Ever since white coffee became the new best thing for caffeine aficionados, it has been surrounded by a lot of curiosity. Not all coffee shops carry them as it’s not the most common type of coffee to have, but definitely something to try and fall in love with.
The truth is that once you go white, you never go back. We’re talking about coffee, of course, and you know what I mean if you had at least one already.
Coffee lovers would go that extra mile just to have a white coffee cup, not minding the extra times spent getting there, the added effort, or bigger dent in the budget.
But what is white coffee, actually? How is it made? How can you prepare yours at home and why isn’t it more popular? We’ll discuss all these things (and more) below.
Many people now wonder – are we able to roast coffee beans at home and still achieve the flavor and look of white coffee? Let’s spill the beans on White Coffee!
What is White Coffee?
Do we search for white coffee beans? Is there a fixed process and recipe? Do you need special coffee-roasting and making equipment? These are only some of the valid questions asked by coffee fans interested in this interesting type of caffeinated drink.
Let’s begin by weeding out what it is not, as there are actually several types of coffee that can sometimes be called “white”.
For starters, we should be clear that we are NOT talking about the Flat White – which is a latte-like expresso using micro foam.
Another “white coffee” is the traditional Malaysia White Coffee, where coffee beans are roasted with margarine then made into a creamy, sweet coffee through the addition of condensed milk. I have never tasted this, but I can only imagine how unhealthy it is (although possibily delicious!).
Finally, there is a popular Lebanese White Coffee which actually has nothing to do with coffee, being a non-caffeinated drink made with orange blossom water. So definitely not today’s topic!
The real White Coffee
Authentic White Coffee comes from coffee beans that are roasted at lower temperatures than regular beans (and also for a lower amount of time). The quality of the beans will – as it always happens – influence the taste and quality of your White Coffee roast.
You can use the normal hard green coffee beans such as Arabica or Robusta for the task.
The result is a very lightly roasted coffee bean that simply implodes with flavor. It’s not really green coffee (which tastes more like tea, in my opinion), but not your regular coffee either. It’s something completely new and spectacular.
While White Coffee is just now starting to become more and more popular, it’s not something completely new. Maybe new to the US or Europe, but in Yemen, it has been a staple drink for centuries.
It is so rooted there that families have their own special mixes forming roasts from a variety of ingredients, the base of which is the Coffee Hawaij. Somehow, this found their way to specialty cafes then ultimately ended being a hit worldwide.
So, for all of us who love the taste and uniqueness of White Coffee, we have the Yemeni people to thank to. The country itself is unfortunately in a very bad position right now, so at the moment it’s not advisable to plan a trip there to taste the real deal.
Instead, you can easily purchase your white roasted coffee beans online (affiliate link) and instantly enjoy your drink at home.
But if you want to make your white coffee from scratch, we’ve got you covered!
Roasting your own White Coffee
The pale color of White Coffee comes from the green coffee beans being subjected to a lower temperature, not roasted all the way until it is dark, eliciting a nuttier taste and light-colored brew.
Coffee bean quality is quite important as it affects the taste of the finished product, so don’t scrimp on this!
In order to get the light roast, you will need to set your oven’s temperature to around 325 degrees Fahrenheit and let it roast until you get that yellow-ish color. It will take some time, but make sure you are nearby and constantly checking!
Preferably, purchase green coffee beans. Some do the roast with white coffee beans as well. These beans are still laden with moisture. You pop them into your roaster equipment of choice and they will slowly change color from a darker yellow to a lighter brown.
If you are an experienced coffee bean roaster, you will know at how many minutes your beans will start to pop and crack. But by the time this happens, you would have produced a Light Roast and NOT White Coffee. You want to remove the beans just before they make that crackling sound.
Popping and cracking means that the coffee beans have dried and a huge part of their natural moisture has evaporated. For White Coffee, we want to preserve that moisture because that is what renders the special taste of the lighter than light roast.
Once you have captured the timing of when to pull out your coffee beans from the roast, transfer them to another container where you can allow them to cool.
Do not keep them in the pan you used in your roaster, otherwise the heat will continue to sear into the beans, making your roast uneven.
Once cooled, you can now break the beans up, preferably in a powerful blade grinder or if you have it, a heavy duty home coffee grinder.
How does white coffee taste?
Because of the lighter brewing process, the beans don’t turn into that darker coffee color that most of us are used to.
It is because the natural sugars in the beans are not allowed to caramelize, stripping it of that bitter aftertaste.
Instead, it will have a bright acidic flavor that comes from the bean’s organic acids that have not evaporated in the roasting process. This earns White Coffee the base taste label of “Nutty”.
Does white coffee have more caffeine than regular coffee?
Actually, it does! However, it is still debatable how much.
Some companies and coffee shops claim that white coffee has as much as 50% more caffeine than regular beans, but it could be as low as 5% according to others.
Either way, because the beans are not fully roasted, they retain more caffeine, so you’re definitely getting a bigger bang from your drink, anything between 5% to 50% more than regular coffee.
How to brew a perfect white coffee?
Whether you make your own roast or purchase a ready-to-brew White Coffee pack, you will find the beans to be denser and harder than regular ones.
Of course, they are lighter in color and do not brew the same as your regular roasts. For this reason, you must have a good grinder on hand if you plan to roast at home.
To brew the perfect cup of white coffee at home, you have some DIY options.
The best choice would be to brew it in an espresso machine, a Moka pot, or Aeropress which has high heat and yields that concentrated brew that white coffee requires.
In your regular home coffee brewer, run the white coffee beans as you normally. A thin translucent brew will come out which looks unlike white coffee – or any coffee for that matter.
You can do second or third pour-over, meaning you need to replace the liquid into the water well and brew again to achieve that taste. Some add a tad of dark roast to achieve a bolder, smoky taste but then, that would not be quite authentic.
It might take time, but it beats getting dressed, driving out, and waiting in line for your cuppa. Apologies in advance to the professional baristas!
Some swear by using their French Press to brew white coffee but you need to steep the beans for a longer period of time. This is due to the lack of high-pressure pressing in this piece of coffee-making equipment. The underroasted beans of white coffee need that for the flavors to seep out.
For the final touch and the original taste of the real White Coffee, you can concoct your own Hawaij, the base of which is cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg plus turmeric, cardamom, and yes – black pepper, fennel, star anise, and cumin.
If you find this too tedious, you can always buy a hawaij mix to add to your white coffee brew. It is this spice blend that highlights that wonderful nutty undertone that makes white coffee stand out.
Drinking White Coffee… Black
You heard it right! Hardcore coffee lovers would strongly suggest that this lightest of coffee roasts be consumed sans any addition of dairy or creamer since it overpowers the inherent nutty flavor.
The most they recommend is a dash of almond milk, which has a more organic and nut-based flavor rather than a rich creamy undertone.
You can go either sweet or savory. Sweet is of course, adding your sweetener of choice while savory is keeping it “black” with only the hawaij mix added in. Those are our recommendation, but of course, you can do as you like.
We learned this the hard way along the way: it doesn’t really matter how others tell you that you should drink or eat something. Find the combination that works best for you and do it like that: it’s YOU who has to enjoy it.
Enjoy the Ride
Making White Coffee at home from a to z is not an easy process. If you manage to perfect the timing and capture that aromatic nutty taste that you love, then it is definitely worth the time and effort spent – not to mention the savings!
If not, then it will surely make one gain more respect to our baristas who have perfected their craft so that we can enjoy our favorite caffeine fix.
Or, as we have discussed already, you can buy the roasted beans directly to simplify the process. Whatever your choice is, white coffee is definitely here to stay and enjoy.