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Different Types of Coffee Roasts

glass jars each containing a variety of coffee beans

Do you know your beans? In this article, we will try our best to all the different types of coffee roasting there are to you, from light roast coffee to dark roast coffee, American to Italian roasts.

Let's start where the science and art behind coffee making magic begins. When we talk about roasted coffee, it starts with green coffee beans, which are nothing like the coffee bean we all know and love. For a start, the green bean is soft to the bite and smells grassy.

Roasting coffee and what it’s all about...

To artfully roast the green bean takes years of expert knowledge to bring out the perfect aroma (wake up and smell the coffee!) and flavour, achieved by roasting the beans. The roasting process is extremely delicate – it can take a matter of seconds for a perfectly roasted coffee bean to become a ruined one.

Names vary and there is very little standardisation in the industry - which can make it confusing when buying your coffee beans! However, generally there are only really four colour categories: 

Light Roast Coffee

Light roast coffees are generally dropped very shortly after what is called “first crack”, which is the moment when the coffee beans begin to crack and expand. Coffee goes through two ‘cracks’ when roasting, and light-to-medium roasts will finish somewhere between them. 

The beans look dry and pale, and provide a light-bodied coffee. The taste at this stage shouldn’t reveal any traces of the roasting and is generally a little acidic. However, this shouldn’t result in coffee that is sharp-tasting or sour. The end result is a light and aromatic roast, with distinct fruity and sometimes floral notes. 

With light roasts, the beans’ surface shouldn’t be oily – otherwise, you are looking at a different type of roast. The colour of this roast is light brown and is typically used for mild coffee types. But because a light roasted bean is not roasted for very long, light roasts can retain a lot of the original cherry’s flavours. 

Common names for light roast coffee include:

  • Light City
  • Half City
  • Cinnamon (which refers to the colour of the beans and not the flavour)

From our range, an example is our Kenya AA Acacias - Whole & Ground Roasted Kenyan Coffee Beans.

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium roast coffee beans still look and feel dry and have a medium brown colour and can have a much sweeter, caramel taste. The beans will have been roasted at a higher temperature and for longer; the beans will lose 13% of their weight during the process.

All of that brings out different flavours and a more rounded body, and results in less acidity compared to the light roast. It's a perfect brew for anyone who prefers some bitterness to the taste. 

Common names for medium roast coffee include:

  • American (this roast is traditionally associated with America)
  • City+
  • Full City

From our range, an example is our Ethiopia Limu - Whole & Ground Roasted Ethiopian Coffee Beans.

Medium-Dark Roast Coffee

Medium-dark roast coffee may have some oil beginning to show on the surface of the bean, resulting in a slightly shiny finish. The beans are roasted to the point where “second crack” is about to begin, or just after it starts. 

It has a rich, dark colour that reflects the aftertaste – bittersweet. The acidity is a lot lower than the light or medium roasts, resulting in a heavy body with hints of smokey, caramel and dark chocolate flavours. 

Common names for medium-dark roast coffee include:

  • Full-City Roast
  • Light Espresso
  • Light French
  • Viennese

From our range, an example is our Colombia Excelso - Whole & Ground Roasted Colombian Coffee Beans.

Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roast coffee is very distinctive in appearance – it's a very dark brown-to-black, oily and shiny bean. It is roasted well into the bean’s second crack. 

The darker the roast is, the less acidity will be in your cup, and tends to have a more prominent bitter taste. As coffee roasts get darker, they lose the origin flavours of the beans and take on more flavour from the roasting process. The taste of this coffee will tell you it’s been well roasted: thick, dark, nutty and a little spicy. 

French roast coffee and Italian roast coffee tend to fall into this category. However, French might fall into the double-roasted category, with almost charred beans. Espresso beans can be made from both medium-dark roasts and dark roasts – it depends on which you prefer. 

Common names for dark roast coffee include:

  • Continental
  • Espresso
  • Italian
  • French

From our range, an example is our Morning Coffee Blend - Dark Roasted Colombian & Vietnamese Coffee Beans.

Light roast, dark roast or the perfect medium roast: whichever you prefer, browse our selection of house-blended and single-origin fresh-roasted coffee beans – whole or ground to order or subscribe to today!

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