Fire Department Coffee
Difference Between Light, Medium & Dark Roast Coffee

The Difference Between Light, Medium & Dark Roast Coffee

November 18, 2020

With so many different names for the most popular roast types, it’s easy to get confused and grab a random bag of beans without really knowing what we’re brewing. Popular misconceptions don’t help: a darker roast surely has more caffeine, right? Well… no, actually. So, what’s the real difference between light, medium and dark roast? It certainly goes beyond the beans’ color. 

Understanding the difference between light, medium and dark roast coffee

The difference between light, medium and dark roast is directly proportional to how long the beans have been roasted for. In order for the green seeds to turn into the brown beans that we know, they undergo chemical and physical transformations: the heat generated during the roasting process reduces their water mass, produces gases, makes them more soluble, releases oils, and changes their color. This obviously affects the final flavor and aroma, resulting in different types of roasts. 

Light roast coffee

Light roast coffee

Light-roasted beans have a pale brown color and no oil on their surface. They usually reach a temperature of 356-400°F and what is known as the ‘first crack’, which means that the beans have popped and expanded.

Because they’re roasted for less time, they keep more moisture within them: since they’re denser, this actually results in more caffeine than darker roasts

As for the best part—flavor—they preserve the unique characteristics and nuances of the bean: thanks to their high acidity (which sounds like a negative connotation, but refers to the range of flavors derived from acids), they’re fruity, bright and vibrant. Their body, however, will be more mellow and thinner than darker roasts.

Light roasts can also be spotted on labels as light city, cinnamon roast or New England roast.

Our light roast coffee consists of high-quality beans from Columbia and Honduras, and is bound to enchant you with its distinctive aroma.

Medium roast coffee

Medium roast coffee

These beans present a darker brown color and can look slightly oily. They’re roasted at 400-430°F and beyond the first crack, but without reaching the second. 

While some acidity and brightness are lost, this still allows them to keep many of their unique characteristics, and they tap into the sweetness of longer roasts. The result? A balanced and well-rounded profile with medium acidity and a fuller body.

They’re also known as regular or ordinary roast, American, breakfast or city roast.

Our medium roast coffee is a blend of Central and South American beans which ensures the most enjoyable bold flavors.

Dark roast coffee

Dark roast coffee

Dark brown and with a shiny surface that can even leave oily traces when you touch them, these beans don’t retain many of their natural characteristics, but they’re far from bland! 

What they lose in acidity, they compensate for in body: they result in deeper and darker flavors, with sweeter chocolaty or caramel-like tones. 

They reach between 430 and 450°F as well as (often) the famous second crack. Because they lose more moisture than the previous roasts, they’re less dense and, consequently, slightly less caffeinated, but only if you measure them by the scoop.

You can also find them labeled as full city or Vienna roast.

Come to the dark side! Our dark roast coffee uses the best Indonesian beans to bring you full-bodied rich tastes.

Other types of coffee roasts

Once you go beyond the second crack, you can pretty much say goodbye to any of the natural characteristics of the beans’ origin. That’s why specialty roasters tend to avoid them! As, historically, these very dark and oily roasts have been popular in European countries, they’re also called French, Italian, Spanish or continental roasts. 

Now that you know the difference between light, medium and dark roast, we hope it’ll be easier to find the coffee beans that suit your palate the most.



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