The smell of roasting coffee beans is magical to coffee lovers and has become the signature aroma of artisanal coffee shops and cafes. But there’s more to roasting than smell. The degree to which you roast the coffee beans dictates their acidity level, taste, and even the texture of the resulting beverage.
Medium roast of coffee is the smoothest as it balances lower acidity with optimal caffeine and flavor. Light roasted beans retain more coffee acids, and darker roasts taste too bitter. The smoothest coffee comes from medium roasted beans that are medium-ground and used immediately after grinding.
In this article, we will go over the different aspects of coffee smoothness and how you can achieve it with the bean selection, roasting level, optimal grind size, and what you can do to offset any shortcomings in one of these areas. By the end of this short post, you’ll feel confident in making the right choice. So, let’s get started with defining coffee smoothness.
What is Coffee Smoothness?
The best way to understand how to make a smooth cup of coffee is to figure out what constitutes smoothness. The short answer is: lack of bitterness. The longer answer follows because aside from bitterness, you need the optimal hit of caffeine and just the right richness of coffee essence.
If the acidity is removed from a batch of coffee beans, it will become smooth. But there is a trade-off with flavor, where the smoothest cup of coffee would also be the least flavorful or caffeine-rich, which defeats the purpose of having coffee in the first place.
So when you ask which roast is the smoothest, you’re not asking what’s technically the smoothest but what is practically the smoothest. Now, let’s go by the coffee roasts in the light, medium, and dark order. Light roasts are the heaviest in caffeine content and acidity and consequently produce minimally smooth coffee.
At medium roast, you get the smoothest coffee with optimal caffeine content and flavor. If you keep roasting past this point, you achieve a dark roast that is bitter to the point of texture becoming less evident. Coffee made from dark roasted beans is the freest of acidity and caffeine yet has a charred, bitter taste. It is hard to appreciate or even detect smoothness when the bean batch is overroasted.
If you don’t want to get into the minutiae of roasts, grind levels, and bean origins, and want a “normal” cup of coffee, go with the medium roast. Traditional coffee taste, smoothness, flavor, and caffeine content all come from medium-roasting a decent batch of coffee beans. Usually, Colombian Arabica beans are preferred in South America.
These beans usually produce smooth coffee, as long as you get the right grind. It is easy to miss with Robusta beans because even a slightly low-grade batch will make smooth coffee impossibly hard to produce.
With Arabica beans, you have more room for the beans to be bad because they have to be really low grade to affect the resulting beverage’s texture. Medium roasting arabica beans gets you two-thirds of the way to a smooth cup. What’s left is the grind, which brings up the question of grind type’s relation to coffee’s texture.
How Does Coffee Grind Affect Smoothness?
The grind dictates how well (or poorly) the coffee gets extracted from the beans. The higher the surface area, the more coffee gets extracted. If you take a single block of any material, it has four sides. Now, chop it in half, and you have 2 blocks with 8 surfaces. Breaking down a block increases its surface area.
The same applies to coffee beans. The bean has the lowest surface area, which is why it has to undergo grinding before it is ready to be used for coffee. As you start grinding coffee beans, you increase their surface area. A coarse grind, the beans produce the least bitter coffee, but it can be weak overall.
Medium grind is perfect for a smooth cup of coffee, given that you have opted for the right beans and have medium-roasted them. Extra-fine grounds can lead to over-extraction and become bitter. It helps to err on the side of coarser grounds, especially if your bean selection tilts the beverage towards a bitter taste.
How to Get a Smooth Cup of Coffee
Now that you know how bean selection, roasting, and grinding affect your coffee’s smoothness, let’s look at how these aspects interact with each other to produce the best coffee. Ideally, you should get high-grade Arabica beans, medium-roast them in a timely manner, and get them medium-ground.
Moreover, you should use the beans within two weeks of roasting for optimal freshness. The table below helps you figure out how you can offset any shortcomings in bean selection, roast level, or grind type.
|Arabica High Quality
|Arabica Low Quality
|Arabica High Quality
|Arabica Low Quality
|Robusta High Quality
|Robusta Low Quality
The last thing you can do to make your coffee taste better is to add a pinch of salt to it. Yes, salt can make the coffee taste less bitter. I have an entire post about that and other tactics to make coffee less bitter. But since bitterness is only one part of coffee’s texture, we will not get into too much detail about that here.
Just remember that while salt tastes sour when isolated, its sourness is muted by coffee, while its ability to reduce bitterness, in general, makes the coffee taste better. Other things you can do include using creamer, adding sugar, and watering down your coffee but none of these are my favorites.
“Medium roast, medium grind, allow you to brew completely blind. “That’s a memory device to remember if you want to be carefree while making your coffee. You will not need to worry about the brewing temperature or duration if you opt for a medium roast or medium grind because the odds of getting the smoothest cup will be in your favor.