Comparing Roasts of
Coffee & Caffeine

When you order a coffee, do you specify the roast level that you want?

When searching the internet for a new coffee to order online, is roast level a deciding factor for you?

Is the coffee roast level just the color of the beans to you?

You might be surprised at how much of an impact the roasting process can have on the final taste profile of a coffee... and how little of an impact it has on the caffeine content!


Roasts of Coffee General Trends

We’ve put together a table of general trends to help inform you about the typical characteristics of each coffee roast level. These are by no means hard and fast rules, there will always be plenty of variation within each coffee roast level.


Light Roast

Medium Roast

Medium-Dark Roast

Dark Roast

Temperature

180-205 °C / 

355-400 °F

Before or at 1st crack

210-220 °C / 

410-430 °F

Between 1st & 2nd crack

225-230 °C / 

435-445 °F

Start to middle of 2nd crack

240-245 °C / 

465-475 °F

End of 2nd crack

AKA

Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast, New England Roast

Breakfast Roast, City Roast, American Roast, Regular Roast

Vienna Roast, Full City Roast, After Dinner Roast, 

Italian Roast, French Roast, Espresso Roast, New Orleans Roast, Spanish Roast

Taste

Retains taste of origin

Often grainy, fruity or floral

Retains much of origin taste

Often caramel & sweeter fruit notes 

Retains some of origin taste & some of roasting process 

Often chocolate, nuts, caramel

Taste is primarily that of roasting process

Often smoky, ashy, earthy, dark chocolate

Body

Mild, mellow

Medium - Full 

Full - Heavy

Full - Medium - Thin

Acidity

High

Bright, crisp

Medium

Balanced

Medium-Low

Balanced or muted

Low

Muted

Aesthetics

Light brown

Dry

Brown

Dry

Dark brown

Slightly oily

Almost black

Oily


Roasts of Coffee & Caffeine

A large number of people tend to associate darker roasts with stronger coffee, and stronger coffee with a higher level of caffeine. It just so happens that this is not accurate.

There are others that believe darker roasts to have less caffeine, citing that more caffeine is degraded by the higher roasting temperatures and times that dark roasts are subject to.

In reality, an insignificant amount of caffeine is degraded by the roasting process.

So how do roasts of coffee relate to the caffeine in your cup then?

What really matters is how you measure your coffee beans.

The reason that there is so much confusion surrounding this topic, is that the density of coffee beans actually changes throughout the roasting process.

Different roasts of coffee have different densities, and different densities will impact the quantity of coffee that you're using depending how you measure!

Again, density is the key factor here. Let me explain.

Density = Mass / Volume

As the roast of coffee progresses, the volume increases as the beans expand, and the mass decreases as water and other volatile compounds are released.

Light roast beans are smaller & more dense, while dark roast beans are larger & less dense.

So when it comes to the amount of caffeine that ends up in your cup...

It's all about how you measure your beans!

Measuring by the scoop = Lighter roast has more caffeine 

If you measure your coffee by the scoop, a lighter roast means that you're using more beans, as the beans are smaller and more dense. A smaller number of dark roasted beans will occupy the same amount of space. Therefor, if you're measuring by the scoop, a lighter roast will result in more caffeine in your cup.

Measuring by mass = Darker roast has more caffeine

If you measure your coffee by mass, you'll use a larger quantity of a darker roast than you would a lighter roast. That is to say, 100g of a dark roast would be more coffee beans than 100g of a light roast, and will result in more caffeine in your cup.

Basically, this was all a long drawn out way to say...

Coffee roast level has very little to do with the amount of caffeine that ends up in your cup! 

If you want to brew yourself coffee that has a more caffeine in it, all you have to do is increase the ground coffee to water ratio that you're brewing with!

 The concentration of caffeine is determined by the ground coffee to water ratio that you use.


Infinite Roast Levels... or 4

The coffee bean roasting process occurs over a long period of time, leading to a continuum of different roasts as opposed to specific and discrete roast levels. In spite of this, it is impractical to have an infinite amount of classifications to describe roasts of coffee.

It is typical to use 4 coffee roast level classifications. In reality, these are fairly broad terms, and a medium roast from one company could me closer to a medium-dark of another! 

  • Light Roast Coffee
  • Medium Roast Coffee
  • Medium-Dark Roast Coffee
  • Dark Roast Coffee

These roast levels are based on defined points of reference in which the beans expand in size, the first crack and second crack. This occurs as an endothermic (taking energy in) reaction changes into an exothermic (releasing energy) reaction.

First Crack = Approx 196 °C / 385 °F

Second Crack = Approx 225 °C / 435 °F

The color of the beans after roasting coincides with these reference points and provides an easy and fairly reliable way to identify a roast.

If the concept of infinite roast profiles excites you, you might be interested in home coffee roasting!


Final Thoughts

Before being roasted, coffee beans have little to no taste. It is the roasting process that brings out all of the flavors that we love. The roast level has a significant impact on the final taste of the bean!

Chances are that you’ll find a roast of coffee that you prefer... 

 And the easiest way to figure that out would be to try a few coffees of each roast level!

Do you have a favorite coffee roast level? Like to switch it up from time to time? Let us know!

Have a coffee question? We may have the answer. Ask away!

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