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All About Coffee Roasts - Light Roast vs. Dark Roast (and everything in-between)

There are many splendid things about coffee. From the alluring scent to the jolt of caffeine, our favorite beverage offers a lot to love. Of the myriad of excellent qualities coffee would surely have listed in its senior high school yearbook, the sheer number of varieties would certainly be mentioned.

You can make top-notch drinks from different beans, brew them in unique ways, and add all sorts of milks, flavors, and extras to the finished product. To add even more complexity and possibility to the equation, you can also roast beans in distinct ways, giving them unique characteristics that translate to the cup.

If you’ve ever asked for a simple drip coffee and been greeted with something along the lines of “light, medium, or dark roast?” you know exactly what we’re talking about. Even basic beverages have options, and in this case, those options have a profound impact on the drink you receive.

Different types of coffee roasts lined up in piles on a wooden table with lightest roasts on the left and darker roasts on the right.

In fact, the level of roast is one of the most important considerations when making coffee. If you want to learn more about this integral step in the coffee craft, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn all about different coffee roasts!

What is Coffee Roasting?

Before we can get into the details of specific coffee roasts or dark roasts vs. light roasts, we need to cover the basics of what coffee roasting is. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, roasting refers to literally heating (roasting) the beans to a desired temperature for a set amount of time.

Roasting coffee beans removes moisture from them. The process also changes the composition of the beans, bringing out the color, flavor, and smell we all know and love. It is a particular process that can be quite finicky, as even the smallest miscalculation in temperature or time can spoil a batch.

Sweetwater Coffee Co. in Gainesville, FL, roasting a batch of coffee beans.

The best roasters use high-quality beans and have mastered the art of roasting particular varieties for specific outcomes. Local coffee roasters like Sweetwater Organic Coffee Co. in Gainesville, FL, are phenomenal examples of the care and dedication that goes into making consistent, delicious roasts.

Different Types of Coffee Roasts

With a clear picture of what roasting coffee beans involves and the reasons for doing it, we’re ready to jump into some more specific information and answer a timeless question, “what’s the difference between light and dark roast?”

While we don’t roast beans ourselves (we do work with a local coffee roaster, Sweetwater Coffee, on specialty blends, though), we know a thing or two about different roasts. Now, we’re gladly sharing that knowledge with you—local coffee house to beloved coffee enthusiasts!

What is Light Roast Coffee?

To be extremely technical, light roast coffee involves roasting beans between the temperatures of 350 degrees and 400 degrees Fahrenheit for fewer than 10 minutes. While these numbers matter, they only tell part of the story—the science-y, non-delicious part.

Light roasts are known for being delicate, complex, and imbued with discernable flavors derived from the beans themselves. They also tend to be less oily, giving them less viscous textures and mouthfeels compared to dark roasts. If one was to describe the flavor profile of a light roast, it would vary based on the beans used. However, you might hear descriptors such as:

  • Acidic

  • Crisp

  • Floral

  • Fruity

The best brewing methods for light-roast beans are meant to extract as much flavor as possible. As such, drip and pour-over approaches are popular. As a bonus, light roasts tend to contain more caffeine than their darker counterparts. The difference may be negligible, but any bonus caffeine is a win in our book!

What is Dark Roast Coffee?

It will come as no surprise that dark roast coffee is roasted at higher temperatures and for longer periods than light roast. It’s like baking cookies—leave them in the oven longer and turn up the heat, and you’ll have some dark, crispy treats. To be specific, dark roasts typically demand temperatures above 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for around 15 minutes.

A white mug filled with fresh Chelsea Coffee sits on a black backdrop covered in dark roast coffee beans.

The result is a bean that is puffy because the vast majority of the moisture has been removed. They also tend to be shinier than light roasts because the natural oils of the bean are brought to the surface. All of this translates to a bold, robust brew that can lack complexity but makes up for nuance with rich, chocolatey-tasting notes. Some might even describe dark roasts as smoky or toasty.

Don’t Forget Medium Roasts!

A popular compromise between light and dark roast coffee is a medium roast. As the name implies, this style of roast falls in the middle of the other two, and its preparation echoes that. For medium roast blends, beans are roasted at temperatures and times that fall in the middle of the other two roasting techniques.

The flavor profile is reflective of this. Medium roasts tend to be bolder and richer than light roasts while retaining more nuance than dark roasts. As such, they are popular among consumers searching for that perfect balance between two ends of the spectrum.

Sample Local Coffee Roasts at Chelsea Coffee

The best place to try delicious roasts of all varieties is at your local coffee shop. In Ocala, that coffee shop is Chelsea Coffee. We work with local roaster, Sweetwater Coffee Co., to provide you with the most delicious selection of roasts your heart could ever desire. From sultry dark roasts to bright light roasts and everything in-between, Chelsea is your home for coffee of all flavor profiles.

Whether you’re stopping by our Ocala, FL, coffee shop for a specialty drink and premium sandwich or buying a bag to go, we’ll serve you up a cup of caffeine goodness that tickles your tastebuds and preps you for your day. Best of all, you can keep coming back for more—our selection of bagged and brewed coffees varies, giving you the opportunity to consistently sample different roasts!

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