The eternal question of all coffee lovers - light roast, dark roast, or maybe something in between? Since roast is a large determinant in taste, it really comes down to whether you want a cup that’s bright and smooth or full-bodied and bold. Maybe you’re the type of coffee drinker who likes water with a “splash of coffee” (no judgment) or the type who wants your coffee so bold it puts hair on your chest. No matter your preference, we’re breaking down all the details of the different roast types to help you find the roast that’s perfect for your unique palate.
The most important factor to consider when searching for a coffee that meets your tasting preferences is how the beans are roasted. Coffee roasting is the intricate process that transforms raw coffee beans into the flavor and aroma that bring that renewed sense of purpose to our Monday mornings. Generally, the longer a bean is roasted, the darker it becomes and the bolder the flavor profile it develops.
There are several other factors that affect a coffee’s taste, including the age of the beans, how they’re processed and ground, and the brewing method that’s used. But it’s the roast level that serves as the baseline for the overall flavor profile you can expect in your cup.
The easiest way to determine the roast level of your beans? A quick peek at the package should tell you. If it’s not provided, though, you can typically tell by the color of the bean itself. Lighter roasts have more of a tan or wood look to them. Darker roasts can look almost black. Once the coffee beans start to absorb heat during the roasting process, their color begins to change and get darker. At a higher roasting temperature, oils also begin to show on the bean’s outer surface.
Everyone’s entitled to their own personal roast preferences. Thus finding the perfect coffee starts with finding your preferred roast! After that, it’s about trying different varieties to find the flavor and type of bean that you like, as different beans will lend themselves to slightly different flavors. (We don’t know about you, but we never complain about sampling coffee…). Below is a guide that will walk you through the first step to ultimately find the roast that works for you.
Light roasts spend the least amount of time in the roaster and are easily distinguished by their light brown color and oil-free surface. Their flavors retain more of the earthiness and toasted grain flavors of the original bean with a pronounced acidity. If you think of it like roasting a marshmallow, the lighter the roast on a ‘mallow, the more of the sugary taste you retain.
Beans grown in different regions of the world will have slightly different flavors derived from the unique soils and climates that they’re grown in and these are most evident in lighter roasts. Light roast usually means coffee beans that have not been roasted beyond their first crack, typically reaching internal temperatures of 180°C – 205°C.
If you are into sour, brighter, or earthier tasting coffees then the light roasted coffee is a good option for you. Give our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe a try!
Medium roasted coffee beans can be distinguished by their medium brown color and lack the grainy taste found with lighter roasts. This coffee roast is known to exhibit a balanced flavor, aroma and acidity level, with a more robust flavor than a light roast, but a less pronounced flavor than a dark roast. Think of roasts like Goldilocks and the three bears - if light roasts are too mild and dark roasts are too bold, then medium roasts are jussssst right. They’re the happy medium on the coffee spectrum.
Medium roast coffee beans reach internal temperatures between 210°C - 220°C, generally between the end of the coffee beans first crack but before the start of the second crack. They usually go by common roast names like Regular Roast, American Roast, City Roast and Breakfast Roast. If you're looking to preserve a coffee’s distinct flavor, then this is the best option to choose.
If this sounds more your style, our Brunch Blend is definitely the blend for you.
Medium dark roasts are slightly bolder than medium roasts, but not quite as bold as a dark roast. They're distinguished by a richer, darker color with a hint of oil starting to show on the surface. They're usually roasted from the beginning or middle of the second crack and are known to reach internal temperatures of 225 C - 230 C.
These roasts have a noticeably spicier flavor and aroma. Common names for a medium-dark roast coffee include Full City Roast, After Dinner Roast, and Vienna Roast.
Dark roasted coffee beans can be quickly distinguished by their dark brown, almost black color similar to dark chocolate in their appearance. They often leave an oily residue on your skin when you handle them. And their flavor profile is marked by a bitter or burnt taste, reflecting more of the roast itself and less of the bean's origins (similar to our marshmallow example).
Dark roasts are often roasted to reach an internal temperature of 240 C and beyond. Some of the most popular names for dark roasts include French Roast, New Orleans Roast, Spanish Roast, Italian Roast and Espresso Roast. If you tend to steer clear of sweeter coffees and prefer a very robust flavor, bold roasts like our East Side Espresso roast, are for you.
While dark roast coffees are frequently believed to have less caffeine, this actually isn’t true. Pound for pound, light and dark roast coffees have almost the same amount of caffeine. The longer a bean is roasted the more dried out it gets and the more mass it loses. So a single dark roasted bean will have less mass and less caffeine than a light roasted bean, but one ounce of light roast beans and one ounce of dark roast beans will have basically the same amount of caffeine.
Since dark roasted beans weigh less, it takes more of them to equal an ounce. While the beans themselves might have less caffeine per bean, since it takes more of them to add up to an ounce, the caffeine content of the ounce ends up being roughly the same between different roast types.
So we want to know - what type of roast is your preference? Share in the comments!