If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ve no doubt spent some time scanning all the different coffee selections at your grocery store. There are so many labels. Their bags tell you everything from origin and climate to subtly flavor profiles. It can be a lot to take in, and it might have less to do with the flavor than you think.
What you are usually tasting, at least most prominently, is the way that the beans were roasted. Light and dark roast tell you how long and at what temperature your coffee beans were roasted. But when it comes to the dark roast vs light roast coffee debate, what is the taste difference?
Dark Roast Coffee
Dark roast coffee beans are roasted for more extended periods and often at high temperatures. When roasting coffee beans, you listen for a crack. It sounds similar to popcorn popping. If you’re looking for a darker roast, this sound will happen twice.
After the second crack, you’ll have dark brown colored coffee beans. The beans will also start to get oily. The more oil that appears on the beans shows how much longer they’ve been taken past the second cracking point.
Coffee this dark is usually a French roast or an Italian roast. There is a myth that a cup of dark roast coffee has less caffeine than a lighter roast. This has nothing to do with the roasting process but instead how we measure the beans.
Since dark roast coffee beans weigh less than light roast beans, dark roast coffee will have more caffeine if you weigh out your beans. More beans, more caffeine – makes sense. However, we usually scoop out coffee beans without weighing them. Since light roast coffee beans are denser, there is more caffeine in a cup.
So the myth that light roast coffee beans have more caffeine is only partly true. The difference is so minimal that it’s more of a fun fact than a reason to switch from one type of bean to the other.
The real difference between light and dark roast coffee is the taste. Dark roast coffee is the quintessential coffee favor, which is often intense and nutty. The coffee is thicker, because of the oils from roasting.
Dark roast coffee is known for losing its origin flavors. Since it’s in the roasting machine for longer, it loses its specific flavor that comes from different climates.
This process started so that lower quality beans could be used. The longer roasting time and higher temperature meant that they all come out with that thick, almost chocolate-like flavor regardless of origin.
Today, a dark roast doesn’t mean that your coffee beans are of low quality. But, it does mean that you can probably skip on getting the more expensive bag of dark roast. Almost all dark roasts will come out with that consistent original coffee taste.
Light Roast Coffee
Light roast coffee tends to be a little more expensive than dark roast coffee. This is because it is usually made with high-quality beans. The best thing about a light roast is that you can taste all of the original flavors.
Coffee beans that are roasted at lower temperatures and for fewer amounts of time are lighter in color and will appear dry. This is because you only wait for the first crack when roasting.
While the process of roasting these beans is similar to that of dark roast, it generally requires more attention. This is because roasters are looking to achieve a specific flavor with each variety.
It becomes crucial to pay attention to the climate and origin of light roast coffee beans. With a light roast, you get a brighter taste, and often it can be herbal or fruity. It also will appear thinner than dark roast coffee.
An issue with light roasts is that they are meant to be brewed in specific ways. There is no reason to pay more for this coffee unless you are going to prepare it as instructed. It may seem unimportant, but this is how you will notice the flavor difference.
The French press is one of the best methods for making light roast coffee. This will allow the beans more contact with the water to produce more flavor.
Kenyan coffee is generally light roasted and known for having some of the most distinct flavors. Depending on the region in Kenya, the beans can taste like grapefruit or chocolate. Kenyan coffee is most known for having a more acidic taste.
Colombian coffee is another delicious option. These beans are sweeter than others. They can offer a diverse range of flavors, from floral to creamy vanilla. These beans are almost always a light roast to allow that complexity to last.
Lightly roasted coffee beans are for coffee drinkers with sensitivity to different flavors.
Verdict On Dark Roast vs Light Roast Coffee
The most important factor when deciding between dark roast vs light roast coffee will be how important flavor profiles are to you. If you are looking for a caffeine boost in the morning and nothing more, dark roast is a safe bet. It will offer you that comforting coffee flavor with none of the complex brewing processes.
However, if you are looking for a cup of coffee to savor, you’ll want to start looking at light roast coffee. There is not one set taste you can expect when you start drinking light roast coffee. It allows for delicious experimentation until you find the one you love.
Keep in mind that brewing a light roast coffee often requires more time and effort. Getting the most out of your coffee beans will take different types of brewing. You may even find that different kinds of beans are brewed better in different ways.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that light roast better, just that there is more variety. Picking a coffee is a very subjective experience. Take the time to try out different coffee shops with different roasts to find the one you enjoy the most.
Enjoy Your Coffee!