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Light Roasted Coffee Beans vs Dark Roasted Coffee Beans

Light Roasted Coffee Beans vs Dark Roasted Coffee Beans - What is the difference?

Previously, black roasted coffee beans were considered the best, flavoursome coffee beans to choose, leaving the light coffee roasting beans in second place. However, much has changed in recent years due to the increase in popularity of specialty coffee. In this new wave of speciality coffee both strains of bean have their place. 

Read More: What is Speciality Coffee?

So in this blog post, we outline the difference between light roasted coffee beans and dark roasted coffee beans, we look at caffeine content and more!

Light Roasted Coffee Beans

Firstly we know that tastes are very personal and some people do prefer dark roasted coffee. Generally speaking within the world of speciality coffee with high cupping scores and traceable microlots, a light to medium roast is preferred. 

A light roasted coffee beans is a light brown colour and has no oil on the surface of the beans. They typically have a mellow body and bright, vibrant flavours. 

What makes light roasted coffee beans popular? 

Due to the roasting technique, a light roasted coffee beans are roasted in order to keep the unique taste of the bean - this way of roasting allows a wide variety of aromas, aftertastes and versatility. This makes it a really popular bean for the specialty coffee industry. The longer a coffee is roasted, the flavours of the coffee roasting process start to dominate. 

The roasting process for light roasted coffee is much shorter which allows the true flavours of the coffee to seep through and be appreciated. 

Take a look: Our light roasted coffee beanshere

Dark Roasted Coffee Beans

Dark roasted coffee is darker in colour and has a more oily surface than the lighter roasted. Due to their roasting process being long they reveal deeper and darker flavours. Therefore, the coffee roasted to this level tend to lose some of the taste characteristics that the light roast hold on to. 

It is difficult to compare the light roast and dark roast based on taste as they are both extremely different. When looking to find a dark roasted coffee that suits you it is important to research before you buy to know what depth and flavour you are looking for. You can then find the right bean for you! 

It is even more important to try both the dark roasted coffee and light roasted coffee - as you may be surprised! 

Take a look: Our dark roasted coffee beanshere

Coffee Bean Roasting Levels 

Before we start, it is important to outline the basics such as - how do we determine the coffee bean roasting levels? A question that has some confusion centered around. 

One of the most common things we hear from people who love coffee but haven’t yet experienced speciality coffee beans is the phrase ‘I love strong coffee’ or ‘I like dark roasted coffee’. This always leads to open up an interesting discussion about the differences between light roasted coffee, dark roasted coffee, solubility of coffee and flavour comparisons.  So what is the difference between light roasted coffee beans and dark roasted coffee beans? 

Firstly we know that tastes are very personal and some people do prefer dark roasted coffee. Generally speaking within the world of speciality coffee with high cupping scores and traceable microlots, a light to medium roast is preferred. 

As coffee is roasted darker the flavours of the coffee roasting process start to dominate. Initially sugar browning will occur and caramel flavours are present but as the roast gets darker this is taken over by bitter, smokey flavours. Many coffee drinkers are accustomed to these flavours as the majority of supermarket coffees are roasted fairly dark. In addition, many of the chain coffee shops use dark roasted coffee. The ones that come to mind are Starbucks and Pret a Manger. Traditional northern Italian espresso beans aren’t actually roasted as dark as many people think. Costa roast their beans darker than we would but much lighter than some.

Read More:Horsham’s Coffee Roasting Plan

How to determine Coffee Roast Profiles 

When we create a roast profile for our coffee beans we use a colour meter to determine how well we have developed the roast. The colour meter uses the Agtron scale for scoring. Most of our roasts fall into the region of 75-90 (a higher number is a lighter roast. Measurements are done using ground coffee). 

A lighter roast might suit an Ethiopian natural processed coffee while a roast at around 80 agtron score would be the target for our Workhorse blend. If you’d like to read a bit more about Agtron scores it’s worth having a look at some coffee reviews atwww.coffeereview.com. Although it’s mainly US based roasters reviewed it’s very clear that the majority of the top scoring coffees have a ground agtron score of between 70 and 85. There are, of course, exceptions but this tends to be the sweet spot where the character of the coffee can still shine without roast flavours taking over. We recently colour scored a sample of Illy coffee and found that the ground coffee scored 65 on the Agtron scale, not as dark as some people might think! 

A score less than 90 might mean that the coffee is under roasted making it very difficult to properly extract the flavours. The beans won’t be properly developed and grassy, vegetable green coffee flavours will dominate.

Strong coffee and solubility 

If you enjoy a full bodied, strong cup of coffee you can still use lightly roasted coffee beans but you need to ensure you brew correctly. The choice of coffee could make a difference too. Coffees from Brazil often tend to have nutty, chocolate flavours with a muted acidity while coffees from Kenya and Rwanda will have a bright, juicy acidity. Solubility of coffee plays a big part too and it’s important to make sure you stick to a reliable recipe when making your coffee. If you under extract your coffee it will taste weak and watery but a light roast that is properly extracted is still capable of full bodied flavours. For advice have a look at our brew guides under 'Coffee Guides and Tips'. Ultimately, once you’ve selected a recipe you can increase strength and body using one of the following three methods: Increase brew time, increase the amount of coffee used or grind finer. To test solubility we use a device called a refractometer, you can read more about these and the associated software on the VST website.

Thanks for reading and we hope you found this article useful. If you have any thoughts or comments feel free to email use at info@horshamcoffeeroaster.com

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