Three Types of Coffee Roast Classifications


Coffee aficionados, aside from being choosy about their coffee beans, also tend to be selective about the roast of the bean. The flavor of a coffee bean can be enhanced by the amount of time it is roasted, and can also be destroyed by roasting too little or too long. The flavor of some types of beans is best enhanced by shorter roasting times, which result in lighter browns. Other varieties of coffee beans are best complemented with a longer, or darker, roast. With the growing popularity of whole bean coffee, we use more formal classifications of roasts, with three types of coffee roast classifications being more widely known than the others.

City Roast

  • In the roasting process, as the beans heat up, there will be a cracking or popping sound. This sound is described as being similar to that of popcorn, though just a bit muted in comparison, and is called first crack by roasters. When that stage is complete, meaning all the popping sounds stop, you have reached the roasting point of a city roast. The color is a light to medium brown, and the surface of the bean will typically have faint black veining. Many of the Latin American coffees are well complemented by this roast.

Vienna Roast

  • This roast, sometimes called continental and sometimes referred to as a light French roast, is darker than a city roast. The roasting time is a bit longer, lasting beyond first crack and into the second crack stage. The sounds associated with second crack are not as loud as those of first crack, because it is representative of a different process occurring within the bean. During second crack, the heat is acting upon the cellulose of the bean, rather than the sound of the coffee bean expanding, which is what first crack is.

French Roast

  • This is the darkest roast typically found in the marketplace. It is the trickiest roast to get right, because after second crack, the beans darken quickly and it is all too easy to end up with a bitter, burnt-tasting brew. However, with patience and diligence, the timing of a French roast can be learned and a delicious coffee created. In a French roast, while the flavor of the bean is important, it is not at center stage. The skill of the roaster in reaching just the right roasting point is the most outstanding trait.

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