What Are the Difference Between Light, Medium, and Dark Roasts?
Learn more about the different types of coffee roasts and what each name means. This guide will help you to decide what roast is the right for you.
There are generally three main coffee roasts: light, medium, and dark. The levels of roast usually refer to how long the coffee bean was roasted or exposed to heat. The roasting of coffee beans remove moisture from the inside through evaporation. You can usually tell the difference between the roasts through the darkness of color, texture, surface feel, and weight of the coffee beans. Each roast also have its own flavor and taste.
What are the Differences Between the Roasts?
Light roasted coffee beans are light brown in color and have no oil on the surface. These type of beans are heated until about 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit which create a denser bean with more moisture on the inside and keep most of the original coffee bean’s characteristics. Light roast coffees contain the most acidity out of the three roasts and have the lightest overall body flavor. It creates a cup of coffee with fruity and floral flavors.
Medium roasted coffee beans are brown colored and can sometimes have oil on the surface. These beans are heated until about 400-430 degrees Fahrenheit and create beans that have a more balanced overall flavor in terms of acidity and body. Medium roast coffee beans contain more caramel sweetness and darker flavors compared to the light roast, and it's not as bright or acidic as the light. Medium roasts, like our quality instant coffee, are are one of the most popular types of coffee beans because people enjoy its middle ground balance between the acidity of the light roast and deep flavors of the dark roast.
Dark roasted coffee beans are dark brown, almost black, in color and have an oily surface. The beans are heated up to 430-450 degrees Fahrenheit and what creates beans that don’t contain much of the coffee bean’s original characteristics. A dark roast makes a cup of coffee with low acidity, heavy body, and an overall bolder and deeper flavors. These type of beans are not as diverse in terms of flavor and are more uniform containing mostly chocolate, caramel, and nutty flavors. In terms of light roast vs. dark roast, they are completely different from each other. The light roast is lighter and more acidic with fruitier and floral flavors while the dark roast has darker and smokier flavors. To purely enjoy the differences in taste, you should drink the light and dark roast coffees side by side without any cream or sugar.
Which Roast has the Most Caffeine?
While people believe that stronger coffee is also stronger in caffeine, it is a misconception. Caffeine is actually reduced during the roasting process and hence the dark roast, which gets exposed to higher and longer heat, contains the least amount of caffeine. In general, caffeine content depends on the bean type and the roasting process.
With that being said, it is more tricky than that to determine what roast has the most caffeine amount. The main differences between the three coffee roasts is in the bean density. The light roast, which contains the most moisture, is the heaviest while the dark roast is the lightest. Because of this, if coffee beans are measured in scoops, the light roast will have more caffeine. However, if the beans are weighed, the dark will have more caffeine. Since the dark roast is lighter in weight, it will have more beans in comparison to the light roast. Overall, there isn’t a huge variation in terms of caffeine content between the three different roasts.
Other Coffee Roasts
The French Roast is a type of dark roast that has a sweet, but somewhat burnt taste to it. It doesn’t contain much acidity, but instead has a darker charred and bittersweet taste. Many times a true French Roast is darker than the French Roast you find at the market or make at home.
The Italian Roast is an extremely dark roast that is similar to the French Roast and containing little acidity and a darker charred taste. It is a popular roast in Italy and can be used in espresso blends.
The Continental Roast is another dark roasted coffee type. Just like the French and Italian Roasts, it contains a darker and sometimes bittersweet flavor and can also be used in espresso blends.
Compared to regular coffee roasts, the Espresso Roast is a darker roast that has been exposed to heat for longer periods of time. This is to make the coffee beans more soluble and create a coffee that is easily extracted to avoid the sour flavors of under extraction.
The New Orleans Roasts are coffee beans roasted fresh from New Orleans with their own unique blends and flavors of coffee. They can vary in roast levels and each blend has their own distinct taste. Compared to the other roasts, they can include a wide variety of beans, blends, and contain the freshest coffee as most of North America’s coffee beans arrive at their port.
How to Choose Which Coffee Roast is Best for You
Now that you know the differences between light, medium, and dark roast coffee beans, how do you know which coffee roast is best for you? Well the best way to figure this out is to personally taste all three roasts to see which flavors you prefer.
If you already drink coffee, you can determine which coffee aromas and flavors you gravitate towards. If you prefer more acidic and lighter flavor tones like fruits and florals, then light roast is for you. However, if you enjoy a more full-bodied flavor with darker tones like chocolate and nuts, then the dark roast is your best bet. If you enjoy both but not too much of either one, then the balanced medium roast is likely to suit your palate.
At the end of the day, coffee roast is all up to preference so don’t be afraid to experiment and taste different types of coffee to see what you like best!