Light Roast vs. Dark Roast

There is a popular myth that dark roasted coffee beans will eventually have higher caffeine than light roast. Do you think this is true?

But light roast vs. dark roast, which really packs more caffeine?

Also, remember that there are 3 standard roasts that the coffee industry offers around the world; and these are the light roasts, medium roasts, medium-dark roasts, and the dark roasts.

But in-between these roasts, some coffee manufacturers have their own variants and specialities.

On this review, we present the facts to uncover the truth about the ‘myth’ and know more about the coffee roasts (light, medium, medium-dark, and dark) that everybody loves.

What is a coffee roast?

The most common practice in describing coffee roast levels is by the color of the roasted coffee cherries . The color ranges from light to dark (or extra dark for other coffee roasters).

Coffee beans are green when processed and dried. However, the beans vary in green-hues depending on the region or country they are sourced.

During roasting, the coffee beans are subjected to higher temperatures. On this process, as the beans absorbed more heat, they become darker.

Oils start to appear while gaining more heat. However, because coffee beans vary in quality, color is usually not the precise way of concluding a roast.

Moreover, by combining the roasting temperature which results in a specific brown shade, the color becomes the primary and a convenient way of categorizing roasting levels.

Arabica and Robusta coffee beans

There are about 100 species of coffee plants but only two are the most commercially important varieties: Arabica and Robusta. The Arabica variety comprised of 60% of the world’s coffee production while the remaining 40% is Robusta.

Arabica beans contain 0.8 to 1.4% caffeine while Robusta is much higher at 1.7 to 4%. However, Robusta has a stronger taste than Arabica. But the Arabica is commonly known to contain sugar that is why it gets a sweet taste as it becomes darker in color during roasting.

3 Common Coffee Roasts

In general, we can categorize the most popular coffee roasts from light to dark as follows:

  • Light Roasts

The light roast coffee is light brown. This roasting level has almost no oil on the surface of the beans.

Light-roasted coffee retains most of the caffeine, contrary to popular belief that the darker the roast the more caffeine it has. Moreover, light roasts also retain the original flavor but with pronounced acidity.

One of the best-selling light roast coffee varieties on Amazon is the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Breakfast Blend that comes in single-serve K-cups. Check this one out!

dark roast vs medium roast

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  • Medium Roasts

Just like the name implies, medium-roasted coffee comes with color in-between the light and dark roasts. However, just like the light roast, there is no significant oil that emerges on the surface which is still locked inside the beans.

Moreover, the medium roast comes short of the grainy taste but has more balanced flavor, acidity, and aroma. The caffeine is diminished on medium-roasted coffees.

One of the most popular medium-roasted coffee in the market is the Gourmet-style Koffee Kult Medium Roast Coffee Beans which comes in 32 oz. bag.

dark roast vs medium roast

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  • Dark Roasts

The dark-roasted coffee is dark brown which resembles chocolate in color. Sometimes, the roast comes in at almost black.

The roast shows a soft lustre of oil on the surface of the beans which you can see in a cup when it is brewed. Furthermore, dark-roasted beans have a substantial decrease in caffeine while the taste becomes bitter, smoky, and burnt.

One of the strongest-tasting coffees is the Death Wish Coffee Ground that comes in 16 oz. Bag. The blend is a mixture of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, hence, the strong taste.

dark roast vs medium roast

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Dark Roast vs. Medium Roast

If the roasting is at the medium stage and continued to roast to attain a darker color, what happens in-between these roasts are that oils begin to surface outside of the coffee beans. The color becomes darker than the medium roast.

The medium-dark roasts have a richer aroma than the medium and light roasts. During this stage, caffeine is again decreased but it has a heavy body compared to the light and medium roasts.

The taste also becomes spicy.

If you want a roast that comes in between medium and dark roasts, one of the best-tasting coffees on this roast level is the Folgers French Roast Medium-Dark Roast Coffee Grounds.

dark roast vs medium roast

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Roasting temperatures

Aside from the color, different roasts have different roasting temperatures. Light-roasted coffee beans may reach an internal temperature of 180C to 205C (356-401F). 

At the peak of its roasting temperature (205F), the beans pop or crack for the first time and expand in size known as the ‘first crack’. We’ll talk about the ‘second crack’ later.

The medium roast has an internal temperature between 210C and 220C (410-428F) which begins after the ‘first crack’ and before the ‘second crack’.

The ‘second crack’ will yield the medium-roast which begins between 225C and 230C (437-446F). And finally, to have a dark roast, the temperature (internal) should be at 240C or beyond. This takes place at the end of the ‘second crack’.

Other worthy comparisons about the different roasts of coffee

  • It is clear that as the roast gets hotter, it gets darker.
  • As coffee bean becomes hotter in roasting, it becomes less dense.
  • The higher temperature of the roast, the great possibility of losing the beans’ original flavors while taking the flavors of the roasting process.
  • The body of the coffee becomes thicker and heavier as it heats and becomes denser again after the second crack.
  • Lighter roast is more acidic than the dark roast.
  • Darker roast is oily while the light roast is almost dry.
  • Lighter roasts have more caffeine than the darker roasts (1).

Conclusion

So what is the best-tasting roast for you?

Our guide is not to influence your preference for the type of roast for your coffee. We are merely differentiating light roast vs. dark roast and the consequent roasts in-between them. 

Moreover, if you like more caffeine for your coffee, pick the light roast. However, more coffee lovers both like to have their java strong and with high caffeine, if this will be the case, you can choose the roast with a mixture of Arabica and Robusta.

Furthermore, drinking coffee is all about the taste, the aroma, and the flavor; you can satisfy your coffee cravings without too much or too little caffeine by preferring a lighter roast in the morning and a darker tone later in mid-afternoon or early in the evening. 

But if you prefer just a cup or two within the day and you want more caffeine while you knew first hand that your coffee has low caffeine, we may suggest to just add more coffee.

At the end of the day, coffee preference depends upon each person’s perspective and what the taste buds seek.

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