Coffee Roast Level: Which One is Better?

The smell of fresh coffee in the morning is enough to get you out of bed in the morning. And that first sip gets you excited about the day ahead. But did you know the roast level of your coffee beans accounts for the taste, boldness, and health benefits of the coffee? We’re ranking roast levels and finding out what suits you.

If you’re a health nut who cares about antioxidant levels in the body, light and medium roast coffee are the best. However, dark roast coffee is better when you want the bitter taste and less caffeine in your cup of coffee. Overall, you can get a balance of all the benefits from a medium roast.

Coffee roasting levels

Coffee roasting brings out different acidity levels, caffeine, and flavor profiles. There are three levels, each with benefits. You can have light, medium, or dark roast.

Coffee Roast Level: Which One is Better?

Light Roast

The first roasting is done at a temperature of between 356 and 401°F, where coffee beans inside the roaster are rotated for even heat distribution until the first crack sound. The coffee beans are then removed.

Light roast level is also known as Cinnamon Roast, New England, or Half-City roast.

Light roast coffee retains much of the oil inside the beans rather than on the surface. Coffee aficionados use light roast coffee to taste the coffee’s origin. Light roasts also pack the meanest punch in caffeine.

Medium Roast

Medium roast is also known as American, City, Regular, or Breakfast roast. It is roasted at between 410°F-428°F for a few more seconds after the first audible crack. The beans are medium brown with a fuller body and more sweetness than light roasts.

Medium roast coffee flies off the shelves in American stores. It balances acidity, flavor, and caffeine levels to make a smooth brew. Also, it usually hasn’t been under heat long enough to bring oils to the surface.

Dark Roast

Dark roasts don’t retain their original flavor. There are four sublevels of dark roasts.

Full city roast: The beans are roasted at 437°F at the beginning of the second crack, and the coffee beans have a medium dark brown color with a little oil visible on the surface.

Vienna Roast: At 446°F,  the beans become moderate dark brown with more oil on the surface and are taken out of the roaster. Vienna roast brews bitter-sweet caramel flavor coffee.

French roast: The French roast beans are dark brown with shiny oil surfaces and are roasted at 464°F. The beans make a bitter-sweet brew with very low acidity from longer roasting.

Italian roast:  Nearly black and shiny, the coffee beans are removed from the roaster as a final type of roast for cooling and packaging. This roast is done at temperatures of 473°F.  Italian roast dark roasts have the least acidity.  

Dark roasts are often sweeter due to caramelized sugars. However, they have a smoky flavor, the least caffeine, and a buttery, nutty feel on the palate.

How to roast coffee to your desired level

Coffee beans are roasted between 374°F to 473°F.  Roasting a small batch of coffee takes about 15-30 minutes with high alert and visual classification skills to determine the degree of roast. There are two types of roasters.  

  • Drum roaster
  • Air roaster.

Here are some rules that might bring out the best in your roast.

  • Apply sufficient heat at the beginning of the roast

Always have the roaster at the right temperature and timing before loading the coffee beans.

Heat levels affect the coffee beans’ flavor. It also reduces the number of beans that might get underexposed to the heat.

  • Coffee beans development time

Taking the coffee beans out of the roaster prematurely gives you underdeveloped roasts.  Timing during coffee roasting depends on the target roast level.

Roasted coffee should be cooled and immediately packed in airtight containers.

How to choose the right roast level (tips)

Coffee is a beverage that focuses on many things such as aroma, taste, and also health benefits. Here are some guidelines on how to choose the right roast level:

  • Medium and dark roast are less acidic and makes a great brew for people who might have coffee-induced gastric acidity issues.
  • Light roast is great for bright and flowery flavors. This is because the coffee beans maintain most of the original flavor and taste during the roasting process. Also, the light roast has the most caffeine.
  • The medium roast has the right balance of antioxidants and caffeine to make a tasty, healthy brew.
  • Dark roasts provide bold aromas and a harsh, bitter-sweet taste when brewed. A blend of different dark roast beans may make a better brew than a single origin of the roast. Check the coffee origin and roast level indicated on the coffee packets.
  • Combining different origins of medium roast may make a great cup of coffee. If you prefer unbalanced coffee, blending different flavor notes with the roast flavor of the medium roast will serve the preferred beverage.
  • Try different coffee beans from various regions and roast levels, take notes, and the impressions you get from each cup will give you your preferred roast level.

To enjoy your coffee roasts, there are some dos and don’ts when buying coffee.


  • Check the roast date of the coffee beans. Get fresh coffee beans not older than three weeks after the roast date.
  • Purchase low amounts of coffee beans as coffee goes stale after a short time.
  • Store your coffee beans in air-tight glass containers.
  • Grind your own coffee beans to get the right coffee taste and ratio.


  • Do not use dirty coffee pots to brew. Dirty pots change your coffee taste.
  • Avoid using tap water to brew coffee. Use clean filtered water to get the full coffee flavor.
  • Do not use stale coffee beans or beans over three weeks past their roasting date.

What type of roast is best for cold brew?

Dark roast coffee is the best roast for cold brews. This is because dark roast does not have a lot of maintained flavors like the light roast, which makes it hard to brew with cold water. Dark roast has a bolder, bittersweet taste, and the grind is easy to dissolve in water.

Additionally, dark roast for cold brew is the best option for your pockets. Dark roasts are significantly more affordable. You’ll need more than one cup to satiate your cold brew cravings.

What roast of coffee is the sweetest?

Medium roast is the sweetest because the beans go through caramelization, giving them a sweet caramel taste. Medium roasted coffee beans have a well-balanced flavor and aroma with medium acidity.

Other people prefer the light roost of its vibrant taste and flowery aroma.

What roast level of coffee is the smoothest?

Light roast is the smoothest roast from its flowery taste and vibrant aroma. The medium roast has a sweeter taste, while the dark roast is bold and has a woody, bitter taste.

Sources and References

  1. The Coffee Roasting Process
  2. National coffee association: Coffee Roast Guide

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