coffee bean roasts flavor

Coffee Bean Roasts and How they Affect the Flavor

While the type of coffee bean roasts that is your favorite will always ultimately depend on taste, it doesn’t hurt to understand a bit about coffee bean roasts and what roasting does to the flavor of coffee. Following is a brief explanation of the differences in laymen terms so we all understand.

Green Coffee Beans to Coffee Bean Roasts

Coffee beans are green when picked. They are then roasted to one of the following levels to achieve flavors we all like. Here is a list of the different levels of roasting and what it does to the flavor of the coffee bean.

light coffee bean roastsLight Coffee Bean Roasts — A light roast of coffee is actually the roast that leaves the most natural flavor in the  bean. Most people drink coffee that has been roasted to at least a medium to a dark roast. The flavor of a  light roast coffee bean is strong and high in caffeine .

This can be both good and bad, depending on your coffee preference. The flavors of a natural coffee bean can be fruit-y, floral-y or earth-y depending on the origin of the bean. But, some beans can also give you undesirable flavors like peanut, vegetable and cocoa (not in a good way).

Light roast coffee beans, to me, take a bit of getting used too. Since they are nearest to their natural state, the flavors, aromas and caffeine are all very prevalent when drinking it. Most American’s drink coffee that has been at least light- medium to medium roasted.

medium coffee bean roasts
Image Credit: Dan Bollinger

Medium Coffee Bean Roasts — At this point, coffee begins to taste the way most of us drink our morning coffee. This medium roast process usually negates the bad flavors apparent in some beans and but enhances the good, natural flavors.

The medium roast is usually referred to as the “most balanced”, marrying the natural flavors with that of the roasting process to give a great cup of coffee.
This level of roast still has plenty of caffeine but not as much as light roasted coffee. It is the favorite roast of “Breakfast blends” since it has a bit more of the caffeine jolt you want (more than dark roasts) and lots of flavor to wake you up in the morning!

dark coffee bean roasts
Image Credit: Dan Bollinger

Dark Coffee Bean Roasts — This roast is very popular but there are a few misnomers applied to it. Dark roast coffee does not mean more coffee bean flavor. In fact, there is less of the original bean flavor in the dark roast than any other roast due to the longer roasting time. Carmelization of oil in the bean as  it is roasted longer as well as getting flavor from the roasting itself combine to make the flavor of dark roast coffee.

As far as caffeine is concerned, every bean starts with the same amount of caffeine. Dark roast beans are larger than their light roast counterparts due to the roasting process. So, when dark roast beans are ground  you can make coffee, it takes less beans to make a “scoop”. If you measure your coffee by scoop, then there is a bit less caffeine in dark roast coffee than light roast coffee. If you measure by weight, then they will be virtually equal in caffeine.

Your Choice — Your Coffee

As I said before, the choice of coffee bean roasts is about the taste and which you prefer. I lean more towards the dark roast. You may prefer the light roast.  There is no right or wrong — just choice. Making the perfect cup of coffee is up to you!