A Guide to Coffee Roasts

A Guide to Coffee Roasts

Coffee Roast Guide

Coffee Roasting is a heat process that turns coffee beans into the fragrant, dark brown coffee that we know and love.

Why roast?

Roasting coffee beans brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans. Unroasted Coffee beans are stored green, a state in which they can be kept without loss of quality or taste.  A green bean has none of the characteristics of a roasted bean -- it is soft and spongy to the bite and smells grassy. 

Roasting causes chemical changes to take place as the coffee beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures. The first step in this process is called the first crack. Depending on the roasted coffee desired, the time and temperature will change with each roast.  Coffee that is Dark Roast will require a higher temperature and more time.  Each roast level is different depending on if you want a dark, medium- dark, medium, medium-light or light roast coffee.  When the coffee bean reaches the peak of perfection, the coffee beans are quickly cooled to stop the process. Roasted  the coffee smells like coffee, and weighs less because the moisture has been roasted out. They are crunchy to the bite, ready to be ground and brewed.


Roasters are artisans that need to keep track of the internal temperature and roast level as they Roast Coffee. Depending on the flavor profile they are trying to achieve 

Two main types of coffee, Arabica and Robusta will have different moisture contents that lead to differences in the roasted coffee process.  

Once roasted, however, they should be used as quickly as possible before the fresh roast flavor begins to diminish.

Roasting is both an art and a science

It takes years of training to become an expert roaster with the ability to “read” the beans and make decisions with split-second timing. The difference between perfectly roasted coffee and a ruined batch can be a matter of seconds.  Roasters need to identify when the first crack occurs and time the coffee if it is a light/medium roast level to cool it down before the second crack.  

While many coffee companies just dark roast all of their coffee, it takes a true artist to bring out the flavor potential of the coffee bean.  You can see the difference when you look at a Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee and see the consistency of the roast without any burnt marks. 

Coffee Roast Levels

Roasted Coffee Beans


Most roasters have specialized names for their favored roasts and there is very little industry standardization. This can cause some confusion when you’re buying, but in general, roasts fall into one of four color categories — light roast, medium roast, medium-dark roast and Dark Roast Coffee.  

Many consumers assume that the strong, rich flavor of darker roasts indicates a higher level of caffeine, but the truth is that light there is no significant difference in caffeine content between roasts.

The perfect Coffee Roasts are a personal choice that is sometimes influenced by national preference or geographic location. Within the four color categories, you are likely to find common roasts as listed below. It’s a good idea to ask before you buy. There can be a world of difference between roasts.

Light roasts

Light brown in color, these coffee roasts are generally preferred for milder coffee varieties. There will be no oil on the surface of these beans because they are not roasted long enough for the oils to break through to the surface.

  • Light City 
  • Half City 
  • Cinnamon 

Medium roasts

These coffee roasts are medium brown in color with a stronger flavor and a non-oily surface. It’s often referred to as the American roast because it is generally preferred in the United States.

  • City R
  • American 
  • Breakfast 

Medium-dark roasts

Similar to Dark Roasted Coffee Beans have a rich, dark color, this roast has some oil on the surface and with a slight bittersweet aftertaste. You may have heard 

  • Full City

Dark roasts

These coffee roasts produces shiny black beans with an oily surface and a pronounced bitterness. In dark coffee roasts, less acidity will be found in the coffee beverage.  Dark coffee roasts run from slightly dark to charred, and the names are often used interchangeably — be sure to check your beans before you buy them!

  • High 
  • Continental 
  • New Orleans
  • European 
  • Espresso 
  • Viennese 
  • Italian 
  • French Roast

Common Questions:

1) Does dark roasted coffee have more caffeine than light roasted coffee? The caffeine content of both dark roast coffee beans and light roast coffee is not a significant difference so there is virtually not difference in the caffeine content. Caffeine does not roast out of the bean as was a very popular misconception.

2) Do a K-cup use the same coffee as bags of coffee? Some K-cup manufacturers use a freeze dried coffee but we only use our 100% Arabica Specialty coffee in our cups.

3) Are all Coffee Roasters using the same methods? There are a great variety of different Coffee Roasting methods ranging from Small Batch Roasts to an almost automatic process. We take great pride in our trademarked Right Roast method of roasting coffee.

4) Do all Dark Roasted Coffee Beans taste the same way? No, Sumatra dark roasted will have a different flavor profile than a Kenya coffee. The roast level will affect the coffee but the origin of the coffee affects it as well. The brew method will also make a difference. If you are using a pour-over method such as a Chemex it will be different than a traditional brew method or by using an Aeropress.