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  • Writer's pictureAnn Allanson

Types of Coffee Roasts: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

Cup with a type of coffee roasted bean

Coffee is that elixir that takes the grump out of Monday morning and puts the AHHH! into Friday. Incredibly complex, the substance that turns you into a human in the A.M. has over 800 different flavors. Compare that to wine which has 200!

So, what makes you choose a particular taste for your morning brew? It’s the degree in which your coffee has been heated/roasted.

The particular type of roast is what makes you experience gratitude soon after your feet hit the floor.

Although there is no standardization of coffee roasts in the industry, there really are only four main types: Light, medium, medium-dark, and dark.

We find customers have questions about coffee roasting, so we’ve rounded up four coffee roasting facts/coffee roasting technique questions we hear most often.

"Why Roast Coffee Beans at All?"

Raw green coffee beans actually don’t possess any of the characteristics we think of with the final product. If you were to smell a green bean, you wouldn’t swoon at the aroma! Nor would you enjoy the taste.

With more than 1,000 substances constituting the raw coffee bean, we only need a little less than 50 substances to make the juice that gets our motor revving in the morning.

Roasting is that process that does away with the unwanted substances and enhancing the favorable ones.

Not only does roasting release the aroma we all love, it also reduces the weight of the raw beans.

Bottom line. Roasting is necessary to create the coffee roast you love most!

“How Do I Choose A Coffee Roast?”

Cheap coffees will not list a lot of specific information about the coffee or where it comes from. Always choose a brand that DOES provide information such as the country, the region, and even the specific farm in which it was grown.

This is a sure sign the coffee was carefully grown and not a blend of beans from various regions.

The Roast Date—Check it to make sure it’s been recently roasted. The fresher the roast, the better the flavor. Ten days after roasting, coffee tends to lose its flavor. Always go with fresh!

Ethics—Look for information that shows the manufacturer is ethical. Look for “Fair trade certified.” This tells you best practices are used in growing coffee and working with growers.

Additionally, you don’t want coffee that was grown with pesticides. So, look for an organic label, too. No one needs to drink synthetic fertilizers and industrial pesticides!

Watch for Misleading Labels—Sadly, not all coffee companies are invested in producing high quality coffee. They just want to make a buck.

Watch for meaningless labels that say:

· 100% Arabica

· 100% coffee

· Robusto

· Generic phrasing such as “roasted in Columbia”

Caffeine Levels—The coffee label should tell you how many milligrams of coffee the bag contains. This helps you choose a coffee with your preferred caffeine strength. Generally speaking, 65-100 milligrams is standard per cup of coffee.

“Which Types of Coffee Roasts are Best?”

Choosing the “best” coffee roast isn’t possible because it depends on your preference. That’s why there are four different kinds of roasts! Coffee roasters want to capture all the different taste points consumers have.

Light Roast

Light roasts absorb heat the shortest amount of time. That’s why the beans appear as light brown. They haven’t been roasted beyond the first crack. Little or no oil appears on the surface of the bean and their taste is earthy, grainy, acidic.

A light roast coffee will give you more of a caffeine jolt than any other type of roast.

Common light roast categories are: Cinnamon roast, Light City, Half City, and New England Roast.

Medium Roast

A medium roast occurs just before the beginning of what is known as the second crack. Beans are medium brown with more body than the light roast. Heated to 410-430 degrees Fahrenheit, this roast doesn’t have oil on the bean surface either.

The taste, however, is less acidic and more balanced. It also contains less caffeine than the light roast but more the dark roast.

Common medium roast categories are: Regular Roast, Breakfast Roast, American Roast, and City Roast.

Medium-Dark Roast

With this roast, you’ll see the beginning of oil on the surface of the beans. The color is darker and richer, much more of what you think of with coffee beans.

Roasting heat is 435-445 degrees Fahrenheit, which is at the beginning or middle of the second crack. Coffee taste spicy or bittersweet.

Common medium-dark roast categories are: Full City Roast, Vienna, and After Dinner Roast.

Dark Roast

Shiny and oily, dark roasted coffee is a very dark brown color, almost black. Heated from 465-485 degrees Fahrenheit, this roast is at the end of the second crack.

Because it has spent more time roasting, dark roasts contain the least amount of caffeine than all other roast types.

The flavor can be smoky or bitter, sometimes even burnt-tasting. A lot of dark roasts are used in blends to create French, Italian, Espresso, Continental, New Orleans and Spanish roasts.

“Is it Okay to Keep My Coffee Beans in the Freezer?”

After choosing the coffee roasting technique you want, (and ultimately the flavor you want), it’s important to preserve the coffee for as long as possible.

Many coffee drinkers think the best way to do that is to put the beans in the freezer. Well, if that were true, you’d see grocery stores with coffee in the frozen food section!

Coffee is extremely porous, absorbing other flavors quite easily. That’s why you don’t want to put your coffee in the freezer. It will absorb the flavor of whatever you have in the freezer. Chicken, seafood, anyone?

At The Coffee Cave, we’re as serious about coffee as you are. We wake up in a blur, too, you know. That’s why we won’t sell cheap coffee.

You’ll find fairly traded coffees, blends, and more. Stop by and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee your way! Learn more about us here.

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