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What Is White Coffee? – Know Your Cup of Joe

Ashe Samuels
Last Updated: February 27th, 2023

My cup of coffee is often a golden brown after I measure out my milk and brown sugar ratio, though sometimes I’ll indulge in a black cup depending on the specialty bag I’m working through.

White coffee, however, is its own creation entirely. It’s a subtle change, but one that can make all the difference depending on your palate.

What is white coffee? Not to be confused with the popular New Zealand Flat White Coffee, white coffee is distinct in being roasted half of the way through and at a lower temperature.

This results in a whitish-colored bean as well and a higher amount of caffeine. Flavour-wise, you can expect a nutty and sweet profile that is noticeably different from your traditional coffee.

Below we will go into more details on the drink as well as how to make it for yourself at home!


Coffee With Dessert

How Does Temperature Affect Coffee Flavor?

There’s nothing quite like a hot, fresh latte in the morning…or an iced latte over lunch!

Statistics only continue to support this simple fact, such as Statista’s 2019 study of American coffee consumption: the United States consumes 27 million bags of coffee every year, up from 25 million bags just the prior year.

The style of coffee consumed varies from demographic to demographic, with each type boasting its own devoted fanbase. The temperature of coffee has a way of exaggerating flavors and aromas. It’s why the same coffee bean can taste different depending on if it’s a hot mocha or a glass of cold brew.

Cold brew is known for having a smooth mouthfeel and rich, heady flavors that range from dark chocolate to sweet molasses. Due to its method of extracting beans through cool water over the course of a day, acidity is kept to a minimum.

This will yield a different result than mixing in hot espresso shots with cold milk in an iced latte, which still boast that familiar roasted kick. For those who brew at home, take care not to let your hot water reach a high boiling point. This can burn your beans!

In short…yes. Temperature is a huge factor in how coffee tastes and smells.

Does The Roast Level Matter To White Coffee?

White coffee is already similar to the popular cafe au lait and the latte, which offer their own unique qualities concerning roast level.

Medium roasted and dark roasted coffee is the preferred roast in the United States, according to Statista. Lightly roasted coffee trails behind, likely due to its more mild flavors and very subtle aroma.

Now, that’s not to say dark roasts aren’t finicky. They have to be tended closely, as they can easily burn and turn out too bitter or harsh. For those that want the gentle and sweet white coffee, dark roasts might actually be better off exchanged for a lightly roasted bag.

Freshly roasted coffee is also seeing some changes in perception. There is increasing evidence that letting your fresh bag of coffee beans sit for a few days will actually encourage its chemical make-up to mature properly, leading to a more flavorful cup.

It’s not unlike the aging process that goes into a bottle of red wine. The acidity level in roasted coffee not only enhances its flavor but protects it from going stale prematurely.

Should you want to level up your coffee knowledge, do a little reading on the different bean varieties in circulation, too.

Learning about your favorite roast level will take a few experimental cups. I can definitely think of worse ways to spend disposable income!

Is A White Coffee The Same As A Flat White?

The flat white is easily one of the most polarizing and misunderstood coffee drinks out there (and I hardly ever got requests for it during my barista days).

The ratio of espresso, milk, and foam creates entirely different drinks. Want a pile of creamy foam to top your morning off? Depending on how much you want, you should order a dry or wet cappuccino.

If you’re eager for an even mixture of milk and espresso without the fluff, there’s a cafe au lait with your name on it. The flat white is yet another variation, putting a spin on the classic latte by using less milk and less foam to bring out the espresso’s complex flavors. It boils down to what you want to taste and feel the most.

It’s important to know the difference between froth and microfoam, too, which look similar to the naked eye. If you’ve ever worked at a coffee shop, you’ll know that one is much easier to work with than the other!

Microfoam is characteristically silky, creamy and a delight to make latte art with. Froth, on the other hand, is drier and often used as a way to top off a drink. A flat white won’t have any froth so you can focus on the espresso shot (often in a smaller cup, to boot).

Next time you go to a cafe (which still won’t be a safe decision for a while), consider ordering a flat white. It might just be the variation that speaks to you the most.

If you want to try making a Flat White at home check out this tutorial video.

flat white coffee
Image: Russell James Smith

What Is A White Coffee?

Now that we’ve separated the flat white from the latte and the cafe au lait, it’s time to figure out what white coffee is.

This may come as no surprise…but this answer can change a little depending on who you ask and where they’re from. White coffee is very milky and makes a good comfort drink.

Some define it as a coffee that uses cold or room temperature milk, while others stress the need for dehydrated milk or milk substitutes like dairy-free creamer.

Many cafes in the United States only use very lightly roasted beans in white coffee to keep it as gentle and sweet as possible. Which recipe you choose will depend on your diet, allergens, and personal taste.

White coffee is not just a Western staple, either. It’s rather popular in other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, and the definition only continues to evolve from there. Some countries will create their white coffee not through milk or substitutes, but through additional spices or the roast level of their beans.

You could have an entire globetrotting trip drinking only white coffee and still find yourself dazzled at every point and turn.

What is white coffee? All in all, it’s a drink that’s somehow very simple and very complex.

Can I Make A White Coffee At Home?

This will come as no surprise, but…absolutely!

Home brewing has been exploding this year due to cafes being shut down. White coffee at its most generalist definition still relies on a black cup enhanced with simple additives like room temperature milk or milk substitute.

As long as you prioritize a mild light roast and get a proper coffee to additive ratio, you’ll have a delicious cup. The pour-over is an affordable home brewing addition with minimal clean-up. If you’re too busy in the morning, consider a classic coffeemaker instead.

Here are some tips to keep your coffee tasty. As touched on above, freshly roasted coffee is an essential part of any coffee set-up. That said, letting your bag sit for a few days after the roast date can bring out further complexity.

Keep your kettle below the boiling point so you don’t burn your beans and pay close attention to the grind level you’re using. Each brewing method comes with its own specifications, such as the French Press favoring coarse grinds and the pour-over preferring medium-fine.

With the dalgona craze come and gone, white coffee could be the next fun recipe to keep you occupied.

What Is White Coffee? – Conclusion

What is white coffee? Now you have an answer next time you’re sifting through your cupboards and thinking of how to shake up your routine.

This coffee drink is yet another example of why coffee culture is at its best when it’s open-minded and creative.

White coffee at a New York restaurant might end up very similar to a cafe au lait, while a white coffee in Thailand could be more similar to a soft, smooth tea. Variety really is the spice of life.

About The Author

Ashe Samuels

Ashe is a B2B copywriter, digital marketer, and graphic designer for the coffee, tea, and alcohol niches. Here I share industry news, review products, and analyze social trends.

Just so you know, if you click on a product on and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

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