A Beginner’s Guide to the Various Coffee Roast Levels
If you’ve ever stood in a grocery store and had your eyes glaze over from an abundance of coffee choices – and no real guidance or knowledge of what makes one coffee different from another, you’re not alone.
Despite there being only a few coffee species important to the coffee industry, every roaster has dozens of varieties, putting their own spin on the roasting process – and the taste of coffee.
So with so many choices, how do you choose the right coffee?
It’s all about the roast levels. Once you understand coffee roast levels, you can find the right coffee for you.
Fortunately, it’s easy to understand roast levels. Keep reading to learn more and find out which roast is right for you.
The Different Coffee Roast Levels
Coffee comes in four major levels of roast: light, medium, dark, and darker than dark roast. However, within these four levels, there is some variety, so the same type of roast can vary from one brand or roaster to another.
The age of a coffee bean can determine the taste of the final product. The grind, processing, and brewing method can also affect the taste.
But above all, the roast level is the biggest determining factor.
Light roast coffee is intended to preserve the flavor and aroma of the coffee bean. That’s done by roasting the beans for the least amount of time at a temperature of 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they are roasted for the least amount of time, light roast coffee has the most acidity and little oil.
Beans for light roasts are often stopped after the first “crack.” A crack in coffee roasting is when the beans make an audible cracking sound. It’s very similar to the sound of corn kernels popping.
Since a light roast retains the flavor of the original bean, it can taste floral or even fruity. It’s because a coffee bean is actually a fruit seed. If you’re interested in learning more, continue reading up on the variety of light roast flavors available – there’s a lot to choose from!
Medium roast coffee has a longer roast time than light roast. A coffee roaster may raise the temperature of beans for a medium roast to 400-430 degrees Fahrenheit.
Medium roast beans pass the first crack but never reach the second crack. This reduces the acidity of the coffee.
Dark roast surpasses the second crack stage. Temperatures for these roasts range from 430-450 degrees Fahrenheit, or even higher. The long roasting time leads to the beans turning dark brown with an oily surface to them.
Dark roasts are known for their bold flavors. Unlike light roasts, the original flavor and aroma of the beans are seldom present.
Darker Than Dark Roast
Finally, there is darker than dark roast. These roasts are either loved or hated by coffee aficionados, and it’s all because of the taste.
A good example of a darker than dark roast is a French roast. French roasts have a smoky undertone to them. Some coffee drinkers love that, others claim it tastes like charcoal.
However, you can go even darker with a Spanish roast – the darkest roast available.
Choose the Right Roast for You
Now that you know what the different coffee roast levels are, you no longer have to feel overwhelmed when shopping for the perfect coffee. If you want to try natural flavor notes, opt for a light roast. However, medium and dark roasts are also very popular, and bolder, darker roasts pair well with dairy.
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