Light vs Dark Roast Coffee

light vs dark roast coffee which is better

It’s important to know why specialty coffee beans can look different after the roasting process. From a light brown colour to a dark, almost black look.

Note: it’s also important to know which products are best for each roast.

Often when buying coffee fresh, you have a few roast levels to choose from depending on how long they are roasted for. The most common are:

  • Light
  • Light-Medium
  • Medium
  • Medium-Full
  • Dark

In this post we will be sharing the features you need to know about light and dark roast before purchasing. We will also discuss the best products and the perfect way to brew them.

Here’s how we will compare the two roasts…

Acidity, flavour, brewing method, caffeine levels and health benefits are all major factors when picking a product. That is why we are going to compare all of these aspects between light and dark roast.

Use the contents section below to easily navigate through this guide…

Light:

  1. The best light roast coffees
  2. What is light roast coffee?
  3. The major health benefits of light roast beans
  4. Flavour insights of light brown beans
  5. Best Brewing Methods for Light Coffee Beans
  6. From green bean to a lightly roasted bean – what’s the process?

Dark:

  1. What is dark roast coffee?
  2. What are the best dark roast coffee beans?
  3. Does dark roast coffee have any health benefits?
  4. What does dark coffee taste like?
  5. Tips for brewing dark roast – how to prevent it tasting bitter
  6. Our recommended brewing method for a strong dark roast coffee

 

Dark vs Light:

  1. Dark vs Light – which tastes the best?
  2. Dark vs light – does dark roast have more caffeine?
  3. Is there a difference in acidity?
  4. Is Whole Bean or Ground best?

 

The best light roast coffees

 

Cuban Coffee

Light & Smooth Brazil Santos

A+R Brazilian coffee is a beautiful light roast with notes of Chocolate and Vanilla. described by one of our customers “Lovely smooth coffee. I can’t believe the difference it makes versus a supermarket bean. Always buy my coffee beans from Adamas and Russell now”

Light Brazil Coffee

The other light roast we have on offer is

Cuban Coffee

Kenya Peaberry Coffee Beans

A+R Kenya Peaberry Roasted coffee is lightly roasted, which means it is removed from the roasting machine just after the first ‘POP’. Or as the experts call it, first crack. Our regulars just love this light coffee with bright acidity and rounded flavour.

Acidity Kenya Peaberry Roasted Coffee Beans

The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is more of a light-medium roast:

Light Medium Roast Ethiopia Coffee

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee Beans

The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is more of a medium roast but has the characteristics of a light roast. They have a light flavour of jasmine and a bright acidity to them when brewed. The coffee is renowned for its floral and citrus flavours.

 

 

Light Medium Roast Ethiopia Coffee

 

What is light roast coffee?

The easiest way to distinguish this coffee is the colour. They are a light brown colour and have a matte finish, compared to darker beans which have an oily surface.

This is because they have spent less time exposed to high temperatures in the roaster.

The flavour origins are generally better kept with this type of coffee as the roasting process doesn’t affect them as much.

Keep reading to find their unique flavour profile and the major benefits…

 

The major health benefits of light roast beans

benefits of light roast coffee

Other than taste, one of the biggest perks of our favourite drink is the many benefits it has for our health. To name just a few:

  • Can create a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • Can help protect against Parkinson’s disease
  • Improves mood, focus and creativity
  • Helps to reduce muscle pain after a work out

… and the list goes on.

As light beans don’t spend as long in the roaster and their cell structure isn’t as affected, you will receive more of these benefits.

As you get to medium and darker, the high temperatures and flames can affect the level of antioxidants and health benefits you receive from your cup.

 

Flavour insights of light brown beans

Lighter roasted coffee beans often have a nicely balanced flavour with bright acidity. That’s why it’s a great option if you’re new to coffee. Usually great for the youngsters who are about to brew their first cup of fresh ground beans.

 

Why is this?

First of all, the acidity is bright and the flavour is balanced. It also gives off a fantastic aroma, but doesn’t all coffee?

It can also be smoother, just like our Brazilian Santos single origin choice.

Understanding the smoothness of different coffees can be a challenge. Simply because you would need to remember the taste of each one.

Just because a coffee is a light roast, doesn’t necessarily mean its smoother. However, you might find that it has a brighter taste to it than a darker bean.

Many people who have been drinking coffee for a long time tend to work their way up to a medium or darker roast and still enjoy a smooth cup of coffee.

Some people think there’s more caffeine in a lighter coffee – more on that further down.

Something which can have a large impact on the flavour of the coffee is your choice of brewing method. Keep reading.

 

Best Brewing Methods for Light Coffee Beans

If you really want to make the most of your coffee, the best option is to try different brewing methods to see which work for you personally.

To get the best range, we would suggest choosing from

  • Stove top espresso maker (usually brews at a higher temperature)
  • V60 drip
  • Cafetiere
  • Aeropress

Usually, the brewing method is determined by the size of the grind. For example, all the above would work well with a medium grind size, whereas a fine grind would be best for an espresso machine. That’s because of the high speed at which the water runs through the granules in an espresso machine.

Our chosen method is…

So, if we had to recommend a brewing method, it would be the Aeropress. You can control the taste of your drink just by using the Aeropress in different ways.

For example, when you put the Aeropress over your cup, you can let the water trickle straight through. Alternatively, you can put the top of the Aeropress slightly in before the water has trickled through, to create a vacuum and hold the water in for longer.

 

From green bean to a lightly roasted bean – what’s the process?

We get a lot of questions about the process of light roast beans, how to master the process and the benefits of green beans.

Firstly, all coffee starts out as green beans. This is because it is the natural, raw state they are in once harvested.

To get the dark brown beans you are probably used to, this requires roasting. Most leave this to the supplier and want their beans or grounds ready to brew. However, there are many benefits to roasting your own at home…

Read our article “The best way to roast green coffee, where to buy it + benefits of raw beans” to find out how you can customise your coffee with this easy method.

Any roast can be achieved by carrying out this process at home. So, when purchasing green beans any coffee can be enjoyed as a light roast, its completely up to you!

When trying this at home, light roasts are generally lighter brown with virtually no oil on the surface after the roasting process.

That’s because they haven’t had chance to produce the oil that would usually be visible after being in the machine for a longer period of time.

 

What is dark roast coffee?

This is simply the last stage of the roasting process. These steps usually include:

  1. Light
  2. Medium
  3. Medium – Dark
  4. Dark

You can find more detailed steps of what goes on behind the scenes in a roaster here.

But, what does this type of bean look like?

Firstly, it will be deep in colour, usually a very dark, rich brown or almost black.

Secondly, they have a shiny surface. This is due to the oils produced and the smooth surface and minimal texture, which allows the light to reflect off them.

 

What are the best dark roast coffee beans?

It is highly important to research before you purchase so that your first experience with a dark roast isn’t a bad one.

Often some companies use 100% Robusta coffee beans for their dark roast, which can taste burnt and rubbery.

Great advice when purchasing coffee is to make sure there is enough information provided. If there is no country of origin or any information on the process or flavours, this may be a risky buy.

Here are 4 high quality dark roast options, each with a brief explanation to help you make your decision.

Our darkest roast…

Dark Roast African Espresso

Dark & intense African espresso

This African espresso is the darkest roast we offer at Adams and Russell. It is luxuriously rich in bold flavours, which include pungent spice and tobacco. The low acidity and rich aftertaste finishes off this coffee perfectly.

Dark Roast African Espresso

 

An easy introduction to dark roast coffee…

Timor Grade 1

Clean tasting & low acidity

East Timor is known for its exceptional quality coffee. This particular coffee is clean-tasting with delicious hints of rich chocolate. The acidity is low which creates a pleasant cup that is easy to drink. For anyone new to dark roast, this is the perfect introduction.

Timor Grade 1

 

Looking for something different?

Costa Rica Tarrazu

Unique flavours of tangy apple and dark chocolate

These unique Costa Rican beans have a delicious apple acidity with subtle hints of dark chocolate. It has a medium acidity which balances well with the rich flavour. If you are looking for a new flavour in the dark roast category, this is the coffee for you.

Costa Rica Tarrazu

 

A dark roast that is full of delicious flavour…

Indonesian Java

Rich, dark beans bursting with flavour

These Indonesian beans are absolutely packed with flavour and are sure to excite the taste buds. The rich, Earthy notes of chocolate, tobacco and spices creates a special coffee that you will want to savour. The low acidity and deep body are the perfect pairing for these varied flavours.

Indonesian Java

 

Does dark roast coffee have any health benefits?

Coffee has many benefits for your mind and body, such as improving mood, increasing metabolism and can protect against diseases. You can read more about these benefits in our ‘Is coffee healthy?’ blog post.

So, does the amount of exposure to flames affect these health benefits?

We’re afraid, the answer is not straight forward.

Benefits of dark roast coffee include:

  • It does a better job of restoring the blood levels of antioxidants
  • This also leads to a higher reduction in body weight
  • It is kinder on your stomach due to the N-methylpyridinium produced

Although these are fantastic benefits, the roasting process can prevent some of the perks from reaching your cup.

According to this study, the lighter the bean, the higher the chlorogenic acid content, which can increase metabolism and allow your body to process sugar more efficiently.

 

What does dark coffee taste like?

This can depend on many different characteristics, such as:

  • Country of origin
  • Variety of crop
  • Elevation
  • Farming practices
  • Processing
  • Brewing

However, dark roast does have some general flavour properties that you could experience in your coffee.

Firstly, the flavours are much bolder and richer than a lighter roast. The coffee beans have gone through full caramelization, which can bring out a deep, chocolatey taste.

The beans will also usually have a much lower acidity, which can be beneficial to those who prefer a more mellow drink.

The aftertaste can be bitter sweet, perfect for those who don’t like coffee too floral or sweet.

 

Tips for brewing dark roast – how to prevent it tasting bitter

The biggest question we get around dark roast:

‘Does it taste bitter?’

Dark roast has rich, deep and intense flavours, but it should not be bitter.

Do you keep getting the same disappointing results with your dark roast? Follow these tips to banish bitterness…

  1. Always start with fresh coffee. This is the first thing to ensure when purchasing your beans as if they are stale you’re going to have an impossible job making them taste pleasant.

At Adams + Russell we hand roast fresh everyday and deliver straight to your door. We also use specially designed packaging that allows the beans to release the necessary gases to ensure maximum freshness.

  1. Reduce the temperature of your water. If it is too hot, this will burn the beans and give them a bitter taste. Instead of using the kettle straight off the boil, let it cool for a few seconds. We recommend a temperature of 95°C.
  2. Reduce brewing time. If you are continually getting a bitter taste, trying letting it steep for less time. Over brewing is a common way to get unpleasant flavours.
  3. Use clean equipment. Make sure to thoroughly clean your brewing equipment between every use. Remains from past brews could be causing the bitter taste.

 

Our recommended brewing method for a strong dark roast coffee

There are so many options for brewing, it can be difficult to try them all. If you are looking for a full break down and comparisons of the most common methods, take a look at our helpful guide to brewing.

If you want to enhance the deep, strong and punchy flavours of your dark roast, we recommend using a stove top espresso maker.

This is the authentic Italian way of brewing and creates impressive results. If you want to bring out the full flavour of your dark beans, this is a method you have to try.

It is also portable which makes it perfect for taking camping or on your travels.

Dark vs Light – which tastes the best?

There is no right answer to this, as everyone’s taste and preferences are completely different.

Also, it is not just as straightforward as light vs dark. There is a huge variation of roasts, and the scale goes much further than just these two options.

There is a full spectrum that happens between light and dark which any coffee lover should experiment with.

Certain origins pair better with certain roasts and the best way to find these magical combinations is to try them for yourself.

As a general rule, if you prefer your cup to have deep, strong and intense flavours, look at the darker end of the scale.

If you prefer more delicate and brighter flavours, look at the lighter end.

 

If it were a popularity contest – which would win?

In fact, a medium roasted coffee would win – hands down. Most of the places you look, you will find medium roasts.

On the Adams + Russell website, you can choose from over 50 Single Origin and Single Plantation coffees that are roasted to a medium level.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try other options. You should. Otherwise you just won’t know whether your missing out on something or not.

 

Dark vs light – does dark roast have more caffeine?

Another big question that arises when comparing the two… which has more caffeine?

We understand why, if you only have time for one quick cup of coffee in a morning you probably want the most caffeine you can get.

Some usually associate dark to have a higher caffeine content, but this is actually a myth.

When weighing out light and dark beans, you may notice there are a few more dark beans than light (if you are extremely observant).

This is because a bean loses a lot of mass during the roasting process, usually the water content.

So, as you have more dark beans, the caffeine content is probably a little higher. This is why dark roast is usually associated with a higher caffeine content.

When it comes to bean for bean, there is a very minimal difference in caffeine between the two.

 

Is there a difference in acidity?

As there is not enough research on the subject, there is no definite answer as to whether dark or light roast has more acid content.

Initially, beans contain chlorogenic acids which are antioxidants. The level of chlorogenic acids are reduced during the roasting process due to exposure to the flames and high temperatures.

However, another group of acids called quinic acids are formed during this process. This means that the darker the roast, the higher the levels of quinic acids.

Considering these two groups found in beans throughout processing, the difference between acid content is most likely minimal.

To find the best low acid products, take a look at our ‘Is coffee acidic?’ post.

 

Is Whole Bean or Ground best?

As with any coffee, for freshness, BEANS are always the best buy.

Simply because it stays fresher for longer. However, if you aren’t too susceptible to the changing taste of fresh coffee, purchasing ground is also a great choice.

Some of the Adams + Russell team still only purchase ground and they will continue to drink it a few weeks after opening the bag.

On the other hand, we have customers who say they can taste a huge difference as soon as the bag is opened.

It’s definitely down to personal preference. And probably how much you are ‘in to coffee’.

 

 

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