As a coffee-lover, you probably know that coffee can be roasted to different levels, and that different roasts yield different experiences in your morning cup!

If you’re looking to understand more about why your coffee tastes a certain way, or how to select coffee that matches your preferences, this exploration of some more differences between light and dark roast coffee is a great place to start!

Top 3 Things To Know About Light And Dark Roast Coffee

#1. Light roast coffee has slightly more caffeine than dark roast
It’s true! Contrary to popular belief, light roast coffee has a little bit more caffeine than dark roast – but really, the difference is negligible.

#2. Light roast coffee is the best way to taste the full range of coffee flavors
Coffee has over 800 aromatic and flavor compounds, and with a light roast you can experience all the flavors your coffee naturally provides!

#3. Dark roast coffee is often blended with cheap, low-quality beans
Over-roasting coffee beans is a great way to mask unappealing coffee flavors and leave everything tasting uniformly burnt and bitter—so many companies cut corners by blending in poor-quality beans.

Thankfully, not all companies do this! We like to dial in our dark roast coffees to offer our subscribers a cup full of that roasted flavor profile they crave paired with those exciting tasting notes unique to the coffee!

How Is Coffee Roasted?

Did you know that coffee starts its life as a fruit? Things like the altitude, soil composition, growing conditions and processing method all significantly impact the quality, depth, and flavor profile of the bean at the center of the coffee cherry!

Over 50 countries produce coffee, and each country has its own unique combination of factors—which means each country produces one-of-a-kind coffee! That’s why single-origin coffee is the only way to really experience the best coffee has to offer.

We love chatting about coffee! In fact, we recently spoke with Men’s Journal to talk about coffee tasting. Here’s a taste of what we had to say:

 

“Single-source coffees are your best bet: If the label on the bag lists more than one country, look for something else, says Jordan Rosenacker, co-founder of the Atlas Coffee Club in Austin, Texas. ‘Over 50 countries produce coffee, and each one is unique—so go for single-origin coffee,” he says. “If more than one country is listed, it’s a blend; often, good beans are cut with subpar beans for filler and they will dark-roast it to make it have a bold flavor, but that long roast will mute the subtle flavor notes.'”

-Men’s Journal

 

Once processed and shipped to a roaster, the green coffee beans are then roasted at around 356°F – 440°F, depending on the roast type desired.

Usually the roaster will begin by experimenting—roasting the coffee at various levels from light to dark to find the roast that brings out the best overall flavor. No two coffees are alike, so the best roasters go through this meticulous process for every coffee they work with!

 



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How To Find The Roast That’s Right For You

The biggest difference between light roast and dark roast is the flavor of the coffee in your cup! Whether you know exactly what you like or you’re just ready to learn more about how roast affects coffee flavor, this guide will help you choose coffees you’ll love!

One thing to note: there’s no single standard for what constitutes a “light roast” or a “dark roast,” so your experience could vary across different roasters.

For our purposes, assume that “light roast” coffee beans are light brown in color and dry on the surface, while “dark roast” beans are very dark brown/black and slightly oily; medium roast is somewhere in the middle.

Light Roast – fruity, floral, herbal
Generally, high quality coffee is sold to coffee-lovers as a light roast, because a light roast allows the full spectrum of natural coffee flavors to shine!

With a light roast, you can expect fruity and floral tasting notes, bright acidity, and less body than you get with darker roasts. Whatever makes a given coffee unique will be clearly evident with a light roast!

Medium Roast – berry, citrus, caramel
Sometimes a high-quality coffee will be roasted in a medium range to give it more body and create a more balanced cup.

When done well, you should still get most of the characteristics that make a given coffee special, but with an added sweetness and less acidity!

Dark Roast – dark chocolate, nut, caramel
Most high-quality coffee won’t be roasted too dark, because that masks the natural flavors that make the coffee so high-quality!

However, a dark roast does result in low acidity and heavy body, with lots of chocolatey and nutty flavors. If you find a great roaster, a dark roast could be delicious, especially with some cream or as espresso in a latte.

Unfortunately, most dark roast is extremely over-roasted, resulting in blackened, oily beans with little to no flavor left—just a burnt, bitter taste.

If you’re looking for a dark roast, definitely choose a single-origin bag—it’s a good sign that the beans won’t be over-roasted, just dark enough to get that smooth, heavy-bodied effect that some coffee-lovers crave.

Consider Your Brew Method

Your brew method of choice can significantly alter the flavor of your coffee!

For a light roast, we recommend a pour-over method like the Kalita Wave or Chemex to get the full range of flavors the coffee has to offer, and for a darker roast the French Press is our go-to.

We don’t love drip coffee makers in general, but we understand that you don’t have time to make a meticulous cup of coffee every morning! Check out our Top 5 Drip Coffee Makers for those days when pressing a button is all you can handle.

As an Amazon Affiliate, Atlas Coffee Club (at no cost to you!) earns a commission when you click through and make a qualifying purchase. We take coffee seriously and thoroughly research and/or test products before recommending them to our community of fellow coffee-lovers.

About The Author

Michael Shewmake

An entrepreneur and musician, Michael quit his full-time job in the corporate world to assemble a band of fellow storytellers, travelers, and coffee-lovers as enthusiastic as himself to share the unique stories and coffee from around the world.