Coffee Roasts 101 – What Are You Drinking?

You’re new to the world of coffee and you want to digest as much information as possible in the simplest way to consume. You’ve been drinking your father’s Yuban for years and you just know there has to be something better out there. You want to buy good coffee, but you’re not sure where to start. This guide will serve as your starting point, your beacon of hope in the night.

Let us begin with simple terminology and then we’ll move on to a more refined glossary. There are three ‘main’ categories of roast. There is the Light Coffee Roast, Dark Coffee Roast, and Medium Coffee Roast. To put it simply any coffee you choose is going to fall upon this range of flavor. Each roast is denoted as such by the time spent in the roaster, the temperature it is roasted at, and the color of the bean after the roast.

Coffee Roasting:

This is the process of transforming a green coffee bean into its more noticeable self, the roasted coffee bean. Coffee roasting can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and goes through multiple stages of low to high heats in order to capture the complexities and flavors that are sought in the final production. Coffee has a large spectrum of flavor and color that denotes its characteristics.

Light Coffee Roast:

A light coffee roast is perhaps the least popular of all coffee roasts, but that isn’t to say that it is the least desired coffee or that it is inherently worse than a darker roast. Quite the opposite is true in that a light coffee is more apt to capture the true flavor of a coffee bean. Because its flavors will stay intact a green coffee bean of high quality and desired taste is much more suited to a lighter roast. A lower quality coffee bean will be roasted longer and at higher temperatures to mask its inferior taste.

A light coffee roast will typically have more caffeine than its darker counterpart. As a coffee bean roasts longer the caffeine is ‘burned off’ thus a lighter roast will keep more caffeine intact.

Certain regions and blends are more apt to produce a high quality light roast coffee. Roasters often choose a particular region of green bean coffee to use in their light roast coffee.

How to tell if you’re drinking a Light Coffee Roast?

A light coffee roast is denoted by its light body, full taste, and its bright liveliness. The first impression you will experience is the taste. Because the green coffee bean has been roasted for as little time as possible the true flavors are still in tact. As the coffee is tasted across the palate you will be able to extract the full flavor of the bean. The finishing taste of the light coffee is often described as sweet or lively. A bad light roast will have the acidic taste of grass left on your palate. A good light roast will have a slightly acidic, floral aromatic finish to it often described as citrus or fruity in flavor.

Dark Coffee Roast:

The dark coffee roast is the second most popular of all the coffee roasts, but that isn’t to say that it’s the best roast available. It is often characterized as a dark roast because of the amount of time spent in the roaster and the temperature at which it is roasted. A coffee bean that has been subjected to longer roasting times and higher temperatures will lose a majority of its true green coffee bean flavor. This results in a more uniformed taste and consistency. Often times lower quality coffee beans will be dark roasted because of this. However, there is still a large difference that can be noted when high quality coffee beans are dark roasted.

Just about any green coffee bean can be dark roasted and still have a drinkable taste. Because the process of roasting a coffee to its breaking point nullifies any of the off tastes and inconsistencies that can be found in a green bean, the region of the green coffee bean is of less importance to the roaster when creating their dark coffee roast.

How to tell if you’re drinking a Dark Coffee Roast?

A dark coffee roast is denoted by its full body and its smooth liveliness. The first impression you will experience is that the taste is more neutral when compared to a light roast. As the green coffee bean is roasted longer it neutralizes any off tastes and creates a more uniform taste. The dark coffee will be most noticeably smoother than its light counter part. The longer the green coffee bean spends roasting the less acidity is left to impart on the palate. It will have a finishing taste that is less pronounced and considered smoother as a result.

Medium Coffee Roast:

The medium coffee roast covers the full gambit of coffee that fall somewhere between a light and a dark coffee. Entirely up to the roaster and the region of the coffee bean it can have a medium to full body flavor and either a smooth or slightly acidic after taste. Its goal is to provide the best of both the light and the dark coffee. It wants to capture the flavor of the green bean without leaving its off marks in place. It is a highly artisan practice to create a well balanced medium roast.

You will find that most coffee blends you drink will be considered of the medium roast variety. A roaster will carefully choose which regions to blend together to capture the just the right flavor from the roasting process.

How to tell if you’re drinking a Medium Coffee Roast?

A medium coffee roast is denoted by its medium body and its smooth-bright liveliness. Because it covers such a wide range of flavors, the medium roast is perhaps the most popular coffee. It allows the roaster flexibility to derive the most flavor from the green coffee bean. If the coffee you’re drinking lingers on your palate and finishes with a lively flavor you’re probably drinking a medium roast coffee.

Conclusion:

Coffee comes in all different forms. There is no right or wrong choice, simply put; it is a matter of personal opinion. When choosing your coffee roast a general rule of thumb is that as the sun rises in the morning it is time for a light coffee roast and as the sun sets it is time for a dark coffee roast. In between the two, feel free to drink the medium coffee roast.

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