Coffee Roasts: What’s the Difference?

August 15, 2018
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If you’re not a coffee connoisseur or expert, you may not actually know the difference between each type of coffee roast, including decaf. After learning about these coffee roast differences, you may decide to try something new on your next coffee run.

The Myth that is Decaf Coffee

Yes, decaf coffee is different from regular coffee. Most people associate it with a bitter, not-so-good taste. However, the only reason your decaf may not taste so good is because of the process in which it is decaffeinated.

To make decaf, the beans are soaked in water to extract 95% of the caffeine (yes, decaf still has 5% caffeine). The water is then separated from the beans and mixed with a solvent to extract the caffeine. The solvent is separated and then the water is returned to the beans, which need to absorb the decaffeinated water before they are then dried.

It is the solvent used in this process that can take away some of the other aspects of the coffee contributing to its flavor and scent. However, what’s very interesting to note is that this is not what we normally hear from those who drink our roasting facility’s decaf coffee. Some of the comments we’ve received say it taste as good as our medium roast!

Lesson learned: don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a coffee bean from its label!).

Light Roast: Vibrant and Unique

Light roast coffee is known for its crisp acidity, mellow body, and light flavor. Typically its appearance is a light brown or tan color and there is no oil on the beans’ surfaces. If well grown, processed, and roasted, they can produce a wide variety of unique flavors, aromas, and aftertastes.

Light roasts are often fruity and floral. They draw attention to the exclusive characteristics of a coffee’s source more than any other roast style. To achieve a light roast, each bean must reach an internal temperature of 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit, barely reaching ‘first crack,’ a.k.a. the stage in which the vapors inside the beans break through the outer wall, creating the ‘crack’ noise.

Medium Roast: The Go-To Balance of Acidity and Body

Medium roast coffee rarely has an oily surface, is a brown colour, medium acidity (hence the medium roast name), and body with a wide flavor profile and is slightly darker and sweet. This level of roasting, like the light roast, preserves many of the unique flavors of the coffee’s origin, while also dipping into the deep caramel sweetness of the longer roast.

Most people prefer medium roast because it is less acidic while still showcasing a coffee’s natural flavor profile. Medium roast coffee beans reach 400-430 degrees Fahrenheit, reaching between first and second crack.

Dark Roast: Deeper, Darker, Pleasant

Dark roast coffee is often oily and is dark brown, almost black in color, with low acidity, heavy body, and deeper, darker flavors. Many of the origin characteristics of the coffee are left behind in this roast, leaving more chocolatey, nutty, and caramel flavors.

It’s easy to tell the dramatic difference in taste when drinking light and dark roast side by side.  Espresso roasts are typically known as dark roasts. The reason why is because it can stand up to lots of milk and sugar used in fancier beverages such as lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. Dark roast coffees reach 430-450 degrees Fahrenheit, reaching second crack if not a bit beyond.

Darker Than Dark: The Mysterious Other

This darkest roast is black as night, very oily on the surface, and possesses no characteristics left of their origin. The taste is more like burned, ashy coffee, or liquid charcoal. This may peak a curious mind to take the darker than dark taste test. Some like their coffee “blacker than the blackest black…times infinity.”

Light and medium roasts are the preference within the specialty coffee industry as these roasts have the most vibrant flavors and aromas.

We hope this helps you decide your next cup of coffee! Knowing what your preference is between the different roasts can help you pick new coffees and flavors that you may enjoy and discover. Try and be adventurous next time by choosing a different roast, now that you know what kind of flavors they each exhibit!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Minas Espresso Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.

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