4 Primary Types of Coffee Roasts Explained

Coffee is grown on trees in the form of red cherries. After harvesting, the outer layer is removed and we get the green-colored coffee beans.

These green coffee beans are almost flavorless and have no aroma. So, they are roasted under high pressure and temperature in a special type of roaster. This roasting process brings out the delicious and rich flavors of coffee.

Green coffee beans are roasted at different pressures and temperatures for different amounts of time. During the roasting process, various chemical changes occur, the moisture is evaporated and the color of coffee beans turns dark from green.

The roasting temperature and time have an impact on the physical appearance, flavor profiles, and aroma of the final product.

Based on the degree of the roasting process, coffee roasts are traditionally classified into 4 groups: light roast, medium roast, medium-dark roast, and dark roast.

In this article, I will explain the flavor profiles, roasting process, acidity and bitterness level, and the different names of all 4 types of coffee roasts. 

Coffee roasts level chart

Coffee roast level chart

As the degree of roasting is increased the color of coffee beans changes from green to brown to dark. Many chemical and physical changes occur during the roasting process and almost all the water is evaporated.

Green coffee beans are soft with no oil on the surface and dark roasted beans are brittle with a very oily surface.

The chart explains how the acidity level, bitterness, texture of the surface, and color of coffee beans change with the degree of roasting.

What are the different coffee roast types?

1. Light Roast

Light roast coffee

Light roasted coffee beans are roasted at 375 to 410 degrees in roasting machines. After some time, the coffee beans start making popping sounds similar to the sound we hear while making popcorns.

This is known as the “first crack”.

During the process, coffee beans expand to double of their original size, and most of the moisture gets evaporated. The roasting process is stopped just after the first crack sound.

This roast is light brown in color and has no oil on the surface.

Flavor Profile

Light roast coffee is not roasted for a considerable amount of time so the flavor profile mostly depends on the origin of coffee and it retains most of the original flavors of coffee.

Light roast is highly acidic with citrus fruity flavors and a mild floral aroma. This roast has the highest amount of caffeine by volume.

If high acidity doesn’t bother you and you like the citrus fruity flavors then light roast is the best choice for you.

Best for

Light roasted coffee beans are perfect for making cold brews because of their fruity flavors.

You can also use them for brewing pour-over coffee but you will not get any pleasing aroma.

Some common names for Light roast coffee

  • New England
  • Cinnamon Roast
  • Half city
  • Light city
  • White coffee

2. Medium Roast

Medium roast coffee beans

Medium roast coffee is brown in color with little to no oil on its surface. It is roasted at 415 to 440 degrees for a slightly longer period than the light roast. It is taken out of the roasters just before the second crack and it has a slightly thicker body than the light roast.

Medium roast is the most popular roast in America and many coffee aficionados claim that it is the best coffee roast.

Flavor Profile

Medium roast is sweeter and less acidic than the light roast and has much more balanced flavors. It has a mix of flavor profiles from brown sugar, caramel, and nuts to citrus and fruity notes. Moreover, the prolonged roasting process also brings out a flavorful aroma.

Best for

This roast is suitable for both the hot brew and cold brew as it has balanced flavors. Generally, it is suitable for pour-over, Moka pot, and drip coffee machines. But you can also brew French Press or Espresso with it.

Of course, you have to grind the beans accordingly.

Some common names for Medium roast coffee

Medium roast is the best-selling type of roast and it is marketed under a variety of names

  • American Roast
  • City Roast
  • Breakfast roast
  • House blend
  • Regular roast

3. Medium-Dark Roast

Medium dark roast coffee beans

Medium-Dark roast is achieved by prolonging the roasting process until the popping sound is heard again. This is known as the “second crack”.

The second crack occurs when the temperature inside the coffee beans reaches up to 435 to 450 degrees.

This roast is dark brown in color and has a slightly oily surface.

Flavor Profile

Because of the enhanced roasting process, almost all the acidity is removed and a slightly bitter aftertaste is developed. The flavor profile has spicy and chocolaty notes with the hints of caramel and smokiness.

If you are a fan of a rich cup of coffee with a flavorful aroma and slight bitterness that does not bother you then medium-dark roast is perfect for you.

Best for

This roast is best for brewing French Press and Espresso. Both these brewing methods deliver an intense and full-bodied cup of coffee so they also require a rich coffee roast like a medium-dark roast.

This roast is not perfect for cold brew or iced coffee as bitterness is not desirable in these types of coffees.

Some common names for Medium dark roast coffee

  • Full city
  • After dinner roast
  • Light French
  • Light Espresso
  • Viennese roast

4. Dark Roast

Dark roast coffee beans

Dark roasted coffee beans are almost black in color with a glossy and oily surface. To achieve dark roast coffee beans are roasted at more than 450 degrees for very long periods well past the “second crack”.

All the moisture is removed during this roasting process and most of the oils leach out to the surface which makes the beans dark.

Only expert roasters can roast coffee beans to this degree because if not roasted well, the coffee will result in burnt and extremely bitter flavors.

Dark roast is cheaper than other roasts because most roasters use low-quality coffee beans for this roast. As the taste of dark roast mainly depends on the expertise of the roaster, not on the origin of coffee beans.

Flavor Profile

Most of the original floral flavors of coffee are removed during the roasting and the coffee is only left with rich and intense tastes. Dark roasts have the least amount of caffeine by volume and have no acidity. This roast has a bold and flavorful aroma that can bring joy to any coffee lover.

If you are strictly against the acidic flavors of coffee and a fan of a bittersweet aftertaste then this roast is for you.

Best for

Dark roast is perfect for brewing any type of hot coffee whether it’s French Press, Pour-over, or Espresso. Just make sure you are using the right grind size.

Espresso and Drip coffee machines use medium-fine grounds and for brewing French Press use extremely coarse grounds.

The flavors from dark roast beans are readily extracted. Your drink can become extremely bitter if you use extra fine grounds or if you brew them for a longer period.

Some common names for dark roast coffee

  • French roast
  • Espresso Roast
  • Italian Roast
  • New Orleans
  • Neopolitan
  • European Roast

Frequently Asked Questions About Coffee Beans

Which coffee roast is strongest?

Dark roast coffee is the strongest and has the most intense and rich flavors.

Dark roast is roasted for an extended period that burns all the fruity and acidic flavors and only bitter and intense flavors are left.

What roast of coffee is less bitter?

Light roast is the least bitter among all.

These beans are roasted for very less time at lower temperatures so they retain the original fruity and citrus flavors of coffee beans.

What type of coffee roast is best?

Well, it depends on the taste of the person some like fruity and acidic flavors, and others like bitter and intense flavors.

In America, light and medium roasts are more popular while in Europe medium-dark and dark roasts are more popular.

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