Which coffee roast level is best for you?

Do you prefer dark roast coffee? Are you more of light roast coffee type of person? Like to keep it simple with medium roast coffee? 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.

The Impact of coffee roast levels...

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 have a coffee roast preference. So how do you know which coffee roast level is best for you? Well the easiest way to figure that out would be to try a few coffees of each roast level!

There are a ton of different coffee roast terms used today, many of which mean essentially the same thing. You’ll hear about French & Italian roast, city, half city, light city… the list goes on and on.

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 coffee roast level classifications.

It is typical to use 4 coffee roast level classifications that are fairly broad terms. Each classification includes a range of roasts that share similar notable properties. The easiest classification system is based on the color of the coffee bean after roasting. We’ll use these terms:

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

First Crack & Second Crack

As coffee beans are roasted, there are two points 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. These notable points are used for reference during the roasting process.

First Crack = Approx 196 °C / 385 °F

Second Crack = Approx 225 °C / 435 °F

Coffee Roast Level Comparison

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


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


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


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 ashy or earthy


Mild, mellow

Medium - Full 

Full - Heavy

Full - Medium - Thin



Bright, crisp




Balanced or muted




Light brown




Dark brown

Slightly oily

Almost black



The most caffeine naturally

The least amount is degraded by roasting

Slightly less caffeine than a light roast

A small amount is degraded by roasting

Slightly less caffeine than a medium roast

A small amount is degraded by roasting

Slightly less caffeine than a medium-dark roast

A small amount is degraded by roasting

A quick note on caffeine and "strong" coffee...

Many people associate dark roasts with strong coffee, and strong coffee with a high caffeine level. Despite what many people think, dark roasts are not the most caffeinated. A small amount of caffeine is degraded by the roasting process, and therefore the darker the roast, the less caffeine. In reality...

Coffee roast level has little to do with the amount of caffeine that ends up in your cup! The concentration of caffeine is determined by the ground coffee to water ratio that you use.

Our Coffee Profiles Sorted by Roast

If a particular roast sounds ideal to you, you can check out our coffee profiles sorted by roast!

The Importance of Coffee Grinding

It is also important to note that the coffee roasting process is not the only factor that contributes to the final taste profile. The coffee grinding process is also extremely important, and you have some say in this!

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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