The world loves coffee talk, and why not? These beans and brews are great conversation starters. You can't deny the sophistication in a quality cup, especially when it comes to our favorite coffee roast flavor profiles. Of course, you've got to back up your coffee speak with some real knowledge too, and that's where we're happy to help.
Let's start by saying that coffee roasting is beyond skill. It's a creative project that shapes your experience of your cuppa, and we're not even talking about taste exclusively. As a true aficionado, you are no doubt in love with the aroma of fresh roast coffee, not once but every single time.
However, did you know that there are actually different types of roasts? It's true; coffee profiles do not come by accident; we want to share our favorite types of coffee roast flavor profiles.
Also called New England Roast, Light City Roast, or Cinnamon Roast, Light Roast coffee is made from very lightly roasted beans that offer a range of bright, floral flavors. Make no mistake. This roast contains much more caffeine than its darker cousins. If you've ever tried coffee that felt bolder and stronger than usual, this had to be it.
You can identify light roast coffees by their Light body and pale, brown color. These beans usually pop around the 350º mark - the "first crack," which is also your sign that you have created a light roast. The ultra-low temperatures of light roasting prevent the coffee's natural sugars from caramelizing, and the quick roasting times trap the chlorogenic acids inside the beans, keeping them from evaporating. The result? Kickier, more acidic coffee, but though automatically bitter.
Depending on the roasting process and the roaster's experience, there may also be nuances in the product. But as with any coffee, the roast quality ultimately comes down to the beans.
Medium Roast coffee has a slightly darker color and a fuller, thicker body compared to Light Roast. Adopting some of the taste from the roasting process, your Medium is often nuttier with more balanced acidity, flavor, and aroma. It also packs a wilder caffeine punch. Despite that, it's wonderfully richer than Light Roast with some evident chocolatey undertones - no wonder it's America's most popular coffee roast.
Made at temperatures of 410º–440º Fahrenheit, or right before the second crack, you could say Medium is a cross between Light and Dark but not necessarily their hybrid. Depending on your coffee source, it can taste anywhere from tea-ish to milky. The best Mediums are those with perfectly synced bodies and acidity.
If you find that Light is too weak and Medium is just not hitting home, you can go up a notch with Medium-Dark, which is bolder and richer with a deeper aroma. It leaves a bittersweet taste on your tongue, making the dark chocolate or the dark roasted beans resonate with your taste buds. You will find these beans darker and somewhat smooth from the oil that has managed to seep out of the beans during the roasting process.
The brownest of them all, Dark Roast coffee, has low acidity, a heavy body, and complex flavors that quicker roasts will never achieve. The beans often have an oilier surface due to their longer exposure to heat, which tends to draw out their inner lipids.
After all that roasting, you might wonder how your Dark maintains its organic traits. It doesn't. However, that doesn't mean it's not good. Certain beans such as the Colombian Supremo or the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe become particularly flavorful when roasted dark. To make this type of coffee, the beans must be roasted at 430º-450º Fahrenheit or until the second crack is heard, if not a bit further.
Besides making the beans oilier on the outside, the extended heat can also make them bitter at times - not that this is a problem unless temperatures exceed 465º. At this point, the beans would have started burning and tasting like charcoal. Big commercial roasters are guilty of taking this shortcut, roasting their beans hotter and faster in an apparent lack of knowledge, experience, and appreciation of the beverage.
Coffee is a joy to be experienced one cup at a time, and there's certainly more to coffee roast flavor profiles that you can explore. If you start with these basics, you will love everything there is to discover as you sip along.