Types of Coffee Roasts: Colors, Flavors, Body and Complexity


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  • Light roast coffees offer a unique and complex flavor.
  • Dark roasted beans have a deep but rich flavor.
  • Medium roast coffees provide a balanced flavor.

The best way to ensure a great-tasting coffee is to roast your beans according to what you prefer. However, there are several types of roasts that give certain flavor to your coffee.

The most basic coffee roasts are light, medium type, and dark. But in order to know the roast that suits your needs, you should also understand their differences and unique characteristics.

In this article, we’ll identify and define the key factors that differentiate light roast from dark roast coffee. Hope this will help you make a great coffee at home.

What are the Different Types of Roasts of Coffee?

Once you start roasting your beans, you also start losing moistures in it. And at the same time, they also change in color. Basically, those colors define the type of roasts – the light roast, medium roast, and dark roast.

Light Roast

Light roast coffee is usually roasted in a short amount of time, at lower temperatures compared to dark roasts. Usually between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit to obtain light brown colored beans as result.

Since lightly roasted beans are only roasted in a short amount of time, the coffee beans are left with more moisture inside, which is the reason why this type of coffee is denser.

When it comes to light roasting, expect it to create a “cracking” noise known as the “first crack. It happens when the vapors or moistures inside the beans are forced to break through out of it. And to achieve that kind of consistency, coffee should not be further roasted beyond the first crack. 

Lightly roasted coffees are more consumed by coffee lovers and even loved by many roasters around the globe. That is because of its ability to bring more flourishing and unique flavors to the taste. The good thing about this roast level is it simply highlights the coffee’s unique characteristics and unique origin.

Also known as: Half-City, Cinnamon, New England Roast

Medium Roast

Medium roasted coffees are medium brown in color. The roasting temperatures reach between 410-428 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain a body like that’s more of a light roast but less of a dark roast.

It’s just basically roasted to a certain point between light and dark roast coffee to obtain a perfectly balanced flavor, the acidity, sweetness, and so on. 

Just like a lighter roast, the beans may have no oil but have slightly caramelized sugars on the surfaces. You can still taste some unique characteristics and the rich sweetness of the beans.

So, if you’re looking for a balanced flavor, you don’t like the taste of light nor dark roast coffees, then try to roast your beans in this kind of category – the medium roast coffee.

Also known as: City Roast, Regular, American

Dark Roast

Dark roast coffee stays in the roasting process for a longer time at a higher temperature. Usually, the temperature reaches between 430-450 degrees Fahrenheit to reach that “second crack”.

Typically, it is just the continuation of light and medium roasts to further develop the flavors. And should not to be roasted beyond that second crack to obtain dark brown or even darker colored beans, as a preferred result. 

In terms of density, the beans at this roast profile are less dense compared to the other ones. The more you continue roasting your coffee beans, the more moistures you lose in it, which makes the beans less dense. 

Also known as: Heavy Roast, French, Dark French, Espresso, Turkish, Italian

The Difference Between Light Roast and Dark Roast Coffee

The following factors are what further define the characteristics of these two roasts. 

Let’s take a look at the list and find out more about the other key differences between light roast and dark roast in terms of consistency, their physical properties, the taste of each stage, and so on.

Roast Time

The coffee’s roast profile is always affected by how long the coffee beans to be roasted. It is an important factor in differentiating these two from each other. It means, you already know what type or level of roast it is by time itself.

And for the question, how long is the roast time to obtain a light as well as dark coffee? Here it is!

  • When it comes to light roast, it should be roasted in a short amount of time, otherwise, you can’t obtain that kind of color. Roast time is normally about 9 minutes to achieve that kind of consistency in coffee. 
  • On the other hand, darker roasts are roasted for a longer amount of time since beans that are dark brown in color are what we’re looking for. 8-20 minutes is already enough to produce oily texture and caramelized sugars from the beans.

However, be careful not to burn the beans, anything beyond these roast levels will just result in over-roasted or burnt coffee beans.

Body And Complexity

Your roast can be measured not just by tasting it. But also, by its visual appearance- color, shape, etc. Both can produce not just different taste and flavor, but also different body and complexity.

Prior to roasting, green coffee beans are soft, smell fresh, and even tasteless. But once these beans are taken to a roasting process, these raw beans are changed into a certain physical property that we recognize as “coffee”.

The physical properties of coffee are one of the most important elements in defining coffee quality and identifying a roast degree.

Light Roasts:

  • Light roasts are usually brighter in color and lighter or thinner in the body because the beans have not been roasted long enough. That’s why a lightly roasted coffee bean has no oil on its surface and does not produce caramelized sugars either.
  • And in terms of complexity, there are a lot of factors going on in a light roast coffee for the fact that it offers diverse flavors. You can taste different flavors defined by different countries and regions because of its ability to maintain originality.

Dark Roasts:

  • Dark roast coffee, on the other hand, often consists of bold, rich, and robust flavor, having a full, heavy, and thicker body, including a deeper texture.
  • Dark roasted beans are oilier. They produce caramelized sugars, creating a shiny appearance on their surfaces. The bright tones also tend to disappear as well as the complexities that light roast coffees have once the beans are roasted long enough. 

Flavor and Aroma

You can also differentiate light roasts from dark roasts according to their district flavors. Different roast levels offer different characteristics. These characteristics create a perception and guide to the taste we can expect.

So, let’s see what flavors does each roast has to offer.

Light Roasts:

  • Light roast coffees are known to have the most unique flavors compared to others. It includes their ability to offer a wide variety and complex flavors such as fruity and floral taste, vibrant and fresh aromas.
  • Since lighter roasts are not roasted at high temperatures for much longer – in order for the beans to release its caramelized sugars – it tends to retain the unique characteristics of the coffee beans.

Dark Roasts:

  • For dark roasts, they usually offer deep, dark, and rich flavors such as smoky, chocolatey, and even a little bit of earthiness. It includes a natural taste of sweetness and a slightly more taste of bitterness. As you continue to roast the lightly roasted beans to make it a little bit darker, most of the unique flavors present in it start to lose.
  • In dark roasts, you can’t taste the original flavor that defines the unique characteristics of the beans anymore as it creates a new perception of taste that covers it.

Which Roast has more Acidity?

Let’s continue to knowing how much the acid concentrations for each roast degree has.

The acidity is associated with how you roast your coffee. So, they produce different levels of acidity. And this chemical compound, and the amount of that compound in your cup will influence the final taste. 

So, let’s compare which is more acidic between light roast and dark roast coffee.

  • Light roast coffee is typically higher in acidity. The time you spent in roasting your coffee affects it. If you roast your coffee too short, the compounds responsible for the acidity within the beans can’t easily break down. That’s why light roast coffee is the most acidic.
  • On the other hand, dark roast coffee has a medium acidity, fewer acid levels compared to light roast coffee. As the coffee gets darker, it’s original complexity also starts to break and lose, including its acid concentrations.

That leads to the conclusion that understanding the different compounds in coffee can help roasters or even brewers get the best possible flavors in the cup. These chemical compounds found in coffee such as the sweetness, bitterness, and the acidity will affect its taste.

So, if it happens that your coffee is having a strong, sharp, and tangy flavor, that is because of its high acid level. Simply because the beans are roasted shortly, or lightly.

But if you prefer a less acidic cup of coffee, or you want to make your coffee less acidic, then roast your beans a little darker!

Which Roast has more Caffeine?

You may think that the more you roast your beans, the more strong-tasting your coffee is. Well, that’s not the case.

The caffeine content in a coffee will still remain the same even you roast it at different levels. It is not defined by how the beans are roasted, but by the amount of ground coffee used when brewing it.

That is, if you want more caffeine kick in your cup? Then just add more grounds to your brew!

Many people assume that light roasts have slightly more caffeine while dark roasts have slightly less because of what we called “density”.

  • For example, if you measure your ground coffee by scoops, light roast coffees will have more caffeine since they are denser compared to dark ones.
  • But when it comes to the weight of the same scoops, darker roasts will have more caffeine because they have less mass compared to beans that are roasted lightly.

Tricky right? Here’s another explanation!

  • If you’re just going to focus on the volume, denser bean (which is light roast) has a bigger volume compared to a thinner bean (which is dark roast). In that case, light roasts will likely have more caffeine.
  • And if you’re going to focus on the weight, dark roasts in this case will have more caffeine since the thinner bean has smaller volume. You will likely need to add more grounds to get that certain weight.

That leads to the conclusion that it’s all about measurement. In fact, the amount of caffeine in our cup is so minimal that we might not even notice the difference.

The amount of caffeine has nothing to do with the roast profile. Whether you roast the beans lightly, or darker, or even over-roast it, there will be no effect in it, rather, it’s in how you measure it. 

Which Coffee Roast is more Bitter?

It’s scientifically proven that dark roast coffees are more bitter compared to light roasts. The moment you stopped roasting your coffee beans, the components in the coffee responsible for the bitter taste also stop increasing. 

The bitter compounds are developed during the roasting process. The more you roast your beans, it creates more of these components that create the perception of bitterness.

Again, the darker the coffee, the bitter it tastes. However, the lighter the coffee, the more acidic it is.

If you want to know further why your coffee tastes bitter, some of the answers are HERE.

Which Type of Coffee Roast is Best?

It’s really hard to choose what’s the best roast as both offer distinct and unique flavors in different ways.

Most people love the taste of a lightly roasted coffee for its vegetal and bright fruity acid element. But there are some people who prefer dark roast coffee for its classic smoky flavor that pairs well with either milk or sugar.

So, that means, the taste is a personal choice. And yeah! It’s up to you to choose a certain roast that suits your needs and preferences.

Coffee differs from country to country, and each origin treated differently. Just let the bean itself determine its ideal best profile. Just choose a roast that brings out the natural sweetness and flavors that each coffee variety has.

Indeed, the best way to figure out which roasting profile you like best is to drink lots of coffee until you find the taste that you like much.

If you keep getting disappointed by the same type of roast, don’t just settle in “just right”, don’t be afraid to explore different roasts and change it up.

Final Thoughts

You’re now able to identify some of the key differences between light roast and dark roast coffee, and it’s up to you to choose a roast that you much prefer.

If you want a unique and complex coffee flavor, then roast your coffee lightly. If you’re looking for a deep but rich flavor, then choose dark roasted beans. But if all that you want is a balanced flavor, then go for a medium roast.

The best way to find out the perfect roast profile is to try all the different roast degree. Try it yourself, explore it at home, experiment to roast your beans in different levels and decide what you think is the best.

Like this Article? You Might Want to Read: What Are The 4 Types Of Coffee Beans? (A Definitive Guide)