Learn The Role Light vs. Dark Roast Has in Making Amazing Coffee
If we are going to make the best cup of coffee we can, we need to learn the difference between light vs dark roast and everything in between.
Generally speaking, the lighter the roast, the more natural flavors of the coffee you will taste. The darker the roast gets, the more you are tasting the roast.
Coffee beans begin as a green bean, soft and spongy. They are brought to high temperatures very quickly and cooled very quickly in order to get the desired roast type.
From light to dark, here are the elements that make up each roast type.
- Higher acidity
- The highest caffeine content
- Not very oily
- Light in color
Light Roast Common Names
- Often named Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast and New England Roast
- Often referred to as “roasted to first crack”
Light Roast Flavor Characteristics
- Tend to retain more of their original flavor/unique elements
- More complex flavors the lighter you go
- Could reveal traces of sweetness, fruit tanginess, or even subtle floral aroma
- Lighter in body due to not being roasted long enough to produce caramelized sugars or oils
- Often have a toasted grain taste
Light Roast Roasting Temperature
- Generally reach internal temperature of 180°C – 205°C (356°F – 401°F)
- At 205°C the beans pop or crack and expand, known as the “first crack”
Medium to medium-dark
- Oil may be visible on the bean for medium and medium-dark
- Darker in color than light roast
Medium to Medium-Dark Flavor Characteristics
- Balance of acidity and body
- Origins of flavor tend to be a bit lost to the roasting process
- Some may be a bit spicy
- Fuller body than light roast
Medium to Medium-Dark Common Names
- Medium often referred to as Regular Roast, American Roast, City Roast, or Breakfast Roast.
- Medium-dark is often referred to as Full-City Roast, After Dinner Roast, and Vienna or Viennese Roast
- 210°C (410°F) and 220°C (428°F) for medium roast. To end of “first crack” and just before beginning of “second crack”
- 225°C (437°F) or 230°C (446°F) for medium-dark at which point they get to the beginning or middle of the “second crack”
- Oil can be seen in the cup when brewed
- Dark brown, almost black in color
- Often look like chocolate
Dark Roast Flavor Characteristics
- Original flavors are mostly overshadowed by the flavors of the roasting process
- Depending on the roasting process, can become sweet and rich
- Bold and rich, filled with texture and body
- Origins of the bean flavor almost completely gone, you are tasting the roast
- Difficult to pick up on the origin of the coffee
- Sometimes tastes bitter and smoky, burnt taste
- Oilier, resulting in toastier taste or bittersweet, even decadent chocolate type flavor
Dark Roast Common Names
- Often referred to as Continental Roast, Italian Roast, French Roast or Spanish Roast due to popularity European areas
- Popular names are also Espresso Roast, New Orleans Roast
- Espresso roasts usually dark roasts
- 240°C (464°F) for end of second crack
- Not typically roasted past 250°C (482°F)
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Light vs dark roast – what we’ve learned
It seems the darker the roast, the bolder the flavor. Now we know we need to buy some different roast types and test out what we like in order to figure out how to make the best cup of coffee we can…for our tastes.
We’ve also learned the following:
- It seems the most common type of coffee is the medium roast
- The oilier the bean, the darker the roast
- The most common names for the types of coffee
It’s time to order some coffee and try out some different bean types. Light vs dark roast, which do you prefer?
Wait, one more thing…
Check out this really cool video of a go pro inside a coffee roaster.
A film by Gabor Laczko and Attila Zerczi.
Kris is a freelance writer, blogger, and virtual assistant that lives in the Great White North, eh!? She loves kayaking, coffee, and her two poorly behaved little dogs.