Not all coffee beans are created equal! There are differences in taste that can be traced back to the respective country of cultivation and the processing of the green coffee beans. Besides, there are also differences that result from the roasting process of coffee beans. The task of a master roaster is to give coffee its character and to allow aromas and flavors to harmonize with one another. In this article, we explain the differences between light and dark coffee roasts.
Differences in taste
Only the color of the roasted coffee does not reveal the taste and character of the coffee. However, the following principles apply: With lighter roasts, the characteristics of the respective green coffee come into their own. Fruity aromas and pleasant acids are in the foreground with lighter roasts.
Coffee made with dark roasted beans tastes less sour because the acids are mostly broken down in dark roasts. On the other hand, dark roasts are almost always more bitter than lighter ones and have more “body”. The other side of the coin with darker roasts is that the coffee “burns” during roasting and loses many of its valuable aromas. Roasts that are too dark are therefore usually of no interest in terms of taste. This leads to the trend that (small) specialty roasters are now emulating with lighter roasts.
Roasting time & roasting temperature
If the beans are roasted lightly, the beans look light brown/medium brown and matt. With dark roasts, the coffee is roasted longer and usually reaches slightly higher temperatures. There are extremely dark roasts where the beans look black and oily. In the gentle drum roasting process, the roasting time is between 12 – 25 minutes and takes place at temperatures between 180 and 250 ° Celsius.
Different degrees of roasting and their designation
In specialist circles, a very light roast is called Cinnamom Roast (temperature up to 196 ° Celsius). The beans are light brown and have a pronounced acidity.
One roast level higher is the New England Roast (temperatures up to 205 ° Celsius). The beans have a moderate light brown color and complex acids.
A medium roast is called American Roast (temperatures up to 210 ° Celsius). The beans are medium brown, have a slightly sweeter taste than light roasts, have a full-body, and pleasantly light acidic flavors.
One level above is the City Roast (temperatures up to 219 ° Celsius). The beans have a medium brown tone, a balanced body, and noticeable acids.
The dark roast is divided into four degrees of roast. Full City Roast, Vienna Roast, French Roast, and Italian Roast
Full City Roast: Temperatures up to 225 ° Celsius, medium-dark brown, light roasted aromas, slightly oily sheen.
Vienna Roast: Temperatures up to 230 ° Celsius, intense dark brown with slightly shiny beans, bittersweet taste with caramel flavors, and a slightly suppressed acidity.
French Roast: Temperatures up to 240 ° Celsius, dark brown beans, shiny with oil, slightly burnt undertones, pronounced roasted aromas
Italian Roast: Temperatures up to 250 ° Celsius, intense dark brown, very shiny, pronounced roasted aromas, hardly noticeable acidity
About the cell structure & solubility of the ingredients
You have to know that the cell structures of coffee change when it is roasted. The cell walls of the beans break open. This process is important so that the valuable substances in the coffee beans can be dissolved in water during the brewing process.
The longer the roasting takes, the darker the beans become, and the more the cell structures break apart. The beans become more and more fragile and porous the longer the roasting takes. As a result, dark roasts have a higher solubility compared to lighter roasts, i.e. the substances are dissolved better and faster during the extraction with darker roasts. Because the solubility of the substances is better with darker roasts, you should tend to use a smaller amount of ground coffee for darker roasts than for lighter roasts. If you have a black, oily espresso in the espresso grinder, you can easily reduce the dose of ground coffee and also regulate the brewing temperature down a little.
The cell structures of light roasts are much more intact than those of darker roasts. As a result, fewer substances dissolve during the brewing process and they can also dissolve more slowly. With this in mind, you should increase the dose of ground coffee for the extraction of light roasts a little. At the same time, you can also raise the temperature during the brewing process for lighter roasts to better dissolve the substances from the coffee.
Which roast for which type of preparation?
We generally recommend that you use lighter roasts for the preparation of filter coffee. Lighter roasts are predestined for preparation as filter coffee (e.g. in the Hario V60 ) because the coffee can develop its entire range of aromas, fruity flavors, and fine acids here. If you like pleasant fruit acids in your coffee, then we recommend buying a coffee from a specialty roastery that was grown in Ethiopia, Kenya, or Tanzania. These growing countries are known for top-quality coffees that have a unique, very acidic, citrus-like taste – ideal for preparation in a hand filter.
Dark roasts are suitable for preparation as an espresso with an espresso machine. Due to the longer roasting time, the unwanted acids are almost completely broken down, giving way to the strong taste typical of espresso. You can also prepare dark roasts as filter coffee. But then you have to be prepared for a bitter taste. In our opinion, roasts that are too light are unsuitable for preparation as espresso. An espresso tastes like a slap in the face. If the roast is too light, the acids are simply too dominant and make the drink inedible.
Conclusion too light roast vs. dark roast
It is a matter of taste whether you tend to have light or dark roasts. There is no better or worse. In the case of light roasts, the acids are in the foreground. The coffee tastes fruity and is therefore suitable for preparation as filter coffee. With dark roasts, the coffee gets a stronger taste. The coffee tastes bitter and is simply perceived by consumers as stronger. Because the acids are largely broken down in dark roasts and the roast aromas predominate, dark roasts are suitable for preparation as espresso.
Which coffee beans do you use for the preparation? Feel free to leave a comment below.