Roast Types Explained - Light, Medium & Dark

4 min read

Roast Types Explained - Light, Medium & Dark

Roast Types Explained

Light roast? Or filter? Are these the same things? Does anyone drink dark roasts anymore? Will a medium roast be strong enough? So many choices.

We’re going to take a look at some of the different types of coffee roasts you can pick from. Because, while the kind of bean that you’re using is important — coffee connoisseurs know that flavour and aroma depends on the roasting process as well.

Crash Course in the roasting process.

How do we get a light, medium or dark roasted coffee?

Without getting into the weeds of coffee roasting, essentially, we “cook” the coffee beans to different degrees at different roast speeds or length.

The end roast temperature or degree will determine the end ‘style’ of coffee.

It’s a bit like baking a cake.

Keep the cake in the oven too long and you’ll have a burnt and ashy mess.

Take the cake out of the oven too early and the outside will look good, but the inside will be all gooey.

This is the same for coffee beans.

We want to keep them in the roaster for just the right amount of time so that the coffee isn’t underdeveloped (grassy) or overdeveloped (dull).

 

 

 

Can any coffee be light or dark roasted?

Sure can.

However, just because you can roast a bean each way it doesn’t mean that it will taste good each way.

Rarely would one bean be able to do a good job of every roast level.

As Roasters and Green Bean buyers it’s our job to source the best bean for the job.

 

Light Roasts

As you might assume from their name — light roasts go through the shortest roasting process and the coolest overall end temperature of around 211 degrees Celsius.

The shorter roasting process provides them with perhaps the most identifiable taste profile.

Light roasted coffee beans are usually ‘show case’ single origin coffees.

These coffees are usually very high quality from well-regarded farms.

The purpose of these coffees is to highlight a region, the famers skill and the processing method.

Usually, the intention for light roast coffee is to be drunk black as a pour-over (V60 or Chemex) or as an AeroPress.

We prefer to drink these coffees black to highlight the clarity of the coffee and to taste all of the flavour nuances.

Modern light roasted coffees are on the fruity to very fruity end of the flavour spectrum and are generally high in acidity and low in body.

The terms ‘Light Roast’ and ‘Filter Roast’ are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

Best way to brew light roasted coffee at home -

  • AeroPress
  • Chemex
  • Clever Dripper
  • Hario V60

 

 

Medium Roasts

As you might have guessed, the internal temperatures reached by this kind of roast are somewhat higher compared to lighter roasts.

These kinds of coffee have more “body” to them, and they’re less acidic than lighter roasts.

Essentially, a medium roast is the kind of coffee that average daily drinkers will enjoy most often.

Their flavor is balanced, and their body and acidity may vary — however, on average, they fall squarely down the middle.

Best way to brew medium roasted coffee at home -

  • Home espresso machine
  • Plunger
  • AeroPress
  • Stove Top
  • Clever Dripper

 

Dark Roasts

Finally, we’ve got the dark roast with the highest roasting temperature of up to 250 degrees Celsius.

Dark roasted beans can have visible oils on them and when you taste a dark roast, chances are high that you won’t be able to taste their origin.

Generally, dark roasts are perceived as “sweeter”. This is because each coffee bean contains natural sugars and the longer roasting time and higher temperatures in darker roasts allow them to caramelize; this is called the ‘Maillard Reaction’.

The longer roasting process allows these beans to produce a fuller body and richer flavor, resulting in a somewhat buttery finish. Predictably, they have the lower levels of acidity compared to other coffee roasts but also the smallest amount of caffeine.

Out of all the roasts, the “French roast” is among the darkest — with distinct and recognisable smoky and ashy flavours. This is the longest and darkest any coffee bean should be roasted — anything above 250 degrees can result in fires in the coffee roasting drum.

Also, dark roasts tend to have European names, due to their huge popularity in the region.

Best way to brew dark roasted coffee at home -

  • Home espresso machine
  • Plunger
  • Stove Top

 

Which is Best?

As with everything coffee, the answer is- it depends!

In Australia, dark roast gets a bad rap as we can all probably remember the tremendously strong ‘Italian’ coffee beans from our youth.

They were so heavy and unbelievably bitter.

Due to modern coffee roasting software improving roasting accuracy, dark roasts can be nothing like the coffees of 20 years ago.

They can be strong in flavour, but lighter on bitterness, with an improved and larger brewing ‘sweet spot’, making them easier to brew with at home.

Medium roasts have come back into vogue in the past 5 years, with increased emphasis placed on every day, easy drinking. These coffees aren’t as complex as the coffees of the early 2010s, but they pair satisfyingly well with milk and are nuanced as a black coffee.

Light roasted coffee quality is still improving at a rapid speed with advanced processing and harvesting practices. These coffees keep demanding very high prices as they keep pushing the boundaries and challenge our perception as to what coffee can taste like.

The current highest priced coffee at the Cup of Excellence auction was a coffee from Ethiopia that went for $539 per kilo unroasted!

 

 

Conclusion

It’s worth noting that the definition of what makes a light/medium or dark roast is open to interpretation by the roaster.

Each coffee, no matter how its roasted can taste amazing – it’s just a matter of trying them all to find your perfect cup!

 

Light roasts-
Single Origin Filter Roast

Medium roast-
Crafted Blend
Brazil Santa Lucia
El Salvador Los Pirineos

Medum-Dark roast-
Hunter Blend
Costa Rica La Chumica
Colombian Decaf

Dark roast-
Dusk Blend
Brazil Aurum Dark


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