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DARK ROAST VS MEDIUM ROAST: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

DARK ROAST VS MEDIUM ROAST: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

DARK ROAST VS MEDIUM ROAST: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you sure must have heard a thing or two about different roast levels? In general, you have 3 stages or gradations: light, medium, and dark. Here and there you have others but these 3 are the main ones. Some roasts look dark but are medium and otherwise. The light roast isn’t a problem to see. What are the exact differences between medium roast vs dark roast?

One of the main differences is the roasting time. A dark roast is roasted for a longer period than a medium roast. The longer the bean is roasted, the more flavor it loses and the bolder it gets. The darker, the more oily the bean will be. This causes the shiny effect of the bean. Darker roasts generally taste nuttier or smokier because of the longer heating. The less time it’s roasted, the more the flavors will be like the original green bean.

When a bean is dark roasted, it’s almost unlikely you’ll be able to tell the specs and tastes of the original coffee beans.

THE DIFFERENT STAGES BEFORE THE ROASTING PROCES

Coffee is often referred to as fruit and comes from the coffee plant. It doesn’t grow as a simple green bean.

The harvest is done by hand or by machines. After this harvest, the coffee fruits are bloomed. This can be done in 2 ways: dry harvesting and wet harvesting:

#1: Dry harvesting

The beans are spread out to dry in the sun for 15-20 days. This results in the green bean we know before the roasting happens.

#2: Wet harvesting

The beans are washed and dried on drying beds or hot air drums. This method results in beans with a blue effect, glow. These are grown mostly in Colombia and Central America. This is a guarantee for high quality and is often used in blends.

You can recognize high-quality coffee by the bright, small line between the 2 halves of the bean.

High-quality coffee is also trackable. You can follow it back to the plantation, along with the name of the plantation, the country of origin, and also the cooperative, the name of the importer and exporter on the jute bags.

HOW ARE COFFEE BEANS ROASTED?

The coffee beans are roasted at a temperature of 200°C or 392° F. The beans become brown of color, simply because of the heating process. During the heating, the natural sugars in the bean are caramelized.

The period of roasting varies between 2 and 15 minutes. Usually, the heating is done in a machine with a big drum, mostly powered by gas or electricity. In industrial settings, this process is sped up and the temperatures used are higher when compared to artisanal ways of roasting. Investing in good equipment is key and can give you an edge in speed and heat.

THE DIFFERENT STAGES OF A COFFEE ROAST

As said before, the longer the period of roasting lasts, the more of the original specs and flavors are gone of the bean. There are mostly 3 stages of roasting: light, medium, and dark.

#1. Light Roast

You can recognize light roasts by their light, not so brown, color. You don’t see oil on the beans. These beans have reached a temperature between 350° and 400° Fahrenheit (176° – 204°Celsius). This first stage is reached when the first crack is heard.

Light roasts have most of the original flavors and amount of caffeine of the original coffee beans. Since the time of roasting didn’t last that long, not all of the flavor is lost. This roast level is often described by other terms, think about the New England Roast or Light city Roast.

#2. Medium Roast

Medium roasts are brownier and richer. Because of the longer roasting, more of the flavors are lost. The “bright” accents, like fruits and floral flavors, are less dominant. They say the flavor is more “balanced”. The medium roast is roasted just before the second crack happens, at a temperature between 410°-430° Fahrenheit (210° – 221° Celsius). These are referred to by other brands as “City Roast” or “American Roast”.

#3. Dark Roast

This level is indicated by a more brown, darker brown color. Sometimes the color is more black. The beans are recognized by their shiny glow. This coffee has more body when it comes to tastes and flavors. Mostly, you won’t recognize the flavors that tell the origins of the bean, unless you can read it off the bag ;), this isn’t described on every bag!

Dark Roasts are roasted at higher temperatures (about 440° Fahrenheit or 227° Celsius) until the end of the second crack. When there’s more heat, the taste will be smokier or nuttier. There are some great specialty dark roast coffees but mostly, heating beans in large batches at a high temperature kills the flavor and most of the coffee experience. Generally, the darker the roast, the more likely you’ll drink milk or other sweeteners with your cup of black gold!

People often think, that dark roasts, because they have strong and rich flavors, contain more caffeine compared to their light roast counterparts. The truth is the exact opposite: light roasts contain (slightly but ignorable) more caffeine in general so you could say that there’s no difference. The only notable difference is taste. There are other reasons why there could be less caffeine in a bean (origin, arabica vs robusta, etc…).

HOW DO THESE 3 ROASTS TASTE LIKE?

#1. Light Roast

Light roasts aren’t roasted very long. This means that most of the flavors and tastes from the original beans still are intact. The roast is often described as more “acidic” and has more antioxidants. There’s no oil on the surface, has a fruity scent. More suited to drink the coffee ‘black’. Bright is also a good word for taste.

#2. Medium Roast

Medium roasts are roasted longer, thus losing more acidic tastes and flavors from the original beans. While it still has a lot of flavors, there’s more body! There’s a more bitter taste. This will be ideal for most people because of diversity and flexibility when brewing.

#3. Dark Roast

Dark roasts are the ones that are more oily and shiny. A lot of the original flavors are roasted away. Instead, the accents are nuttier, smokier. There’s a lot of bitterness also, often the reason why dark roasts go well with milk.

WHAT DO YOU DESIRE IN YOUR CUP?

As with most things about coffee, it all depends on your personal preference and the situation. If you like a more acidic, delicate taste, go for a light roast. Do you like a more smoky or nutty taste, go for a dark roast. If you don’t know if you can opt for a medium. Remember: not every roast is suited for every brewing method. You can’t expect to have a great espresso by using a light roast.

DARK ROAST VS MEDIUM ROAST

The longer a coffee bean is roasted, the more of the original accents and flavors are roasted away. A medium roast combines the best of 2 worlds, a balanced taste. The darker your roast, the bolder your taste will be. Accents of smoke and nuts are more common. Some are very dark and are close to charcoal. There’s something for everybody out there. The darker your roast, the more suited it is for brewing methods like espresso or French Press. They pair great with milk and other sweeteners.

See also: LATTE VS MOCHA: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

IS THERE MORE CAFFEINE IN DARK ROAST OR MEDIUM ROAST?

There are a lot of false assumptions when it comes to caffeine and roasting. Yes, there can be a difference but because of other reasons. Don’t think that one type of roast will give you most of the caffeine. The difference is rather small. So no, there’s no notable difference in caffeine because of the roasting process. All roasts are made of other beans or blends from different beans. You must compare it well, it all depends on the situation and type of beans and where they’re grown.

WHY DO THE DARKER BEANS LOOK SO OILY AND SHINY?

Because of the roasting, the sugars are caramelized. The oils stay inside at low temperatures. From the 2nd crack, the oils inside the bean will come out. This results in the oily surface of the bean in a nutshell (good one eh, couldn’t resist it).

IS MEDIUM ROAST STRONGER THAN DARK ROAST?

It all depends on the situation. They both have their pros and cons. A medium roast has the best of both worlds, acidic and original flavors from the bean (light roast) and a bolder taste (known for a dark roast). So in general, a dark roast is stronger when it comes to bold tastes, it’s more dominant.

CONCLUSION

There’s no such thing as the best level between medium vs dark roast or any roasting stage. It all depends on your desires and context. If you want an acidic touch that has most of the tastes of the original beans, you should opt for a medium roast.

Do you like a nuttier, smokier taste? By all means, go for a darker roast. If the darker roast isn’t as good as you thought it would be, drink it with milk.

Enjoy your coffee!

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