Black Coffee vs. White Coffee: How Do They Match Up?

Picture of different levels of roasting coffee beans

Coffee is made from the roasted beans of an African-native evergreen plant. The modern-day equivalent of this beverage has roots dating back as early as the 13th century, and cultivation of the plant has been documented since the 15th century.

Coffee beans are prepared using various methods resulting in different types of coffee. This can be understood when exploring the roasting practices of coffee beans. When the temperatures and times for roasting coffee beans are altered, several types of coffee are developed. For example, white coffee and black coffee have unique roasting temperatures, and the amount of time the beans are exposed to heat varies. As a result, the beverages these beans brew are vastly different from one another in the areas of caffeine and taste.

Black Coffee Basics

When people think of a fresh cup of coffee, this is the beverage people most often picture. Without any additives, it is dark brown in color. It can also be purchased in four different roasts: light, medium, medium-dark, and dark.

Before roasting, coffee beans are green. It’s the roasting process that makes the beans smell like the beloved coffee beverage many of us know today. It also infuses the iconic coffee flavor into the beans. The aroma, caffeine, and taste vary, however, depending on the type of roast being brewed.


The impact roasting temperatures and times have on a resulting freshly brewed cup of coffee is colossal. That can be understood when examining light roasts and dark roasts.

Light Roasts

Light roasts reach an internal temperature of somewhere between 356°F to 401°F. When finished, right after the bean cracks for the first time, they appear light brown and dry. This process can take around 10 minutes or less.

Since roasting at high temperatures for longer periods of time is what weakens caffeine content and acidity, light roasts tend to be highly caffeinated and acidic. The beans have also been described as having a slightly fruity smell and produce brews with subtle notes of citrus.

Dark Roasts

Dark roasts are typically processed somewhere between 464°F and 482°F. When finished, they are oily and almost black in color. Since the beans are roasted longer than light roasts, they tend to have less caffeine.

Dark roast is preferred by many for its chocolatey, toasty, and robust notes. Although not acidic like lighter roasts, dark roasts have a fair amount of bitterness to them. These beans are processed the longest, taking roughly 15 minutes to be fully charred and processed.

White Coffee Basics

White coffee is made from coffee beans that are only half-roasted. This under-roasted quality is achieved at lower temperatures, somewhere between 300°F and 325°F. The beans are also removed from the heat source before they crack. Although the beans start out green, just as with beans roasted to make black coffee, the end result is vastly different.

When fully processed, white coffee beans are hard, dense, dry, and a light beige color. Similarly, they produce a pale beige and slightly translucent brew, distinctly different looking from that of black coffee. Since the beans are not roasted for long, they do have a high amount of acidity to them.

Caffeine & Taste

Since the coffee beans used to make white coffee aren’t roasted for very long, they preserve 50% more caffeine than beans that are allowed to roast longer. So, depending on the brewing method, a serving of white coffee can potentially have more caffeine than black coffee. This is especially true when making a concentrated espresso with white coffee when compared to a shot of espresso made with black coffee.

White coffee is described as having a unique nutty flavor. It’s also considered to be a milder flavor when compared to black coffee.


The significant difference between black coffee and white coffee comes down to what temperature the beans are roasted at and for how long the beans are exposed to heat. This detail, in turn, affects the taste of these beverages and the caffeine content of each. It also affects the potential benefits each brings to the table.

Pros & Cons of Black Coffee

When consumed in moderation and without additives, some proven benefits of black coffee include:

  • Helps boost mood
  • Improves memory
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Regulates liver and metabolism

Some potential downfalls of coffee, especially if ingested in large quantities, include cramping and abdominal discomfort, difficulty sleeping, and an increased sense of jitters or stress. In order to reduce the risk of these potential side effects, the CDC recommends that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day- the equivalent of approximately four cups of coffee.

Pros & Cons of White Coffee

Since the coffee beans used to brew white coffee aren’t roasted for nearly as long as black coffee roasts, it maintains more antioxidant properties. Also, if you are looking for a good boost of energy, white coffee contains more caffeine when compared to other roasts. In moderation, it is also believed to provide similar benefits as black coffee, including improving memory, boosting mood, and regulating one’s metabolism.

Since the beans are not roasted for very long, they brew coffee that is very acidic. This can cause digestive upset, especially for people with a more sensitive stomach. Also, since white coffee has more caffeine, it will take less of it to reach the daily recommended caffeine amount suggested by the CDC.

The Results Are In

Black coffee and white coffee are alike in the sense that both are brewed from processed beans. In both instances, the beans are collected from the same type of plant and both start their journey being roasted. After that, however, the differences begin.

White coffee is brewed from half-roasted coffee beans. Black coffee, on the other hand, is brewed from roasted beans, ranging from lightly roasted to dark roasted. Where the beans that produce white coffee are roasted at lower temperatures and removed before cracking, the beans used to make black coffee are roasted at higher temperatures and the beans are allowed to crack at least once before being removed from the heat source.

Although both have similar pros and cons when it comes to health benefits, white coffee is higher in caffeine, acidity, and antioxidants. Black coffee, on the other hand, comes in a wider selection of roasts, flavors, and caffeine levels. All in all, white coffee contrasts black coffee in many ways. It’s these differences, however, that make coffee a versatile and customizable beverage.