Light Roast vs Dark Roast Coffee – Spirit Animal Coffee

LIGHT ROAST VS DARK ROAST COFFEE: 

WHICH ONE IS BETTER?

light roast vs medium roast vs dark roast coffee beans in different wooden bowls
  • BRUNO B

AUG 11, 2022

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There’s a considerable debate among the vast group of coffee lovers worldwide about the difference between light and dark roast coffee. 


Some people claim that one is much better than the other. 


But is there a clear winner?

 

Here, we’ll break down the key differences between light and dark roasts so you can decide for yourself which one you prefer. 


WHY IS COFFEE ROASTED?

light and dark roast with a prepared espresso shots and coffe on a wooden board

When you think of coffee, you probably think of the dark brown beans used to make your morning cup of joe. But have you ever wondered why coffee is roasted? It may surprise you to learn that coffee starts as green beans. All coffee beans are initially green. So why go through the trouble of roasting them?


It turns out that roasting coffee beans is essential to develop their flavor. The roasting process brings out the natural oils in the beans, which gives coffee its distinctive aroma and taste. Depending on how long they are roasted, coffee beans can develop a variety of flavors, from light and fruity to rich and chocolatey. Roasting also helps to remove any bitterness from the beans, making for a smoother cup of coffee. So next time you take a sip of your favorite brew, remember that it wouldn’t taste nearly as good without the roasted coffee beans.


So essentially, the roasting process is crucial because it decides the flavor and aroma of the coffee. 


Roasted coffee beans can be stored for a long time but lose their flavor over time. That’s why freshly roasted coffee is best enjoyed within two weeks of being roasted.

WHAT DOES THE ROASTING PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

roasting coffee beans in a steel container

Coffee roasting is an art and a science, and there are many different ways to roast coffee beans. Likewise, there are various ways to roast coffee beans, and each method can produce different results. 


For example, drum roasters use indirect heat to slowly roast the beans, while hot air roasters use a stream of hot air to roast the beans more quickly. 


As a result, drum-roasted coffees tend to have a more even coloration. In contrast, hot air-roasted coffees can be more consistent in the final result. 


No matter what method is used, there are three key things that will affect the quality of your roasted beans: 

  • Time

  • Temperature

  • Airflow


  • "Regardless whether it's drum roasting or hot-air roasting, the elements that build the roast profile are three: time, temperature, and airflow."


TIME

hourglass with ping sand on top of a newspaper

The length of time that the beans are roasted will determine the lightness or darkness of the roast. The longer the beans are roasted, the darker they will become.

TEMPERATURE

The temperature at which the beans are roasted will also affect the lightness or darkness of the roast. 


The higher the temperature, the darker the roast.

AIRFLOW

The amount of air circulated during the roasting process will also affect the lightness or darkness of the roast. 


The more air that is distributed, the lighter the roast.

Time is a factor that impacts coffee freshness. The longer the beans are stored, the more likely they are to become stale and lose their flavor. 


This is why consuming your coffee beans within two weeks of purchase is essential.

THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LIGHT, MEDIUM, AND DARK ROAST COFFEES

Light and Dark Roast Coffee beans

LIGHT ROAST COFFEE

The lightest type of roast is light roast coffee. This results in a lighter-colored bean with more caffeine, higher acidity, and less body. 


The light roast flavors are brighter and more complex, with notes of fruits and berries. Some people find that light roasts have a crisper taste, while darker roasts can be sweeter and heavier.


PROS

Lighter body and flavor

More caffeine

Less bitter


CONS

It tends to bring out the citrusy flavors, which some might interpret as acidity (but it's not.)

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Catuai

Light/Medium-Light Roast

12oz whole bean single-origin coffee

$24.00

ADD CODE LRDRC30 AT CHECKOUT TO GET 30% OFF


MEDIUM ROAST COFFEE

The medium roast has a light to medium-light brown color with no oils on the surface. It is a versatile type of coffee that everyone can enjoy. It has a rich flavor without being too bitter and can be enjoyed with or without milk. 


Medium roasts coffee beans are roasted for a more extended period of time than light roast beans, which allows them to develop more flavor. It has a light body with a slightly less pronounced acidity than the light roasts. 


PROS

It makes a well-balanced and delicious morning cup

It is typically less acidic than the dark roast

It has more body and richness


CONS

It can be a bit more bitter if not applied to a suitable coffee cultivar.

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IHCAFE-90

Perfect Medium Roast

12oz whole bean single-origin coffee

$29.00

ADD CODE LRDRC30 AT CHECKOUT TO GET 30% OFF


DARK ROAST COFFEE

This results in a more intense flavor, and the beans are often darker in color. Many people enjoy dark roast coffee for its rich, full-bodied taste. However, others find it too strong or bitter. 


There are many different ways to make dark roast coffee. The most common method is to roast the beans for longer, but some coffee roasters also use a higher temperature. This creates a more uniform product but can also result in some bitterness. 


PROS

It has a more robust flavor than light roast coffee

It is less acidic than medium roast

It is more nutrient-dense


CONS

It sheds more oil and fat on the surface, resulting in the beans losing their flavor more quickly.

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Yellow Catuai & Parainema

Bestselling Dark Roast

12oz whole bean single-origin coffee

$31.00

ADD CODE LRDRC30 AT CHECKOUT TO GET 30% OFF


why are coffee roast level changing?

dark roasted beans stumbled out of a white cup

In recent years, there has been a shift in the coffee roasting landscape. Where once dark roasts were the norm, lighter roasts are now becoming more popular. 

This change is due to many factors. 


Firstly, coffee drinkers are becoming more adventurous and willing to try new things. Light and medium roasts offer a more vibrant palette of flavors than dark roasts, and many people find them more interesting and complex. 


Secondly, the rise of specialty coffee has led to a greater focus on quality over quantity. Light and medium roasts bring out more of the unique flavors of each coffee bean, making them ideal for discerning palates. 


Finally, technological changes have made it possible to roast coffee beans more evenly, resulting in a smoother, more consistent flavor. 


Whatever the reason, it’s clear that light roast coffees are on the rise.

PS: IS DARK ROAST BAD FOR YOU?

dark roast coffee beans begin to crushed in the powdered form

We get this question often. And the answer is: Yes but that applies only to char-dark roast coffee (which we never do at Spirit Animal.)


Over-roasting – and this applies to all food – gives birth to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs.) PAHs are a by-product of pyrolysis—the chemical decomposition that occurs when organic materials are exposed to heat. 


Along with acrylamide, PAHs are the prime culprits behind the occurrence of cataracts, kidney and liver damage, and sometimes even DNA mutations, like cancer.


Too much dark roasting places coffee beans under high temperatures for prolonged times, increasing the risk of these ugly components forming inside the coffee bean. 


So make sure that, even if you prefer a darker roast, your coffee beans are never darker than a medium-dark brown color.

why do light roast and dark roast coffees have different flavors?

dark roast cappuccino coffee in black cup on a wooden table

There are a lot of different factors that contribute to the flavor differences between lightly roasted beans and dark roasted coffee. 


The bean type, growing conditions, roast profile, and cold brew method all play a role in the final flavor of the coffee.

BEAN TYPE

When it comes to bean type, there are literally hundreds of different varieties of coffee beans that can be used for light or dark roasts. 


So, it’s hard to say definitively that one type of bean will always taste better when roasted light or dark. 


However, certain beans tend to fare better with specific roast profiles. 


For example, coffee beans from Honduras often have bright, floral flavors that are best showcased in lighter roasts. But theris always an exception to the rule: like our Yellow Catuai & Parainema:)

GROWING CONDITIONS

The growing conditions of the coffee beans also have an impact on the final flavor of the coffee. 


For example, coffee beans grown at high altitudes often have brighter, more complex flavors, while beans grown at lower altitudes are more mellow and balanced.

BEST BREWING METHODS FOR EACH COFFEE ROAST TYPE

espresso roast brewing in two dark brown cups.

BEST BREWING METHOD FOR LIGHT AND MEDIUM ROASTS

Light roasts tend to do well with methods requiring longer extraction time, like a French press or drip coffee.


This is because the light roast beans haven’t been roasted for as long, so they haven’t developed as many of the oils and compounds that can make coffee taste bitter.


BEST BREWING METHOD FOR DARK ROAST

Dark roasts are often better suited for shorter extraction methods, like espresso drinks. 


Since the longer roast time brings out more of the darker flavors and compounds in the beans, which can make coffee taste burnt or harsh if extracted for too long.


CONCLUSION

spirit animal coffee medium roast coffee beans poured from its 12 ounce bag into a single serve coffee bag


Different coffee drinkers prefer different roast profiles. If you’re looking for a light roast, we have several to choose from. 


Our medium roasts are perfect for those who like a little more flavor to their coffee. 


And if you love the deep, chocolatey flavors, there is a sumptuous Yellow Catuai waiting for you, too. 


So what are you waiting for? Try our different coffees today and find your favorite roast profile.

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Tasting set 3-pack

Why choose? Try them all with a special 30% off.

$59.00

ADD CODE LRDRC30 AT CHECKOUT TO GET 30% OFF

Bruno B

CMO @ Spirit Animal Coffee. Current learning project: Spanish.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

ON LIGHT VS DARK ROAST COFFEE

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Why Are Light and Dark Roasts of Coffee Different?

The main difference between light and dark roast coffees is the roasting time. 


Light roasts are roasted for a shorter period of time than dark roasts. This means that light roast coffees will have more caffeine than dark roast coffees. 


Dark roast coffee beans will also have a more intense flavor since the longer roasting time allows for more caramelization of the coffee beans.

Does a Light Roast Have More Acidity or Less Acidity Than a Dark Roast?

The level of acidity in coffee is determined by a number of factors, including the type of bean, the roasting process, and the brewing method. In general, light roast coffees have more acidity than dark roast coffees. Light roasts are roasted for a shorter period of time, which helps to preserve some of the coffee’s natural acids. 


However, it is essential to note that the brewing method can also affect the level of acidity in coffee. For example, espresso has a higher acidity than drip coffee because it is brewed under pressure, which extracts more acids from the coffee beans. 


Ultimately, the best way to determine the level of acidity in coffee is to try it yourself. Different people perceive acidity differently, so what tastes acidic to one person may not taste as acidic to another.


Which Roast Has More Caffeine?

The “stronger” taste you feel in dark roast has nothing to do with caffeine. Zilch. 


In fact, a 2017 study published in South Korea’s Journal of Medicinal Food confirmed that caffeine doesn’t vary with roast level. In short, a light roast will get you all the health benefits of CGAs, and reduce the risk of consuming PHAs—all the while giving you the same caffeine kick as a poor, charred dark roast.


Why Do Some Roasts Taste Bitter?

When you roast coffee, the beans release certain oils and chemicals. Some of these compounds can have a bitter taste. 


The longer you roast the beans, the more of these bitter compounds are released. 


So, if your coffee is tasting bitter, it may be because it was roasted for a longer time.

Why Do Some Roasts Taste Sweet?

A roast can taste sweet because of the caramelization process that occurs as the meat cooks. 


Caramelization is a Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that results in the creation of hundreds of flavor compounds. 


These compounds are what give roasted meats their characteristic flavor and sweetness.

Why Too Dark of a Roast is Bad for You?

Many people believe that dark roast coffee is stronger and more flavorful than light roast. However, the roasting process actually has an impact on the caffeine content of the beans. The longer the beans are roasted, the more caffeine is burned off. 


So, while dark roast coffee may have a bolder flavor, it actually contains less caffeine than light roast coffee. 


In addition, dark roast coffee is more likely to be bitter and acidic. This is because the roasting process breaks down some of the compounds in the beans, resulting in a less balanced flavor. 


So, if you’re looking for a coffee that is both strong and flavorful, you may want to stick with light or medium roasts.