Curious about the different types of coffee roasts? And how the roast affects flavor and caffeine levels? In this post, you’ll learn all about the types of coffee roasts and when to use each.
5 Types of Coffee Bean Roasts
The taste of your coffee is determined not only by the type of coffee beans that are used but also by the way they are roasted.
Roasting is a heating process that transforms green coffee beans into the brown, aromatic beans we love to smell when brewing our favorite morning cup of coffee.
The longer coffee beans roast, the darker in color they become, and the more the flavor and aroma changes. On the other hand, the longer the roast, the less caffeine and acidity they contain.
Coffee bean roasts are categorized by levels of:
We’ll describe each in more detail below.
1. White Roast Coffee
White coffee is very lightly roasted coffee beans. The beans are harder and contain a higher caffeine content than darker roast beans.
White roast coffee isn’t to be confused with other coffees commonly known as “white coffee”. Other drinks known as white coffee include Malaysian/Ipoh white coffee, Indonesian Kopi Putih white coffee, and flat white coffee. While they are technically also white coffee, they don’t contain white roast coffee beans.
Learn more about white coffee – the super light roasted coffee.
2. Light Roast
If you don’t like strong coffee, a light roast may be more to your liking. Light roast coffee beans are roasted the least amount of time compared to other roasts. The lightest roast would be white coffee beans (see above).
As a result, the coffee isn’t oily on the surface and is lighter brown in color which is why it’s sometimes called cinnamon roast.
The shorter roasting time also means more acidity and caffeine content but less aroma. This makes for a thin, mild cup of coffee. If you like coffee with fragrant and fruity flavors, you’ll find it among the light roasted coffees.
Because of the flavor notes in light roast, it’s a popular choice for cold brew lovers. I know I love a cup of fruity cold brew iced coffee. The cold brew process also cuts down on the acidity so it may be a little easier on those with a sensitive stomach.
Light roast coffee takes longer to extract properly so it’s best brewed slower than darker roasts. Pour over and cold brew methods (as mentioned above) would be good options to experiment with. If you’re going with a pour over try a fine grind to help with extraction.
Some common light roast names include:
- Cinnamon Roast
- New England
- Light City
- Half City
- White Coffee
3. Medium Roast
Medium brown in color with more of a balance of acidity, flavor and aroma, medium roasted coffee has a richer consistency then light roast. It also doesn’t have the oily surface you’ll see in the darker roasts.
A medium roast will bring out the nutty, chocolaty flavor notes of the beans. A great medium roast will taste good brewed in a wide variety of methods, pour over, automatic drip, moka pot, espresso… it’s a very pleasing and versatile roast for the majority of coffee lovers.
If you’re going with an automatic drip or pour over brew method try a medium grind. A medium roast will extract faster than a light roast, so a medium grind will help avoid over-extraction. A fine grind will be needed with the moka pot and espresso maker, but because they extract so quickly you’ll still end up with a great tasting cup of coffee.
This is the most popular type of coffee roast in the United States. It’s also my favorite. 🙂
Some common medium roast names include:
4. Medium-Dark Roast
If you want to kick your coffee up a notch in body and flavor, the medium-dark roasted coffee beans offer a bold body and rich flavor with a slight bittersweet aftertaste.
With a medium-dark roast, you may get flavor notes like bittersweet dark chocolate and dark roasted almonds.
Lovers of medium-dark roast are usually fans of the French press, espresso, and Aeropress brewing methods. If you’re using a French press use a coarse grind so your coffee does not become overly bitter due to over-extraction.
If you’re brewing a medium-dark roast with an automatic drip or pour over maker, a medium-coarse grind may be your best choice. It will help you avoid bitter flavor notes
These beans are darker in color because they are roasted longer and feature a semi-oily surface, decreased acidity, thicker consistency and deeper aroma.
Common names for medium-dark roasts are:
- Full City
- After Dinner
- Light Espresso
- Light French
5. Dark Roast
If you’re a fan of espresso and Starbucks coffee, you most likely enjoy dark coffee roast.
These coffee beans are roasted the longest of all the bean roasts until they are the color of dark chocolate or even black. The long roast time brings out the bean’s oil which you can see in the brew and produces a strong, sometimes bitter taste.
When brewing a dark roast at home you may want to use at medium-coarse to coarse grind, unless you’re using a moka pot or an espresso machine. The dark roast will extract quickly and may taste unpleasantly bitter when brewed slower with finer grind sizes. Although flavor preference is a very personal experience so it’s always a good idea to experiment and see what best suits your preferences.
Dark roasts feature an extra bold body and heavy mouthfeel that is preferred by many coffee lovers, especially those in Europe.
Popular dark roast names include:
- New Orleans
What type of coffee roast is your favorite? Have you tried the lightest roast (white) to the darkest? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.
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Here's how we make our coffee:
Here is the gear we use everyday as we make strong, rich coffee at home.
Depending on the day, we make our coffee in one of three methods.
- Espresso Maker: Breville Cafe Roma. This is a (relatively) inexpensive espresso maker that makes a quality shot. It has a small footprint, taking up little space on our counter. This was a gift from Bryan's parents.
- Drip Coffee Maker: Ninja Coffee Bar with Stainless Steel Carafe. This unit makes good drip coffee. It also has an insulated carafe, keeping coffee hot without making it gross - like those little burner plates on most coffee makers. Dena's go-to every morning.
- Stovepot Moka Pot: Bialetti Stovetop Moka (Espresso) Pot. This is Bryan's favorite for first coffee of the day.
- Coffee Grinder: Cuisinart Coffee Burr Grinder. We've been using this grinder for many years and it still grinds consistently. This was a gift from our daughter.
See all our favorite stuff here: Recommended Gear