Almost every coffee drinker has his own coffee preferences, sometimes quite strong ones. Learning more about coffee roasts can help you know how to make choices that you will enjoy, whether you are buying coffee to brew at home or getting a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. Does dark roast versus light roast matter? What do all those descriptives on coffee mean anyway?
Roasting coffee is the process of heating the green coffee beans, taking them from their raw form to the dark, rich and flavorful beans many of us rely on for our morning wake-up call. As the beans roast they change from green to yellow then to light brown and finally to a deep, nearly black tone. Roasting to a higher temperature produces a darker roast coffee.
Light coffee roasts are often sold as breakfast roasts, American roasts, cinnamon roasts or half city roasts. The coffee beans can range from light to medium brown once roasted. Temperatures for light roasts range from 426 degrees F to 435 degrees F. A light to medium roast is often used for tasting or cupping to allow the flavor of the bean to come through clearly.
Medium roasts or full city roasts are roasted to temperatures between 444 and 454 degrees F. The bean is now a dark brown with a slight oily finish. The flavor and body should be full and rich, without the bitterness of darker roasts. A full city or medium dark roast is an excellent all-around coffee choice and can bring out the best in many types of coffee beans.
Dark roasted coffee is sold as French roast, Vienna roast or espresso roast. The coffee beans should be quite dark brown and very oily. They should not be black or burnt, however. At temperatures over 465 degrees F, the coffee beans may begin to burn, creating a harsher flavor and less palatable finish. Some coffee beans do quite well with a darker roast, while others do not stand up to it as well.
Many coffees do not specify the roast, and you may not be able to see the beans to assess the roast. Many coffee roasters and manufacturers describe coffee with terms like mild, medium or bold. Light to medium roasts are typically marketed as mild to medium while darker roasts are commonly bold. Coffee described as French, Italian or Vienna roasts will usually be darker than breakfast blends.
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