What is White Coffee? Don't be Fooled by Trends!

Updated on: March 13, 2023
Author: Alex DeCapri
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What is White Coffee?

It seems like every week a new coffee trend comes around, taking the global coffee community by storm.

What is white coffee?

You may have heard about it as this new type of coffee that offers additional caffeine boosts or even health benefits. But what exactly is it?

In this article, we explore the details of white coffee, from its origins to its current hype. Continue reading to see what this drink is truly about.

The Origin of White Coffee

While white coffee touts itself as one of the latest fads in Western coffee culture, it actually originated in the Middle East.

Centuries ago in Yemen, people began roasting their coffee at much lower temperatures. The beans were roasted so lightly that they didn’t even turn brown. They remained this beige color, hence the name “white” coffee.

Traditionally, the people of Yemen brewed white coffee with a spice called hawaji. While there are several variations of this blend, hawaji usually consists of cumin, black pepper, turmeric, and cardamom. [1]

White coffee tends to have a nuttier flavor profile, which pairs well with this spice.

Yemen White Coffee with Hawaji

Is Malaysian White Coffee the Same Thing?

The term “white coffee” can also be found in Malaysia. During the 19th century, the city of Ipoh, Malaysia introduced a roasting technique that used palm oil margarine during the actual roast.

Still practiced today, the beans are then brewed and served with sweetened condensed milk. This final beverage is called “white coffee,” but Malaysian white coffee beans aren’t the same as the white coffee beans that this article refers to.

What is White Coffee Exactly?

White coffee has nothing to do with a type of beverage like flat whites (as good as they are) or whiteners like milk and cream. It refers to the extremely light roast that the green coffee beans undergo. 

Typically, white coffee beans are roasted to a final temperature of 325°F (162°C). This might sound pretty hot, but it’s actually a very low temperature when roasting coffee beans.

Typically, even lighter Scandinavian-style roasts tend to end around 400°F (204°C), with dark Italian roasts going as high as 480°F (248°C).

The fully roasted coffee beans that most of us know and love are brown in color. Because white coffee beans are roasted at a lower temperature and pulled before the first crack, they don’t go through the same process and reactions as traditional coffee.

The Maillard reaction is the chemical reaction that’s responsible for most of the browning and flavor development in coffee. This phase is cut short with white coffees, resulting in a beige color.

White coffee beans are much harder and denser as a result of this roast, which makes them more difficult to grind than regular roasted coffee.

Coffee Roasting Process

How Does White Coffee Taste?

White coffee beans usually have a nutty flavor with high acidity and low bitterness. 

While bright acidity is normally considered a positive flavor trait in coffee, that’s not the type of acidity that white coffee contains.

There are more chlorogenic acids that aren’t broken down in white coffee than in normal coffee. These acids are a primary source of astringency. [2]

What is astringency? We had the same question...

It’s basically the lingering drying or puckering sensation in your mouth. In high amounts, this produces an unpleasant flavor in coffee and a weird mouth feel.

Almost like hair is growing on your tongue... Ewww!

In white coffee, the roast process doesn’t over-caramelize the natural sugars in the bean. This leads to less bitterness, but it also prohibits the development of complex flavor compounds.

Roasting coffee to lower temperatures can cause more green and vegetative flavors in the final brew. These flavors can be found in the green section of the flavor wheel below and have descriptors like “under-ripe,” “hay-like,” “fresh,” and “beany.”

If roasters aren’t careful, these flavors may overpower the pleasant “nutty” flavor that white coffee is known to have.

Of course, many things can affect the final flavor of your coffee.

While the type of roast and method of brewing certainly impact flavor, the variety of the coffee bean and how it was processed are also major contributors.

Each white coffee that you try may taste totally different! That’s one of the beautiful things about coffee.

How is White Coffee Served?

White coffee can be served and enjoyed in all the same ways as regular coffee. How you choose to brew and serve it will affect the flavors significantly.

Since white coffee roasts are underdeveloped compared to regular roasts, the beans are a lot denser and less porous.

This means that you will need to grind the beans finer than normal in order to extract as much of the coffee as possible when brewing.

Since a fine-grind size is preferred, we recommend you serve it as white coffee espresso. AeroPress and Moka Pots are also good brewing methods that result in a more concentrated cup of coffee. Just remember: white coffee lacks the body that most people associate with a strong cup of regular coffee.

If you want to keep your white coffee experience as authentic as possible, you can add hawaji spice like the Yemenis.

Another option is to add your favorite type of milk to make a latte or cappuccino. We recommend trying plant-based nut milk, as the flavor of the beverage will pair well with the already nutty flavor of the coffee.

Does White Coffee Have More Caffeine Than Regular Coffee?

White coffee is regularly marketed as having 50% or more caffeine content than regular coffee.

It's fake news!!!!

White coffee is not instant coffee

There is a lot of misinformation and confusion claiming that caffeine is “roasted out” during the roast process.

This is not the case.

While caffeine doesn’t burn off when coffee is roasted, the beans lose their mass.

This mainly happens as water trapped in the bean evaporates at higher temperatures. The longer/darker the roast goes, the more mass is lost.

If you measure coffee by volume (using scoops to prepare your cup), light coffee will actually have more caffeine than dark roast coffee.


If you measure coffee by weight (using a scale), dark-roasted coffee will have more caffeine than light-roasted coffee. Because darker roasts have less mass per bean, you end up using more beans. The amount of caffeine in each bean doesn’t change…

So using more beans means more caffeine.

If this is making your head spin, you are not alone. But don’t let it confuse you. Just know that if you are making your cup of coffee using volumetric scoops, your white coffee may contain a bit more caffeine than normal coffee. But you still won’t be anywhere near a 50% increase in caffeine.

Don’t let false marketing trick you. The difference in caffeine is minimal.

Caffeine Content is Minimal

What really makes a difference in the caffeine levels of coffee is the type of bean you use. Some varieties are known for having higher or lower levels of caffeine. The Laurina variety, for example, has a caffeine percentage between 0.4-0.75%. Most other arabica varieties have 1.2-1.6% of caffeine. [3]

The brewing method also heavily influences the amount of caffeine that goes into your final cup. Grinding your coffee beans finer and extracting them longer during the brewing process will increase the amount of caffeine in the final beverage.

The roast level doesn’t have much of an influence on final caffeine levels.

Health Benefits of White Coffee

Do you remember those chlorogenic acids we mentioned earlier?

They are also famous antioxidants!

Antioxidants protect cells against free radicals, which are essentially bad things in our bodies that may play a part in heart disease, cancer, and other medical issues. [4]

Antioxidants in white coffee protect cells against free radicals

In addition to being antiviral and anticarcinogenic, chlorogenic acid enhances our cell’s defense mechanisms. [5]

Antioxidants can help protect against cardiovascular disease and decrease inflammation.

White coffee has more chlorogenic acids than coffee roasted normally, but there is not enough evidence to suggest that it is significant enough to justify switching your daily coffee routine for health benefits alone.

In other words, while drinking white coffee may be slightly healthier than drinking normal coffee, it probably won’t have any major effect on your health. We suggest drinking whatever you find most delicious.

Can You Make White Coffee at Home?

Since it’s still pretty difficult to find a coffee shop that roasts in this style, your best bet is to make white coffee at home.

If you already roast your own beans at home, you can use the green beans that you already have. All you have to do is roast them to a lower final temperature of about 325°F (162°C).

That being said, unless you have a commercial grinder, we recommend buying your beans from roasters that already sell pre-ground bags of white coffee.

White Coffee Beans a lightly roasted Green Coffee Beans

Because white coffee beans are very dense, using a regular grinder will be difficult and possibly damaging. This also means don't even bother using a manual coffee grinder...

While we normally suggest buying whole beans and grinding at home, you may have to live with a little bit of staleness in this situation.

Once you have some pre-ground white coffee, we recommend using it in your automatic espresso machine or even your portable espresso maker!

Where to Buy White Coffee (And Our Recommendations)

There is no such thing as a “white coffee bean.” All coffee beans are unroasted (green coffee) before being roasted.

Since white coffee beans are simply any coffee roasted to about 325°F (162°C), you can buy this specialty coffee anywhere that has this roasting process.

There aren’t that many roasters and coffee shops serving white coffee yet. Here are some roasters that you can order from online that offer pre-ground bags of white coffee. We recommend trying one of these to see how you like the stuff!

Poverty Bay Coffee Company - “White Tornado”

With over 30 years of experience in coffee sourcing and roasting in the Pacific Northwest, Poverty Bay Coffee Co remains one of the most popular options for buying white coffee online. They sell their bags pre-ground for an espresso machine in 1 lb or 2 lbs.

Wired Willey’s White Coffee

Pre-ground for use in espresso machines, Wired Willey’s White Coffee comes in 16 oz, 2 lb, and 4 lb bags. They claim their coffee has a very nutty and sweet taste.

Caffe Appassionato Bianco Ground White Coffee

Caffe Appassionato is a small-batch roasting company in Seattle, Washington. They pride themselves in offering high-quality and full-bodied coffee beans with very low acidity. They offer 1lb and 2lb ground coffee bags.

People Also Search For:

FAQ's about White Coffee Beans

What’s the difference between white coffee and regular coffee?

The only difference between white coffee and regular coffee is the type of roast. White coffee is roasted to around 325°F (162°C), while normal coffee roasts tend to vary from 400°F (204°C) for lighter roasts to 480°F (248°C) for darker roasts.

Because white coffee is roasted to a lower temperature and for a shorter amount of time, the coffee beans don’t become brown. They turn more of a beige color, giving the roasted beans the name “white” coffee.

While there is a lot of confusion around the term, there isn’t a special type of white coffee bean. White coffee is the roasted coffee beans that result from roasting any green (unroasted) beans to around 325°F (162°C).

Any variety of coffee cherry processed as a washed, dry, honey, or anything else, can become white coffee if roasted in this particular way.

This roasting style originated in Yemen, dating back centuries. There, the people normally brew white coffee with a spice mix called hawaji, a blend of cumin, black pepper, turmeric, and cardamom.

Is white coffee good for you?

White coffee contains a higher amount of chlorogenic acids than normal coffee. Since the beans are roasted to a lower temperature, less of these acids are broken down and converted into flavor compounds.

Chlorogenic acids are well-known antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells against free radicals, which are essentially bad things in our bodies that may play a part in heart disease, cancer, and other medical issues.

While white coffee does contain a higher amount of chlorogenic acids than normal coffee, there is not enough evidence to suggest that we receive increased health benefits from switching to white coffee from normal coffee.

Why is it called white coffee?

White coffee was named this way due to the light beige color of the roasted beans. White coffee is roasted to around 325°F (162°C), while normal coffee roasts tend to vary from 400°F (204°C) for lighter roasts to 480°F (248°C) for darker roasts. Because of the lower heat, the beans don’t become as brown as normal coffee.

Is white coffee just milk?

White coffee actually has nothing to do with whiteners such as milk or creamers. It refers to the way the coffee bean is roasted. In this process, lower temperatures are used and result in roasted coffee beans that are light beige than brown in color. The lighter color gave “white” coffee its name.

You can certainly brew your white coffee however you like, whether as an espresso, moka pot, french press, or pour-over. Add your favorite milk as you normally would with regular coffee.

Roasting Process

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Everything you need to know about white coffee, how it’s made, and what makes it different than normal “black” coffee.

White coffee isn’t a different kind of coffee drink and has nothing to do with creamers or milk. It’s all about the extremely light roast. 

White coffee offers a different, nuttier flavor profile than most traditionally roasted coffee. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly has its place and has been around for centuries.

Will you try this latest trend and get your hands on a bag of white coffee? Don’t forget to add hawaji spice to enjoy it in the authentic Yemeni style.

Alex DeCapri is a curious coffee writer and specialty coffee roaster. Currently, he is slowly making his way from the United States to Brazil in his camper van, visiting as many coffee farms as possible!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.

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