Learn all about what different coffee roasts mean and find the perfect roast for your tastes.
Coffee is love. I don’t say this lightly. Coffee for William and I is honestly how we express our love to each other. It is more than a drink, it’s an expression of adoration and an act of passionate companionship. I guess you could say that as our love is roasting and brewing, it grows deeper and fonder. So what do coffee roasts mean? We set to find out.
As our love for each other grew, so did our coffee fandom. William and I began to go beyond the instant or ground coffee and really explore the tastes and textures of coffee beans from different roasters and different places. We wondered, “what do the different roast types even mean?” and “What affects the taste of coffee?”
Coffee Roasting 101: What Do Different Roasts Mean?
There are three main types of coffee roasts: light, medium, and dark. I’ll explain what these mean and how they effect the taste of the coffee in your cup. I’ll share links to information I found about coffee roasting. Honestly, the best article that explained almost everything was Coffee Crossroads.
One thing you will notice as you read is that temperature determines the roasting level and crack level. Coffee beans will crack at certain temps. Each crack affects the flavor of the beans.
The level of a roast basically describes how much heat the beans were subjected to. Light roasted coffee reach an internal temperature of 180°C – 205°C (356°F – 401°F). These are roasted just before the first crack.
Roasting at this low temperature means the beans retain more of their original flavors. If you are trying to taste intricacies between different coffee beans, make sure you are tasting a light roast. The darker the roast, the more it will taste…well..roasted!
Medium roasts are our favorites! These have a more balance aroma, acidity and flavor. They are roasted to just before the 2nd crack – at temperatures between 210°C (410°F) and 220°C (428°F).
You might see these marketing terms to describe a medium roast coffee:
- Regular Roast
- American Roast
- City Roast
- Breakfast Roast (our favorite!)
When I think of dark roast coffees, I think of super “strong” coffee, with lots of bitterness. One fun fact – dark roast coffees actually have less caffeine than light roast! All that roasting at the high temps negatively affects the caffeine content. Amazing, right?
A key component of dark roast coffees is how their origin flavor is masked by the flavors of the roasting process. Many dark roasts are used for espresso blends.
These are roasted to an internal temp of 240°C (464°F) — about the end of the second crack — up to 250°C (482°F). They are hardly ever roasted beyond 250 degrees because they end up tasting like tar at that point.
Common terms for dark roasts:
- French Roast
- Italian Roast
- Espresso Roast
- Continental Roast
- New Orleans Roast
- Spanish Roast
Does The Coffee Brewing Method Change the Flavor?
Yes, the method used to brew the coffee can alter the taste and experience of the cup of coffee. Honestly, some brewing methods will only create minuscule flavor changes, so choose the method that works with your lifestyle.
Personally, I only like espresso in my lattes. What is an espresso? According to a fantastic article I found on The Spruce, espresso is “a full-flavored, concentrated form of coffee that is served in shots. It is made by forcing pressurized, hot water through very finely ground coffee beans.”
If you want to taste coffee in its concentrated form, try a shot of espresso.
No, an Americano is not the same as brewed coffee like you make at home. I made this mistake last time I ordered an Americano.
Americanos taste stronger than brewed coffee because they are made from espresso. Water is added to the espresso to water it down a bit. You’ll often see a layer of “crema” on top of an Americano that you won’t see on top of brewed coffee.
This is named after the french press tool used to brew the coffee. It doesn’t use filters so more of the natural oils are brewed with the coffee. Many coffee fans agree the oils are what give the coffee most of its flavors.
A french press works by first mixing the ground coffee beans directly in with the hot water. Then, the french press separates the beans from the coffee, allowing you to pour a strong cup.
Here is a very helpful video showing the entire process.
The drip method is how William and I make our coffee. We love our Hamilton Beach coffee pot. If you think of any automatic coffee pot, it probably making drip coffee.
How is pour over different from drip coffee? At first glance, it appears like there is hot water, poured over coffee beans in a filter, into a cup.
But there is so much more to it than that.
The pour over method is actually something you have to practice to get it just right. The speed of water going over the beans is what effects the flavor of the coffee. The Kitchn explains it very well. “The hand-pour method, on the other hand, allows you to control the speed of the pour (making it slower), giving the water more time to come in contact with the grounds and, therefore, making a richer and more flavorful brew.”
Does Where The Bean Comes From Affect The Taste?
Definitely! Weather patterns affect the health of the bean and the soil brings out different notes too. I’ll be covering more information in future posts about why Columbia is known for their coffee beans and what it is about other areas that makes coffee beans taste amazing.
What is your favorite way to drink coffee? I know people that swear by good ol Folgers and others prefer only single-origin whole bean coffee. Different levels of coffee roasting brings out different notes and flavors in the beans. I hope this guide helped you learn more about coffee!