The Top Coffee Roast Types Explained: Light, Medium & Dark
What distinguishes the light coffee roasts from their darker counterparts? It turns out, quite a lot! Explore what flavours to expect based on your coffee’s roast level.
Coffee beans are world-famous for their chocolatey hue and unmistakeable scent. But did you know that they don’t start out that way? All the coffee flavours you ever loved are locked inside a small green seed. To get to the fantastic aroma that makes you say ‘ahh’ after every sip, there’s a bit of magic that has to happen first. It’s what we’ll be exploring in this article. Keep reading to find out how roasting holds the key to the flavour you will ultimately taste as you enjoy your morning brew.
Types of coffee roast
We said that roasting coffee is pretty much like magic and we’ll stick by it. The same coffee bean can offer a completely different taste profile depending on how the roasting process is crafted. As the beans are heated up, the precious aroma compounds begin to develop. Master roasters know exactly when to stop this process to obtain the most glorious flavours. They usually have a choice between three main types of coffee roasts: light, medium and dark. Here’s what makes each one of them so special to us coffee lovers.
Light coffee roast for the ultimate aromatic experience
You will recognise light-roasted coffee beans straightaway. They have a gorgeous light brown colour and no oil on their surface. The taste of a light roast is unmistakeable as well: it will shine with the typicity of the origin and the terroir with many vibrant fruity and floral flavours which combine magnificently for a bright and juicy drink that comes with an acidic twist. To achieve this wonderful combo, expert roasters will heat their coffee beans at a temperature between 190-205 degrees Celsius, then wait patiently for the signature ‘pop’ sound (also known as ‘first crack’). This is the signal that the beans are now lightly roasted and need to be cooled off immediately, otherwise they’ll continue on to become an enticing medium roast. More on this, next!
Medium coffee roast for the perfect balance of aroma and acidity
Turn on the heating to reach a temperature between 205-215 degrees Celsius for a delicious medium roast. This is such a favourite for coffee drinkers that want both the aroma and the acidity in just the right mix that no doubt you’ll love it too. Nothing goes overboard in a medium roast. The flavour and mouthfeel are perfectly balanced: not too much and not too little.
If you’re a fan of medium roasts but want a slightly bolder flavour, here’s a good tip: ask for a medium-dark roast. Roasters obtain this delicious type of coffee roast by bringing up the temperature to about 220 degrees. You’ll taste the caramelised coffee aroma a bit more thanks to the higher temperatures used in the process. Heavenly delicious!
Dark coffee roast for a bold flavour and robust body
The dark brown coffee beans in this roast are the result of temperatures around 230 degrees Celsius and slightly above. This coffee roast level comes with intense and powerful flavours, no acidity, an increasing bitter taste with a long persistence. You will recognise dark coffee roasts not only by the colour profile, but also by the sheen of oil at the surface of the coffee beans.
If you love dark chocolate notes or even spicy twists in your coffee, the darker roasts are more suitable for delivering your favourite tasting experience.
Light roast versus dark roast: what’s the difference?
Now that we’ve met all the coffee roast levels, what is the difference between the light and dark roasts? They’re both thrilling drinking experiences if you ask us, but they come with different perks for the coffee aficionados out there.
First off, the obvious difference between light roasts and dark roasts is the intensity of the heat in the roasting machine. Lower heat is applied to obtain the light brown colour of the light-roasted coffee beans. For the more intense dark roast, temperatures can get up to a scorching 230 degrees Celsius. But don’t worry! Professional roasters know how to adjust the highest temperatures to get the boldest flavours without burning the coffee beans.
Light coffee roasts juggle many different flavours. Fruity, floral and herbal hints combine beautifully and can be easily recognised. It is also at lighter colour that you will highlight the typicity of the origin, the terroir, the green coffee process (washed, natural, honey…) and all the amazing work of the farmer. Dark coffee roasts bet everything on the intensity and persistency with a very different flavour profile. But discerning taste buds can distinguish notes of dark chocolate, roasted nuts, spices and even liquorice in some dark roast brews. So they’re worth trying!
Light roasts have higher acidity levels compared to darker options. So, keep this in mind when choosing your type of coffee roast.
Light coffee roasts come with a thinner body compared to the more robust profile of dark roasts.
Which type of coffee roast is higher quality: light roasts or dark roasts?
Ultimately, it’s up to your own taste preferences to decide between the lighter and darker roast levels. But coffee beans that have been lightly roasted will show off all their intrinsic flavours and aromas beautifully. This is why many premium and specialty coffee options tend to use light coffee roasts. Dark roasts will lower some of the origins typicity while increasing the taste of the roasting process itself. Which is why it can sometimes be used as a way to mask the lack of aroma when lower-quality coffee beans are part of the process. But an expertly-crafted dark roast can still entice coffee connoisseurs with its intense drinking experience.
That’s it! The top coffee roasts types demystified! All this talk about flavours and aromas made us think about what makes coffee so unique. So, if you’re like us and want another shot of caffeine knowledge, why not take a quick journey though the amazing world of single-origin coffee and the unique drinks these beans can make for us?