Light, medium or dark roast? All coffee drinkers have their favourites, but many don’t know why—they just know when they like something. So I thought I would explain how roasting affects your favourite cup. A light and a dark roast of the exact same bean yield incredibly different results. That’s because other than the bean itself, the biggest factor in the flavour profile of a coffee is the roasting process.
“To love beauty is to see light.” ~ Victor Hugo
You can immediately tell a light roast from a medium or dark roast by its colour. The raw beans, initially pale green to almost off-white, change to a light brown, tan or subtle auburn when roasted lightly. A fresh light roasted coffee imparts a subtle floral aroma thanks to the volatile oils and other compounds left in the beans.
Cuppings (tastings) are always done at very light roasts because they preserve the flavour profile of the coffee itself, typically bringing out sweetness and fruity flavours as well as acidity on first sip. Light roasts have tons of flavour—what they don’t have is lots of body. For this reason they’re best enjoyed au naturel, without milk and sugar.
Lighter roasts have a deeper complexity and higher acidity because you’re doing less to the bean. If it were a wine, a light roast would be a nice crisp white with low sugar and high acidity, like a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc. The tasting notes of our lightest roast, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, feature citrus and berry, offering a very bright flavour with high acidity.
“Balance is the key to everything.” ~ Koi Fresco
There’s a reason why medium roast coffees are the world’s most popular. They’re flavourful, not too acidic, and have decent body. Most are a rich, earthy brown and rarely does the oil within the beans rise to the surface.
Roasting to medium preserves many of the unique flavours of a coffee’s origin. But it also begins to reach into the deep caramel sweetness of a longer roast. As a result, medium roast coffees are balanced, well-rounded, and slightly darker and sweeter than light roasts. Some of the bright notes of a light roast are eliminated, but better balance is a trade-off that sits well with many coffee drinkers. Specialty coffee roasters like Coast to Coast love medium roasts because they’re more approachable. There is less acidity and intensity than with a light roast, but they still showcase a coffee’s natural flavour profile.
Most of our single origin coffees, like Peru Penachi and Mexico Chiapas, are roasted around the lighter end of medium so as to preserve the original characteristics of the coffee while developing body and caramelization. Not so bright, not too acidic, with deeper body that’s still packed with flavour. Mmmm.
“Give yourself to the Dark Side.” ~ Darth Vader
The longer you roast a coffee, the more body you get. But at the dark roast stage, a bean’s natural bright tones tend to disappear as origin flavours become overshadowed by the roasting process. If you like red wine, you’re likely to appreciate dark roasts. They’re the coffee equivalent of a rich red wine.
Dark roasted beans are dark brown, sometimes almost black, often with oils shimmering on the surface of the beans. Some coffees do better than others roasted dark, developing a taste profile that’s bold and rich, full of body and texture. Our Superior Dark, for example, is a rich full-bodied coffee with highlights of dark chocolate and caramelized sugar. It’s a blend of our Peru Penachi and Honduras Marcala – which, as single origins, we offer at a medium roast.
We only have one dark roast for a couple of reasons. We want you to taste the coffee rather than the roast. A lot of dark roasts also end up tasting kind of similar. But there’s dark and then there’s dark. We don’t go too dark because, really, it does a disservice to a quality bean.
There you have it...
If you know your dream roast, there’s no need to change. But if you want to experience the entire spectrum, from light to dark, sign up for our Surprise Me! and you’ll quickly get up to speed on the delightful characteristics of each kind of roast.