Light roast. Medium roast. Dark roast. These are a few terms you may have come across often. If you aren’t that big on coffee or if you just haven’t paid attention to being a coffee connoisseur until now, then you may not know what these terms even mean in the slightest. But seeing that it is never too late to learn new things, especially when they belong to a beloved superfood group, this is just as good a time as any to know more about different types of coffee roasts and their basic properties.
On the other hand, if you identify as a coffee enthusiast, you may be slightly familiar with these terms. You may even know the meaning of your favorite roast and exactly what it translates to in terms of taste and properties, while conveniently ignoring the rest. But there comes a time when you simply need to explore new avenues, which is where you are willing to give the other roasts a chance. Having an open mind is not a bad thing after all.
Either way, your willingness to learn about different types of coffee roasts opens doors to a whole new and exciting world of flavor. From the earthy taste of light roast to the sweet undertones of dark roast, you have a variety of coffee notes to choose from and enjoy to your heart’s content. But seeing that learning about the different kinds of roasts can be overwhelming at first, we have put together an explanatory guide that tells you about each of the most popular coffee roasts in an easy to understand manner.
Without further ado, let’s go ahead and start our guide of basic facts about each coffee roast, so you could pick and choose your coffee as you see fit.
First Things First: What is a Coffee Roast Anyway?
First of all, it’s essential to learn just what does a coffee roast mean and how does it affect the taste of your coffee beans?
Simply put, a coffee roast refers to the level and amount of heat that specific coffee beans are exposed to before being consumed.
Much like cooking any other dry food and processing it through heat, roasting coffee beans puts them through a procedure to dry their moisture and drive out their natural oil. The more heat they are exposed to, the more affected their flavor will be.
The amount and intensity of roasting have significant effects on how does a coffee bean tastes like. This is why, if you want to enjoy the different tastes of coffee, it is essential that you learn about different types of coffee roasts.
What are the Popular Coffee Roasts?
Before you learn about each of the coffee roasts individually, it is a good idea to acquaint yourself with basic information about them, starting from their names.
By now, we have already spoken of 3 popular roast types. But they are far from being the only kinds of coffee roasts to know about. Here is a list of different types of coffee roasts that are known all over the world.
- Light Roast
- Medium Roast
- Medium-Dark Roast
- Dark Roast
Apart from these basic types of coffee roasts, you may also come across different subtypes of them. That is where terms such as cinnamon roast, American roast, and French roast come from. But given that they are essentially subcategories of these major coffee roast categories, you can learn more about them after going through the basics. We are keeping it easy, remember?
How Do You Identify Different Types of Coffee Roasts?
Each of these roasts gets its name due to the heat that the coffee beans are exposed to, as well as the color of the coffee beans themselves.
Light roast sports the lightest shade of all coffee beans, while dark roast holds the deepest shade of brown. This also clarifies that a light roast will not necessarily have a lighter taste. It will just have a lighter shade to identify what level of roast it is.
This makes it easier to tell different coffee roasts apart according to their processed level of heat.
Now that you have the 4 different types of coffee roasts all cleared up, let’s go through each one of them individually.
In the world of coffee, the term light roast is associated with the least processed coffee beans. These coffee beans have seen the lowest amount of heat in any roast type. This makes them denser, lighter in color, and more acidic or brighter in flavor that comes with fruity undertones.
In this form, the coffee beans retain much of their earthy flavor, as well as any natural undertones from their growth type. They are also rougher in appearance, since the oil in them has not broken through the surface.
These coffee beans are roasted just enough to make sure that the coffee beans pop or crack at their very first level, which is also known as the first crack. Simply put, this is the level where coffee becomes edible.
Out of all different types of coffee roasts, a light roast either stops at the first crack or just before it. This makes the coffee retain most of its natural caffeine. Yes, light roast coffee typically sports the highest amount of caffeine, which diminishes the misconception that dark roast coffees have more caffeine in them.
The best way to enjoy a light roast is often without any additives such as cream or milk. For instance, you can use your light roast coffee beans for pour-over and drip coffee.
You can find light roast among a variety of coffee beans, especially those which sell custom roast coffees. If you are looking for an earthy yet bright taste in your coffee with a thinner body, then this highly caffeinated roast is the perfect match for you.
Simply put, medium roast is the most popular coffee among most Americans. As the name suggests, this particular roast takes a neutral position on the level of heat during the roasting procedure. As a result, the coffee beans you get are medium brown in color, have a mild amount of caffeine, while also having a less acidic flavor in comparison to light roast.
The undertones from this roast are not as strong as light roast, and have a slightly “roasty” flavor that comes from the heat. But similar to light roast, these coffee beans also do not have the signature sheen that you might see in the stock pictures of coffee beans. It’s because the oil does not come to the surface of these coffee beans as well.
Among the different types of coffee roasts, medium roast coffee is often roasted just beyond the first crack. This gives the roast its signature balance in flavor.
Medium roast coffee can be used safely in a variety of popular drinks such as pour-over, cold brew, espresso, and latte.
Medium roast coffee is one of the most popular roast types in coffee beans. It can be found in stores for popular coffee beans easily. You can also order it through vendors who sell custom roast coffee.
A medium-dark roast is known for giving coffee beans a rich brown color with a slightly oily surface that’s typically associated with the visuals of coffee beans. Since this roast is exposed to more heat, it also gives you less caffeine, while bringing out the roasty scent and undertones in flavors.
The medium-dark roast coffee has a fuller body as compared to lighter roasts. It also has a milder flavor. It may also sport a slightly bitter taste, which mostly depends upon the technique of the roaster.
Most coffees in medium-dark roast are taken just to the point of the second and final crack of coffee beans, but some are stopped way before that. It depends upon the subtype of roast and the type of coffee beans the roasters are working with.
A medium-dark roast can be used for almost all coffee beverages. It depends upon your personal taste and preference of flavor notes. Medium-dark roasts are usually available from popular coffee vendors. Similar to other different types of coffee roasts on this list, any custom roast vendor is able to fulfill this roast request for you.
Often considered as the pinnacle of coffee roasts, dark roast gives coffee beans their shiniest surface, their deepest color, and their smokiest flavor. When done right, dark roast retains the natural sweetness and flavor of coffee beans, while enhancing its flavor profile with the roasty, rich taste and scent of its heat. This coffee roast also brings out a chocolate undertone in most coffee beans, but it is not always the case.
Since the coffee beans in dark roast are exposed to the highest level of heat, the oil fully breaks through the surface. Dark roast is also the least acidic of coffee roast types. Typically, dark roast coffee beans have the lowest amount of caffeine. But dark roast coffee that is processed at a low level of heat for a longer amount of time can retain its natural kick of caffeine.
Telling medium-dark roast apart from a dark roast can be tricky for new coffee enthusiasts. But the key lies within the looks and the actual flavor of the coffee. Medium-dark roast as a rich brown color that stands out due to its vividness. It also has a less smoky aroma when compared to the deep brown dark roast.
Dark roast coffee can be used in almost all types of coffee beverages as well. This roast also works best with high-quality coffee beans. That is why, finding a dark roast coffee that has all the positive qualities of this roast can cost a pretty penny. With that being said, you can find dark roast coffees easily from popular vendors. You can also have your choice of coffee beans done as dark roast through a custom roast vendor.
All in all, these different types of coffee roasts provide you with various flavor profiles to enjoy. Make sure to pair your coffee roasts with different brewing methods, and you will have a lot of fun exploring all the natural flavors that coffee has to offer.