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What's The Difference: Light, Medium & Dark Roast?

Have you ever noticed how some coffee tastes different than others? Some taste bright and fruity. Others taste deep and dark. 

One may assume that the difference in colors is what classifies them to each roast level, or perhaps their respective caffeine levels. Although this may be true, each coffee roast level has their own characteristics that ultimately distinguishes them.

Fun fact that may be obvious to some, but often comes as a surprise, is that coffee beans are actually a light shade of green prior to roasting. When coffee beans are roasted they absorb heat which makes their color change to a darker shade, causing them to expand by around 150%. Contrary to the common belief, the roasting process removes some of the naturally occurring caffeine, so the darker the roast, the weaker the coffee. Some coffee beans appear with oil on the surface, but only at higher temperatures. This oily appearance and lingering flavor are often associated with darker roasts.

Light Roast

Light Roast Coffee has a lighter shade of brown and there is no oil on the surface. This coffee roast retains most of its original coffee characteristic, has the highest acidity, and can retain most of the caffeine from the coffee bean.

This flavor profile is commonly preferred by coffee enthusiasts, and is described as “bright”. This occurs because the coffee beans aren’t left for too long when roasting, which makes it more dense with moisture inside. Although light roast coffee will have a thinner body, it is more complex as it provides more caffeine, acidity, and towards a fruity or herbal flavor


Medium Roast

Medium Roast coffee has a brown color that is a little darker than light roast. However, just like light roast, it does not have any oil on the surface of the beans. Instead of having delicate flavors, medium roast has a more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity between dark and light roasts.

Medium Roasts can also be left to roast a little longer to be considered Medium-Dark. This roast is much richer and darker in color, with oils starting to surface the beans. These levels of roasting preserve the unique flavors of the coffee and is a great balance between acidity and body. 


Dark Roast

This roast has a dark brown color like dark chocolate and often has an oily surface. These coffee beans are left the longest in roasting in higher temperatures than the others. The beans lose more moisture, become less dense, and will have a bitter/smoky taste.

Caffeine is decreased from light roast to dark roast, so it will have the least amount of caffeine if measured by scoops. As coffee roasts become darker, the original flavor is lost but take more flavor from the roasting process, similar to roasting nuts.

Some purists prefer what’s called a French roast, which is darker than dark roast and just a hair before being considered burnt.

If you want a more full-bodied coffee with a bold flavor, dark roast is the perfect choice!

Source:, unsplash

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