Types of Coffee Roasts

Types of Coffee Roasts: All You Need to Know

These are the main different types of coffee roasts and their common varieties:

  • Light: Half-city, New England and cinnamon roast
  • Medium: American, breakfast, house blend, city and regular
  • Medium-dark: French, Italian espresso, Viennese, Continental and full city
  • Dark roast: French, Dark French, Italian, Turkish and heavy

The type of roast affects coffee’s flavor, acidity, and body.

Roasting refers to exposing raw coffee cherry beans to different degrees of heat that turn the beans fragrant.

To expand on this, I’ll also cover other related topics such as:

  • The three basic principles of roasting coffee
  • How to roast coffee at home
  • Other important factors related to coffee roasting
  • What coffee roasting stands for

4 Main Types of Coffee Roasts

Here are the 4 main types of coffee roasts and all the details about each of them:

1. Light Roasts

Light roast coffee barely reaches the temperature of 180 to 205 degrees Celsius (.

At this stage, beans start cracking and, as soon as the first crack occurs, the roasting process ends.

The beans don’t go through chemical changes typically occurring within the bean when you roast them at higher temperatures.

Thus, they are dry and pale-looking, this kind of beans are more caffeinated and acidic (you can certainly taste a hint of lemon), but also have less body.

Common light roast varieties include:

  • Half-city
  • New England
  • Cinnamon

2. Medium Roasts

The medium roast is made between the first crack and second crack at a temperature between 210-220 degrees Celsius (410-428 degrees Fahrenheit).

Medium roast beans are still dry but have less acidity and a fuller body than light roasts.

Further caramelization makes medium roasts sweeter than the light roast but also gives them a slightly bitter taste.

Common medium roasts include:

  • American
  • Breakfast
  • House blend
  • City
  • Regular

3. Medium-Dark Roasts

Medium-dark roasts are ready when they reach the second crack and the internal temperature of 225 to 230 degrees C (437-446° F).

The beans start releasing the oils at this temperature, which gives them more body, richer and fuller flavor and makes them notably less acidic.

It also gives them a spicy undernote and a bitter aftertaste.

Common medium-dark roasts include:

  • French
  • Italian espresso
  • Viennese
  • Continental
  • Full city

4. Dark Roasts

Dark roast coffee is made when the roasting temperature reaches 240 to 250 degrees C (464-482° F).

This is when the beans start smoking and the oils become more visible.

During the process, natural sugars from the coffee beans turn caramelized and make the roast much sweeter and fuller but also give it a smoky, charred, pronouncedly bitter taste.

Dark roasts have a full body and buttery finish and are the least acidic and least caffeinated of all coffee roasts.

The common dark roast varieties are:

  • French
  • Dark French
  • Italian
  • Turkish
  • Heavy

Types of Coffee Roasts, different types of roasts in jars

The 3 Basic Principles of Coffee Roasting

The three principles of coffee roasting include drying, browning, and developing stage.

1. The Drying Stage

You need to dry the beans before roasting them during the drying stage.

This process lasts between 4 and 8 minutes on average if you are using a traditional drum roaster.

Be careful not to expose the beans to too much heat at the start and don’t go over 160° C (320° F), unless you don’t want to burn them.

2. The Browning Stage

In the browning stage, the coffee beans start smelling more like coffee.

This stage triggers the Maillard reaction that makes the beans release a variety of aromas and melanoids (color compounds).

Drying continues in the browning stage as well and helps with producing the first crack (that’s when the coffee starts popping).

3. The Roasting Stage

Drying and browning make your coffee beans crack, while in the roasting stage, they start developing deeper flavors.

You can either stop after the first crack or bring the beans through the whole roasting stage to enhance the smoky taste.

Types of Coffee Roasts, freshly roasted coffee in a container

Other Key Coffee Roasting Factors to Keep in Mind

These are the other important factors about coffee roasting that you have to consider:

Light Roast is the Healthiest

According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, light roast coffee is allegedly the healthiest coffee roast type.

Apparently, it comes with higher antioxidant levels that might prevent cell damage and inflammation.

Light Roast is the Most Flavorful

Light roast is the most flavorful of all roast types as it combines chocolatey, nutty, caramel, earthy, fruity, floral, and even botanical notes.

The reason behind this is that light roasts come from various different regions such as:

  • Central America
  • Islands like Hawaii and Sumatra
  • Africa

And each of them has a unique taste profile.

Choose Coffee Roast by Its Strength

If you enjoy strong, caffeinated coffee that can offer a wild combination of tastes, from earthy to buttery and lemony, the light roast might be your best bet.

If you like a more toned-down taste with a hint of acid elements such as berries and citrus, go for medium roasts.

Dark roast coffee could be it if you like your cups of Joe bold, rich, and full-bodied.

Light Roasts are the Least Bitter

Light roasts are the least bitter type of coffee roast.

And the least bitter light roast variation is the cinnamon one.

As a general rule of thumb, the darker the roast – the bitterer your coffee will be.

Light Roast is Stronger than Dark Roast

Light roasts are stronger as they tend to have slightly higher caffeine content.

Dark roasted coffee has a fuller body and extra bitterness, but it loses some strength in the process.

However, at the end of the day, the caffeine level remains stable during the roasting process and the difference between light and dark roast strength is minimal.

The caffeine difference between one scoop of light beans and dark coffee beans is only around 5 mg.

Dark Roast Coffee is Good for the Stomach

Dark roast coffee is good for your stomach according to a report presented at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

This roast type doesn’t irritate the stomach as much as other roast types do.

Dark roast coffee is less acidic and doesn’t trigger acid secretion (in fact, it slows it down).

Light Roast is Authentic, Dark Roast Is Affordable

Light roast coffee could be a better choice if you don’t mind the earthy, authentic coffee taste.

But if you usually drink coffee with milk, sugar, and/or creamer, dark roast coffee will do just fine.

Also, dark roast coffee comes at a more affordable price as it is produced in huge volumes, while light roasts tend to be pricier.

Difference Between Espresso and Filter Roast

The espresso roast is roasted for 20-30 seconds longer than the filter roast that’s usually roasted for 3-5 minutes.

Also, the espresso roast is more soluble in water, it’s sweeter, more bitter, less acidic, and has a fuller body.

It’s also more concentrated and intense than the filter roast.

Types of Coffee Roasts, coffee beans coming out of a roaster

How to Roast Coffee at Home

This is the easy, foolproof way for roasting coffee at the convenience of your home:

1. Buy a Few Pounds of Unroasted Coffee Beans

You’ll need a couple of pounds of raw, pale-green coffee beans.

Make sure the beans are uniform in color and size, otherwise, you’ll produce an unfavorable, inconsistent flavor.

Note that the beans might lose up to half of their weight during the roasting process so buy accordingly.

For example – if you want 2 pounds of roasted beans, go for 4 pounds of raw coffee beans.

2. Start Roasting the Coffee Beans

You can roast coffee beans using one of the following items:

  • Home coffee roasting machine
  • Popcorn popper
  • Pan/grill
  • Oven
  • Cast-iron skillet
  • Heat gun
  • Metal mixing bowl

Roasting coffee beans in the oven is a bit slow and things can easily get smoky if there’s not enough ventilation. But it’s still the most convenient way (we all have an oven, right?).

Roasting coffee beans in a popcorn popper is the simplest way to get an almost perfect roast. However, coffee beans can make your coffee popper break down after a few roasts so be careful.

Whatever your choice of equipment is, just make sure if it can reach the temperature of 250° C (482° F).

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start roasting the beans when the temperature is high enough and watch them as their color starts changing
  2. The beans will slowly start turning from green to yellow, light brown, and then dark brown (if dark roast is what you’re after)

If you prefer light roasts, you should take the beans out before the first crack (as soon as the temperature starts rising above 180° C/356° F or after 3-5minutes).

Be careful with dark roasts as there’s a thin line between a dark and a black (blah) roast.

3. Pull the Beans Out

When your beans turn the ideal color, pull them out of the oven/popper.

If you wait for too long, there’s a chance your beans will turn to charcoal and taste awfully.

Ideally, you don’t want to wait for more than 30 seconds after the second crack if you want a perfect dark roast.

4. Cool Your Beans

Once you’ve taken the beans out, place them on a baking/cookie sheet or shake them for about 2-3 minutes in a strainer.

Then, leave your beans to sit for a couple of hours to cool down completely.

Try not to touch them with bare hands or you’ll get scalded.

5. Store the Beans

Once completely cool, you can store your coffee beans in an airtight container.

However, the beans are giving off carbon dioxide for about a day or two after roasting.

If you close the container right after, there’s a chance the reaction within will pop the lid off the container.

It’s best not to close the container for about 12 to 24 hours.

Also, if you close the lid before 24 hours have passed, the carbon dioxide will change the flavor of your coffee beans and mess up your roasting efforts.

6. Grind and Brew the Beans

Don’t grind or brew the beans before 24 hours have passed since the roasting process.

Either way, you’ll want to use the beans within no more than 5 days after you’ve ground them if you want to enjoy the ultimate taste and freshness.

Roasting Coffee at Home is Totally Worth It

If you value flavor and freshness over everything, roasting the beans at home can be worth the effort.

Roasting coffee at home means you’ll always get to enjoy fresh, delicious coffee.

A Home Coffee Roaster is the Key to a Perfect Roast

A home coffee roasting machine can give you more control over the roasting process and produce a consistent, delicious roast.

It also makes it easy to experiment with different roasts, which is kind of hard with oven and popcorn popper roasting methods.

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The Best Home Coffee Roaster Machines

After doing some research, I’ve found that these are the best coffee roasters for home use on the market right now:

The Meaning of Coffee Roast

The term coffee roast refers to the degree to which the coffee beans are toasted and brought to a level where you can grind and brew them.

It brings out all the authentic tastes and roughly 800-1000 delicate coffee bean aromas.

The way you roast the beans will determine the taste and the caffeine content of your cup.

‘Coffee roast’ also refers to the perception of strength (dark roast is least strong and light roast is the strongest).

Unroasted coffee beans are soft, spongy, have a grassy smell and no aroma.

While the roasting process darkens their color, makes them way lighter, gives them more flavor, coffee-like aroma, and a crunchy structure.

The longer the roasting process lasts, the more coffee oils appear on the surface, the darker, sweeter, and more bitter they get, but also less acidic and less caffeinated.


The 4 main types of coffee roasts are light, medium, medium-dark and dark, while each has a few sub-types or variations.

The light roast is the most authentic and healthiest type, while the medium roast is somehow sweet, somehow bitter.

Medium-dark roast is rich and full and slightly bitter, while dark roast is the sweetest, least acidic and relatively bitter.

Eventually, the specific coffee roast type has an impact on the flavor, acidity, and body of the coffee.

Now, which coffee roast team are you in?

Light, medium, medium-dark, or dark?

CEO at CoffeeLifious | simon@coffeelifious.com | Website | + posts

Simon is a coffee enthusiast who has spent years exploring the world of coffee. He has a deep passion for the art of brewing and enjoys experimenting with different brewing methods to create the perfect cup of coffee. His love for coffee has led him to become an expert in the field, and he is known for his meticulous attention to detail when it comes to selecting and brewing the perfect cup. Simon is also an avid traveler who loves incorporating new flavors and techniques into his brewing.

Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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