Have you ever wondered how heating a coffee bean not only gives us the world’s most universally loved beverage but also offers it in an array of variations? We’re here to break down the different roasting processes and explain how one bean can be manipulated to produce the light, medium & dark roasts that we all know and love today.
In its rawest form, a coffee bean is highly acidic, green and indigestible. Their natural flavor is slightly grassy and they are incredibly hard to chew. Coffee roasting plays a crucial role in defining the taste of a final brew. This transformative process turns the bitter, green beans into the aromatic and flavorful coffee that kick starts our mornings. However, roasting at different levels goes beyond simply darkening the beans; it also includes notable changes in the various physical characteristics of the beans.
So how does the roasting process differ from light, medium & dark?
Light Roasting Explained
Light roast coffee beans are paler in color, absent of oil on their surface and are light in body. These beans are typically heated to temperatures ranging from 350º to 410º, with the characteristic “first crack” occurring around 350º, marking the beans’ transition from their raw form to a light roast.
Light roast coffee tends to exhibit lower bitterness, heightened sweetness, and a tea-like quality. They typically have the highest level of acidity which helps to contribute to a bright flavor profile - considered a positive as acid enhances the overall taste. And because lightly roasted beans cook for less time, at lower temperatures, they retain more caffeine from the original coffee bean as compared to other roasts.
Medium Roasting Explained
Medium roast coffees, sporting a brown color and slightly thicker body than light roasts, undergo and nuanced taste transformation due to the roasting process, moving away from the bright floral notes of lighter roasts. The scent of freshly ground medium roast coffee may encompass notes of chocolate, nuts, and hints of red fruits or spices. Balancing flavor with a moderate caffeine content, medium roasts are typically halted just before the second crack around 410º- 440º.
Dark Roasting Explained
Dark roast coffees, almost black in color with a glossy surface due to prolonged oil extraction, yield a robust, full-bodied cup. These roasts, exceeding 440º and reaching the end of the second crack, impart a bold and smoky flavor, often overshadowing the coffee’s original notes. Freshly ground dark roast coffee often exudes hints of nuts and chocolates.