Set foot in any American kitchen in the morning and you are likely to smell the aroma of coffee brewing. It is a staple of morning meetings and a common element of social gatherings when friends suggest grabbing a coffee to catch up. Despite its prevalence, many find coffee to be confusing. The various coffee roast levels can leave you wondering which is the best choice. With everything from green coffee to the darkest roasts, there are nuances and differences to consider, whether you’re choosing the right cup to get your morning started or the perfect base for your favorite Irish Coffee drink.
Understanding Coffee Roast Levels
The raw color of coffee beans depends on where the coffee is grown, with some appearing dark green and others with a greenish-brown or light green hue. The color shifts during the roasting process, growing darker as the roast progresses. The darker the roast, the more oil comes out of the coffee bean as well.
That unroasted coffee is technically edible but would not be anything remotely resembling your typical morning cup of joe. Instead, coffee from the raw bean would be very acidic, earthy and grassy.
Considering Light Coffee Roast Levels
A light roast produces beans that are light brown in color and dry in appearance. The light roast does the best job of bringing flavor out of the bean and preserving the natural aroma and flavor in every cup. It brews a beverage with a brighter taste than some of the darker roasts, though it will be more acidic as well. Light roasts are often referred to as half-city, cinnamon or New England roasts.
Achieving a light roast bean usually starts with low heat, around 350 or 375 degrees. The beans roast for about 10 minutes or just until they begin to turn light brown. It is important to keep the temperature lower and roast them quickly for that bright, sharp taste that light roast fans love.
Exploring Medium Coffee Roast Levels
Medium roasts are among the most popular across the country for the full, balanced flavor produced. Medium roast beans are deeper brown than the light roast varieties, which results in a fuller, richer flavor and a bit less acid. Many coffee drinkers find medium roasts to be the ideal balance for both taste and acidity because the medium roast retains much of the coffee’s flavor and keeps most of the oils at bay. You find most medium roasts sold as a breakfast blend or American roast.
The medium roast process involves a slightly higher temperature than a light roast, for another minute or so. That minute may not sound like much but, with the increased heat, it is all you need to transition to the fuller body of the medium roast bean.
Trying Medium-Dark Coffee Roast Levels
When you want a coffee with a deeper flavor than your traditional breakfast blend cup, consider a darker roast. As you roast coffee beans further, the prolonged heat exposure draws more oil from the bean. This results in darker roasts brewing a more oily cup of coffee, and the beans retaining a sheen from that coating. Medium-dark roasts just start drawing the oils out, so you might see a shimmer on the beans and a little bit of oil on the top of your cup.
The medium-dark roast creates a rich, bold flavor with more earthy undertones. You lose the bright and acidic taste in exchange for a dark coffee with a slightly smoky and roasted taste. The beans usually appear to be a deeper brown color with a shine from the oils inside, and they might have a more toasted aroma.
Roasting coffee beans to a medium-dark level usually starts at much higher temperatures and can take as much as two or three minutes longer than the light roast. You can find medium-dark roasts on the shelf as Full-City or Country blends.
Embracing Dark Coffee Roast Levels
Dark roast coffee has rich, bitter and bold flavors. Roasting coffee beans to a dark roast point, where the bean is very dark brown in color and oily to the touch, creates a smoky roasted taste that some people find too bitter and strong. The time spent roasting coffee beans to a dark roast stage eliminates the sharp acidity of the coffee in exchange for that bold taste.
Most dark roasts are French or Italian roasts. You might also find dark roast coffee in an espresso blend. The process requires high temperatures and a prolonged roasting time to create that robust taste.
Selecting Your Perfect Coffee Roast Levels
The right roast level for your coffee is a highly personal decision. Everyone has their preferences for that perfect morning cup, and sometimes it requires a blend of different types. Experiment with brew strength, brew method and roast to find the flavor that gets your day started right. You might find that the coffee you enjoy in your drip coffeemaker is too bitter for your French press. Sampling several different options in different manners helps you refine what you like.
Consider which elements of a cup of coffee you enjoy the most. Are you a fan of that deep coffee flavor or do you enjoy the sharp, acidic bite in the perfect morning cup? If you like the bright, acidic undertones, a light roast might be ideal. You may find a medium roast works well, too. When you want a cup of coffee with a deep roasted flavor and none of that natural sharpness, a darker roast or bold blend is better.
Evaluating the Effect of Coffee Roast Levels on Caffeine
A common misconception is that darker roasts and deeper coffee blends have more caffeine than light roast cups. Lighter roast coffees actually have more caffeine. In addition to reducing acidity, roasting coffee beans also reduces the caffeine concentration as it draws moisture out of the bean. If you want to moderate your caffeine intake, consider a darker coffee roast over lighter options.
Everything You Need To Know About Coffee Roast Levels and More
Knowing your preferred coffee roast levels makes for the perfect cup of joe to start your day. Check out Rugged Standard for other great food and drink insights.