Light Roast vs Dark Roast Coffee
Light roast coffee vs dark roast coffee...what's the difference? How does the roasting process affect the flavor of coffee, and which will you prefer?
Whether you are just beginning the journey to your relationship (notice I didn't use the word 'addiction'! with coffee, or are a coffee afficiendo who wants to understand the process more fully, roasting of the coffee bean certainly impacts flavor and intensity of brewed coffee.
So what does the roasting process involve? And when it comes to light roast vs dark roast coffee, which will you prefer?
The process of roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products.
Coffee acquires its characteristic flavor by virtue of the roasting process. The green coffee beans expand, and then change in smell, taste, color and density.
A roasted bean has very similar caffeine, protein and acids as an unroasted bean, but it lacks one very critical characteristic...taste.
How is that taste acquired? By the use of heat which causes the chemical reactions that develop and enhance the flavor.
As the bean absorbs heat, the color of the bean changes first to yellow and then to varying shades of brown.
During the later stages of roasting, oils appear on the surface of the bean, making it shiny. This oil is what gives coffee its distinctive aroma and taste.
The roast will continue to darken until it is removed from the heat source.
So again, when discussing light roast vs. dark roast, how is the length of the roasting process going to affect the taste of the brewed coffee?
At lighter roasts, the bean will retain more of its original flavor; the flavors created in the bean by the soil and weather conditions in the location where it was grown.
Some locations where the coffee beans are typically roasted lightly to retain their signature characteristics are regions like Java, Kenya, Hawaiian Kona, and Jamaican Blue Mountain.
As the beans roast for a longer period they darken to a deep brown. The original flavors of the bean are minimized and the flavors created by the roasting process itself become more prevalent.
At darker roasts, the "roast flavor" is so dominant that it can be difficult to distinguish the origin of the beans used in the roast.
In general, lighter roasts are sharper and more acidic than the darker roasts.
Darker roasts have a fuller flavor. Beans that have been over-roasted will take on a burned, smoky or charcoal flavor.
Also, there is less caffeine in the darker roasted coffees than in the lighter ones. The roast alone doesn't determine the resulting coffee taste or quality. The origin of the beans makes a big difference. Now that you have all of that knowledge in your head, here is a chart to help you decide whether it will be light roast vs dark roast for you...or maybe some of both!
- Light also called Cinnamon roast, half city, New England roast.
Flavor Dry...Lighter-bodied, higher acidity, no obvious roast flavor
- Medium also called Full city, American, regular, breakfast, brown.
Flavor Dry...Sweeter than light roast; more body exhibiting more balance in acid, aroma, and complexity.
- Full Roast Also called High, Viennese, Italian Espresso, Continental.
Flavor Slightly shiny...somewhat spicy, heavier body/mouth-feel. Aromas and flavors of roast become clearly evident.
- Double Roast Also called French.
Flavor Very oily...Smokey-sweet, light bodied, but quite intense. None of the inherent flavors of the bean are recognizable.
So there you have it...light roast vs dark roast coffee. Which will you prefer? Might have to try them all and decide!