How to not feel roasted when picking out a roast
My interest in coffee spiked at a very young age. For my family, it was a way for us to gather, for my mother, it was a way of life, and for me, began a very dedicated hobby.
My later years of high school was when I began expanding my horizons. I’d spend my summers staying up late watching barista videos, I practiced on an espresso machine my grandpa had bought me at a garage sale for 5 bucks, and of course started visiting any coffee shop within a ten mile radius. However my Maxwell House palate was quite thrown off any time the barista would ask, “Light, medium or dark roast?”
I mean, as far as I knew, light roasts had no taste, dark roasts were very strong, and medium roasts were somewhere in between the two.
It wasn’t until I started working for StoneFruit that my passion and taste in coffee was intensified. Of course my training had provided me with many facts on roasts of coffee that were totally unfamiliar to me. After talking with many coffee experts, doing research, and simply drinking a ton of coffee, have I really broken down what each roast authentically is, to me.
Coming from a coffee shop that spends a considerable amount of time with the roaster on, the best way I can think to describe the difference between a light, medium and dark roast is to describe what happens to the beans during the roasting process.
Prior to being roasted the coffee beans are actually green. Once thrown into the roaster, they can be roasted to different levels or mile stones, for example: first crack, second crack, or even further achieving a French or Italian profile (very dark).
If roasted up to its first crack, the coffee will be considered a light roast. Light roast coffee can be described as “bright,” “floral,” “fruity” “citrusy,” and “acidic.” If you want something that is going to be lighter on the palate with a lot of flavor and varieity, you may be looking for a light roast. Because the light roast only has one crack, it is also the most caffeinated out of all the other roasts. All of the oils, caffeine, and flavors are still intact with the bean, therefore making the light roast one of the most light bodied, punch-packing roasts in all the land.
Somewhere in between the first and second crack is where the medium roast exists. A medium roast is where flavors can really submerge. Say the nuttiness of a Sumatra, or the chocolatey notes of an Indonesian, these are all tones to the coffee that are developed and present in a well roasted, medium cup of coffee. A medium roast typically still contains a good amount of caffeine. Because of its rollercoaster of flavor and its considerable amount of caffeine, the medium roast is one that I always find myself gravitating to.
A dark roast is one that has been roasted up to and past the second crack. All the oils and flavors that the light roasts contained are expelled from the bean, leaving a smooth, full bodied cup of coffee. This bitter, smoky roast is best for blends of coffee because of the way the oils and notes are released upon roasting. Despite the fact that a dark roast contains the least amount of caffeine, the dark roast is often described to have the strongest flavor. If you are looking for a cup of coffee with low acidity and low caffeine, the dark roast might be the cup for you.
Figuring out the difference between a light, medium and dark roast isn’t rocket science- it’s chemistry. However, picking out the right roast for you requires no knowledge of any type of science, all it requires is someone with an open mind and a love of all things coffee.