Differences Between Light and Dark Roast Coffee

You’re at your local coffee shop waiting in line and trying to decide what to order for the day. It’s going to be an epic day full with meetings and a never-ending to-do list. Extra bold is a MUST today. You should pick the darkest roast they have to get the most caffeine right? Well, as it turns out, light roast coffee has slightly more caffeine than that “bold” dark roast. It’s a common misconception. As it turns out, there are a few other interesting differences between the 2 roast types.

3 key differences between light and dark roast coffee

#1. The Flavor Profiles
Coffee is very unique in that every step of the production process can significantly impact the flavor of the final product.

Farming & Processing  – Things like the altitude, soil composition, growing conditions and processing method all significantly impact the quality, depth, and flavor profile of the bean.

Roasting – 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 roast the coffee at various level from light to dark to see which roast type brings out the best overall flavor of the coffee.

Generally, the highest quality coffees are roasted in the light to medium range. This brings out the nuanced flavors of fruits, berries, acidity and jams. This is not to say that all dark roast coffees are low quality. Some coffee roasts well as a medium or medium dark roast, bringing out full-bodied chocolate and nutty flavors.

Brewing – Brewing methods, as well as a host of other factors during the brewing process, can significantly alter the flavor of your coffee. For instance, using a grind size that it too small can make your coffee taste bitter.

#2. The Level Of Caffeine
One of the most common myths about light and dark roast coffee is that dark roast coffee has more caffeine than light. While the difference in caffeine levels between the 2 roast types is small, light roast coffee actually has more.

Oils and other natural chemicals such as caffeine are released during the roasted process. Therefore, the longer the roasting process and the darker the roast, the less caffeine you’ll get in final cup.

#3. The Evolution Of The Coffee Community
One of the key differences between light and dark roast coffee is the trend of preference within the coffee community. Coffee roasters are now procuring single-origin or even single-farm coffee beans and roasting them as a medium or lighter. This captures the distinctive flavors of the region and doesn’t muddle those nuanced flavors by blending coffee grown under different conditions or processed different ways.

#4. Which goes better with milk / sugar?
You might think that since light roast coffee is less bold & rich, it might be the roast type of choice to use when adding milk.  Surprisingly though, darker roasted coffees go really well with milk or sugar as the milk + coffee together creates a good balance, especially when drinking espresso based drinks. This isn’t always the case, but for those who swear by light roast coffee all of the time, this may be a area you might consider giving darker roast another try.



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.