Coffee is coffee, right? Wrong (apparently). If you’re like us, then you know very little about something of which you drink very much.
It turns out that not all roasts are created equally and there’s a lot of misconception about them. It also turns out that we weren’t entirely sure what a “roast” actually was beyond something that required a split-second decision between ambiguously named coffees at Starbucks. So, we did some research.
Roasting is the heating process that brings out the aroma and flavor we immediately associated with coffee - the longer the roast, the darker the bean and fuller the flavor. And while there's very little industry standardization in the categorization of roasts, there are typically four types: light, medium, medium-dark and dark.
Light Roasts: Typically, light roasts have been roasted at a lower temperature, are light brown and generally milder in flavor and aroma. Also, the beans have not been exposed to high enough temperatures the bring out the oils of the bean, so they are dry to the touch. Light roasts include the variations frequently called Light City, Half City and Cinnamon. They are lighter-bodied, higher in acidity and contain grassy or grainy flavors. These grassy, grainy flavors are referred to as "origin" flavors.
Medium Roast: With a medium roast, the beans are noticeably a little darker, as they've been roasted at a higher temperature. This means the sugars in the bean have been caramelized more and the acidity has been muted, creating a coffee with more body and "roast" flavor. You'll see medium roasts called City, Breakfast and American (because Americans generally prefer medium roasts).
Medium Dark: This roast is richer and darker in color with a slightly bittersweet aftertaste. Typically, it's referred to as Full City.
Dark Roast: In a dark roast, the beans have undergone the highest heat for the longest time, bringing out the oils and flavors. Typically, darker roasts are bold, with strong bittersweet flavors and much less acidity. Take note, the darker the roast, the less acidity. You'll see dark roasts referred to by any of the following: High, Continental, New Orleans, European, Espresso, Viennese, Italian and French.
Initially, we thought that the type of roast determined the caffeination in addition to the flavor. This, however, turns out to be a myth, where the strength of the flavor has encouraged drinkers to believe that the level of caffeination is correlated and thus higher. Instead, the way the coffee is brewed affects the degree of caffeination. And while that's a whole other story, we do know you should reach for a cold-brew when you need the biggest buzz.