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Navigating the Coffee Roast Spectrum: What Sets Light, Medium, and Dark Roasts Apart?

The Difference Between Light, Medium, and Dark Coffee Roasts



Hey there, fellow coffee lovers! 


If you're anything like me, you appreciate a good cup of specialty coffee. 



You likely have your own pour-over setup at home to craft that perfect cup, but still enjoy swinging by your local coffee shop for the convenience and quality.


When it comes to your coffee order, you may have noticed terms like "light roast," "medium roast," or "dark roast" used to describe the beans. But what do those terms mean, and how do they impact your coffee's flavor? 


That's what I'm here to talk through today. 


Now, for those who are further along in their coffee journey, this information may not feel relevant to you, but I want to encourage you to keep reading. Sometimes, returning to the basics can reveal things about coffee and yourself that may surprise you.


Storibord Coffee is dedicated to bringing you the highest quality small-batch roasted coffee. Going beyond the basics, we love to dig into the science behind achieving the perfect roast for each origin and processing method. 


And, as a coffee expert and aficionado who loves to continue deepening my own knowledge, I want to share what I've learned along the way with you so you can become a more informed coffee drinker.


The Basics of Roasting

Roasting is one of the most critical steps that takes a coffee bean from its raw, grassy state to the complex, aromatic bean we all know and love. 


By heating up those green beans, the chemical makeup changes and develops the distinct flavors, aromas, and colors coffee is prized for.


To keep things simple, the longer the beans roast, the darker they become. Roast level is measured on a spectrum from light to dark:


  • Light Roast

  • Medium Roast

  • Dark Roast


But how can you tell the difference? Let's dive in.  




Light Roasts: Bright, Complex Flavors

Light roasts are roasted for a shorter time and finishing at lower temperatures compared to their counter parts. This means the beans retain more of their natural flavors and aromas inherent to their origin and terroir.


Characteristics of Light Roasts Include:


  • Flavor profile: Light roasts highlight the nuanced, intricate flavors of the bean's origin. 


  • Bean color: The beans are light brown in color, with no oil on the surface.


  • Caffeine level: Believe it or not, caffeine in coffee is stable during the roasting process. Caffeine levels are relatively the same in light, medium or dark roasts. The difference is in how each dose is measured. If you compare a light roasted coffee against a dark roasted coffee using the same weight, you will see that your dark roasted coffee dose is larger than the light roasted coffee. Dark roasted coffee weighs less due to its shedding of mass during the roasting process.


  • Body Notes: You'll often find light roasts to have a more mellow body and bright flavors of fruity, floral, or herbal notes. Acidity is also more pronounced in light roasts.


Some popular light roast coffee beans are Ethiopian, Colombian, and Costa Rican. 

The Storibord Kenya light roast from the Muburi Washing Station has tasting notes of lavender, lemon line, and cane sugar. The bright citrus acidity pairs perfectly with pour-over or drip methods.




Medium Roasts: Balanced and Approachable

Medium roasts are roasted slightly longer compared to light roasts and finishing at moderately higher temperatures. This roasting method brings out more body and reduces some acidic brightness. The origin flavors become more balanced and mellow, with notes often described as sweet, chocolatey, mellow, and smooth.


Characteristics of Medium Roasts:

  • Flavor profile: The origin flavors are still detectable but become more balanced. 


  • Bean color: The beans are a medium brown color with little to no oil on the surface.


  • Body Notes: Medium roasts often have sweeter notes like caramel and cocoa that emerge through the roasting process. 


Popular medium roast coffee beans include Guatemalan, Sumatran, and Mexican. The Storibord Guatemala from the La Morena Cubulco FSHB coffee has tasting notes of dark chocolate, caramel, and raspberry. The smooth, approachable flavor pairs well with a variety of brew methods.



Dark Roasts: Full-Bodied and Bittersweet

Dark roasts are roasted the longest and finishing at high temperatures until the sugars in the beans caramelize and the oils rise to the surface. Very little of the coffee’s origin flavors are still present in the bean, however, through the roasting process, the beans develop a heavy body and low acidity, with deep, sweet flavor notes of bittersweet chocolate, caramel, and toast. This roast is known as the classic diner-style coffee flavor, and you'll most often find this type of roast at your local Starbucks. 


Characteristics of Dark Roasts:

  • Flavor profile: Dark roasts are known for their intense, bold taste that lingers on the palate.


  • Bean color: The beans are dark brown in color, often shiny with oil on the surface, making them distinguishable compared to light and medium roasts.


  • Body Notes: The dark roast flavor dominates the origin flavors, leaving deep, bittersweet notes like dark chocolate and molasses.


Popular dark roast coffee beans include French, Italian, and Vienna roasts. Storibord typically offers light and medium roasts, but if you're a dark roast aficionado, contact us anytime to discuss ordering specialty dark roast coffee. 




Finding Your Roast Preference

Part of the joy of savoring exceptional coffee lies in discovering your preferred roast profile. 


It's worth noting that any coffee can be roasted to any level of preference. However, certain roast levels serve better in showcasing a coffee's unique characteristics or sweetness. 


For instance, a light roast may accentuate the floral and fruity notes, while a dark roast can bring out deep, chocolatey richness, all from the same beans. Our commitment to small-batch roasting ensures that each cup preserves the distinct story of the beans, allowing you to confidently order your perfect cup of joe.


When you're on the hunt for your next coffee discovery, try ordering the same coffee but in different roasts. Take notes on the flavor differences you detect, see your daily coffee as a journey to far-off lands, and enjoy the process of wandering through the various notes and flavors. 

We hope this guide demystifies light, medium, and dark roasts. Now that you know what to look for in the roast spectrum, you can confidently order your perfect cup of joe.


Stay inspired, friends!



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