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White Coffee vs Black Coffee (What’s the Difference? It’s Not What You Think)

When I first heard of white and black coffee I thought I knew what was up. Isn’t white coffee just a black coffee with milk in it? Wow, I was a mile off, I had no idea.

As it turns out, the difference between white and black coffee is all down to the roast; white or black refers to the bean. A white coffee bean is roasted at a lower temperature for less time; it tastes sweet and light. A black coffee is roasted at higher temperatures for longer; it tastes darker, and more intense, like charcoal.

Black coffee is probably the bean we are more familiar with. White coffee the unique thing we’re talking about here. It’s certainly growing in popularity though.

Knowing this, I guarantee that if your granny offered you a coffee and asked if you want it black or white, she is asking if you want milk in it or not. We’re talking about a niche coffee fan thing here. You’ve got to gauge your audience.

white coffee beans and black coffee beans

What is The Difference Between White Coffee and Black Coffee?

Roasting Temperatures

As fas as roasting goes a white coffee bean has more just been shown the heat.

Black coffee is what most of us will be more familiar with. It is usually roasted anywhere between 375ºF to 480ºF (190 ºC to 250 ºC).

White coffee is roasted at around a much cooler 325ºF (160 ºC).

Caffeine Content

The heat of roasting coffee actually breaks down caffeine in the bean. While the more common black coffee will wake you right up, white coffee could give you a caffeine kick right up the ass.

This makes the higher caffeine white beans more appropriate for earlier in the day. A sweet cup of go juice to start your day. Black coffee is probably more suited for the afternoon or onwards to avoid that buzz keeping you up all night!

Some coffee aficionados will say that white coffee can have as much as 50% more caffeine than black coffee beans that number more comes from peoples opinion. When it comes down to it though, it’s really more like a 5% higher caffeine content.


When we talk about acidity in coffee, we are more talking about an aspect of the flavor, rather than its pH. Acidity is a key aspect of all foods nut just coffee. It gives a roundness, a fullness of flavor.

A darker roast will have a lower acidity, and a lighter roast has more acidity. This will contribute toward to sweet fruityness that white coffee is known for.

Taste and Aroma

With a cooler quicker roast, the white bean tastes more like the original unroasted bean itself. It’s light, sweet, fruity and a bit nutty. Whereas the hotter, longer, roast can take the flavor up to the typical dark coffee flavor and beyond toward more burnt charcoal and tobacco flavors.

When it comes down to it, white coffee and black coffee are the extreme ends of the coffee roast spectrum. There is every roast inbetween. Everyone has their favorite. You’ve just got to try them and see which you prefer.

Health Aspects: Calories and Antioxidants

Coffee and health might not be the first combination that comes to everyones mind.

Fresh brewed coffee without any milk, whether white coffee or black coffee, really doesn’t have many calories. An 8-ounce cup of coffee without milk has about 2 to 3 calories. An Espresso has about 1 calorie.


Milk and sugar however do have calories and they’re often drunk with coffee. Especially with white coffee. While it’s not a huge contribution to your recommended daily amounts it can add up if you’re guzzling cups all day.

  • One teaspoon of sugar has 20 calories
  • One dash of semi-skimmed milk, call it 1 ounce (30 ml), has 17 calories

So one small 8 ounce cup of coffee with a dash of milk and two teaspoons of sugar will have about 57 calories. A big 16 ounce mug? 114 calories. It can add up if you’re counting your calories.

Like your coffee black (without milk or sugar in this case) then there’s no need to give calories a second thought.


Coffee is famous for having plenty of antioxidants. Why are antioxidants good? They help protect cells in your body against free radicals. What are free radicals? A free radical is an atom, ion, or molecule which is very reactive; their want to react can cause damage in your body.

Is White Coffee Healthier Than Black Coffee?

As far as I can tell, and I like to read scientific papers, I havn’t found much evidence to think white roasted coffee beans are particularly healthier than black coffee beans. It might have higher levels of antioxidants. If you know something, please tell me all about it in a comment below!

The only certain health aspect between white beans and black beans is their caffeine content. If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine take it easy with white coffee.

The Origin of White Coffee

If trying to find the origin of white coffee I found a few different definitions and origins stories. As far as I can tell there is a fair bit of confusion as to where it came from.

Lebanese White Coffee

This is actually a coffee substitute and is caffeine free. It is made from water, orange blossom, and sugar.

Ipoh White Coffee

This isn’t the kind of white coffee we have been talking about here. Ipoh white coffee is a bean that has been roasted in margarine. It has a caramel flavour to it

Yemen White Coffee

This may be the origin of the modern day white coffee. Yemen have liked roasting their beans at low temperatures for centuries. Only, they typically add a blend of spices called hawaij. It’s a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves.

Indonesia White Coffee

In Indonesia white coffee is called, kopi putih, meaning beans which are roasted less than regular beans. This absolutely fits the bill of the white coffee we’re talking about.

The White Coffee of Today

So where did white coffee actually come from? Well, it’s possible it just originated alongside regularly roasted coffee beans. We know that Yemen and Indonesia both have a white coffee so it is possible that it’s just always been there but less popular. Or maybe Yemen and Indonesia both started roasting beans lighter independently. Who knows for sure!

How Do You Brew White Coffee and Black Coffee?

White Coffee

The short answer is espresso. White coffee is best brewed as an espresso. Be it a big high pressure espresso machine or a tidy stove-top moka pot.

If you try to brew coffee using a filter machine, or pour over method, you will probably find that it tastes pretty weak. This is probably why people tend to use a darker roast more often.

Black Coffee

Since black coffee, for the most part, is just your regular bean. Brew that sucker any way you normally would. You’ll have more success using these with drip and pour over methods than with white beans.

How Do You Roast White and Black Coffee?

You’re roasting these things yourself and not just buying a bag of white beans? Ok, whatever floats your boat. It’ll almost definitely take some practice though.

Well, roasting your own beans at home is totally do-able. You’ve just got to get your hands on some unroasted beans. You can use a pan, a grill, or even an oven.

You really want to be able to monitor that temperature though. So if you’re using a pan or grill you will want something like a laser thermometer. If you’re using an oven, which I think is easier, you will want to use a common oven thermometer.

Remember, you’re aiming to keep the temperature around 325ºF (160 ºC).

How Do You Grind White Coffee Beans?

White coffee beans are famously tougher than regular black roasted beans. White beans might be tough on your grinder. Make sure you’re using something heavy duty.

Usually if you’re buying your beans pre-roasted, like most people, the roaster will grind white beans for you. Simply because these things are tough stuff.

The More Familiar White Coffee

Like I said right at the beginning. Most people think of white coffee as a regular black coffee with some milk or creamer. If you’re planning to lament on white coffee, make sure you set the scene, explain it’s the roast.

Don’t worry. Neither name is wrong.


White coffee is a fairly new thing on the worldwide coffee scene. It’s a sweeter, nuttier, lighter roast. Best used with to make an espresso.

It’s still not the most common thing. So don’t be offended if you go into a coffee shop, ask for a white coffee, and get a black coffee with milk. Best to just elaborate with the barista first and find out if it’s something they actually do.

Related Reading

What Is The Difference Between Espresso Beans and Coffee Beans? (The Foundation Of Your Brew)

French Press Bloom – What Is it, How To Do It, and Should You do it?

Bodum Travel French Press Review

The Only Barista Guide You’ll Ever Need To Make Espresso (From Beginner to Pro)

Krups GVX2 Burr Grinder Review

How To Make Black Coffee Less Bitter (Tips And Tricks To A Better Brew)


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