Types & Shades of Coffee Roasts Explained

Light, medium, or dark roast. There are mainly 4 types of coffee roast. Which one of the coffee tastes best? Which type of roast are you enjoying now? What are their differences, anyway? If you …

Types & Shades of Coffee Roasts Explained Cover Image

Light, medium, or dark roast. There are mainly 4 types of coffee roast. Which one of the coffee tastes best? Which type of roast are you enjoying now? What are their differences, anyway? If you are new to the coffee-drinking world, roasting styles of the coffee industry might confuse you a lot.

Before wasting your hard-earned money on a roast type that you won’t like, let’s learn about the distinct tastes, flavor profile, and characteristics associated with each roast level.

 Light RoastMedium RoastMedium-Dark RoastDark Roast
ColorLight brownBrownDark brownAlmost black
SurfaceDryDryLight-oilyOily and Shiny
AcidityHightBalanced taste and acidityVery lowNone
BodyLightMedium-fullFullBold and Full
TasteOriginal essenceCaramel sweetBittersweet aftertasteBitter, Smokey
FlavorFruity, floral, Lemon, CitrusBalancedStrongIntense
Caffeine ContentHighMediumMediumLow


Why Does Coffee Need Roasting?

One of the significant factors affecting coffee flavors and intensity is coffee roasting. Coffee is a seed found inside a cherry-like fruit. When raw beans are collected from the coffee cherry, they’re called green coffee beans. Every type of coffee bean starts from being a green bean.

The green coffee beans are not brewable. The roasting process removes the grassy smell and tasteless spongy feel, making coffee out of the green beans.

After going through the roasting process, green beans change their chemical and physical properties. It helps the flavor, aroma, and taste to come out of the bean. The roasted beans lose their moisture and become crunchy. Roasting also differentiates the flavor profiles of each bean type.

Ever felt the rich, appealing aroma of freshly roasted beans? Nothing compares to its taste. These soul-touching smells will allure all the coffee drinkers to crave a cup of java.

How is Coffee Roasted?

The coffee roasting process is an art practiced by countless roasteries around the world. Therefore, it gets different opinions from worldwide on how to roast the perfect coffee. Since each type of coffee has its unique character, there is no single universal standard for you to follow.

There are many roasting techniques for raw coffee beans. You can even roast at home. There are two main roasting methods:

  • Drum roasting: This process is for small-scale production. The beans are roasted in small batches and for a more extended period.
  • Hot-air roasting: This one is more common in large-scale roasteries, making roasting of larger volumes possible. At the same time, you can have higher temperatures and shorter roasting times.

In both of the processes, coffee beans are placed in a machine. They are roasted at high temperatures of up to 500 °F. Beans keep moving to avoid burns. As a result, they absorb the heat and change from light to darker shades. Thereby, the roasted coffee beans release their unique taste and aromas.

Within a few seconds, perfectly roasted coffee can turn into garbage. So, knowledge and experience of the ingredients, temperature, and time are fundamental.

Roast Types

Coffee Beans Image

Judging by the color of the beans, coffee beans are broadly categorized into four major types of coffee bean roast, ranging from light roast to very dark.

Light Roast

Lightly roasted coffee is so bright and lively that you can see the origin’s foot-spore. It preserves the coffee’s natural taste having no traces of roasting. The beans are roasted until the internal temperature reaches 356°F – 401°F. So, they get a light brown color. At this stage, the beans get their first crack and initial expansion.

Light Roast Image

Light roast coffee beans have a light and delicate body and a sweet and fruity aroma. Light-roasted coffees are slightly acidic with tones of lemon or citrus. You can taste it in the back of your mouth like sour candy. Avoid adding milk to it, or it might make the milk taste sour. Instead, enjoy this roast in its purest form.

Types of Light Roast Coffee

High-quality beans are usually roasted lightly. Standard types of light roast coffee are

  • New England
  • Cinnamon Roast
  • Light City
  • Half City Roasts.


Medium Roast

The beans are roasted until the temperature reaches about 410°F-428°F. They become brown. It’s the stage when the first crack ends and the second crack begins. Both light and medium roasts don’t show oil on the bean’s surface.

Medium roast is synonymous with “American Roast” since most Americans prefer medium roast coffee to start their days.

Medium Roast Image

This type of roasting has the goodness of both worlds. While the natural essence is preserved, you also feel the roast. The acidity softens, and the body is increased.

They have a whole and round body, darker taste with a sweetness of caramel. The flavor, sharpness, and aroma all are balanced.

Types Of Medium Roast Coffee

Common varieties of medium roasted coffee are

  • City Roast
  • Regular Roast
  • American Roast
  • Breakfast Roast

Having fun Nomies? Check out our piece on most expensive coffee beans.

Medium-Dark Roast

Medium-Dark Roast coffee beans are roasted until the temperature reaches about 437°F-446°F. The beans get a lovely darker shade of brown color and a light-oily surface during or just at the end of the second crack.

Medium-Dark Roast Image

This type of coffee has a much fuller body than light roasts. The acid disappears, which is taken over by spicy, bittersweet flavors.

Types Of Medium-Dark Roast

Medium-dark roast coffee blend varieties are marketed under names like:

  • Full City Roast
  • Light French
  • Light Espresso
  • Vienna Roast

Dark Roast

If you love any type of coffee drink with milk, the dark roast bean is the perfect fit. With dark bean coffee, we always imagine a super bitter coffee with lots of caffeine. However, contrary to popular belief, darker roasts have lower amounts of caffeine level than lighter ones.

During dark roasting, the coffee beans reach an internal temperature between 464°F-482°F. Around this time is when the second crack ends. As a result, they get a very dark brown color and an oily bean surface.

Dark Roast Image

Dark roast coffee beans get their aroma and taste from the roasting. There are no traces of the natural properties of the coffee. Low-quality beans often get darkly roasted to mask their defects.

The coffee has a pronounced heavy body, no acidity, and a bitter and smoky taste. You might recognize this bold, rich, and dark coffee experience from an authentic espresso.


Types Of Dark Roast Coffee

Commonly known types of dark roast coffee are:

  • Italian
  • French
  • Continental
  • New Orleans
  • Espresso Shot
  • European
  • Spanish Roast
  • French Roast

Why Do Dark Roasts Taste Bitter?

Roasting has a significant impact on how coffee tastes in your cup. Imagine burning down chocolate cookies in the oven. How will it taste? Same with dark roasted coffee. The beans lose their original flavors during roasting. Instead, they get a more robust and pronounced form of bitterness. You can almost feel that burnt tone.

On the contrary, lighter roasted coffee has more acidity and fruity tones with a rich flavor. And the medium roasting usually brings out more of the bean’s natural taste. Here you lose a lot of the impurities. What remains is a product with a mild and balanced flavor. To counter the bitter flavor, you can use additional flavor add-ins.

Choose the Right Roast Type for You

The right choice for coffee roast depends on the flavors and aromas you prefer. Take time to understand the relationship between coffee and your taste buds.

Types of roasting methods and degrees of roasting affect how the coffee tastes, and also affect their levels of caffeine. In lower-degree roasting, the acidity in taste is higher. At higher degrees, the coffee gets a more bitter taste. Try different types of coffee roasts until you find the right one for you.

Now that you understand everything about coffee roasting, use the knowledge to get your preferred dose of caffeine. Who knows? You might find a particular roast style giving you more pleasure than the previous one.

Had fun reading? You’ll love to read our piece on types of black coffee.


Which Coffee Roast Tastes Best?

The right choice for coffee roast depends on the flavors and aromas you prefer.

Which Beans Would You Recommend for Us to Try?

The dark roast beans are a known preferred type, as it is perfect for the majority who like milk with their coffee.

What Kind of Coffee Bean Should You Choose?

Depends entirely on your preference, and how strong you like your coffee to be.

What Does the Roasting Process Do?

Roasting the green coffee beans brings out the taste and flavors.

Which Coffee Roast Is the Least Bitter?

Lighter roast tastes the least bitter.

Which Coffee Roast Has the Most Caffeine Content?

Lighter coffee roasts contain the most caffeine.

Which Coffee Roast Is the Most Flavorful?

Lightly roasted coffee is the most flavorful.