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Light Roast vs. Dark Roast Coffee Explained

Posted by Bean & Bean on
Light Roast vs. Dark Roast Coffee Explained

Some coffees fruity and light, while others taste deep or bitter. The flavor and characteristics of a coffee are mainly determined by its geographic region. However, roasting transforms the physical and chemical characteristics of the coffee bean and helps bring out certain flavors. 

Coffee beans are roasted with heat so that the water inside each bean will evaporate. The amount of time coffee spends roasting will determine how much water is left in the bean and ultimately the caffeine, body, brightness, and flavor profiles of the coffee bean. Without roasting, we would have bland (and undrinkable) coffee! So what’s the difference between the light roast and dark roast coffee? (Source)

Light Roast Coffee Features

Light roast is roasted for less time compared to dark roast. It’s also heated anywhere from 356-401°F before being quickly moved to a cooling tray. Since it spends such a short time receiving heat, it’s left with more moisture inside the bean and less oil on the outside and is also lighter in color compared to dark roasted coffee. Light roast coffee has higher acidity or “brighter” brews with a light body. Because it receives less heat than a dark roast, the coffee preserves more of its natural flavors and leads to complex coffee tasting notes, and is less bitter. The complexities of light roast coffee slowly disappear the longer you leave the beans on the roasting machine. (Source)

Dark Roast Coffee Features

In comparison to light roast, dark roast is roasted for longer and at a higher temperature. Dark roast coffee can be heated to a temperature of 464 °F, but it’s kept at below 482 °F to prevent the beans from completely burning. Coffee beans that receive more heat will develop a more oily surface and are less dense than light roast coffee because most of the water has evaporated. Dark roast coffee is less bright or “acidic” and more bitter. This is also the stage where many people consider roast character to eclipse origin character when it comes to flavor. Dark roast has that hallmark, bitter flavor that people typically associate with coffee; it is full-bodied with bolder, more straightforward (some might say one-dimensional) flavors. (Source, source)

 

Is Light Roast or Dark Roast Coffee Healthier? 

While some think one is healthier than the other, research has shown that both light and dark roast coffees have health benefits! Light roast coffee has a higher concentration of an antioxidant called polyphenol chlorogenic acid or CGA and is responsible for most of coffee’s health benefits. CGA gets broken down in the roasting process, thus darker roasts have less of it. On the flip side, darker roast coffees have higher levels of N-methylpyridinium, a chemical that research shows reduces the amount of excess acid produced in the stomach. Additionally, dark roast, due to longer roasting times, have more phenylindanes which are responsible for the bitter taste in coffee. Despite the bitter taste, they prevent the buildup of proteins responsible for conditions related to the nervous system’s deterioration. So whether light roast or dark roast is healthier is up to you and which roast serves you best in your health. (Source)

Light Roast vs. Dark Roast Caffeine Content

The caffeine level in roasted coffee actually depends. Caffeine in coffee changes little during roasting, as significant caffeine loss would occur at temperatures of 600°F (which is much higher than coffee roasting temperature). Even though a bean’s caffeine content doesn’t change much during roasting, a bean’s caffeine per volume and per weight is altered considerably because the size and weight of the beans change. The longer a bean is held in the roaster, the darker in color, lighter in weight, and larger in size it becomes. (Source

In summary, because the size and weight of coffee beans change during roasting, the amount of caffeine can increase or decrease depending on how you measure your beans. Measuring by weight will give you a more caffeinated brew while measuring by volume results in less. (Source)

Next, we’ll recommend what roast we think tastes best using different coffee brewing methods. However, coffee taste is subjective so feel free to have different opinions about what roast to use!

Pour over coffee maker

Which Roast Should I Use With My Pour Over? 

Pour overs are best suited for light or medium roast. The pour-over method involves pouring hot water through ground coffee in a filter where the water drains through the coffee and filters into a carafe or cup. Pour over is also known as filter coffee or drip coffee and works well to highlight subtle flavor notes and aromas. This is because the water is allowed to extract coffee oils and fragrances at its own pace through an infusion method.(Source

Which Roast Should I Use With My Coffee Pot? 

A drip coffee maker, while has an immersion-based brew, is rougher with coffee beans compared to a pour-over method. You can’t control the temperature or the pouring style of your brew, meaning your coffee might not get evenly brewed within a machine. Coffee makers can cause coffee to lose some flavor and taste diluted. We recommend using a medium roast coffee in a coffee maker, for example, our Indonesia Sumatra coffee. Some dark roasts taste bitter in drip coffee makers and light roast coffees tend to lose nuanced flavors. 

French press coffee maker

Which Roast Should I Use With My French Press? 

Many people prefer to use medium or dark roast coffee with their french press. A French press is an affordable coffee maker that uses immersion brewing to create a smooth, full-bodied cup of coffee. French presses use a stainless steel mesh filter to filter the grounds, so more of the coffee bean oils and solids end up in your coffee. We recommend our Peru Las Damas Coffee for your next french press brew. (Source)

Which Roast Should I Use to Make Cold Brew? 

Cold brew is one of the cheapest and easiest brewing methods and yields a great cup of coffee that is both smooth and sweet. Cold brews result in a coffee that is less bitter with lower acidity. The cold brew method is commonly used with dark roast to remove some of the bitter taste while still providing a smooth and rich taste. We recommend using a dark or medium roast with a cold brew! It’s even easier to do with a DIY cold brew kit.

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