Roast Level Guide
How to Pick Your Perfect Roast
Most roasters have specialized names for their favored roasts and there is very little industry standardization. In general, roasts fall into one of four major categories — light, medium, medium-dark and dark. Within the four major categories, there are many common roasts as listed below.
Here are some quick tips:
- The amount of caffeine in the bean decreases as the roast gets darker.
- The surface of lightly roasted beans is dry.
As roasting increases, the oil in the beans is drawn to the surface where it becomes visible.
- Roasting decreases acidity in the beans, therefore darker roasts are less acidic.
- The darker a bean is roasted, the less prominent the distinct flavors of its origin become.
- Medium roast beans tend to have the heaviest “body”.
The perfect roast is a personal choice that is sometimes influenced by national preference or geographic location. It’s a good idea to ask before buying. There can be a world of difference between roasts. Ultimately, it’s all about the taste, the flavor, the aroma. Coffee, including the optimal roast level, is a personal preference.
Unroasted (Green bean)
Green coffee as it arrives at the dock. The beans can be stored for approximately 12–18 months in a climate controlled environment before quality loss is noticeable.
Light roasts are light brown in color, with a light body and no oil on the surface of the beans. Light roasts have a toasted grain taste and pronounced acidity. The origin flavors of the bean are retained to a greater extent than in darker roasted coffees. Light roasts also retain most of the caffeine from the coffee bean.
Some common roast names within the Light Roast category are Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast (roasted to just before first crack), and New England Roast (a popular roast in the northeastern United States, roasted to first crack).
Medium roasted coffees are medium brown in color with more body than light roasts. Like the lighter roasts, they have no oil on the bean surfaces. However, medium roasts lack the grainy taste of the light roasts, exhibiting more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity. Caffeine is somewhat decreased, but there is more caffeine than in darker roasts.
Common roast names within the Medium Roast level include Regular Roast, American Roast (the traditional roast in the eastern United States, roasted to the end of the first crack), City Roast (medium brown, a typical roast throughout the United States), and Breakfast Roast.
Medium-dark roasts have a richer, darker color with some oil beginning to show on the surface of the beans. A medium-dark roast has a heavy body in comparison with the lighter or medium roasts.
Among the most common names for a medium-dark roast are Full-City Roast (roasted to the beginning of the second crack), After Dinner Roast, and Vienna Roast (roasted to the middle of the second crack, sometimes characterized as a dark roast instead).
Dark roasted coffees are dark brown in color, like chocolate, or sometimes almost black. They have a sheen of oil on the surface, which is usually evident in the cup when the dark roast coffee is brewed. The coffee’s origin flavors are eclipsed by the flavors of the roasting process. The coffee will generally have a bitter and smoky taste. The amount of caffeine is substantially decreased.
Dark roasts go by many names. Some of the more popular designations for a dark roast include French Roast, Italian Roast, Espresso Roast, Continental Roast, New Orleans Roast, and Spanish Roast. Many dark roasts are used for espresso blends.