January 12, 2020 6 min read

Light Roast Coffee Versus Dark Roast Coffee

Coffee Roasting Light Roast Versus Dark Roast

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and it comes in a variety of roasts. Light roast and dark roast are two of the most common, and they have distinct characteristics and flavors.

Light Roast Coffee

Light roast coffee is roasted for a shorter period and at a lower temperature than dark roast coffee. This results in beans that are light brown in color and have a dry surface. Light roast coffee has a more delicate flavor than dark roast coffee, with notes of fruit, acidity, and sweetness. It also has a higher caffeine content than dark roast coffee.

Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roast coffee is roasted for a longer period and at a higher temperature than light roast coffee. This results in beans that are dark brown in color and have a shiny, oily surface. Dark roast coffee has a bolder flavor than light roast coffee, with notes of chocolate, caramel, and smoke. It also has a lower caffeine content than light roast coffee.

Which Coffee Roast is Right for You?

The best roast for you depends on your personal preferences. If you enjoy a delicate, flavorful coffee with a high caffeine content, then light roast coffee is a good choice. If you prefer a bolder more intense coffee with a lower caffeine content, then dark roast coffee is a good choice.

Ultimately, the best way to decide which roast is right for you is to try both and see which one you prefer.

Here are some additional tips for choosing the right coffee roast for you:

  • Consider the time of day you typically drink coffee. If you drink coffee in the morning, you may prefer a light roast with a higher caffeine content. If you drink coffee later in the day, you may prefer a dark roast with a lower caffeine content.
  • Consider your personal taste preferences. Do you prefer a delicate, flavorful coffee or a bolder, more intense coffee?
  • Experiment with different roasts to find the one you like best. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a roast, so it is important to find the one that you enjoy the most.

If roasted properly, every coffee has its own distinct flavor profile. While some coffees may taste and smell fruity, others may have a strong nutty taste to them. The reasoning behind such diversity has to do with where the coffee is grown and how the coffee bean is roasted. The three main ways coffee beans are roasted are light roast, medium roast, and dark roast.

How to Describe Light Roast Coffee Versus Dark Roast Coffee

The most common way to describe coffee roast levels is by the color of the roasted coffee beans, ranging from light to dark (or extra dark). However, coffee beans vary from country of origin so color is not an especially accurate way of judging a coffee roast. Before roasting the coffee, the green coffee beans are soft, with a fresh grassy earthy smell or fruity smell. The Master Coffee Roaster uses different roasts for different coffee beans for many reasons, and a lot goes on in the transformation from light to medium to dark. The coffee roasting process transforms these raw green coffee beans into the distinctively aromatic, flavorful, crunchy beans that we recognize as roasted coffee.

Other factors, of course, enter into the complex equation that determines your coffee’s taste; coffee bean origin, age of the coffee, processing method, and so on, but having a basic understanding of the coffee roast will give you an idea of what type of flavor profile to expect.


The light roasted coffee bean receives less heat than a dark roasted coffee bean. Light roasted coffee beans generally reach an internal temperature of 180°C – 205°C (356°F – 401°F). They are light brown, tan, in color, with a light body and no oil on the surface because the beans have not been roasted long enough for the natural oils to break through to the surface.

When the temperature gets close to 205°C, the green coffee beans pop or crack and expand in size. This is known as the “first crack” (for the “second crack,” see below). So, a light coffee roast generally means a coffee bean that has not been roasted beyond the first crack.




Light roasted coffee beans also contain higher levels of caffeine, due to a larger retention rate of moisture. The more moisture they contain the denser they become, allowing them to have the highest acidity and brightness of the three roast levels.

The characteristics of different coffee origins are most pronounced in light coffee roasts, as are the qualities of the individual coffee. If a goal is to highlight a specific bean, then this is where a lighter coffee roast makes the most sense, because it accentuates the unique qualities of the coffee, and you’ll be able to taste floral notes, strong berry flavors, clove or chocolate. Often coffees that are light roasted don’t taste balanced (meaning equal amounts of body, acidity, and fruitiness) because light roasted coffee can taste extreme. "Too much citrus." "Too much floral." Lighter roasts may require some adventurous coffee drinking and not what we would recommend. 


Medium roast coffee starts from the end of the first crack to just the beginning of the second crack. Internal temperatures reach between 210°C – 220°C (410°F – 428°F). The medium roast coffee is the most common coffee roast being served in the United States. Medium roasted coffee is a compromise that often brings out the best flavors in coffees that have begun caramelization but have no chocolatey darkness to the roasted coffee bean. 

Medium roasted coffee contains a balance of the coffee beans' natural flavor without much acidity. You will still be able to taste the original flavor profile of the coffee bean origin, however, the coffee beans' brightness will be complemented with the fuller body that is introduced through the roasting process. Medium roasted coffee lacks the grainy bitter acidity taste of the light roasts, exhibiting a more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity. Medium roasted coffee beans also share in the dry and non-oily texture of the light roast.


Medium-dark roasted coffee beans are heated to a temperature of between (437°F – 446°F) from the beginning or middle of the second crack. The rich flavors and aromas of the coffee roasting process become more noticeable, and the taste and flavor profile of the coffee may be somewhat spicy.

Coffee beans roasted to medium-dark roast have a light coating of oil and a rich deep brown color. A medium-dark roasted coffee bean has a richer body in comparison with the lighter or medium roasted coffees. The medium-dark roasted coffee beans are characterized by a heavier body than the lighter roasts and caramel flavor with muted acidity.  


Properly roasted delicious Dark Roasted Coffee Beans reach an internal temperature of (465°F – 485°F). They are heated to the end of the second crack and beyond. Oils can be seen on the surface of the beans, which are now dark brown in color, sometimes almost black. The level of oil correlates to how far the coffee bean is taken past the second crack.

This dark roasted coffee bean contains the least caffeine; however, dark roasted coffee will give you the most amazing flavors, bold bodies, richer taste, and smooth darkness. The overall taste profile meets near chocolaty darkness. Some common roast names for dark roasted coffee are French Roast, Full City, Italian, Viennese, French, Continental, New Orleans, European and Espresso.

Light roasted coffee is fruitier, bright acidity almost tart flavor. Dark roasted coffee is bolder with stronger more smoky aromas and chocolate finishes. Depending on the origin or blending of the coffees by the Master Coffee Roaster each roast is unique and brings with it many wonderful flavors.  

When buying coffee instead of ordering by looking at the coffee roast as a color, coffee drinkers must think about their favorite flavor profiles, such as full-bodied, rich, nutty, crisp or bright, and learn about the Master Coffee Roaster behind the coffee.  There is a big difference buying coffee from a trained Master Coffee Roaster with forty-four years’ experience who actually stands at a coffee roasting machine and controls your coffee beans as they roast into perfection, then buying a mass-produced coffee product from a huge conglomerate.

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The Difference Between Light Roast and Dark Roast Coffee