Corona Extra vs Corona Light: Which is the Better Beer?

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This round, we’re comparing a pair of Corona Extra and Corona Light. Which of these pale lagers is better?

Beer drinkers love to debate the merits of the beers they drink, but deciding a beer’s technical merits is different from its popular appeal.

Nothing exemplifies this more than comparing a beer with its light beer derivative. For instance, Coors Original is a much more interesting beer than Coors Light.

And Budweiser is a much more interesting lager than Bud Light. And yet, the light versions of these beers sell more than the OGs. 

Does this disparity ring true for the flagship Corona and Corona Light? As I explain below, some days I’d just as soon a drink a Corona Light as a Corona Extra.

Corona Extra vs Corona Light

Corona Extra is an International Pale Lager. The beer style is hallmarked by light malt flavor, crisp finishes, and a more firm hop bitterness and flavor than an American lager. Examples include Dos Equis, Modelo, and Heineken.

Corona Light exists in two beer spaces. First, Corona Light is a low carb, low calorie beer marketed to calories and carbs-conscious beer drinkers.

It has 49 fewer calories per serving than its Corona Extra counterpart.

Though a low calorie offering, Corona Light does not follow the stereotypically prescribed tasting experience as other light beers. Instead, it hues closely to that of a German-style pilsner with moderate cracker-like pilsner malt flavor and sturdy, clean hop bitterness

History

In 1979 Corona Extra was introduced to the United States. The beer tasted lightly toasted malts and a clean, herbal hop character. Soon, the beer would expand further to become one of the top-selling beers worldwide.   

Ten years later, the brewery released Corona Light. Miller Lite had shown the popular demand for light beer offerings, and Grupo Modelo looked to capitalize on the category as so many of its competitors had.

Today, Corona beer is still made by Grupo Modelo exclusively in Mexico. Still, the Mexican brewery is owned by Anheuser Busch InBev (ab inbev), where it is a top-selling imported beer in their portfolio.

The beer in the United States continues to be popular but is distributed not by Anheuser Busch but by Constellation Brands in an attempt by regulators to quell any monopolistic concerns. 

Classification (Type of Beer)

Corona Extra fits nicely into the International Pale Lager category per the Beer Judge Certification Program. Corona Light ostensively would go in a light beer category but might fit better into the German Pilsner category. 

See also: 10 of the Lowest Calorie Beers Around

Flavor

Corona Extra primarily showcases a neutral malt character with a light sweetness on the back end and as it warms. The low malt provides a clean backdrop for a pleasantly grassy hop taste and moderate bitterness. 

Corona Light’s malt profile is that of a true pilsner. Though restrained, it is cracker-like and balances with a smooth noble hop character and bitterness. 

Aroma

Much is made of Corona’s iconic clear bottle and how they use tetra hop extracts to avoid skunking, but I still think the beer is a little skunky. And here’s the thing: I like that. It works in this type of beer. I’m not too fond of it when the sun ruins a highly hopped double IPA, but I don’t mind it with pale lagers. I associate it with having a good time outdoors. 

Extra still has a grassy hop aroma in addition to the lightstruck character. The malt or adjuncts in the beer are not strong enough to be a considerable part of the aroma equation.

Corona Light has a clean, lager aroma highlighted by slightly minty hops. The scent is much more intriguing than Corona Extra, with a savory note best described as the smell of the beach. 

Appearance

Both beers range between yellow to light gold. Don’t expect too much from their head. Both collapse quickly. The color and carbonation can be easily seen poured into pint glasses or from the iconic clear glass bottles. 

I prefer to drink Corona directly from the bottle, but a slender pilsner flute would benefit if the beer is on draft. The narrow pilsner glass works similarly to the bottles by concentrating the surface area of the beer to help the head stick around forcibly. 

Mouthfeel

The colder these beers are served, the less body they have. As they warm, both come to a range of medium-light bodied. This contributes to crisp, refreshing beers with a pleasantly dry finish and bitter aftertaste. 

However, when Corona Extra gets too warm, it becomes a bit flabby and watery. The hop character of Corona Light seems to help avoid this. It has a quick finish with plenty of hop bitterness. 

Calories and Nutritional Information

One is a regular beer; the other is a light beer. Corona Light has almost half the carbohydrates as Corona Extra. Corona Extra lists 148 calories per 12 fl oz, while Corona Light comes under 100 at 99. 

For anyone wondering, Coronita beer bottles are seven ounces. If you drink two, you’ll have consumed more than the 148 calories listed for Corona Extra. 

Did you know beer has protein? Not a ton, but it’s something, right? Corona Extra has 1.2 grams of protein, and Corona Light has .8 for every 12 fl oz serving. 

Alcohol Content

While calories and carbs may be the main difference between these two beers, their alcohol content is pretty close. Corona Extra is a normal-strength beer at 4.6 percent alcohol by volume. Corona Light is 4% alcohol. Alcohol contributes significantly to the amount of calories in a beer, so it makes sense that Corona Extra has more calories than Corona Light.

Brewing Process And Ingredients

Corona lager is brewed with barley malt, corn, Mexican lager yeast, hops, and water. 

Brewers at Corona will convert starches into sugar during the mash. The mash is where enzymes in the malt will work to break apart long sugar chains, which will, in turn, be consumed by yeast during fermentation. 

Once the mash is complete, the liquid wort boils, and hops are added. After the boil, the wort is cooled, and yeast is added. Yeast will consume the sugars and create alcohol and carbon dioxide. When fermentation is complete, the beer will rest before being packaged. 

In the case of Corona Light, the process uses primarily the same ingredients (malted barley, non malted cereals (corn), hops from the US and European countries, yeast, and water) with one of two additional steps possible for making a beer with fewer calories.

The first is that brewers add enzymes to the Corona Light fermentation, which aids the yeast in consuming more sugars. The second option is to brew Corona Light at a lower gravity, yielding less alcohol and fewer calories.

Since Corona Light is listed at four percent alcohol by volume, it’s possible they did both. Still, we know that these are definitely not the same beer and have gone through unique processes to create Corona Extra and Corona Light. 

Food Pairings

Each beer is a Mexican beer, so the national and regional foods associated with Mexico are good places to start with finding pairings that will match. Digging deeper, the beers are crafted for a laid-back, easy-going beach experience.

When pairing beer, it’s essential to look to match intensities or lack thereof in these cases. Neither beer is particularly overpowering. This offers ample opportunities to pair with lighter seafood, like fish and shellfish, raw or seared.

A great bridge between the food and beer is lime juice. The tangy acidity brings out the sweet flavor of shellfish the same way it does with malt, so it’s not a bad idea to have extra lime wedges on hand for your meal.

Besides seafood, match Corona Extra with typical BBQ and grill items, like hotdogs and hamburgers. The fact that Corona Light is reminiscent of a German Pilsner is a clue that it will work with a variety of meats, including sausages. Look to play up on the hop character with spicy German mustard, and don’t forget the sauerkraut!

Would Suit?

Both Corona beers could be a mainstay in many beer drinkers’ fridges. Either is an occasion, everyday type of beer. I think Corona Light might be better suited for the craft beer drinker who likes to have popular beers available so their friends don’t end up drinking all of their expensive alcohol just to complain about it. 

What Do Other People Think about Both Corona Brand Beers?

In addition to Corona Extra (original Corona Beer) and Light, Corona brews a beer similar to Extra called Corona Familiar. The Corona beer brand also has an additional light lager called Corona Premier. None of them get much love from beer geeks. 

ReviewerCorona ExtraCorona Light
Untappd3.1 out of 52.8 out of 5
Rate Beer1.73 out of 52.76 out of 5
Influenster4.54 out of 54.47 out of 5
Beer Advocate57 (awful)49 (awful)
Average3.123.34

Our verdict: Corona Extra or Corona Light

Author Andy sampling a cold Corona Light

Both Corona Extra (see our full review) and Corona Light (see our full review) are solid choices for beers, whether at home, restaurant, or beach (provided glass is allowed, of course). Corona Extra is a refreshing beer that is light, crisp, and a perennial crowd-pleaser. It’s no wonder it is such a popular beer worldwide. 

Corona Light might scare many serious beer drinkers off with the name, but in a pinch, this beer does more than most light lagers can on the market – it tastes like real beer. The beer is a perfectly balanced pilsner-esque lager bursting with hop character and a dry taste. I dream of sitting at a beach bar knocking back Coronita Light bottles with a basket of fried clams and oysters or maybe the local catch served up in tacos. 

Ultimately, this comparison is a toss-up. I will be ordering the light version the next time I have the opportunity, but I won’t shy away from a Corona Extra complete with a lime wedge whenever available. 

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Author

Carla Lauter was the founder of The Beer Babe and has been a beer blogger and expert for several decades. She's been interviewed in beer publications and podcasts about her favorite brews and the craft brewing scene. While she's ceased her involvement with The Beer Babe, her legacy remains in the various reviews and articles she has written.