Light, Medium, Dark Roast: What's the Difference?

Apr 28, 2020 Most Recent

As you indulge yourself in the world of coffee, you begin to learn more terminology. Arabica, single origin, cultivar. You begin to learn the things that make your favorite drink so great, and how there's a world of knowledge to learn when it comes to coffee. One thing you may have come across are the different roast profiles: light, medium, and dark. Sometimes you might see a "medium dark" roast which is clearly between medium and dark. So what do these mean? Let's break it down.

The degree to which coffee beans are roasted is one of the most important factors that determine the taste of the coffee. Before roasting, raw coffee beans are soft, with a fresh smell and little or no taste. The coffee roasting process transforms these raw beans into the distinctively aromatic, flavorful, crunchy beans that we recognize as coffee. Let's look at the difference in roasting profiles.

Light Roast

Light roasts are light brown in color, with a light body and no oil on the surface of the beans. Light roasts have a toasted grain taste and pronounced acidity. The origin flavors of the bean are retained to a greater extent than in darker roasted coffees.

Light roasts also retain most of the caffeine from the coffee bean. Light roasted beans generally reach an internal temperature of 356°F to 401°F. At or around 300-350 degrees, the beans pop or crack and expand in size. This is known as the first crack. So a light roast generally means a coffee that has not been roasted beyond the first crack.

J.L. Hufford offers a few light roasts for you to choose from, such as the Breakfast Blend, Costa Rican Coffee, Ethiopian Yirgacheffee Coffee, and a few others.

Medium Roast

Medium roasted coffees are medium brown in color with more body than light roasts. Like the lighter roasts, they have no oil on the bean surfaces. However, medium roasts lack the grainy taste of the light roasts, exhibiting more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity. Caffeine is somewhat decreased, but there is more caffeine than in darker roasts.

Medium roasts reach internal temperatures between 410°F and 428°F between the end of the first crack and just before the beginning of the second crack. 

J.L. Hufford has a variety of medium roasts you can choose from, including our signature House Blend. Our Brazilian Coffee and Mocha Java Coffee are also examples of medium roasts. The majority of our flavored coffee is actually medium roasted!

Dark Roast

Dark roasted coffees are dark brown in color, like chocolate, or sometimes almost black. They have a sheen of oil on the surface, which is usually evident in the cup when the dark roast coffee is brewed. The coffee's origin flavors are eclipsed by the flavors of the roasting process. The coffee will generally have a bitter and smoky or even burnt taste. The amount of caffeine is substantially decreased.

To reach the level of a dark roast, coffee beans are roasted to an internal temperature of 465-480°F about the end of the second crack or beyond. They are seldom roasted to a temperature exceeding 490°F, at which point the body of the beans is thin and the taste is characterized by flavors of tar and charcoal.

J.L. Hufford has a variety of dark roasted coffee, including our notorious Superautomatika Blend.

What is your favorite roast of coffee? Let us know!

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