Although there is no official standard in the industry most people agree that there are four different types of coffee roasts.
- Medium Dark
Although some companies will try to reduce this to only three types of roast or increase the number of varieties to five or more it’s easier to just deal with four divisions as this is the most common way of doing it.
In this article I’m going to go into what exactly roasting does to coffee beans and why it’s necessary to roast them in the first place.
I’m also going to go into more detail about exactly what the differences are between the types of coffee roasts and how they affect the taste of your favorite coffee.
What is Roasting and Why is it Done?
Before coffee beans are roasted they are mostly tasteless and have a vaguely grassy smell to them.
In order to bring out their full aromatic properties and flavors they have to first be heated quickly at extremely high temperatures.
This roasting process is what gives us the small crispy beans that we buy at our local stores.
The different types of roasts are determined by how long the beans are cooked and it takes a skilled roaster to determine the right moment when the beans should be removed from the heat in order to get the desired flavor.
The light roast is cooked the least while the darker varieties are heated longer in order to give the roast different properties.
Dark roasts are also the variety most often used when making espresso.
Here’s a quick video on what the whole process looks like in real life:
Light roasts are cooked only until the first crack appears in the bean and the internal temperature does not go beyond 205 C (401 F).
This method of roasting will preserve more of the beans’ natural properties than any of the other methods listed below which will allow you to taste the particular flavors of the bean you’re brewing clearly.
Lightly roasted beans are also the most acidic of any of the varieties as well as having the highest concentrations of caffeine.
A lighter roast is also characterized as having a tan or light brown color to it with no visible oil on the beans.
Here are some of the common names for light roasts:
- Light City
- Half City
- Cinnamon Roast
- New England Roast
Medium roasts are cooked slightly longer than lighter roasts until the internal temperature of the beans reaches between 210 C and 220 C (410 F – 428 F) but are removed from the heat before the second crack appears in them.
Medium roasts try to strike a balance between the grainier and more acidic tastes of lighter roasts and the full bodied and bitterer taste of the darker roasts.
They have slightly less caffeine than the light roasts and are a slightly darker shade of brown.
Common names for medium roasts are:
- Regular Roast
- American Roast
- City Roast
- Breakfast Roast
Medium-dark roasts are cooked until the second crack is beginning to work its way up the beans and the internal temperature can reach up to 230 C (446 F).
They have a fuller bodied flavor than the lighter roasts and much of the individual flavors of the particular coffee beans being roasted are gone by this point.
They have a dark brown, almost chocolate, color to them and oil is now visible on the surface of the bean.
Some common names for medium-dark roasts are:
- Full City Roast
- After Dinner Roast
- Vienna Roast
Dark roasts are cooked the longest of any of the roasts with temperatures reaching up to 250 C (482 F).
They are cooked till the completion of the second crack and have a visible sheen of oil on their surface.
They have a bitterer and almost smoky taste to them and are used in almost all varieties of espresso.
Common names for dark roasts are:
- French Roast
- Italian Roast
- Espresso Roast
- Continental Roast
- New Orleans Roast
- Spanish Roast
To summarize, lighter roasts preserve more of the personality and flavor of the original coffee bean and also have a more acidic flavor than the darker blends.
As the coffee beans are roasted longer they become increasingly dark and lose more of the individual flavor of the beans. They also become less acidic while developing a fuller bodied flavor.
The darker blends also contain less caffeine than the lighter ones which are roasted for less time.
The darkest roasts also have a more bitter taste to them and are used to make espresso.
Hopefully this list can help you the next time you go shopping for a new variety of coffee to try at home.