Coffee Roast Levels - The Ultimate Guide

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We all want our coffees to be perfect in taste. Similarly, we have different preferences when it comes to the taste of our coffee. 

One of the biggest factors that helps achieve this is up to what degree the coffee beans have been roasted.

As a coffee lover, we have gone through the curiosity of finding out how our daily cup of coffee became what it is. 

This guide will help you understand the different roast levels and how the taste changes at different roast levels.

Roasting Coffee is an Art

Not everyone is a master in this and it requires many years of practice and experience before someone gets this skill.

The raw coffee beans before roasting are small with almost no taste. After roasting they gain aroma and taste. They are usually soft and green in color at the time of picking.

There are many factors which determine how coffee is going to taste in the end. Some of these factors include:

  • The age of the coffee beans
  • The grind
  • Processing method
  • Brewing method

But above all the roast level is going to be the determining factor in its taste.

Coffee Roast Levels Compared

The color of a coffee bean can be helpful in finding the roast levels. Generally, it ranges from light to dark. Although you can find the coffee roast level through its color, the best way to find the roast level is through finding the roasting temperature. Most common roasting levels are:

  • Light Roast
  • Medium Roast
  • Medium-Dark Roast
  • Dark Roast

Light Roasts

As the name suggests, light roasts are lighter in color, mostly light brown. This level of roast is used when the preservation of flavour and aroma of the coffee beans is needed. They are drier with no oil on its surface. This is due to the short amount of period they are roasted.

They are heated in a temperature range of 350 – 400 degree Fahrenheit. Some popular categories in it include Light City, Half City and Cinnamon. While these beans are roasted just before the first crack appears, there is another category known as New England Roast which refers to beans roasted til the first crack forms.

Medium Roasts

Medium roasts are able to retain the aroma and flavor of coffee beans up to an extent. They are dry and lack oil on their surface. This roast level has less caffeine than the lighter roasts.

For achieving medium roast levels, you need to heat the coffee beans between 400 and 430 degree Fahrenheit. Usually, the beans are roasted till the first crack is complete and the second crack starts to appear.

Some popular roast names for this roast level are Regular Roast, City Roast, American Roast and Breakfast Roast.

Medium-Dark Roasts

In medium-dark roasts the beans start to get some oil on their surface and a darker color to them. They also have a heavier body when compared to lighter and medium roasts. This roast level makes the coffee spicy in taste.

To achieve medium-dark roast levels the beans need to be heated between 435 to 450 degree Fahrenheit. The beans need to be roasted till the start or middle of the second crack.

They are also known as After-Dinner Roast, Full-City Roast and Vienna Roast.

Dark Roasts

By this level the natural aroma and flavour of the coffee beans is replaced by the roast. The beans are dark brown with an oily surface. The caffeine in the beans is fairly reduced and they develop a burnt and ashy taste to them.

To reach the dark roasts level the coffee beans need to be heated in between 465 to 480 degree Fahrenheit. The coffee beans are heated until the second crack is completed and sometimes even further.

Some popular names include Italian Roast, French Roast, Continental Roast and Espresso Roast.

How coffee beans change as they go darker

Coffee beans tend to lose their original aroma and flavor as they turn darker. The caffeine levels in the beans start to reduce as they get darker. 

They also start losing their density in comparison to lighter roasts. That’s why a more roasted coffee bean is going to weigh less than less roasted ones. 

Acidity is also something that the beans lose the more they get roasted and oil starts to appear on the surface of darker roasts.

Some tips to choose the right coffee roast level

The different roast levels can be confusing for many to choose from. By now we have understood that the flavor and aroma of a coffee depends heavily on its roast levels. Below are some tips to choose the right roast level for you:

  • If you want a natural flavor and more caffeine heavy coffee then go with the light roast.
  • If you don’t like high acidity levels in your coffee then go with the medium or medium-dark roast levels.
  • If you don’t like too much caffeine and want a healthier option, you should go with the darker roast levels.

Some myths regarding the roast levels

Earlier there was a common myth that the darker a coffee is, the more strong it was and the more caffeine it contained. While the lightly roasted coffee was considered as weak or lower in comparison to the darker roasts. Thankfully this myth is not gaining any traction nowadays and lightly roasted coffee is gaining huge popularity. 

Takeaway

It all comes down to personal preference on which roast level someone prefers. Anyone who likes caffeine in their coffee should go with the lighter roasts and anyone who prefers less caffeine should go with the darker roasts. The lighter roasts taste mild while the darker coffee roasts taste bitter. 

This guide should clear all your doubts regarding the various coffee roast levels. Also, the roasting stage allows us to easily extract the flavors from coffee beans which helps in developing them better.

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