Roasting Coffee Beans – Learning The Differences

Do you have a favorite coffee roast? Light, dark, or in between? The roast of the bean is what determines the flavor that ends up in your cup. Before the beans are roasted, green beans are soft, and they have a fresh, somewhat grassy scent, and little taste. The roast transforms them into the crunchy, aromatic, and flavorful beans that we have come to know and love as coffee.

Other factors come in to play. Obviously, the two varieties play a part. Even if the beans are roasted to the same level, coffees from two different origins will taste markedly different.

Other factors that affect taste include the grind, the method of processing, the age of the coffee, and the brewing method. The roast level, however, is the baseline, it’s a rough guide as to what type of taste you can expect.

The easiest way to describe the roast is by the color of the beans, which range from light to extra dark. As beans absorb the heat during the roasting process, they become darker. At higher temperatures, oils begin to appear on the beans surface. Coffee beans vary greatly, so color isn’t always an accurate method to judge the roast.

Your preference for roast is entirely subjective. Those on the West Coast of the USA have long preferred a darker roast when compared to those on the East Coast. Additionally, Europeans have long favored darker roasts, especially throughout Italy, Spain, and France. In general, the categories of roast are as follows:

Light RoastMost caffeine: Light roasts have very little oil on the surface and are light brown. They have a taste of toasted grain and an acidity. The flavors are far more pronounced in light roast coffees versus darker roasts. The light roast also retains more caffeine. Beans pop at 401°F, a light roast hasn’t reached that point.

Medium RoastLess caffeine: A medium roast has more body than a light roast, and is medium brown. They have a far more balanced aroma, acidity, and flavor. There is a higher level of caffeine than darker roasts have, though less than light roasts. The medium roast hits temperatures of 410°F and 428°F between the first and second pop (or crack).

Medium Dark RoastEven less caffeine: These are known to have a darker, richer color, and there is oil slightly showing on the beans surface. They are heavy bodied, and roasted to the start (or middle) of that second crack, which is temperatures of around 437° and 446°. The taste of the coffee can be spicy, with the aromas and flavors becoming more noticeable.

Dark RoastLeast caffeine: This coffee is like the color of chocolate. The beans are oily, which can usually be seen in the resulting cup of coffee. The flavors are concealed by the roast. It often tastes bitter, smoky, and in some cases: burnt. There is far less caffeine in dark roast coffees.

A dark roast continues to roast beyond the end of the second crack, at temperatures of 464°F and higher, though the temperatures do not exceed 482°F, because at this point the beans become thin and burnt.

  • The darker the coffee the less origin flavor, and less caffeine you will find
  • Light roasts are more acidic, and the beans are dry
  • The body gets heavier as it roasts, but when it hits the second crack, it thins

It’s all about aroma, taste, and flavor. You may turn to a light roast in the morning to get your caffeine kick, and then opt for a dark roast in the afternoon to avoid a rough sleep.




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