Roast Types Explained - Light, Medium & Dark

3 min read

Roast Types Explained - Light, Medium & Dark

Navigating the world of coffee can sometimes feel like solving a cryptic crossword. Light roast, filter, medium, dark – what do these terms even mean? Are some outdated? Is medium strong enough? The multitude of options can be daunting, but fear not!

Here at Fox Coffee, we're going to demystify the roast types you're likely to encounter on your coffee journey. After all, the coffee bean isn't the only factor dictating your cup's final flavor and aroma. The roast process plays an equally pivotal role. Let's embark on this caffeinated journey together!


Roasting 101: Light, Medium, and Dark

Think of roasting coffee like baking a cake. Too little time in the oven, and your cake is under-cooked. Too long, and it's burnt. It's the same with coffee beans; we want to hit that sweet spot between underdeveloped (resulting in a grassy taste) and overdeveloped (creating a dull flavor).

At its core, coffee roasting is about 'cooking' the beans to varying degrees and durations. The endpoint of this process determines the 'style' of your coffee – light, medium, or dark.


Can Any Bean be Roasted Light or Dark?

In theory, yes, any coffee bean can endure a light or dark roast. But, in practice, the taste might not be appealing at all roast levels. As Roasters and Green Bean buyers, we're tasked with finding the best bean for each roast level.


The Lowdown on Light Roasts

Light roasts undergo the shortest roasting process and reach the lowest final temperature, around 207 degrees Celsius. They typically display the most identifiable taste profiles and are commonly single origin coffees, often used to showcase a particular region, farming skill, or processing method.

You're likely to find these coffees on the fruity end of the flavor spectrum, high in acidity and low in body. Perfect for enjoying black as a pour-over or AeroPress brew. They highlight the clarity of the coffee, allowing you to experience every subtle flavor nuance. And remember, 'light roast' and 'filter roast' are just two names for the same thing!


Medium Roasts: The Balanced Choice

Medium roasts reach higher internal temperatures than light roasts, leading to a coffee with more 'body' and less acidity. These are your everyday, go-to brews. Offering a balanced flavor, medium roasts have a varied body and acidity but generally fall right in the middle.


Dark Roasts: The Bold Brew

Dark roasts are the most intensely roasted, hitting temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius. These beans may display visible oils and usually mask the beans' original flavors. Dark roasts are often seen as sweeter due to the caramelization of the beans' natural sugars during the longer roasting process, a phenomenon known as the 'Maillard Reaction'.

Dark roasts are robust, full-bodied, and rich, with a buttery finish. They are low in acidity and contain the least amount of caffeine among the roasts. Among dark roasts, the "French roast" stands out with its distinct smoky and ashy flavors. It's crucial not to surpass 250 degrees during roasting, as it can lead to fires in the coffee roasting drum.


So, Which Roast is the Best?

As with most things in the coffee world, it truly depends on your taste preference!

In Australia, dark roasts often get dismissed due to their strong, bitter flavors of the past. However, with modern roasting software improving accuracy, dark roasts have evolved. They're strong, yet less bitter, with a more extensive and forgiving 'sweet spot', making them more user-friendly for home brewing.

Medium roasts have seen a resurgence in popularity recently, offering an everyday, easy-drinking option. They pair wonderfully with milk and offer nuanced flavors as a black coffee.

Meanwhile, the quality of light roasted coffee continues to improve rapidly due to advancements in processing and harvesting practices. These coffees are pushing the boundaries, challenging our notions of what coffee can taste like, and commanding high prices due to their superior quality.

At the end of the day, no matter how it's roasted, each coffee can be a delightful experience – it's all about exploring the vast landscape of flavors to find your ideal cup.

Remember, the classifications of light, medium, or dark roast are more of an art than a science and can vary based on the roaster's interpretation. So go ahead, start experimenting, and let Fox Coffee be your guide to coffee enlightenment!


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