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Different types of coffee roasts: light, medium, and dark

There are so many different types of coffee roasts, it is sometimes difficult to keep up. From the light roast and medium roast to the dark roast, there is something to say about each one. Today, we take you on a journey through the various types of coffee roasts, their benefits, and characteristics.

different types of coffee roasts

What are the different types of coffee roasts?

Below, we have described the universal coffee roasts you can encounter and the characteristics each of the roasted coffee beans have. As you will see, the roasting process can have a significant impact on a coffee beans as well as its flavor and aroma.

Light roast

When the light roast is mentioned, you will often hear the term “first crack” as will. This is because of the expansion process the coffee beans go through during the roasting process. Since the coffee beans expand, they eventually make a cracking sound.

You can easily recognise light roasts by their pale light brown color and overall dry look. The pale look also means that the roast coffee will not have any of the flavor that can be caused by roasting.

Light roasts are also known to be quite aromatic, but with a slightly more acidic flavor to match. As the roasting process is kept to a minimum, you can also expect to retain more of the original flavor of the bean, where the floral and fruity notes tend to come out a lot more.

Medium roast

Medium roasts are slightly darker than the light roast, but they still comparatively a lot paler than darker roasts. They can also feel somewhat dry, and this can be quite deceiving when it comes down to flavor.

A medium roast coffee is characterised by a sweeter flavor. While it maintains less of the original flavor of the bean, the medium bean does get new flavors on top because of the roasting process. As a result, you will get a coffee with a fuller flavor.

Interestingly, the medium bean will also have a much stronger smell than the paler light roasted beans we mentioned earlier. However, approximately 13% of the original weight of the bean can be lost during the roasting.

This also causes a phenomenon called thermal decomposition, which alters the chemical composition of the beans and can influence its smell.

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Medium Dark Roast

These beans have a slight dark brown colour, but share many similarities with the basic medium roast. However, the slightly different roasting method does cause some of the oils to come to the surface, which makes this bean a little shinier.

A medium dark roast will still provide a sweet flavor, but can have a slight bitter aftertaste as well. These types of roasts are also referred to as full city. When the word full city is used, it envelops beans that are somewhat darker than the city roast.

You can also encounter other terms to refer to the coffee bean, this includes half city.

Dark roast

Dark roasts have to go through a roasting process called “second crack”. In other words, the coffee roast goes far beyond the first expansion of the beans. In fact, darker roasts actually have a second crack that cause the oil of the coffee bean to come to the forefront.

Because of the way the roast coffee is made, it is not uncommon for dark roasts to have a lot more bitterness than other varieties. The second crack also influences the final taste of the darks roasts in other ways, as it can be a little spicier and oilier.

They will also be less acidic and actually contain less caffeine than the lighter beans described(by weight).

What roast of coffee is best?

This is often a case of personal preference. Some people prefer brighter flavors and less acidity and strength, so will choose light roast or medium roast. Others like the intensity of dark roast coffee beans.

You can also match particular roasts to brewing methods.

Drip and pour over tend to work great with light, medium, and medium dark roasts.

French press works great with medium, medium dark, and dark roasts.

Espresso works great with medium, medium dark, and dark roasts. You may find a dark roast espresso to be very intense.

Can I roast coffee at home?

There are companies that provide you with the option to buy green beans. Evidently, these are coffee beans that have not been roasted yet. In other words, you can roast them yourself to get the result that fits you best.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not necessarily need a dedicated roasting appliance to roast coffee beans at home. While this kind of appliance can give you the best result, you can also roast coffee with tools such as a pan, grill, oven, and even a popcorn popper.

If you like roasting your own coffee, we strongly recommend purchasing a home coffee roaster for the future. While they may cost more than the average coffee machine, having such a roasting appliance does give you more control over your coffee overall.

The temperature range that is required to roast beans lies between 350 Fahrenheit and 500 Fahrenheit. The final temperature will vary by the type of roast you want.

Please note that it is important to constantly turn the beans during the roasting process. If you leave the beans to rest, it causes an uneven distribution of heat and this could influence the taste of the beans. By turning the beans, you ensure an even roast.

Listen for the cracks to know how roasted your beans are: the first audible crack signals a light roast, and the second crack signals a dark roast.

How do I determine which roast is right for me?

If you have had coffee before, you may already have some idea of your personal preferences. However, if you have no idea whatsoever, you can always obtain one of each roast and try them out.

Medium beans also tend to deliver the “safest” coffee where taste is concerned. So, if you do not want to try them all at once, you can start with this kind of coffee. However, only through trial and error can you determine the best option for you.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 4 types of coffee beans?

Arabica and Robusta are the most common types of coffee beans. There are two other lesser known varieties known as Liberica and Excelsa.

What are the different types of coffee roasts?

You’ll commonly find coffee beans roasted as light, medium, medium-dark, and dark. There is also french roast which is a step above dark roast, where the beans are almost charred.

What is the strongest coffee roast?

The boldest, most intense flavor is found in dark roasts. I personally can’t handle dark roasts as they’re too strong for me.

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About Shabbir

Shabbir is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee In My Veins. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.

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