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Coffee Roast Levels: A Detailed Guide

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Wondering if a light roast coffee has more caffeine than a dark roast? You’d like to learn more about coffee roast differences?

In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about coffee roast levels and how they taste like.


Roast levels of coffee are determined by a variety of factors including roast temperature, roast time, and bean color.

For those who work in the coffee industry or want to roast their own coffee beans at home, terms like Cinnamon Roast, Light City Roast, City roast, are more important. Here’s a great in-depth guide about coffee roast levels if you want to learn all the details about the roasting process.

However, if you’re a regular coffee drinker, you don’t need to know all the details about the process.

The most basic level to divide coffee roasts is into these three categories: light roast, medium roast, and dark roast.

Learning about these categories will help you understand the difference between the coffees you purchase and the taste you can expect from each roast level.


As mentioned, the three basic coffee roast types are light roast, medium roast, and dark roast. Depending on the roast temperature and color of beans, the coffee will have a different roast type.

Why is this important? Different roast types will give a different tasting coffee.

When you use light roast coffee, the coffee will have a light body, floral and citrus notes, a short aftertaste, and more acidity. Dark roast coffee will produce a strong, bold cup of coffee, chocolate and nutty notes, with a long aftertaste.

Now you understand why knowing the roast level is important when buying coffee. The roast level is the first indicator of what the coffee is going to taste like.


Light Roast Coffee Bright, crisp, and acidic. It does not have too much sweetness but highlights origin characteristics and fruity, citrus notes. The mouthfeel is clean with a sharp aftertaste.

Usual notes: lemon, peach, grapes, green tea, lime, vanilla, melon, honey.

If you love your coffee black and strong you probably won’t like light roasts. The lack of body and deepness gives “weak coffee”. However, due to a fact that short roasting time keeps all the origin characteristics and flavor notes, some of the most popular coffees at specialty coffee shops are actually light roasts.

When you see words morning or breakfast blend, that’s usually a light roast.

Examples: Green Mountain Breakfast Blend, Starbucks Blonde roast, Folgers morning blend, Seattle’s best levels 1 and 2, Maxwell House Breakfast Blend, Blue Bottle Guatemala Huehuetenango La Esperanza, Verve La Candelaria, Stumptown Guatemala Semillero.

Also, most flavored coffees are light roasts.

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium roasts are a perfect combination of floral and fruity notes and caramelized chocolate flavor.

Usual notes: cherry, blackberry, plum, caramel, toasted nuts, chocolate, maple. This roast has a certain level of acidity but it’s well balanced, has complexity and deepness.

Medium roast keeps origin characteristics and it’s well balanced: sweet, deep, fruity and creamy. In fact, medium roast is the most popular roast in the US. Most house blends are medium roasts.

Examples: Stumptown Hair Bender, Verve Seabright House Blend, La Colombe Nizza, Starbucks House blends, Green Mountain Vermont, Maxwell House House Blend, Folgers House Blend.

Dark Roast Coffee

The best part about dark roasted coffees is their strength and deepness.

They usually have full-body, complex taste, and lasting aftertaste. Instead of fruity notes, dark roasts bring deep woody, ashy and earthy tones.

Usual notes: dark chocolate, cocoa, almond, brown sugar, pepper. They are rarely acidic. The mouthfeel is very deep, bold, and smoky.

For light roast fans, dark roast is usually too strong or bitter. Of course, if you love your coffee black and strong, dark roast is perfect. It’s also a great choice for coffee recipes with milk and iced coffees.

Examples: Stumptown French Roast, Verve French Roast, Death Wish Coffee, Starbucks Sumatra, Starbucks French Roast, Folgers Black Silk, Maxwell House Dark roast, Green Mountain Sumatran.


Is dark roast coffee stronger? Correct, dark roast coffee has a much stronger taste than light roasted coffees. It also has a full-body and longer aftertaste.

Does a light roast have more caffeine? While some say that light roasts have more caffeine because it’s roasted for a shorter period of time, this is not completely true. Caffeine is very stable through the roasting process.

If you’re talking about individual beans, the caffeine level is the same whether it is light or dark roasted. But since darker roasted coffee is less dense, it actually has more caffeine by volume. But these differences are very small and hardly noticeable outside of a lab.

What is French roast coffee? French roast is considered to be a double roast coffee. This is a category of dark roasted coffee characterized by an intense and smoky-sweet flavor but accompanied by a thin body and mouthfeel.

What is a Blonde roast coffee? Starbucks popularized the term Blonde roast. This is actually a light roast coffee and has all the characteristics we previously talked about: floral and citrus notes, thin body, short aftertaste, and high acidity. It’s a classic light roast coffee.


Now you understand why knowing the roast level is important when buying coffee. The roast level is the first indicator of what the coffee is going to taste like.

Besides using proper coffee to water ratio, it’s the easiest way to get a great cup of coffee. You also won’t be spending money on coffees you know you probably won’t like because of its roast level characteristics.

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