Coffee Roast Levels – An Introduction

We all have different coffee tastes. Some people savor espresso or americano, while others favor milk-infused beverages such as flat white and macchiato. The specific tastes and characteristics of these beverages are generally attributable to the roasting procedure.

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Roasting plays a vital role in deciding the taste of coffee. Change in roasting can completely alter the flavor and aroma of the coffee. It is an art that requires practice and experience. However, if you are a regular buyer or consumer of the coffee, it will become easier to discover various roasting levels. 

In case you are still finding it hard to learn the coffee roasts level, do not worry because here, we will help you know everything about coffee roast levels. You will also discover the suitable type of roast level for you to let you enjoy the best taste as per your preference.

What is Coffee Roasting?

The process in which we heat coffee beans and convert them into roasted beans for brewing coffee is known as coffee roasting. During the roasting process, users also need to consider the grind size, time, and temperature. 

Roasting a coffee enhances its solubility, flavor, and aroma. A better-roasted coffee has high solubility, which results in a better taste. On the other hand, you also need to focus on the rate of solubility. 

Some of the coffee beans get quickly soluble, due to which they have a high rate of solubility, while coffee beans that take more time to get soluble have a lower rate of solubility.

Additionally, the rate of solubility will also help you achieve the proper extraction. Though roasting is an easy step, it can still get messy if not followed correctly. While roasting the coffee, you will need to achieve a specific internal temperature to get a better outcome. 

Besides, the sugars and browns of the coffee also get caramelized while roasting. Roasting also increases the rate of physical and chemical change, which helps achieve a quick outcome. During the roasting process, some of the heat transfer processes are radiance, conduction, and convection.

Roast Degree

The roast degree is an essential factor to keep in mind while roasting the coffee beans. You can measure the roast degree by various methods, such as by tasting or by a color meter. 

Both ways are easy, so it is up to you whether you prefer a color meter or taste the coffee to know the roast degree. You can select the roast degree depending on the coffee flavor you want. If you compare both the light roasted and dark roasted coffee, you will discover that the light is more acidic while the dark is more bitter.

You may find this interesting: Light Roast vs. Dark Roast Coffee

On the other hand, you will get a fruitier flavor with the light roast coffee, while the dark roasts coffee results in a brunt and roast-y flavor. The reason that light roast coffee is fruitier is because of the presence of more organic compounds. 

The presence of a 5-hydroxymethylfurfural compound causes the light roast coffee to taste fruity. If we keep roasting the coffee beans, the 5-hydroxymethylfurfural compound breaks and turns into a less fruity compound. At that time, the number of sulfuric compounds also increases, which is the cause of burnt and roast-y flavor in the dark roasted coffee.

Roast Time

Other than the roast degree, roast time also plays a vital role in coffee flavor. The total roast time can help you alter the taste of coffee. 

Other than this, the time of each stage also affects the coffee flavor. Due to this, you can get the desired aroma compound by roasting the beans faster. But make sure not to burn the beans too much. 

Overheating the beans can burn them. You will also get more aroma compounds if you keep the roasting period faster during the development stage. Therefore, you should also keep the roast time in mind to get the best outcome.

Common Roast Levels

If you are a coffee lover, you might have come across various roasting levels. Some of the most common roasting levels are dark, medium, light, and darker. Each of the roasting levels demands different heat to form.

Light Roast

In the lighter roasts, the coffee beans are heated for a shorter interval. Also, the temperature set for beans roasting in a light roast is lower than the medium roast and dark roasts. This roasting results in a light brown color and does not contain much oil on the bean. 

Coffee makers allow it to heat for up to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to get the best outcome. Due to varying degrees in the light roasts, it is also known as a light city, half city, and cinnamon. 

The light roast is recommended to all those coffee lovers who want to enjoy a brighter flavor. Besides, some coffee lovers have various misconceptions about the light roast. 

Some people believe that the amount of caffeine present in the light roast is less than that of darker and medium roast, which is not valid. Unlike dark and medium roast, the light roast beans are roasted for a shorter period and require a lower temperature. 

Because of the shorter time and lower temperature, the light roast coffee beans retain more caffeine. If you compare the caffeine content in an original green coffee bean and light roast coffee, you will notice that the light roast coffee has more caffeine in it.

Find out more about caffeine in your coffee: What Coffee Has the Most Caffeine?

Medium Roast

As compared to light roast, the medium roast beans are roasted for a bit longer period. Also, the temperature set for the medium roast coffee beans is higher than the light roast beans. 

It gets a sweeter caramelization and is less bright than a light roast. The light roast coffee has higher acidity and is bright because of the short roast time. 

As we roast the coffee beans for a more extended period in the medium roast, their acidity and brightness decrease. You will also get a fairly dry outcome with a medium roast coffee. It has an acidity between the medium roast and dark roasts.

On the other hand, the temperature for medium roast coffee is set around 400 to 430 degrees Fahrenheit. There are varying degrees of medium roasts, referred to as a city, American, and breakfast. 

The beans roasted from a medium roast have a brown color, which is darker than the light roast bean. Similar to the light roast, this one also does not have any oil on the surface of the beans. 

If we talk about the taste, the medium roast has a more balanced flavor and aroma. Apart from medium, there are other roast methods, such as light-medium and medium-dark roasts. Medium-dark roast is in between the dark and medium roast.

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Dark Roast

Other than light and medium roast, dark roasts are also quite a popular type of roasting. It has a different taste and aroma than the light and medium roast. You will get a bolder and heavier flavor with the dark roasts coffee bean. 

Another positive thing about it is that it has lower acidity. So, if you want a beverage that does not have high acidity in it, then the dark roasts will be ideal for you. Other than this, if we look at the appearance of this type of roast, it is dark brown.

 The dark brown color of this coffee bean makes it look like dark chocolate. To make the darker roasts coffee reach its second-crack stage, you will need to heat it to 430 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The roasting in the dark roast refers to Vienna and the full city roast or French roast.

On the other hand, the dark roast coffee bean has an oily surface. In dark roast coffees, you will need to keep the coffee beans under high temperature for a longer time to achieve the outcome. Because of keeping it under high temperature for an extended period, it loses more moisture, and its density also decreases.

Tips to Select the Right Roast Level

When it comes to coffee aroma and taste, roast plays an essential role. If you are struggling to choose the right roast level, then keep the following tips in mind. By following the given tips, you can pick the right roast level as per your preference.

  • If you want a coffee with a lower acidity level, you must go for a medium roast coffee. Other than lower acidity levels, the medium roast coffee is also ideal for those who desire fewer bright notes.
  • Besides, light roast coffees will be suitable if you want to enjoy a powerful and natural flavor. It also provides a relatively brighter roast than the medium and dark roast.
  • People who enjoy a bold and rich taste should go for a dark roast coffee. The dark roast beans are also oilier, resulting in a toasty and bittersweet taste. You can also use a blend rather than choosing a single origin with the darker roast.
  • On the other hand, if you like an unbalanced coffee, go for a blend of various origins with a medium roast. Mixing different flavors with medium roast will help you attain the best outcome.

Therefore, by following the given tips, you can easily select the right roast level.

Different Coffee Roasting Stages

In the roasting of coffee, we need to turn the beans to brown from green. There are different ways by which you can convert green beans into brown. However, these methods may also affect the flavor. Here, we will let you know about the three prime stages of roasting.

Stage 1: Drying Stage

The first stage is the drying stage. The reason that we conduct this stage is because of the humidity present in coffee beans. Coffee beans have 8 to 12 percent humidity, due to which we will have to dry the beans to begin the actual roasting process. 

You will need to give 4 to 8 minutes to this stage. Experts usually use a traditional drum roaster for the drying stage. 160 ⁰C is the total temperature during the drying stage. 

While using the drum roaster, you will have to be extra careful. The high temperature of the drum roaster can even burn the beans, due to which you should be cautious about getting the best bean shape. 

Initially, try to provide moderate heat so that the beans get dried without getting burned. In the drying stage, the energy of the beans also gets collected, while the last stage of roasting usually produces heat.

Stage 2: Browning Stage

In this stage, the green coffee beans are turned medium brown in color. On heating the coffee beans at 160 ⁰C, it smells similar to toasted bread and hay. During this time, the aroma precursors begin to transform into aroma compounds. 

Though the browning stage occurs after the drying stage, the drying of coffee beans still keeps on happening during the browning stage. The Maillard reaction that occurs during the browning stage is the prime cause of the brown color of the coffee bean. 

During the Maillard reaction, the amino acid and reducing sugar react and produce different aromas. Other than the aroma, it also generates various color compounds called melanoidins. 

During this period, the roasting of the coffee gets slowed down—this reduction in the pace of roasting helps develop delicious flavor. At the end of the browning stage, you will begin to notice the coffee pop, which indicates the first crack.

Stage 3: Roasting Stage

The last stage is the roasting stage which takes less time to happen. In this stage, the exothermic occurs due to which coffee cracks. In the browning and drying stage, the coffee beans gain a lot of energy. 

Due to the collection of more energy, the coffee explodes. During the roasting time, the aroma compounds begin to develop. Depending on the taste you want, you can slow down the roast during this stage. 

If you do not slow down roasting during this stage, you will get coffee with a smoky taste and sharp flavor. By knowing this guide to coffee, you will learn a lot about roasting coffee.

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