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Light vs Dark Roast: What's the difference? 

Most people tend to associate different coffee roasts with the colour of your brew but there is far more to them than this.

September 10th 2021

By Savannah Coombe / 4 min read

Light and Dark roasts are common terms in today’s coffee vocabulary. It is fair to say however that most people don’t have a clearly defined idea of the exact definitions of different types of coffee roasts beyond indicating the colour of your next cup of Joe. Here we clear up any mystification surrounding these concepts and explain how they fit into our range of delicious, premium coffee bags. 

First, what do these terms mean? As mentioned before, most people tend to associate different coffee roasts with the colour of your brew but there is far more to them than this. Overall, different types of coffee roasts can indicate the aroma, acidity, body and flavour of the coffee. A dark roast will tend to have a heavier, fuller bodied taste and deeper aromas and flavours, such as toasted and chocolatey tastes. They will also have relatively low acidity. These are achieved through roasting the beans for longer than a light roast. This also means that dark roasts will have slightly less caffeine than light roasts. This difference is slight however and comes down to the mass of the beans themselves. The roasting process causes the beans to lose mass, a lighter roasted bean will maintain more density and therefore have slightly more caffeine. This difference is extremely small however and dark roasts should by no means be treated as a light caffeine option.

Light roasts tend to be more acidic and have subtler profiles. They’ll commonly be full fruity, floral or citrus flavours with bright acidity. The body of these roasts will be lighter on the palette and have more flavour in smaller brews. Bigger cups tend to dilute the flavours and give more of a neutral taste. To really bring out the flavours here you might even want to opt for a coffee espresso. Light roasts will often be described as having ‘easy bodies’, meaning that they are very light on the tongue. This is the opposite of dark roasts which are much richer.

Then of course you have a medium roast which sits in between light and dark roasts when it comes to roasting time. These still tend to be smooth brews but can combine the profiles from both sides of the roasting spectrum. You find citrus flavours with rich, chocolatey bodies. It is similar to light roasts in that the bigger the cup, the subtler the flavours.

It’s worth going into how the roasting process actually works. Besides the quality of the beans themselves, roasting is the biggest influence in taste over coffee. Before the process starts, the beans are green and have a grassy aroma. At this stage they will have been picked from inside a coffee cherry (coffee beans are technically seeds) and dried for about 6 to 8 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius to achieve a yellow hue and remove any excess moisture. The next stage is the browning stage which naturally occurs after the beans are dried. They begin to go from a yellow colour to the brown colour we know. They crack and shed their outer layer, the chaf.

Next is the development stage which is dependent on whether you want a light or dark roast. The beans are left to ‘develop’ under heat while carefully being monitored to ensure no burning occurs. If the development stage goes on for long enough a second cracking phase can occur. If it lasts longer than this the result is usually an ‘Italian Roast’ or ‘French Roast’. These are usually more bitter as the coffee has essentially been intentionally burnt. It is harder to pick up specific flavour profiles from these roasts. The temperature throughout this process is again variable and dependent on the flavour you wish to achieve. It sits anywhere between 180 and 250 degrees Celsius in the development stage. The second crack usually occurs at approximately 225 degrees Celsius. Time is also an important factor and is variable but is shorter than one might imagine. For small batches it can be as quick as 10 minutes. Larger batches can be anywhere around 16 minutes and above.

So, what about our range of roasts?

Our Sumatra Dark Roast possesses a deep and earthy aroma that is further accentuated by a full, heavy body. It has fairly low acidity with a smooth taste in the mouth. Each sip has tastes of rich cocoa and faint herbal tones. It’s rich, indulgent and full-bodied with notes of peach syrup and spices, finished off with low notes of dark chocolate. Our Dark Roast is best for those who like a stronger coffee, perfect for your first coffee of the day!

Our Ethiopia Light Roast is fruity and sweet. It has a bright acidity and the essence of berries and florals prominent in the African country of its origin. It’s a refreshing cup with high notes of blackcurrant, stone fruit and acidic red cherry. Being light on the tongue, but with an aromatic and fruity finish, means it’s great for a late afternoon brew.

Lastly, our Guatemala Medium Roast has both an enticingly sweet and smooth aroma. There’s a crisp acidity with tempting peaks of citrus and spice. This is overlapped with smooth coca and a body that is rich but not overpowering. It holds velvet textures and layers of unfolding flavour that keep your taste buds entertained. You’ll most prominently pick out flavours of almond and toffee. It’s a smooth and well-balanced coffee and our best-selling roast.

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