What Is A Flat White Coffee And Where Does It Come From?

by | Apr 28, 2019

If you’ve ever had white coffee, you’ll know why it’s the new ‘thing in town’ that’s taking over the world. White coffee with its unique flavor, wonderful aroma and great impact on health is now one of the go-to choices in the world of coffee lovers.

When it comes to having a cup of normal black coffee vs. a white coffee, the general consensus is that black coffee is just what you expect when you’re having a coffee: the sight, taste and aroma. However, white coffee is something altogether different!

Growing up in San Francisco means being a coffee lover to the extreme. The coffee shops in and around the Bay are nothing to be laughed at, with most offering such amazing coffee thrills it’s no wonder we’re all caffeinated to the very tips of our toes!

With so many new specialty coffee shops coming up all over the city (and across the nation), there’s intense competition on specialist roasts, with one of the newer trends being white coffee.

So I’ve been exploring everything about white coffee: how it’s made, what makes it white, where it originates from and what to do when you’re faced with a cuppa.

Where Does A Flat White Coffee Come From?

White coffee is a nutty, under-roasted coffee which is now becoming more and more popular all over the world. It’s what you get when coffee beans are roasted at barely half the temperature that fully roasted coffee beans are baked at only about 325 degrees F. In addition to this, they’re only roasted for half the time it takes to do a dark roast.

The concept of white coffee is said to have originated in the Middle East or more specifically: Yemen. While it may be an upcoming trend in the US and Europe, white coffee has been around for quite a while in the Middle East, where it is normally had with a traditional spice mix called Hawaji.


How is White Coffee Roasted?

Of the five main processes of coffee roasting that lead to a full, dark roast, only the initial step is undertaken to obtain the under-roasted white coffee beans: the endothermic stage. At the endothermic stage, green coffee beans are slowly revolved in the roaster at a temperature of approximately 325-345 F. As the process begins, the white coffee beans are still green coffee beans. As they start roasting, they start drying out slowly and turning yellow.

At this stage, there is a minimal form of the acidic compounds that are found in dark roasts. The white coffee beans are removed from the roaster before the ‘first crack’ – the main process where beans start turning dark due to the chemical reactions happening within. The white coffee beans are then cooled and ground.


Is It White in Color?

White coffee isn’t actually white in color: It’s more a pale beige.  White coffee beans aren’t actually white. They’re more yellow than any other color. So if you’re expecting it to be ‘white white’, you’ll be disappointed. White coffee is only named so because it’s completely unlike its dark counterpart: the black coffee!


Does Dark Roast Have More Caffeine?

The main difference that separates black and white coffee is the roasting temperature. Black coffee is made from coffee beans which are roasted in caramel to temperatures of up to 464 F whereas white coffee is only roasted up to 325F. Also, black coffee beans have most of their caffeine ‘burnt’ due to the high temperatures, whereas white coffee beans retain their high levels of caffeine.

white coffee or black coffee ground

Other differences between black and white coffee arise in the form of the aroma. White coffee has a sweeter, more delicate aroma than its black counterpart. Also, when it comes to the level of bitterness, white coffee rules! Black coffee comprises of many compounds, some of which cause the coffee to be bitter. White coffee is fresher (hasn’t been roasted as long as the dark roasts), which is why it isn’t as bitter as black.


How Does White Coffee Taste?

In my opinion, white coffee tastes quite nutty and slightly acidic when you start off with the first sip. As you continue drinking though, the nuttiness seems to escalate and the caffeine kicks in! Most coffee aficionados who prefer their coffee without any sugary additives may find white coffee to be slightly more bitter than its black counterpart because of higher levels of the alkaloid trigonelline.

According to an informal study (essentially people I’ve asked) – white coffee has a somewhat grassy taste which takes a bit of getting used to. Apparently, this grassy flavor is because of the ‘barely-there roasting process’ and is quite potent when you begin your beverage, and hardly noticeable as you work your way through it.


Why Is It So Popular With Coffee Lovers?

Apart from its unique nutty under-taste, acidic flavor and thick aroma that tends to really grow on one (it did with me), white coffee is popular for another reason: the level of caffeine it boasts. As coffee beans get roasted, the amount of caffeine they sport decreases with increased temperature.

This means that an under-roasted coffee boasts a lot more caffeine (up to 50% more than dark roasted coffee)! If you’re a student, you may find yourself having a daily dose of white coffee just to get you through exams!


Health Benefits of White Coffee

White coffee is also purported to have more health benefits since it retains more of its original structure due to the lower roasting temperature. Most coffee shops market white coffee as a health and weight-loss beverage, mostly due to higher levels of chlorogenic acid in the drink. Chlorogenic acid is known to be an antioxidant, which helps you to control blood pressure, maintain diabetes levels as well as lose weight.


Grind It At Home Or Not?

It takes a special type of grinder – mostly commercial – to grind white coffee beans considering their hardness. These beans are tougher than darker coffee beans, mostly because of their plant-based fibers.  This is why it’s always best to buy pre-ground white coffee so your home grinder doesn’t take a beating every time you want to have a cuppa. You might feel that in doing so, you’re compromising on the ‘freshness’ of the white coffee beans, but rest assured: your home grinder will definitely thank you.


How To Prepare White Coffee Black Style!

Pre-ground white coffee is an ideal ground for espresso machines since it is usually served best as an espresso. Espresso machines give the best flavor of white coffee because they extract the exact amount of flavor you need by running the water through at a speed and temperature ideal for getting the most out of your coffee. However, if you feel like your white coffee is a bit too bland, try running it through the espresso machine again with the same grind.

If you’re a barista, you might think that this is so not cool: but then again, white coffee is a whole other ball game so the rules that apply to normal black coffee don’t exactly apply here.


White Coffee With Milk

Most specialty coffee shops offer the intriguing experience of white coffee with milk. Milk tends to reduce the acidic factor and boosts the nuttiness of the beverage – and almond milk does this the best. So if you really like the taste of white coffee but are suffering from acid reflux, why not try it with milk and give your taste buds a chance to try something new?


Baristas and White Coffee

As a coffee aficionado, you’ve probably experimented with different types of roasts – medium roasts, dark roasts, city roasts, etc. However, you probably haven’t seen any exciting recipes with white coffee as the main ingredient.

Since white coffee is the new kid on the block, there aren’t too many (or enough) recipes which use it. This is where you, as an amateur or professional barista, come in. It’s time to try your hand at creating new bold and flavorful recipes using white coffee.

After all, it is projected to become one of the most popular beverages across the globe – so you don’t want to lose out on your chance to create something that’s so amazing it will probably take over the world, do you?


Where Can I Find White Coffee

A few years ago, you’d have to visit a super-specialty coffee store to get pre-ground white coffee. Today, there is not only a wider variety of white coffee blends to choose from but also a host of online retail stores that deliver what you need right to your house.

On Amazon, the most popular white coffee blends are the Wired Willeys White Coffee, Cafe Appassionato Ground White Coffee and the Espresso Classico WHITE Ground Gourmet Coffee. Other amazing white coffee pre-ground blends include the Alaskan Artisan White Coffee and the White Tornado.


Final Words

With the popularity that white coffee is gaining across the world, it’s no secret that in the battle between black and white coffee, the underdog might just take over and have the last laugh!

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