Learn about roasting coffee and the differences between light, medium and dark roasts

What’s the difference in coffee roasts?

There are three difference types of roasting profiles, light, medium and dark. When roasting coffee, the person roasting will have what’s called a ‘roasting profile’ which they stick to, to ensure consistency every time they roast that particular bean. Profiling roasts means that the team have cupped the different roasts in order to understand which roast gets the best flavour, thus creating a profile.

One of the top questions we get asked is ‘what coffee do you recommend?’, and it’s a hard question to answer without knowing the preference of the person asking. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a huge shift in coffee roasting, and naturally with that shift has emerged many different types of roasts and specialty coffee, but what does this mean to you? Without explanation of what each roast brings, it’s no surprise people are asking us what to recommend.

The three types of roasts

Generally, there are three types of roasts: light roasts, medium roasts and dark roasts. Each green been has a certain profile of how that specific bean should be roasted. For example, a Kenya AA green bean is a light roast, it has fruity notes to it and should be light when pouring. That isn’t to say you can’t roast the Kenya AA green bean dark, but essentially you’ll be ruining the flavour of the coffee.

Regardless of the type of coffee bean you’re roasting, one of the most important processes to pay attention to is the first crack, where you’ll hear a popping sound which means the bean expands and releases water vapour and CO2 pressure. The key is to keep a consistent time of roasting after you hear the first crack for every type of bean. 

How do I know which roast is for me?

Below, we’ve outlined some key characteristics in the different types of roasts, which will help you to decide what sort of coffee you’re most likely going to enjoy.

Light roast

A light roast, often described as ‘ginger’ tends to be more acidic

  • You’ll find light shades of brown
  • Coffee beans are quite dense, often difficult to split with your thumb and finger and aren’t brittle
  • The coffee beans may look and feel slightly more textured and less shiny looking
  • The light roast coffee beans won’t feel oily to touch
  • A light roast will produce very high aromatic flavours and low levels of bitterness 

Medium roast

A medium roast coffee is often referred in the sugar browning aromatic category

  • Medium roasts tend to hold a smooth flavour, tapping into the notes of roasted nuts, vanilla and butter
  • You’ll notice that a medium roast holds a sweetness to it, without losing the pleasant acidity that people love in coffee
  • You’ll see slightly darker shades of brown to that of a light roast
  • The coffee beans are somewhat dense and slightly more brittle than a light roasted coffee bean
  • The coffee beans will appear a little smoother
  • Medium coffee beans aren’t extremely shiny although the oils are starting to emerge more than those in a light roast

Dark roast

Traditionally, coffee has been a darker roast and the UK market is slightly more adapted to a darker roast than a light or medium

  • Often when making an espresso people revert to a darker roast, as the oils help to form the creme
  • Dark roasts are often to mask defective green coffee beans and to cover a lower grade of green bean
  • You’ll find very dark shades of brown and often sometimes black looking coffee beans in a dark roast
  • Beans will be smooth in texture and very oily, giving them a shine
  • Sweetness in the flavour reduces and other flavours emerge such as dark chocolate and liquorice
  • Other notes which may be present resemble savoury tones such as black pepper, cloves and varying degrees of smoke and ash
  • A dark roast coffee bean will produce lower levels of caffeine as it is essentially cooked out

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