Do Dark Roasts Contain more Caffeine than Lighter Coffee Roasts?

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Coffee Roast Levels and Caffeine

This is one of the most hotly debated questions among coffee lovers, but before we can answer it we need to understand the difference between dark roasts and light ones. 

What’s the difference between dark and light roasts?

Coffee beans in their natural state are green and not suitable to make the beverage we traditionally refer to as coffee with them. They need to be roasted to various degrees. It’s the experts in the industry who decide what type of roast is most suited for a particular type of beans, so they can offer the best possible flavor. 

Lighter roasts require lower temperatures and shorter times for roasting, darker ones, obviously, require high temperatures and longer periods, with medium roasts somewhere in the middle.

Light roasts allow the coffee beans to retain most of their natural flavors, while dark roasts have a distinctive burnt flavor.

Which roast has the most caffeine?

One popular myth is that dark coffee has more caffeine in it because, you know, the beans have a darker color and the brew is more bitter. This is simply not true and the bitter taste has to do with the longer time spent in the roaster. 

The more traditional thinking is that lighter roasts have more caffeine. Just as beans tend to lose some of their flavor and micro-nutrients during the roasting process, the caffeine content also decreases, the argument goes.

However, this isn’t exactly true either. Experts say that the caffeine content is only minimally affected by the different types of roasting. The only way to see a noticeable difference would be to roast the beans at over 600°F, way higher than the 470°F generally used to produce a dark roast. 

Bottom line, a bean of a dark roast has roughly the same caffeine as a bean of a lighter roast.

Caffeine Levels Compared

And now it is time for your surprise answer. 

A cup of coffee made with a light roast coffee does, in fact, pack more caffeine than a one made with a dark roast, even if we’re talking about the same variety of coffee.

How is it possible, you’ll be wondering, since we’ve just said that the two types of roasted beans have the same amount of caffeine. Is this some sort of magic?

Unfortunately, no, because you don’t need to explain magic. The answer to the question has to do with physics – weight, volume, measures – basically boring stuff, so we’ll keep it short 

Light coffee is roasted for less time, it’s denser and heavier than dark roast beans, which lose more water during the process and will weigh less. Therefore, each particle of ground light roast ends up containing more caffeine than a particle of ground dark roast. 

When you make yourself a cup of coffee and measure one scoop of light roast coffee, that scoop has more caffeine in it than a dark roast would have.

You will get a nice strong coffee to keep you going for hours!

You will find those who maintain this is not fair – measuring coffee by volume, with a scoop or a tablespoon. They insist that you should measure the beans by weight – 10 grams of light roast will have the same amount of caffeine as 10 grams of dark roast

This is all probably true, we’re not going to argue with that, but, from a consumer’s point of view, it’s kind of irrelevant.

All that matters for regular people, who do not want to bother themselves with physics, is which coffee tastes better and which will give them a stronger energy boost and that is light roast coffee. After this long explanation, we could all use a cup of very strong coffee, no doubt!

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