It’s not an exaggeration to say that roast can make or break a coffee. As one coffee expert said: “Too light and you can get asparagus notes, too dark and you start to get the all-too-familiar tastes of carbon.”
There are many factors that determine how consumers choose coffee, from agricultural and ecological footprints, to fair trade alliance, to how we brew the beans. Then, how about roast?
Light and dark roasts produce very different coffees. No matter what people at the cafe tell you, it all depends on your preference. One is not categorically better than the other.
Here’s a guide to understanding some of the ways roast affects your coffee.
There are three primary steps to the roasting process. Along the way, roast profiling determines the flavor of the coffee.
- Drying the beans, bringing down the moisture content.
- Browning. This creates hundreds of different aroma and color compounds, and the beans start to expand and pop.
- Development. The beans continue to crack as they roast, creating further aroma compounds.
Light-roasted beans retain more moisture as a result of less exposure to heat during the process. They feel smooth and dry to the touch. The coffee will have a lighter color and thinner consistency.
Dark-roasted beans, on the other hand, are exposed to more heat, developing a much darker color. The cup of coffee will be thicker and fuller-bodied than light roast.
Light roast tends to have more delicate, complex flavors.
Dark roasted coffees tend to be richer and less acidic, with bitter, chocolatey notes.
Some may argue that light roast is fresher than dark roast, and vice versa. Well, the most important piece of information on a bag of coffee is the roast date. Regardless of what you are looking for, make sure you get the freshly roasted beans to get the best flavor – ideally within the last 2 weeks.
There are also rumors about which roast provides the most caffeine. Some say light, others say dark. However, it’s all about the way the coffee is brewed, rather than how it’s roasted. The caffeine differential is pretty much null. Besides, whether you prefer a light or a dark roast, freshly-roasted, quality coffee is the most important thing.