some health issues that have been linked to free radicals going rogue are:

So obviously making sure you have enough antioxidants in your diet is important!

Fortunately, chlorogenic acid is one among them, giving coffee an excellent source of antioxidants.

The chlorogenic acid content in coffee, like the caffeine content, drops as the beans are roasted. As a result, lighter roast coffee has more antioxidants.

This just means that white coffee and other light roasts, aid in weight loss and have more health advantages over darker roasts of coffee.

So, you want to try it... where can you find it?

While you can try to hunt it down in your local coffee shop or grocery store, your best bet for a guaranteed find will be buying it online or at a specialty roaster.

Now, since I haven’t tried white coffee myself, I unfortunately have none to recommend, but Brew Smartly has put together a great list of their 5 recommended white coffee beans for 2023 that you can read here.

If you don’t feel like reading another article, here is a summary of a few of their recommended beans!

Note: The unique roasting process makes white coffee beans much harder and dense than regular coffee beans. Because of this you will need to have a special coffee grinder if you purchase a non-grounded bag of beans. I came across this article that has a great step-by-step guide on how to brew the best white coffee at home.

Final thoughts on the differences between white and black coffee

The roasting process has so much influence over how the flavor of your cup of coffee will develop. The caffeine content, although slight, does change with the roasting process as well as the acidity and bitterness the beans will produce.

Below is a side by side comparison of the main differences between white and black coffee!

White coffee is an extremely light roast that undergoes substantially less time in the roaster than other roasts of beans, creating a distinct nutty flavor that many people love.

The additional antioxidants found in white coffee only adds to the appeal and this roast has been officially added onto my list of new coffee drinks to try!

I hope you give it a try if you come across it, and if you do, drop a comment below to share your experience!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read today’s post! If you want to learn a bit more about the world of coffee check out these related articles:

if you haven’t already, check out the Procaffinator Instagram here for cafe review & coffee content!

I hope you have a great rest of your day and keep on procaffinating! 🙂