Blog – Exploring Roast Profiles

Exploring Roast Profiles: Light, Medium, and Dark Roasting Techniques

The roast profile is critical in establishing a coffee bean’s overall qualities. Whether you’re a professional barista or a hobbyist, understanding the complexities of coffee roasting can substantially improve your specialty coffee game.

In this article, we will deep-dive into the three main categories—light, medium, and dark roasts—exploring techniques to help you achieve each roast level.

Before exploring individual roast profiles, it’s important to note that the type of roaster you use can greatly influence your control over the process. For professional purposes, drum roasters are often preferred for their “nostalgic” profiles. On the other hand, air roasters are suitable for smaller batches and can offer a cleaner, more vibrant profile. Choose your roaster wisely based on your needs.

Despite the advent of advanced, automated roasting machines thanks to technological progress, mastering traditional roasting methods still calls for expertise in two essential sensory skills: sight and sound.

Visual observation

Seasoned roasters understand that optimal roasting significantly changes the coffee beans’ appearance and texture. These visual cues serve as critical indicators to monitor the roasting progression and assess the degree of roast. Dark roasted beans will appear glossy and deep brown, whereas lightly roasted beans have a more subdued brown hue and lack an oily surface.

Auditory cues

While roasting, coffee beans make specific cracking sounds that clue you into different phases. These cracks happen when the beans expand, breaking open as their internal moisture evaporates. Generally, you’ll know a dark roast is done after the second crack, while medium and light roasts are good to go just after the first crack.


Exploring Roast Profiles: Light, Medium, and Dark Roasting Techniques | Berto Roaster


Light Roast Profile

Light roast coffee is characterized by its pale brown color and absence of oil on the bean’s surface. These roasts are celebrated for their sharp acidity, balanced body, and diverse flavor profiles. When the beans are expertly farmed, processed, and roasted, they can offer various flavors, aromas, and aftertastes. Light roasting is especially valued in the specialty coffee sector, as it tends to spotlight the coffee’s unique and vibrant flavors, giving you a clearer sense of its origin.

Light roasted coffee typically achieves an internal temperature of 200 degree Celsius during roasting. These beans just reach the point known as the “first crack,” a stage where internal vapors burst through the bean’s outer wall, producing a distinctive cracking sound.

Alternative names for light roast include cinnamon roast, light city, and half city.


Medium Roast Profile

Medium roast coffee comes in a brown shade and usually lacks an oily surface. These coffees offer a balanced level of acidity and body, along with a well-rounded flavor palette.

Roasting to this medium level still retains many of the bean’s unique origin flavors but also introduces the deeper, caramel-like sweetness associated with longer roasting. As a result, these coffees strike a balance between bright and dark notes, offering a flavor profile that’s both rich and nuanced.

Specialty coffee roasters often favor medium roasting, as they appeal to a broader range of coffee drinkers. While not as acidic or intensely flavored as light roasts, medium roasts still allow the natural flavors of the coffee to shine through. Regarding roasting specifics, medium roast coffees generally reach an internal temperature between 400-430 degrees Fahrenheit. They are usually roasted just past the “first crack” stage but not as far as the “second crack.”

Medium roasts are also called regular roast, American roast, or city roast.


Dark Roast Profile

Dark roast coffee comes in a deep brown hue and frequently features an oily surface. These brews are characterized by muted acidity, a rich body, and flavors that lean more towards the deep, dark end of the spectrum, like chocolate, nuts, and caramel. While you’re less likely to taste the unique characteristics of the bean’s origin at this roast level, that doesn’t make these coffees any less enjoyable. Certain beans shine when dark-roasted, bringing forth delectable chocolatey, nutty, and caramel notes.

The contrast between light and dark roasts is quite stark. For a real education in flavor, try sampling a light roast and a dark roast coffee side by side. Most specialty coffee roasters usually offer only one or two dark roast options, mainly because dark roasting produces a more uniform flavor profile across different beans.

Historically, dark roasts were more prevalent, primarily because the quality of available coffee was not as high. The darker roast was a method to mask the undesirable flavors of lower-quality beans. However, as the specialty coffee scene has evolved, high-quality beans are more accessible than ever. The modern specialty roaster doesn’t aim to obscure bad flavors but to accentuate the bean’s deeper, richer notes when a dark roast is suitable.

As for the technical specifics, dark roast coffees are generally roasted to internal temperatures ranging from 430-450 degrees Fahrenheit. They often reach or surpass the “second crack” stage during roasting.

Dark roasts are also known by other names, such as full city and Vienna roast.


Understanding roast profiles is not just for coffee aficionados; it’s essential for anyone keen to make the most of their daily brew. Follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook for more coffee roasting tips and tricks.

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