Is it OK to Mix Dark and Medium Roast Coffee?

There are so many dos and don’ts when it comes to coffee. Don’t use tap water, be sure to use only the freshest beans, never entertain a cup of instant – the list goes on. What do you do when you want to mix roast levels though? Can you mix a dark and medium roast? 

Mixing dark and medium roast coffee together will work to smooth out the overall flavor of the coffee. A medium roast coffee contains more acid than a dark roast. Therefore, if you want to round out the flavor, mixing the two roasts together will help to silken the overall taste. 

It may feel like you are embarking on a venture that is frowned upon in the coffee world, but mixing a dark and medium roast coffee will not end in disaster. Pairing these two roasts together can be a quick way to smooth out the flavor for those who prefer it to not be so strong (or quite as acidic in taste). Continue reading to find out what happens when you mix dark and medium roast coffee and how these two roast types differ from one another. 

What Happens When You Mix Dark and Medium Roast Coffee? 

There is a world that exists where coffee connoisseurs are either solely dedicated to a medium roast or unapologetically loyal to a dark roast coffee. As valiant as this may be, what if you are someone who falls somewhere right in the middle? Would it be a complete crime to mix these coffees and if you did, what would be the result? Although it may seem a bit uncouth to mix such different blends, the process can actually be one that creates incredibly unique results. 

When you mix dark roast and medium roast coffee, you not only alter the flavor of the end result, but you are able to enjoy a deeper richness than what you could find from either. Mixing roasts will change the acidity, flavor profile, and strength of the coffee.

We will discuss this further, but dark and medium roasted coffees have a very different flavor profile to them. This can be attributed to the time the beans spend roasting. 

For a medium roast, it is pulled just before the second crack, leaving a bit of acid to the beans while also complementing the overall flavor. For a dark roast, most of the acid is removed from the bean and oils from the interior of the beans are pulled to the surface giving it a deep and bold flavor. 

Knowing the differences in flavor, sometimes people find themselves wanting a bit of both – a hybrid mix, if you will. This mixing of roasts is going to create a coffee that retains more acidity than a dark roast would, but also has a richer flavor profile than a medium roast would offer. The mix of the two helps to balance out the robustness of a dark roast while also adding a bit more gusto to the medium roast. In reality, it could really be the perfect silky pairing. 

Beyond simply mixing roasts, you could also be bold and mix together those different roasts, but also mix different flavors. If you have a dark chocolate dark roast coffee, but also have a wonderfully smooth medium roast from Peru, try mixing these two together to create an even more original flavor profile. Once you see that mixing can actually be a success rather than ruin, the possibilities for your cup are endless. 

There is no exact measurement to follow for each blend, so take the time to figure out what ratios work best for you. If you want just a subtle hint of a cinnamon-infused holiday coffee, blend a smaller amount of that with a dark roast. If you prefer a more distinct vanilla presence with a medium roast, add a larger portion. 

This will take a bit of trial and error, but once you find your sweet spot ratio for each blend, take note, and blend away! You might have originally only been combining your coffee roasts because you were running out of one or the other and needed to brew more cups all at once. However, now that you have discovered that you can do this intentionally, the fun is just beginning.

How Do Dark and Medium Roast Coffee Differ? 

For those of you who simply rely on coffee and its caffeine to fuel your day, you may not be too attentive to the flavors that any different roast may bring. This is no fault of your own, but there are distinct differences between light, medium, and dark roasts coffee and their flavors are vividly different from one another if you really hone in and pay attention to their flavor profiles.

To be fair, I am right there with you in coffee reliance, as not only do I feel that I need the caffeine to function, but my knowledge of the beverage is tickled with each new cup of Joe. Still, knowing how dark and medium roast coffee differs can be a great place to start in understanding how combining these two roasts (or keeping them separate) can help you to find your ideal coffee style.

The Roasting Process Differs for Dark and Medium Roast Coffee 

Coffee beans do not simply go from plant to shelf roasted. There is a process that each seed must undergo in order to transform into the toasty brown, perfectly oiled, and wonderfully cracked coffee bean that gets your day going. 

Every roast goes through the same roasting process, but it is a matter of how long that process takes that determines whether the bean is classified as a light, medium, or dark roast. 

The beans are first heated before the roasting stage begins in order to absorb the proper heat necessary to start that roasting process. During the second stage of roasting, the beans begin to start turning color and the Maillard reaction ensues. This reaction is the chemical reaction that takes place between amino acids which helps to reduce the sugar in the bean but also aids in developing the flavor of the beans.  

After this takes place, the next stage of roasting starts, and the first crack occurs. If the beans were to be pulled at this point, the roast produced would be considered to be a light roast

After the first crack, there is then the second stage of roasting that happens between the first and second crack. This period is very fast and very brief, but it is the stage where a huge flavor change occurs. When beans are pulled at this time, the roast is considered a medium roast

There is then the third stage in roasting where the second crack occurs. Even more than that, oils from the beans begin to make their way from the middle of the bean to its outside. This creates a luminous surface on the beans and once the second crack has occurred, you have a dark roast coffee. 

Importantly, you should note that the roasting process itself is the same for medium and dark roast coffee, but the length of time in which they spend roasting differs- giving them their unique flavors. 

The Taste Differs for Dark and Medium Roast Coffee 

Speaking of how flavors differ due to the length of time spent roasting, there are a few notable differences when it comes to the taste of dark and medium roast coffee. It may seem impossible that one crack in the bean could make that much of a difference when it comes to how your cup of joe hits your tongue. However, there is such a stark contrast that many coffee drinkers out there are unwaveringly opposed to one or the other. 

If you were to chomp down on a raw coffee bean you would instantly be overwhelmed with its acidic taste. This is why roasting is so important and the Millard reaction is essential. Over the course of roasting, the acidity is diminished and a smoother flavor is brought about. 

For a medium roast, the bean retains enough acidity to complement the flavor of the coffee bean itself. This balance of acidity and flavor helps to keep the taste of the coffee lighter. 

For a dark roast coffee, with the length that it is roasted, the acids within the bean are mostly removed. For some, this lack of acid makes it difficult for them to stomach. Why? Because when acid is removed, the flavor of the coffee then becomes much bolder and quite a bit deeper. 

The richness of this roast can be difficult for some to ingest, but for others, the flavor profile afforded by a dark roast is the only way to go. If you want a combination of the two, then it is time to try mixing dark and medium roast coffee to find the balance that is perfect for you.

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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