There are many steps in a coffee bean’s journey to your cup. The species of plant it came from, the conditions and geographic location it was grown in, and the way it was prepared, dried, roasted and stored all have a major impact on the final result. Today we’re going to look at the roasting process, and the way it affects beans. Generally, the way coffee beans are roasted will result in 4 different types of coffee roasts – light, medium, dark and extra dark.
Types of Coffee Roasts – A Comprehensive Overview
As mentioned above, a bean can either be roasted into a light, medium, dark or extra dark roast. Sometimes types of roasts however land somewhere on a spectrum, with light roast appearing on the one end of the spectrum and extra dark roast appearing on the other, instead of solidly into one category.
Light roast beans are light brown in color and are often characterized by fruity, floral tones. They have more acidity and less body than their medium and dark roast counterparts. Light roast coffee was previously associated with cheap, mass-produced coffee. However, lighter grinds have stepped into the spotlight recently and their varied and flavorful profiles have made them very popular. Interestingly enough, light roast coffee has the most caffeine of all the different roasts. Typical types of light roast beans include cinnamon roast and New England roast.
Medium roast beans are brown in color. They are characterized by a rounded flavor profile and have more body and acidity than lighter roasts. The darker, sweeter flavor comes from the lengthier roasting process, which taps into the deep caramel sweetness of the bean. Medium roast beans are roasted to just beyond first crack – meaning that the vapors inside the beans escape the outer barrier of the bean, along with a distinct “cracking” sound.
Typical types of medium roast beans include American roast and breakfast roast.
Dark roast coffee was always considered the gold standard. In the past every coffee drinker worth his/her salt would always pick a dark roast as it signified a seasoned palette. Darker roasts are sharing a bit of the spotlight these days as lighter roasts have shown how much value they can add/hold.
Although dark roast coffee doesn’t have much of its origin’s left, they can still have beautiful, complex flavor profiles – commonly with hints of caramel and nuts.
Typical dark roasts include Viennese roast and Continental roast.
Extra Dark Roast
Extra dark roast coffee is very dark, oily and tastes very much like burnt coffee. The extent of roasting leaves little to nothing of their origin characteristics left. Extra dark roasts move well into the second crack territory.
Typical extra dark roasts include French roast and Turkish roast.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the different types of coffee roasts, let’s touch on some other basics of coffee beans as well.
Other Things You Need to Consider
Type of Bean
The type of bean obviously has a significant effect as well. There are two types of beans – robusta and arabica.
Arabica is vastly more popular and is characterized by its lighter, fruitier, slightly acidic taste. Robusta has a stronger, harsher taste and has a higher caffeine content. Although you do find good Robusta beans, it is generally considered inferior to Arabica. Instant coffee and cheaper ground coffee and beans found in supermarkets are almost all made from Robusta.
More of the story: when in doubt, go Arabica.
Whole Bean vs Ground Coffee
Simply put, whole bean coffee isn’t ground up before being packaged whereas ground coffee is.
Ground coffee is beneficial to those who don’t have a grinder or simply don’t feel like grinding beans before every cup. Using ground coffee speeds up the coffee-making process and has the added benefit of grind consistency.
However, the big pitfall of buying ground coffee is freshness. As beans are ground up they lose their freshness quite rapidly. Vacuum-sealed packaging certainly helps postpone this process, but can never replicate the freshness of beans that have been ground up just before brewing. Grinding up your own beans provides significantly more flavorful and fresh cups of coffee. It also allows for a more hands-on approach and facilitates creativity through experimenting.
And there you have it. As you can see many steps and decisions go into making a cup of coffee. Roast selection plays a pivotal part in the process and trying out different types of coffee roasts is part of the fun. Why not mix it up and try something new? A different roast may really end up surprising you. At the very least, it will help develop your palette and open your world up to a host of new experiences.
Do you have a favorite roast? Leave us a note in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,