Various Degrees of Coffee Roasts
In our previous article, we discussed the importance of roast profiles. This time, we will take a closer look at the various degrees of coffee roasts. The final taste of the coffee in the cup is determined largely by the degree of roast that makes the end result of coffee beans that are ready for brewing. Before they are roasted, green coffee beans are soft with very little taste. The roasting process inside the coffee roasting machine transforms these raw beans into the uniquely aromatic, flavorful, crunchy beans that we recognize and love as coffee.
What is Degree of Roast?
To put it simply, Degree of Roast refers to how cooked the coffee beans are, for example a light roast means the coffee beans are cooked for less time compared to a dark roast. In the coffee industry, there are three very basic levels to identify the degree of roast, namely Light, Medium and Dark. But there are many more complex and detailed classifications for the degree of roast that can include many different levels. In this article, we will highlight the more common roast names that describe the degree of roast very well and are familiar with the coffee roasters.
How do we determine the Degree of Roast?
The Degree of Roast is most commonly determined by visual assessment, as during the roasting process the beans change color from yellow to darker brown. At a later stage of roasting, oil begins to appear on the beans’ surface. Coffee roasters also use roasting temperature, smell, color and sound to control the roasting process. Sound is a key indicator during the coffee roasting process, referred to as “cracks” which happen because gases are released during the coffee roasting process, making a sound similar to the popping of corn kernels. The first crack usually takes place at 200-202° C and the second crack is reached at 224-226° C.
Below are the table that represents an overview of the different degrees of roasting for some popular roast names.
Degree of Roast
Roast Temperature (deg C)
A very light roast level, immediately after the first crack. Light brown color with sharp acidity.
New England Roast
Moderate light brown color, at first crack, complex acidity
Medium light brown, at the end of the first crack. Slightly sweeter, full body with acidic notes.
Medium brown, balanced body, noticeable acidity
Full City Roast
At the beginning of the second crack.
In the middle of the second crack. Sometimes used for espresso blends. Moderate dark brown with light surface oil, more bittersweet, caramel flavor, acidity muted
Dark brown, shiny with oil, burnt
Very dark brown and shiny, burnt tones become more distinct, acidity almost gone, thin body. The most common roast for espresso blends.
To summarize, below are the differences between different Degrees of Roast aside from the visible color change:
- Light roasts have higher acidity compared to dark roasts
- Dark roasts are moister compared to light roasts, as they develop oil on the surface
- Dark roasts have lower caffeine content compared to light roasts
- The darker the roast, more original flavors of the coffee beans are lost and more flavor from the roasting process are taken in
At the end of the day, the coffee roasting process is all about bringing out the taste, flavor, and aroma of the coffee. Some people prefer a lighter roast in the morning (for the stronger caffeine boost) and a darker one later in the day. Some people like strong coffee throughout the day so they go with lighter roasts. Others may prefer dark roasts all the way to take in the flavors. Like many things in life, coffee, with its many different degrees of roasting, is a matter of personal preference. What’s yours?