Types of Coffee Roast: Differences Between Light, Medium and Dark Roast

With more than 800 aromatic compounds, the coffee bean is definitely one of the most complex food substances known to man.

However, do you know that raw coffee beans are originally green and have practically zero taste when first picked from the fields?

It is the roasting process that changes the color of the coffee bean and unravels the marvelous array of flavors at the same time. Without doubt, different roasting stages of the coffee bean determine different coffee tastes.

That is why it’s very important to understand the taste profile of different coffee roasts if you want to learn how to make a good cup of coffee.

Light Roast

The light roast retains most of the coffee’s original characteristics.

As suggested by its name, the roasting time for the light roast is the shortest compared to the medium and dark roast. During roasting, the internal temperature of the beans increases, changing its color gradually from green, yellow to light brown.

As the roasting continues, the internal pressure of the bean starts to build up due to exothermic reaction within the bean. The build up of the pressure eventually split the surface of the bean, creating a cracking sound known as the first crack. Light roasts are generally roasted just before the first crack. Because of its short roasting time, light roast has little to no oil on the surface of the coffee beans.

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The taste for the light roast is unique and not many people can accept it.

While it preserves and highlights original characteristics of the green coffee bean, the acidity for light roast is the highest compared to other roast profiles. While you can taste its subtle flavor notes, some people find it to be painfully sour with a thin coffee body. While at it, the caffeine levels for light roast is at its peak which makes it a favorite among caffeine hunters.

Some common light roast names are Light City, Half City and Cinnamon Roast.

Medium Roast

As the roasting time increases, the aromas from the roasting process become more noticeable.

More than 50% of the sugars within the bean have been caramelized, developing into a more satisfying body with a growing bittersweet aftertaste. Overall, the flavors becomes more balanced with reduced levels of acidity and caffeine.

Continual roasting will lead to the second crack which is caused by the second wave of pressure build up due to endothermic reactions. The medium roast is often roasted between just before the second crack and the beginning of the second crack. While there are many variations of medium roast, many home baristas enjoy medium-dark roast as they prefer thicker body with developed flavors and enjoying its acidic notes at the same time.

Some of the common names for medium roast are City Roast (roasted just before second crack) and Full-City Roast (roasted to the beginning of the second crack).

Dark Roast

Dark roast is usually roasted till the end of the second crack.

It is easy to tell if you have bought a dark roast. Due to second crack, the oils within the beans begin to seep out to the surface, giving it a distinctive oily look. Dark roast coffee beans are usually dark brown and sometimes almost black in color. Some of the common names for dark roast are French Roast, Italian Roast, Espresso Roast, Continental Roast and they are usually used for espresso blends.

Fun Fact

The well loved kopi you have been drinking daily actually comes from dark roasted robusta coffee beans. As robusta are generally cheaper coffee beans, it doesn’t have desirable coffee flavors as compared to arabica beans.

Hence, to mask its undesirable flavor notes, robusta is often roasted over long period of time, giving it the thick satisfying body Singaporeans tend to love. Since most of its bitter flavor comes from the roasting process, it goes well with sugar and condensed milk.

Light Roast vs Dark Roast

However, many coffee connoisseurs cringe on the idea of buying dark roast coffee.

Just like a piece of quality wagyu beef grilled well-done, you will never be able to indistinguishable the differences between quality coffee beans and low grade coffee beans. Any unique desirable flavors from the coffee bean would have been lost. Instead, you will only be able to taste the bitter flavor that resulted largely due to the roasting process.

Hence, if you are considering to buy the best coffee beans in Singapore, we will advise you to try medium-dark roast to get a taste of it instead of committing to the dark roast.

In a nutshell

You will be able to taste more acidity, more unique flavor notes, more caffeine but thinner body and lesser flavor from the roasting process in light roasted coffee beans. The opposite is true for dark roast coffee.

Lighter Roasted Coffee BeansDarker Roasted Coffee Beans
More acidityLess acidity
More original flavor notesLess original flavor notes
More caffeineLess caffeine
Thinner BodyThicker Body
Less Flavors from Roasting ProcessMore Flavors from Roasting Process

Which roast should you choose?

There is really no perfect answer.

Coffee taste is totally subjective and depends on the individual’s palate.

Instead of seeking opinions from coffee connoisseurs, why don’t you try each roast profile yourself? If you have already tried medium roast but still prefer dark roast eventually, shouldn’t you buy the coffee roast you like since you are the one who is drinking the coffee?

We hope you learn a little more on the light, medium and dark roast today. What is your preferred coffee roast? Share with us in the comment section below!