Get The Best From Your Coffee – The Difference Between Light, Medium, and Dark Coffee Roasts

If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you probably know which type of roast you prefer. But what’s the difference between the various types of roasts, and why does it matter?Though all coffee comes from the Coffea plant, with the most common species being Coffea arabica (commonly known as “Arabica”), and Coffea canephora (also known as “Robusta”), how they’re roasted makes a big difference to how they turn out in your morning brew. From colour to caffeine, each roast can be unique in their own ways and taste different depending on the palette – so having an understanding of each can help you avoid any sub-par brews by knowing how to work with them all. help you avoid any sub-par brews by knowing how to work with them all.

So let’s break down the three main types of coffee roasts and what makes them so individual!

Light Roast Coffee

Light roast (sometimes referred to as New England, Half-City, and Cinnamon) coffee is, well, lighter. It’s been heated less than other roasts and is a softer shade of brown. They reach a temperature of 175º–210º, typically popping around 175º. This first ‘pop’ or ‘crack’ lets you know that the brew has reached a light roast.

Light roasted coffee beans don’t contain any oil on their surface and have more of a matte texture. While it’s the most acidic of the three roasts, it’s also much less bitter so if you like a sweeter-tasting coffee – this roast is for you. They’re best enjoyed black since they don’t typically hold up well with extras such as cream and sugar. Freshly brewed light roasts often give off aromas of citrus fruits, berries, flowers, and sometimes even tea!

And if you’re looking for a real caffeine hit you’ll be pleased to know that light roasts retain the highest level of caffeine from coffee beans due to the shorter roasting time. Just like alcohol will evaporate during cooking, caffeine cooks out of coffee beans – so the longer they roast – the less caffeine they’ll retain!

A common choice for coffee lovers, light roasts are typically described as having a “bright” taste – so if you prefer delicate flavours and opt for a drink without milk or cream, a light roast is your best bet.

Take a look at our most popular light roast options:

● Pivot by Mission Coffee Works – with notes of pear, pineapple and chocolate cookie Pivot is sourced with experimentation in mind and is perfect for pivoting between different brew methods.

 Nicaragua Finca Buenos Aires by Piccolos – with notes of milk chocolate and vanilla, this coffee comes from a family owned farm who work in harmony with the natural forests to keep ecosystms alive. Great for both espresso and filter coffee. 

● Costa Rica Tarrazu by Broomfield – with notes of orange and milk chocolate this coffee has a strong body and a creamy mouthfeel – great for espresso and filter.

● Colombia Villamaria by Steampunk Coffee – this coffee has all the bold Colombian mouthfeel and structure we love, but with more juicy red fruit and tropical fruit notes. Imagine lush strawberry, tangerine, kiwi, and dried mango – great for both filter and espresso.

● Blackwall Estate by Notes – with notes of chocolate brownie, salted caramel and black cherry Blackwell estate is a delicious and complex espresso coffee. 

Medium Roast

Medium roast coffees are a deeper shade of brown and have a thicker body than light roasts. Having been roasted for an extended period, medium roasts lose some of the floral flavours that pertain to a light roast. Their taste is more balanced and contains a medium amount of caffeine.

These brews are roasted until that second pop or crack, around 210º–225º. This type of coffee is highly popular, as the caramelised flavour of the beans pulls through, and it lies right between light and dark roasts – creating a happy medium for coffee lovers!

The aromas of medium roast carry hints of chocolate, nuts, and even spices. Common in the United States, this type of roast is sometimes referred to as the American Roast. It also goes by City, Breakfast, or Regular Roast.

If you’re looking for a new medium roast to try, here are some of our favourites:

 Antigua by Limini Coffee – surrounded by three volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango – this coffee has plenty of volcanic soil around it. Chocolatey and sweet with notes of blackberry, this is perfect for both filter and espresso.

● Babele Espresso Blend by Specialty Cafetiere – combining five different coffee origins – Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Guatemala – this coffee achieves complexity and balance. With notes of caramel, hazelnut and nougat, this is best for espresso. 

● Beanie Decaf by The Gentleman Baristas – a decaf that has preserved most of the original flavours of the coffee while adding fruity notes and some complexity to the cup – great for filter and espresso.

● Big House by New Ground – a blend consisting of a smooth nutty Brazilian, a juicy and sweet organically-grown coffee from East Timor, and a classic fruity Ethiopian – this coffee is the perfect wake up call – smooth, sweet and interesting.

● Empire Blend by Ozone – with notes of milk chocolate, caramel and nougat, this coffee packs sweetness into a rich and silky body – great for espresso.

Dark Roast

With a colour similar to dark chocolate and a surface shimmering with oil, dark roast is not for the faint of heart! These coffee beans roast for the longest period, leaving them with a much more bitter taste.

They’re the least acidic of the roasts and have the least amount of caffeine due to the longer roasting process. They tend to lose the original flavour of the coffee beans, leaving them with a bold, full-body taste. As far as aromas go, you’ll find yourself picking up nuts, chocolate, and even your favourite smokey foods when you come across a dark roast.

For a roast to be dark, it needs to reach a temperature of 225º or higher near the end of the second crack or pop. The longer it roasts, the more your drink is going to taste like the coals of a fire. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a dare devil and prefer a burnt taste – then the hotter the better here!

However, when brewed perfectly, dark roasts can maintain a sweeter flavour due to the sugars in coffee beans being able to caramelise. You might also find that they have a buttery finish, thanks to the longer roasting process.

Common names include French, Italian, and Espresso Roast.

If you’re after some fabulous dark roasts to try, we recommend these:

● Dark Peak by Smith St. – winner of Great Taste Award 2019 – this dark caramel treacle like full body, smooth & balanced coffee enriches a cappuccino or latte to perfection.

● El Jaguar Siltepec by John Watt – a coffee that wowed both customers and the John Watt team – with notes of brown sugar, orange and vanilla this makes for delicious espresso and filter.

● Dippenhall Decaf by Cupsmith – choose to drink this after dinner or throughout the day – it’s great with or without milk and is decaffeinated using a 100% natural process – so no nasty chemicals!

● Fairtrade Mediterranean Blend by John Watt – with a round body, vanilla, and tangerine notes this is great as espresso and filter.

● Limini Blend Dark Roast by Limini Coffee – consisting of a really rich body, roasted so it is close to the ‘roasty’ flavour without being burnt this is a strong coffee. With notes of dark chocolate and caramel – this is best as espresso.

And there you have it! Three different blends, all with their own distinct characteristics and flavours.

If you typically stick to one type of roast, we encourage you to sign up for our coffee subscription service and enjoy the wonders of embarking on a new coffee adventure every month! Our coffee experts handpick delicious flavours from the UK’s finest artisan roasters, bringing you the best curated coffees right to your door so you can broaden your coffee horizons without having to lift a finger!

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