Coffee Roasts Explained: Light, Medium and Dark Roast Coffee

Coffee Roasts Explained: Light, Medium and Dark Roast Coffee

In the United States, about 154 million people drink coffee for its unique flavors and health benefits.

If you're one of those people who loves drinking coffee or are interested in seeing what it's all about, did you know that there are different types of coffee? There is light, medium, and dark roast coffee.

But what is the best option, and what should you know before drinking the different types of coffee? Keep reading to discover more about finding the best coffee to drink and learn about the roasting process, health benefits, and flavors you can try.

What Is a Coffee Bean?

A coffee bean comes from the seed of a coffee plant. The bean is the actual part that will get roasted. Some people call this the cherry because it is inside the flower of the coffee plant.

There are all kinds of different coffee beans. They will all taste different depending on the farming process and the different types of climates that they are grown in.

For example, Arabica coffee will need warm and gentle light. However, Robusta beans are more robust and can grow in almost any type of condition.

Why Is Coffee Roasted?

When you think about coffee, you probably believe that dark brown beans make your coffee. However, to make the coffee, the beans need to be roasted.

You might be surprised that coffee beans are green when they start out. The roasting process is actually what helps the beans get their flavor.

The roasting process is designed to help bring out the beans' natural oils, giving the coffee a unique taste and aroma. The roasting process temperature and time will make the process different. It will also make the taste range anywhere from light and fruity to deep and chocolatey. It can even be anything in between.

Roasting will also help remove the bitterness from the beans, making it a smoother cup of coffee.

Once the beans are roasted, they can be stored for a while. However, they will lose their flavor over time, so you should try and drink them within two weeks from when they were roasted if you want to taste as much of the flavor as possible.

What Is the Roasting Process?

It helps to understand how the roasting process works. The coffee beans will be in constant motion, and moving them around ensures they don't get burnt.

The heat also has to be at the right temperature. You'll want to ensure that the beans are roasted somewhere between 370 and 540 Fahrenheit.

Having fluctuations in the roasting process can make the coffee beans taste differently. If you have a longer roasting process, your bean will get darker. This will give you a full-body flavor profile and chocolate notes.

With a lighter roast, you might get a fruitier flavor. Different beans can also taste differently as well.

When you start roasting, you'll start to hear crackling. You'll have a lighter roast when the beans get their first crack. They'll be on the other end with a darker roast if there is a second crack.

The second crack means that it's ready to be cooled. You'll start to see oils on the outside of the bean, which means it'll taste smokier, richer, and bolder. The different roast times will also give dominant flavors, which is when you can start to mix different coffee beans and blends.

The amount of air in the roasting process will also affect the lightness of the roast. The roast will be lighter if there is more air in the process.

The amount of air circulated during the roasting process will also affect the lightness or darkness of the roast. If there isn't a lot of air in the roasting process, the beans will be a darker roast.

What Is the Post-Roasting Process?

After you finish the roasting process, you'll need to cool the beans. To do this, you'll have to transfer them to a cooling tray.

If you don't cool them quickly, the heat from the beans will keep cooking the beans. This means that the beans could keep roasting even after they were completely roasted. If they're not cooled, a lighter roast could turn into a medium roast.

If you have a dark roast and don't let them cool, you could end up with a burnt and charred bean which would ruin some flavors.

Why Are There Different Roasting Levels?

Keep in mind that there's no set standardization for coffee roast types. If you go to the grocery store and get a generic light roast, there's a chance that those beans might be darker than those that would come from a specialty coffee roaster.

It can be confusing, but it's happening because the bean quality is improving. Farmers are learning more about how to grow coffee beans with great flavors. Because they're becoming more common, more roasters are getting these beans.

There are also different types of roasts now because roasters don't have to worry about hiding the bad flavors of the bean anymore. They would have to mask some of those flavors with lower-quality beans by doing a dark roast. Now, the beans are so good that there are no bad flavors that need to be masked, which is why light roast is becoming popular.

Lighter roast beans are newer, and typically they have more complex flavors. Roasters are still finding ways to highlight these unique flavors in high-quality beans.

If this still sounds confusing, the bottom line is that your coffee will keep tasting better as more roasters experiment with these new beans.

What Is Light Roast?

Now that you understand some of the basics of the different roasts, we can look at each one individually. Light roast coffees usually look brown.

Some roasters also call this roast other names like:

  • Light City Roast
  • Cinnamon Roast
  • New England Roast

The light roasts don't have oil on the beans, and they also have a light viscosity. These beans are cooked at a temperature of about 350 to 410 Fahrenheit. They will start to pop at 350, and this popping is known as the "crack."

The first crack signifies that the beans are now at a light roast. Typically, they are taken out after the first crack, so they don't get roasted anymore.

Some people think that light roasts have less caffeine than darker roasts, but this isn't true. It's actually the opposite.

When you roast the beans more, the caffeine will start to cook out of the bean. Since the light roast bean isn't baked for as long, there is more caffeine in the original bean.

What Is Medium Roast?

Some people refer to a medium roast as the City Roast, Breakfast Roast, or American Roast.

Medium roast coffees look more brown, and they have thicker bodies. The Medium roast will also carry some of the taste from the roasting process since it will cook for longer.

But since it's cooking for longer, it also loses some of the floral flavors you'd typically associate with a dark roast. There is a much more balanced flavor in medium roasts with just the right amount of caffeine.

A medium roast is taken out just before the second crack and cooked between 410 and 440.

What Is Dark Roast?

These coffees are dark brown, and sometimes they may even look black. The oil is completely drawn out from these beans, giving them a glossy-looking surface.

The flavors of this coffee will vary depending on where the bean came from. In general, they have very bold and smoky tastes.

To make a dark roast, you have to cook it above 440 degrees Fahrenheit, and you'll have to roast it until the bean has its second crack. Remember that if you roast it over 465, it might taste like charcoal.

Many roasters will try and save money and time by roasting large batches at high temperatures for a short amount of time. But this will kill the flavor and sometimes burn the bean as well. You should find a smaller roaster that roasts their beans in smaller batches.

Are There Other Roast Levels?

Some roasts are even darker than dark. These are known as the New Orleans Roast, Continental Roast, Espresso Roast, French Roast, or Italian Roast.

These coffees are very black and oily on the surface. However, you won't be able to taste where the bean came from. Many of these coffees will taste like burnt coffee, and it's an acquired taste.

What Is a House Blend?

While shopping through the different roasts, you might also notice that some roasters have a house blend. That means that it's a blend that the roaster specializes in.

It's not a limited-time thing, but it's their best product, and they'll always have it in stock. Their house blend will generally be a medium roast so that any average coffee drinker would like it.

If you're shopping for different types of coffee and are trying to decide what flavor to try, you should ask about their house blend. These usually have a unique flavor, giving you a good idea of whether or not you would like other blends from the roaster.

Which One Has the Most Caffeine?

As we mentioned earlier, light roast coffee still has caffeine in it. Light roast beans are denser than dark roast beans, so the individual light roast bean will tend to have more caffeine.

When you measure by a scoop of beans, you aren't taking the density of the bean into account. But if you weighed the beans out, the light roast ones would have more caffeine.

Average coffee drinkers probably won't be able to tell the difference in the caffeine, so you should choose one based on the flavors you prefer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Roasts

The advantage of getting a lighter roast coffee is that it'll have a lighter body and flavor. This will also be less bitter and give you more caffeine.

One of the disadvantages of the lighter roast is that it can bring out citrusy flavors. To some people, these flavors might seem acidic (even though it isn't).

The advantage of drinking a medium roast is that it can be roasted for longer, which lets them develop its own unique flavor. The flavors tend to be well-balanced, making an excellent flavor for a morning cup of coffee.

Medium roasts usually are less acidic than darker roasts, and they have more richness in the body. One of the disadvantages is that it can be more bitter if you're not used to drinking coffee.

The advantage of getting a darker roast is that they have more robust flavors out of all of the roasts. They're also not as acidic as the medium and light roasts. They're also denser with nutrients.

The disadvantage is that it can get rid of the fat and oil on the surface, which means that the beans could lose their flavor more quickly than a lighter roast.

What Are the Taste Differences?

All of these coffee roasts are going to taste different. A fresh and green coffee bean won't taste like anything until it's roasted. The flavors and the aroma are revealed during the roasting process.

If you're new to drinking coffee, you should try a medium roast. These are typically slightly sweeter and have a more balanced flavor and acidity. If you like a medium roast, then you can try experimenting with other types of coffee.

Sometimes a dark roast will give you hints of chocolate or roasted pine, but it will depend on where the bean came from and how long it was roasted. The darker roast will have a more intense and bold flavor.

Some roasts have a bitterness to them - this comes from organic acids. These acids will heat up during the roasting process, and in lighter roasts, they can increase bitterness.

Can You Guess How It Will Taste?

If you're a beginner coffee drinker, then it might be challenging to guess how a different roast or blend will taste. But if you've been drinking a lot of coffee, then you will have a better chance of predicting how a roast will taste.

If you're new, there are a few ways to ensure you can buy the right roast for your taste. Since the caffeine is usually the same across the roasts, don't factor that into your shopping. Instead, look at the tasting notes listed on the website.

For lighter coffee roasts, they'll have fruitier tastes. For example, they might have notes of berries, citrus, peach, or apples. There will be a little bit of acidity with this taste, especially when compared to dark roasts.

Dark roast coffees have a smokier palette since they're roasted for longer. They will also have more tastes like cedar, chocolate, and toasted nuts.

If none of those sound appealing, then try a medium roast.

What Are the Best Brewing Methods?

Light roasts are better for brewing methods that have a longer extraction time. For example, drip coffee or a French press would be an excellent option for brewing the lighter roast.

The light roast beans haven't been roasted as long, so they may not have as many compounds and oils that can make the coffee taste bitter. When you have a longer brewing process, you can take more time to take the oils out.

If you have a dark roast, you should do the opposite. These are better for shorter extraction methods, like an espresso drink.

The longer roasting process for the dark roast can produce more compound flavors, making the bean taste harsher or burnt if you spend too long extracting it.

What Are the Health Benefits?

Numerous benefits come with drinking all of these different roasts. They're all unique in their own way, and some of them even have different advantages.

For example, light and medium roasts have a lot of polyphenol chlorogenic acid (CGA). This is a powerful antioxidant, and it's the main thing that gives coffee all of the health benefits.

CGA can help reduce inflammation and repair the damage to the cells. It can also help improve your skin's complexion while lowering cholesterol. You might also find that it'll boost your immunity and help you fight germs.

Some people have also noticed that it can help to boost their energy levels as well.

But when you have a dark roast, the number of CGAs is reduced because they're cooked out. Dark roasts have some, but less than a light or medium roast. Dark roast coffees have their own benefits, though.

Dark roasts have antioxidants called glutathione. This is a "master antioxidant" that will help restore red blood cells. It can also give your skin some Vitamin E, which can help it heal.

Keep in mind that the quality of the coffee is important as well. Some big name-brand coffees might contain toxins or pesticides, which can do more damage than good. It's best to buy from a coffee brand that tests their coffee to ensure there aren't any contaminants in their blend.

This way, you'll ensure that you get all these health benefits.

Discover More About the Differences Between Light, Medium, and Dark Roast Coffee

These are only a few differences between light, medium, and dark roast coffee, but you'll need to experiment to discover what type of roast you prefer.

If you want to improve your health and enjoy all of these benefits, start experimenting with coffee today! There are also different kinds of supplements that you can add to your coffee to improve the taste and health benefits.

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