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Here’s How Starbucks Made the New Starbucks® Blonde Espresso

It’s probably more complex than you think.

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Starbucks just came out with a new everyday espresso blend for the first time since 1975: Starbucks® Blonde Espresso. You may have already tried it at your local store. But what exactly is Starbucks® Blonde Espresso, and how did Starbucks create it? We asked the real people who create new Starbucks products to explain.

Meet the team

Cameron Butcher and Sergio Alvarez are part of the team of coffee experts that develops new Starbucks products. They love coffee, and they’re passionate about the roasting and development process. They’ve been working on this new core espresso blend for years, and they’re excited to share this latest development with Starbucks customers.

What is Starbucks® Blonde Espresso?

Starbucks® Blonde Espresso flavor notes: smooth, caramelly, citrusy.

Starbucks® Blonde Espresso is the result of a new, unique roast profile. It’s different from other Starbucks espresso roasts. Whereas their signature espresso is rich and almost chocolatey, Starbucks® Blonde Espresso is citrusy and subtly sweet. With Starbucks® Blonde Espresso, the team explored a different roasting curve that pulls through a sweet, smooth and balanced flavor.

Why is this a big deal? Well, the difference comes through in the flavor of Starbucks® Blonde Espresso. It’s a subversion of the norms that people have come to expect of Starbucks. “I think of it as getting out of your comfort zone as a coffee drinker and maker,” says Sergio. As an analogy, think about beer and the difference between lagers and ales. “I’m into craft beer,” says Sergio, “So I like to compare our signature espresso with a stout or brown ale. But I don’t always like to drink dark beers. I also like what I consider everyday beers like a smooth and sweet Pale Ale. That is what Starbucks® Blonde Espresso is to me.”

How did they make it?

For espresso, everything starts with the raw green coffee bean, which is actually the seed of the coffee cherry fruit. Starbucks buys arabica, ethically-sourced coffees, which adds up to a total of 3 percent of the whole world’s coffee production. Climate, soil, varietal and how the fruit is picked and processed will determine what flavors and aromas roasters can develop out of that bean.

After the beans are processed, they get roasted. Starbucks experiments with different roast profiles to develop a unique flavor. The roast profile is how roasters manipulate temperature at key points during the coffee roast to create different flavors. Roasters visualize this process with the roasting curve, which maps temperature on the y-axis and time on the x-axis.

An example of a roasting curve.

The heat of the roasting machine triggers different chemical reactions that create nuances in aroma and flavor in just a few minutes.

Once the espresso blend is roasted, it goes to the cupping room. Cupping is the process by which expert coffee “tasters” and roast masters taste different espresso blends to find the best expression of aroma and flavors coming together in the cup. The small team at Starbucks can “cup” over 650 cups of coffee per day!

Only after a new espresso blend like Starbucks® Blonde Espresso passes these rigorous quality and development processes does it arrive in your local store and cup. “That’s what I love about Starbucks® Blonde Espresso,” says Cameron. “It’s an idea that we’ve thought about and worked on for a long time, so it feels really great to see people finally getting to enjoy it.”

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