Roast Levels

by Ghostbird Coffee on June 27, 2021

You tell me your flavours and I will tell you your levels!

 As some of you may know, coffee actually starts off as a fruit, which is otherwise known as coffee cherry. As coffee cherries are picked and then processed, it becomes from a fruit to what we see as a coffee bean. But actually it is the coffee seed, as what everyone has come to know and call as coffee bean.

Depending on the degree that the coffee bean has been roasted, it dictates what kind of flavours or character that one would expect from your coffee. To some of us who may or may not be aware, coffee has three main roast levels, those roast levels are light roast, medium roast and dark roast.


Light Roast Coffee

Light roasted coffees are more commonly light brown in color, with a light body and no oil on the surface of the beans. This means the coffee has not gone through a thorough development stage as it would then retain most of its unique and vibrant flavours within the coffee bean itself. When brewing with a light roast coffee, one would expect a pronounced acidic flavour from  their brewed beverage, so do not be alarmed if you think your cup of coffee may be too sour for some. Fun fact, did you know that light roast coffees actually have the most caffeine in them?

For the roasting of light roast coffees, the internal temperature of the coffees are  usually at around 180°C – 205°C , this would mean that the coffee has not gone beyond the first crack of roasting.

Light roasted coffee are sometimes known as Light City, Half City and Cinnamon Roast. Like yourself, we do not know why such names are used but what we know is that it is very much the industry term.

Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roasted coffees are often dark brown in colour, easily 2 or more tones darker than a light or medium roast coffee. They are often seen with a layer of oil on its surface and it can also be noticed  when brewing your cup of coffee as well. The original and delicate flavours of the coffee is typically phased out due to the nature of the roasting process as it often results in a roasty and nutty character or to some even burnt in flavour. When drinking a coffee brewed with dark roast coffee, it is often found that the caffeine content has dropped significantly despite having its gao-ness from its flavour profile.

Roasting coffees of this profile are usually at a very high temperature, which is at  240°C and is at the end of it’s second crack or beyond in its development cycle. Oftentimes, the body of the coffee bean becomes so thin, and is put in a category of tar or charcoal in reference to the flavour wheel.

Common names for dark roast coffees include French Roast, Italian Roast, Espresso Roast, and Continental Roast. To most commercial cafes and businesses, dark roast coffees are used for espresso blends.

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium roasted coffees are seen as medium brown in colour and it has more body than light roasts when drinking it. Like the lighter roasts, they have no oil on the beans' surfaces. However, medium roasted coffees do lack the grainy taste of the light roast coffee in which it exhibits a more balanced flavour, aroma, and acidity with each cup. The caffeine content is somewhat decreased, but there is more caffeine than in darker

In contrast to a light roast coffee, a medium roast coffee is more balanced. However, some of the brighter notes from a light roast coffee, such as pronounced acidity, may be eliminated. This does not mean the bean will lose its unique flavour notes but in turn, exhibit a great balance in one cup.

Specialty coffee roasters often love a good medium roasts because they are more approachable than light roasts as well as the darker - dark roast coffees. Not only is it appealing to specialty coffee roasters but it is also appealing to the average coffee drinker. They’re less acidic and intense, but still can showcase a coffee’s natural flavour profile.


Specialty roasters usually will never roast their expensive, carefully chosen beans at a dark roast profile. This is because It would be a waste of excellent tasting coffee. We would encourage everyone to enjoy a medium roasted cup of coffee  as we will be able to fully enjoy the flavours of its origin, whether it be from Asia like in Myanmar, or from Africa like Ethiopia or Kenya.

So here  you go,  a short guide to the common coffee roast levels from light to dark to medium. To summarise the differences, in addition to the colour gradations:

  • As coffee roasts get darker, they lose their  flavours of the coffee beans and take on a prominent dark, often unfavourable, flavour.
  • The body of the coffee gets heavier, until the second crack, where the body again thins.
  • Lighter roasts have more acidity than darker roasts.
  • Light roasted beans has a drier surface of the beans  while darker roasted coffee tend to develop oil on the bean surface.
  • The caffeine level decreases as the roast gets darker.

 At the end of the day, it’s all about enjoying the tastes, the flavours, and aroma of your coffee. Coffee is a personal choice, some may prefer a lighter roast coffee, while some may enjoy a darker roast coffee. Always trust your palette and be bold to give any coffee a try to deepen your understanding and enjoyment of drinking coffee.