If you’ve ever bought a bag of coffee, you may have noticed that it says something like: French Roast, Medium Roast, or maybe Dark Roast, but have you ever known exactly what the ‘roast’ means?
Roasting coffee beans is an art, and it takes years of training to have a clear and concise understanding of what roasting does to beans. Although most roasters create their own name for their particular roasts and there is little to no industry standardization, roasts are generally categorized by their color as either being Light, Medium, Medium-Dark, or Dark. Furthermore, there is significant variability within each color category such that, for example, not all Light roasts are created equal – there can be a world of difference discernible to the coffee connoisseur even within each color category.
Before roasting, all beans are green – known as ‘green coffee,’ this is the preferred state for the beans to be stored in order to maintain their quality and taste. Once roasted, the beans should be used quickly before they start losing their flavor. Green coffee initially is slightly soft and smells like cut grass – the roasting triggers a chemical process in the bean that releases the flavor & aroma profiles of the coffee by heating and drying them, making the beans crunchy and ready for grinding.
Light roasts – those beans roasted at an internal temperature of 356°F-401°F – are light brown in color and are the preference for milder coffee varieties. The beans are matte and with no oily surface, as they haven’t been exposed to heat long enough to draw out the natural oils. Many people incorrectly assume that because light roasts are milder in flavor, they have less caffeine - wrong! Light roasts, in fact, have a slightly higher caffeine concentration than richer tasting dark roasts. Light roasts are best for truly capturing the natural flavor profiles of the coffee and examples include Cinnamon, Light City, and Half City.
Medium roasts reach internal temperatures of 410°F-428°F and represent the preferred roast variety in the United States. The beans are medium brown in color, have no oily surface, and are a stronger flavor with a slightly sweet aftertaste and balanced acidity.Examples include American, Breakfast, and City.
Medium-Dark roasts reach internal temperatures of 437°F-446°F and are dark, rich brown in color, have some oil on the surface, and are slightly heavier in body due to the sugars having caramelized. The flavor is strong with a mild bittersweet aftertaste, and examples include Viennese and Full City.
Dark roasts reach internal temperatures of up to 464°F and are shiny black in color with an oily surface, bitter in flavor and with little to no acidity. Dark roasts teeter on the brink of being burnt and can have a slight char. The original characteristics of the coffee have mostly disappeared and the flavor is almost entirely reflected in the roast, and examples include French, Italian, High, and New Orleans.
That was a relatively quick overview of coffee roasts. Follow us on Facebook or our blog if you’d like to learn more about all things coffee.
And remember: you can’t buy happiness but you can buy coffee, and that’s close enough! So buy some GOOD coffee why don’t you?