A Guide To Choosing a Coffee Roast

coffee roasts and mug

I have tried nearly every coffee roast out there, from blonde roast to dark roast, to French roast. I have tried them all. If you want to have the best cup of coffee, choosing the best roast makes all the difference. The question is, how do you choose the best coffee roast?

In general, there are three roasts of coffee you can choose from, light roast, medium roast, and dark roast. Each roast has unique characteristics such as varying acidity levels, a sweet or bitter flavor, and different levels of caffeine. Choosing a roast all comes down to your personal preference.

Not surprisingly, there are nearly as many brands of coffee as there are coffee drinkers. Finding one you like should not be difficult if you know which roast you prefer. Keep reading to understand what makes each coffee roast unique and the difference between the three coffee roasts

What is the difference between coffee roasts?

Although coffee comes from all areas of the world, every coffee roast comes from two types of coffee beans, arabica or robusta beans (or a blend of both). Most coffee drinkers prefer Arabica beans because they generally make the best coffee. If you are looking for the best coffee roast, decide which type of bean you like best, and then choose your roast.

The color of roasted coffee beans ranges from light to dark, which is where the roast names come from. You may be able to tell the roast level of a coffee by looking at the color of the roasted beans. However, the roasting temperature of the coffee is what actually determines the roast level.

As a general rule, the longer a bean is roasted, the darker the color will be. Light roast coffees are cooked at a lower temperature and are only cooked enough to lightly brown them and cause the bean to crack. Dark roasts are cooked at a higher temperature and cooked longer until the bean expands and cracks a second time. The roasting process is what gives the coffee its flavor. The longer a bean is cooked, the more it caramelizes and gives the coffee a rich, fuller flavor.

Light roast coffee

Light roast coffee is roasted briefly at a lower roasting temperature than a medium and dark roast, and for less time. It has a subtle, mild flavor that’s slightly more acidic than a medium or dark roast coffee. The roasting process bakes the coffee beans just long enough for them to turn brown, expand and crack. This roasting process allows the coffee beans to retain the natural oils and flavor of the beans

Many coffee drinkers are accustomed to drinking medium or dark roast coffees that lack the mild, fruity, or floral favors you get from a light roast. If you normally drink a darker roast coffee, a light roast coffee can make your morning cup of coffee a little more exciting and flavorful. While we all have our preferences, if you are adventurous and want to try something new, a light roast coffee will give you a different coffee experience.

Medium roast coffee

According to the National Coffee Association, medium roast coffee is America’s favorite roast of coffee. Used in breakfast blends and house blends, this roast is somewhere between a light roast and a dark roast. A medium roast has a balanced amount of acidity and flavor, creating a smooth-tasting coffee.

Medium roast coffees are roasted for longer, but they still retain some of the original, unique flavors of the bean. They are roasted past the first crack, but not long enough to crack a second time. This roast is slightly more acidic than a dark roast, yet still has some of the natural qualities from the beans’ country of origin. 

Medium roasts are lighter than a dark roast but still full-bodied. They aren’t roasted long enough to create the bitter, strong taste that some dark roasts have. This is why so many people prefer the flavor and body of a medium roast. 

Dark roast coffee

Dark roast coffee has a reputation for being strong, bitter, or even burnt-tasting. This all comes down to its origin. Before we had commercial roasting processes, coffee was cooked in a pan in small batches over hot coals or an open fire. The Italian and French roast coffee originated from this method of roasting coffee. 

Historically, dark roasts have been thought of as a stronger coffee. This is also the reason why some people love dark roast coffee. Just as some coffee drinkers like the mild, subtle flavor of a medium-roast coffee, others prefer the strong, bold taste of a dark roast. 

Dark roast coffees are roasted at a higher temperature, and for a longer period of time, until the shell of the bean reaches what is known as the “second crack”. The longer a coffee bean is roasted, the more it caramelizes, creating a caramelly sweetness to the coffee. With modernized roasting processes, we now have better methods for roasting coffee. We can cook a dark roast coffee so that it doesn’t reach the state of being burned. Rather than a strong, burned taste, today’s dark roasts have a rich, full-body, flavor.

What is a blonde roast coffee?

You’ve heard of light, medium, and even dark roast coffee, but there’s a new type of coffee roast, perhaps made popular by Starbucks, that’s called the blonde roast. What exactly is a blonde roast coffee?

A blonde roast is a type of light roast coffee. A typical blonde roast coffee is roasted just long enough for the coffee bean to crack. A true blonde roast is removed from the heat as soon as or during the first crack. This gives it a unique, light flavor, different from traditional coffee roasts.

Generally, a blonde roast coffee is made from premium coffee beans. Because of the light roasting process, premium coffee beans are the best choice. Instead of the distinct flavors from the bean being cooked out, this roasting process allows the flavor of the bean to really shine. If you want to try a specialty coffee, a blonde roast may be just the kind to try.

What is french roast coffee?

If you’ve ever perused the coffee aisle, you’ve probably seen french roast coffee. With all the varieties of coffee on the shelf, you might have wondered what is french roast coffee is? Is it different from a dark roast? Is it from France? What makes a french roast coffee different?

A french roast coffee is a type of dark roast coffee. It gets its name from the French process of roasting coffee, but the coffee beans do not have to be from France. There are a wide variety of French roasts made from beans that come from all over the world. 

What makes a French roast, a French roast is a temperature and time used during the roasting process. The French roast is essentially a darker form of a dark roast coffee, baked until the beans turn a chocolatey, almost black color. 

French roast coffees have a dark, strong, smokey flavor. If you love strong-tasting coffee, you will love the French. However, there are some things you should consider when buying French roasts. Because of the roasting process, french roast coffees often lose their freshness faster than lighter roast coffees. If this is not the coffee you plan to drink every morning, consider buying these as whole beans and only buying the amount you plan to use within a week. Or, try it out at your favorite coffee shop.

What is an Italian roast coffee?

Now that you know the difference between light, medium, and dark roast coffees, there’s yet one more type of coffee roast you may have heard of, the Italian roast. What makes coffee an Italian roast?

Like the French roast, the Italian roast derives its origin from where it was first roasted. The Italian roast is a darker coffee than the French roast. It is similar to the French roast in that they are both roasted until they reach a very dark color, but the Italian roast is cooked at a lower temperature for longer. 

Whereas, the French roast is cooked at a slightly higher temperature for less time. Both result in a very dark-colored coffee. While the French roast may be more well known, both are excellent coffees for people who prefer dark coffee. Espresso, which is not a type of coffee roast, but rather a way of making coffee, was made popular in Italy and is often made from an Italian roast coffee.

Which coffee roast has the most caffeine?

Many people assume the darker and stronger a coffee tastes, the more caffeine it contains. You might be surprised to learn which roast actually has the most caffeine.

As a rule of thumb, the lighter the roast, the more caffeine there is. This is because the longer a bean roasts, the more caffeine evaporates from the bean. Although the differences in the amount of caffeine may be subtle, generally, lighter roasts have less caffeine.

If you want a little more caffeine in your morning cup of joe, consider trying a light roast or blonde roast coffee. Both are delicious and have more caffeine than even a French or Italian roast coffee. 

Even though you might assume that Italian roasts are more caffeinated because of the popular espresso coffee, they aren’t. Espresso is more caffeinated ounce per ounce than coffee. This, however, is due to the grind and the way it is prepared, not the roast itself. While espresso has more caffeine in it per ounce, a typical cup of coffee has twice the amount of caffeine.

Which coffee roast is best?

Now that you know all about the different types of coffee roasts, you still may be asking yourself which coffee roast is best? With so many options for coffee, how do you decide which roast you will like best?

If you are a coffee connoisseur, you may have your favorite roast, but which one is actually best depends on how you are preparing your coffee, and your own personal preference. In addition to types of roasts, there are also several options for preparing your coffee, including drip brewing, french press, pour-over, espresso, and cold-brewed coffee. Some roasts are more suitable for different preparation methods.

Which roast is best for brewed coffee?

Consider a medium roast for coffee brewed in the coffee maker. Medium roasts are the coffee the average American drinks. It’s found in breakfast blends, house blends, and it’s a blend that you’ll find most often in your typical Folgers or Maxwell coffee. If you want to try a specialty coffee, a medium roast is a perfect roast to use in your coffee maker at home. It’s a great-tasting, mellow flavored coffee that most people like.

Which roast is best for pour-over coffee?

Pour-over coffee has become a really popular way of making coffee. The coffee grounds are placed inside of a filter and water is poured over the filter. The coffee drips down, but unlike a coffee maker, the water goes through the filter much faster. For pour-over coffees, a light roast is a great option. This quick pour over the coffee grounds leaves you with a light, flavorful cup of coffee. In contrast, some people prefer a dark roast with a pour-over coffee, as this method really allows you to taste the full flavor of the roast. Whichever roast you choose, pour overs are perfect for specialty coffees and allow you to taste the unique flavor of the coffee bean.

Which roast is best for french press coffee?

When you make coffee in a french press, you can taste more of the full flavor of the coffee. Most people go with a dark roast coffee with the french press. But, just because it’s called French press doesn’t mean you have to use a French roast or dark roast. Light roast or breakfast blends are great for french press coffee. You can taste the lighter-bodied flavor of the coffee more profoundly.

Which roast is best for espresso?

Espressos are traditionally made with an Italian roast or French roast coffee. Many coffee brands make coffees specifically for espresso. Look for an espresso roast coffee or dark roast coffee. While you can make espresso with a medium roast coffee, light roast coffees are not the best suited for espresso, as you won’t achieve that bold, rich flavor.

Which roast is best for cold-brewed coffee?

Cold-brewed coffee is a newcomer to the coffee industry, but extremely popular. It’s not the same as iced coffee, where the coffee is brewed and then poured over ice. With cold brewing, the coffee beans are steeped at a cool temperature for around 12 to 24 hours, strained, and then served or poured over ice. 

Which roast makes a cold-brewed coffee taste great? Many people prefer a darker roast coffee for cold brew, but the debate is out on whether or not a light or dark roast is better. A good option is a medium roast coffee, as you can enjoy the flavor of the coffee, without a strong or overpowering taste.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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