Medium roast vs dark roast, that is the question. If you are a coffee aficionado – and let’s face it, if you are reading this you probably are – there is a good chance that you are on a never-ending quest to find the perfect coffee roast that is going to simultaneously appeal to your taste buds and provide you with that all-important caffeine kick.
Identifying which type of coffee bean roast works best for you can make the entire difference between you relishing your morning cup of coffee and simply chugging it down without even really tasting or enjoying it.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between light, medium and dark coffee roasts. If you have any particular questions about medium and dark roast coffees such as which one is stronger and which one has the most health benefits, you’ll find the answers you are looking for here as well.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
It’s all about how the coffee beans are roasted
Every cup of coffee starts with the coffee beans, but all coffee beans are not created equal. Numerous different factors impact how the beans taste. These factors include place of origin, weather conditions as the plants were grown and harvested, and how the beans are roasted.
Coffee beans are not actually beans, but are rather the seeds of the red or purple Coffea plant which is grown in many different locations around the world, including Africa and Mexico. Where the coffee beans are grown plays a key role in determining their taste, but how they are roasted carries at least as much weight as where they were grown. Only some types of roasts preserve much if the beans’ characteristic regional flavour, while other forms of roasts result in a much more generic coffee drinking experience. More on this in a moment.
Whether a roast turns out light, medium or dark depends on how long the raw coffee beans are roasted for.
There are a million different ways or roasting coffee, but they can all be divided roughly into light medium and dark. Each of these three types of roasts has its own flavorful characteristics. Let us take a closer look, starting with lght roast coffee.
Light roast coffee
Light roast highlights: Crisp, high in acidity, mellow body, smooth mouth feel, fruity and floral notes, retains much of the original bean flavour.
Light roast coffee blends are fast becoming more popular among coffee connoisseurs. The reasons are obvious, when you look at them.
The primary raison d’être for light roast coffee is to preserve the unique characteristics of the bean. This is particularly important if the coffee beans are of the highest quality, where you want to preserve as much of the original and characteristic flavour as possible. It is for this reason that you mostly only encounter light roast coffee in artisan coffee shops and specialty coffee stores.
A light coffee roast is achieved when the beans are only roasted very lightly, resulting in a light brown color and no oil being left on the surface of the beans.
Another key characteristic of light roast coffee blends is that they are higher in acidity than their medium or darker counterparts. This is because the more you roast the beans, the more of their acidity evaporates.
In addition to their characteristic pale brown color, light roast coffee blends are recognizable by their fine tastes, which tend to be light, bright and fruity. Light blends also tend to carry much of the essence of where the bean was grown.
Of course, not all light roast coffee blends are created equal. You’ll be able to spot a bad light roast if your coffee tastes weak and grassy.
Popular light roasts include cinnamon roast and light city roast.
Medium roast coffee
Medium roast highlights: The perfect marriage between lighter and darker roasts, full-bodied, smooth and mellow taste, less acidity.
A medium roast is achieved when the beans are roasted for longer than when creating a light roast, but for a shorter amount of time than what is required to achieve a dark roast.
Medium roast coffee is the most common and most roast, as it strikes the perfect truce between its lighter and darker counterparts. It doesn’t matter whether you are at the coffee shop, visiting your mother or picking up a bag of coffee at the grocery store – nine times out of ten, you are going to end up with a medium roast coffee.
Medium roasts are a marriage between light and dark roasts in more ways than one. With medium roasts you still get to retain some of the fine flavour that characterises the light roast, while achieving less acidity and a slightly sweeter, more caramelly and nutty flavor.
Most people like medium roasts, since they preserve just enough of the characteristics of the coffee’s origins to be interesting, while also being low in acidity and having that well-known, full-bodied coffee flavour and moutfh feel.
All in all, medium roast coffees are popular for a reason: They are approachable, balanced and easy to love.
Popular medium roasts include American roast, city roast, and regular roast.
Dark roast coffee
Dark roast highlights: Low in acids, high in nuttiness, with notes of chocolate and caramel, can be bitter and lacking in original flavour.
Needless to say, dark roast coffee is achieved by roasting the beans for significantly longer than you would when preparing a light roast, and for a little longer than you would when preparing a medium roast.
Dark roast coffees have a very dark brown color annd an oily surface. Dark coffee blends are characterised by a heavy body, low acidity, and flavors that are deeper and darker than what you get from both medium and light roasts.
With dark roast coffee, you lose much of the origin flavour profile of the particular beans that go into the roast. The trade-off is that you achieve a heavy-bodied, dark nuttiness and draw out chocolatey and caramelly flavors that you simply don’t get from lighter roasts.
Popular dark roasts include full city roast and Vienna roast.
The dividing line between light and dark roast coffee
You might be wondering, and rightly so, where the dividing line goes between medium and dark roast coffee (Or between light and medium for that matter). Where does one end and the other begin?
There is no golden standard that determines what makes for a either a light, dark or medium roast, and so the coffee beans you get from different brands might differ in their definitions of what constitutes a medium or a dark roast. In other words, one the medium roast coffee beans from one brand might be the comparable to the dark roast beans from a different brand. There is no true consensus, convenient as that would be.
Medium roast vs dark roast Q & A
We have gone over the basic differences between light, medium and dark roast coffee beans, but you might still be left with a few lingering questions on your mind. Hopefully, you’ll find the answers you are looking for in this Q & A section.
Which coffee roast is the strongest? Is dark coffee stronger than medium, or is medium roast coffee stronger?
In terms of flavor, darker coffee roasts tend to taste stronger than lighter roasts thanks to their heavy-bodied, darker taste. However, lighter roasts are more acidic, which can also play into whether you would consider a particular roast strong or not.
Which coffee roast has the most caffeine?
Coffee beans lose up to 90% of their water content when they are roasted. It follows that, when it comes to caffeine, light roasts are more dense because they retain more minerals and nutrients, including caffeine.
Which roast of coffee is healthiest?
There are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee, regardless of roast type. Coffee is an important source of antioxidants, polyphenols and various vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium and niacin.
Some of the benefits to drinking coffee on a daily basis include better brain function, improved energy levels and physical performance, faster metabolism, lower risk of type 2 diabetes and potential prevention of cognitive problems such as Alzheimers and dementia.
While any coffee comes with these benefits, there are reasons to believe that light roasts may be higher in these nutrients and benefits than darker roasts, since lighter roasts preserve more of the coffee beans’ original qualities.
Medium roast vs dark roast – final thoughts
You have made it to the end of this article, and have hopefully picked up a whole lot of knew coffee knowledge on the way. At the very least, you now know the difference between light and dark roast coffee, and are better equipped to pick a better tasting, higher quality coffee next time you visit your favorite coffee shop or pick up a bag of coffee beans online or in your local supermarket.
Most likely, you have also discovered why it is that you intrinsically like some types of coffee more than others. It doesn’t matter whether you are a light, medium or dark roast guy or gal – there is no need to change who you are and what you like. On the other hand, it might be fun to go on a coffee adventure and try a roast type you wouldn’t normally pick.