“Coffee is coffee,” said no real coffee lover, ever. Everyone has their definition of ‘the best coffee.’ And many of those opinions come from the type of coffee roast they have. While most coffee experts will tell you to have a medium roast, we’ll check out the nuances that set apart the extremes. We’re comparing dark roast and light roast coffee.
The main difference between light and dark roast coffee is the temperature at which the beans are roasted. Light roast is only roasted until the roaster hears the first crack. Dark roast is roasted at higher temperatures for longer to extract the oils and remove the original flavor, acidity and sugars.
How coffee beans are brewed does define the type and taste that will be in your cup. Coffee beans are roasted in 4 common levels; light, medium, dark, and darker than dark each level having a distinct color, aroma and taste, and different health benefits.
What is Coffee Roasting?
Coffee roasting uses dry heat to turn green coffee beans into yellow-green, brown, and dark brown colors while enhancing their flavors, aroma, and structure. This process is also known as the Maillard reaction, where green-yellow coffee beans turn brown.
Roasters typically operate at between 374°F and 473° F. (190°C and 245°C). It is important to constantly stir the coffee beans inside the roaster for even heat distribution.
Light roast coffee beans are roasted for less than 10 minutes and are taken out from the roaster after the first audible crack. A second crack comes after a few more minutes, indicating that the medium roast is ready. Dark roasts stay an additional 30 seconds after the medium roast crack before they are ready. Dark roasts stay in the roaster for about 15 minutes.
The coffee beans come out charred if they overstay in the roaster.
It takes time to master the art of coffee roasting to get the desired flavor without burning the coffee beans.
It is important to store coffee beans in a dry, airtight glass container. Coffee beans absorb moisture and odors and go stale soon after.
Here’s a summary of the key differences between light and dark roast coffee.
Light Roast vs Dark Roast Coffee: Differences
|Light Roast Coffee||Dark Roast Coffee|
|It is roasted for a short time resulting in a yellow-green color.||It is roasted longer than medium roast, making the beans dark brown.|
|It has a sweet coffee taste from sugar retention.||It has a sour and more bitter taste from staying longer in the roast machine at a higher temperature.|
|It has a light tan color with no visible oil on the bean surface.||Has dark brown color with visible oil on the bean surface.|
|Light roast beans are removed immediately after the first crack is heard after 3-5 minutes of roasting.||Dark roast beans are removed 30 seconds after the second crack of medium roast coffee beans.|
|Heavier by weight per scoop||Lighter by weight per scoop|
What roast coffee is the strongest?
Light roast coffee is the strongest of the three main roast types.
Due to the short roasting period, the heat enhances the coffee beans’ flavor. Therefore the light roast maintains most of the original flavor. Dark roast is commonly mistaken to be stronger due to its bitter-sweet spicey taste.
However, long-time heat exposure depletes most of the original flavor. Dark roast coffee also has slightly less caffeine than light roast since the beans are not as dense.
Does dark roast coffee give you more energy?
Dark roast does not give you more energy. However, it is spicier and bitter. In fact, some users would prefer that bitter ‘kick’.
Most coffee drinkers innocently mistake dark roast coffee as superior to light roast. While it’s not an unusual claim, there’s more to it than visuals.
Green coffee beans are jam-packed with caffeine, which gives you a rush. Also, they have most of their natural sugars. Light roast coffee retains most of these potent qualities.
If we interpret energy as caffeine, light roast coffee gives you more caffeine. Therefore, it is safe to say light roast gives you more energy.
Still, the coffee beans and brewing method determine the energy you get from a cup of dark roast or light roast coffee.
Dark roast coffee beans stay longer in the roaster and at higher temperatures, making the beans darker and full-bodied. Dark roasts are bitter-sweet and spicy but have lost more caffeine content in the roasting process.
Why light roast coffee is better?
Light roast coffee is known to have more health benefits than other types of roasts. Due to the light roast, the beans that go through the beans have higher chlorogenic acid that helps in protecting human cells from oxidation and inflammation.
This roast level is lightly exposed to heat and has a better effect on both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory on human beings. Inflammation is known as a cause of many chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes and heart diseases. A cup of light roast is known to lower such risks as moderate coffee intake is also linked to reduced risks of diabetes mellitus type II and Alzheimer’s disease.
Is dark roast coffee more bitter?
Coffee beans heated at 245° C (474°F) start to lose their brown color and become darker. High temperatures in coffee beans being heated for a long time break down the chlorogenic acid lactones found in the coffee beans to phenylindanes that cause the bitter effect. This process gives the dark roast coffee its harsh, bitter, spicy taste.
This level of roasting is the final level and makes the dark roast more bitter than the other coffee roasts. Also, errors in time, temperature, and beans quality can cause your coffee beans to brew bitter coffee more than preferred.
Why is light roast coffee better?
Light roast coffee is known to have more health benefits than medium or dark roast coffee. Light roast coffee beans have higher chlorogenic acid that helps in protecting human cells from oxidation and inflammation.
This roast level is lightly exposed to heat and has more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects on human beings. Inflammation is a known cause of many chronic diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Light roast is known to lower such risks.
Moderate coffee intake is linked to reduced risk of diabetes mellitus type II and Alzheimer’s disease.
Also, light roast coffee retains much of the original flavors. This trait is great for enthusiasts who want to know the origin of the coffee.
Is dark roast coffee more bitter?
Dark roast coffee is more bitter than light roast and medium roast coffee.
Coffee beans heated at 473° F for 15 or more minutes lose their caramelized sugars and turn bitter. The high temperature and long roasting time break down the chlorogenic acid lactones in the coffee beans to phenylindanes that cause bitterness. This process gives the dark roast coffee its harsh, bitter, spicy taste.
Errors in timing, temperature, and coffee bean quality can cause your coffee beans to become a bitter mess.
What roast of coffee is less acidic?
Dark roast coffee is the least acidic.
Heat exposure over long periods breaks down the acidity in green coffee beans.
Light roast coffee has more acidity due to the short time in the roasting machine. However, medium roast coffee hits a sweet balance in sugars, flavor, sharpness, and caffeine.
Other qualities like taste, flavor, aroma, and caffeine levels.
Light roast coffee has a more vibrant scent from its high caffeine levels and has a sweeter taste from the slight roast that enhances all the coffee flavors. Light roast is also known to have higher acidity compared to the other types of coffee roasts; this is because the heat reduces the acidity.
Dark roast has a more robust aroma and less acidity than light roast. The beans have a deep rich flavor with a bitter-sweet taste and are fuller bodied with oily surfaces. A blend of dark roast may taste better compared to a single origin.
Which is better between the two roast levels?
While coffee ranges from different levels, each roast has its benefits.
Light roast is known for its sweet taste, antioxidant properties, and anti-inflammation benefits. At the same time, the dark roast helps with alertness from its harsh taste and robust aroma and is also linked to health benefits such as weight loss and acid reflux.
To taste the brightest notes with naturally occurring flavors of coffee, you should opt for a cup of light roast.
Sources and References
Healthline: Benefits of Coffee?
Pubmed: Dark roast coffee is more effective than light roast coffee in reducing body weight, and in restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione concentrations in healthy volunteers