Never look at your cup of coffee the same way again: A guide to different levels of coffee roast
For most people, breakfast wouldn’t be complete without having a cup of coffee. Coffee names like French Roast, Half City, Continental Roast, and New Orleans perhaps sound familiar to you when ordering your favorite cup of coffee. But do you know which roast type are you drinking? Is it light, medium or perhaps dark?
Many years back, dark roast coffee beans were noted to be superior compared to light and medium roasts. Drinking dark roast coffee was a sign of a seasoned palate while light roast coffee was reserved for the weak tongued. But through the years, the industry of coffee roasting has improved. Roasters have discovered that with the right roasting technique, even light roasts can bring out unique and complex flavors. Also, coffee beans with exceptional quality are becoming more accessible to the world. Coffee shops and coffee roasters are no different to the ever-changing need of buyers and consumers.
Light roasts are light brown in color. It has a distinct toasted grain taste and contains more acid than the succeeding roast levels. The beans look dry because of the absence of oil on the surface. During the roasting process, the beans reach a certain temperature of 356-401 degrees Fahrenheit after which they crack and expand. This is known as the First Crack. The coffee at this level will not be roasted beyond the first crack. This allows the bean to retain most of its original flavor.
Common coffee varieties that make use of light roast are Cinnamon Roast, Half City Roast, Light City Roast, and New England Roast.
The color of coffee beans for this category is medium brown. There is no oil on the surface so they still look dry. Unlike the lighter roast, medium roasts have more body and boldness in it. They contain a more balanced flavor and aroma and lesser acidity than the lighter roast. This roast is obtained between 410 and 428 degrees Fahrenheit (or between the end of the first crack and just before the beginning of the second crack).
Medium roasts have a stronger flavor and are perfect for those palates who crave more on the bitter side. Because this roast has the perfect balance of flavors, this is the most preferred type of roast among Americans. The coffee varieties that utilize medium roasts are Breakfast Roast, American Roast, Regular Roast, and City Roast.
Coffee beans belonging to this level have a heavier body and darker (but not extremely dark) color. Oil begins to show on the surface of the beans. Medium roasts are roasted at the beginning or middle of the second crack (about 437-450 degrees Fahrenheit) destroying all the acidity and bringing out most of the bean’s aroma. The flavor becomes richer and fuller and leaves a slight bittersweet aftertaste.
Full City Roast, Vienna Roast, and After Dinner Roast are among the coffee varieties within this
Dark roasted coffee beans are black, shiny, and oily on the surface. Roasted at about the end of the second crack or beyond, it releases a striking bitterness in the flavor. As the coffee roast gets darker, the original flavors of the coffee bean significantly decrease as well as the amount of caffeine level. Generally, the coffee will have a smoky, bitter or sometimes even burnt or spicy taste.
Coffee varieties that often use darker roasts are New Orleans, Continental Roast, European Roast, Vietnamese Roast, French Roast, Italian Roast, and Spanish Roast.
In making espresso blends, both dark and medium roasts can be used. To be clear, it is best to note that espresso is not a type of roast. Rather, it is a type of brewing method resulting in a “concentrated coffee drink made by pushing 1 or 2 oz of heated water through coffee that has been finely ground and put under intense pressure (8-10 MB)” [craftcoffeeguru.com].
At the end of the day, it is all about your choice of flavor and aroma. In the morning, you might want to sip on a lighter roast (which has more caffeine) to kick-start your day. At night, you might want to just sit back and relax with a cup of Cafe Americano. Discover all the roast options out there. Taste all their differences. Once you do, you will never look at your cup of coffee the same way again.