The Real Difference Between Light, Medium, And Dark Roast Coffee

Unless you're a coffee sommelier, coffee can be kind of confusing. Light roast, dark roast, French roast, beef roast, er, strike that last one. Is there a difference among all of the many coffee roast varieties? Does it make a difference in the way a cup of coffee tastes? That's all we really care about, after all. According to Java Presse, all coffee beans have roughly the same amount of caffeine, regardless of the level of their roast. But, you've probably heard that the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine. See, coffee is confusing! Let's break it down.

According to Kicking Horse Coffee, coffee beans, when compared to one another, have the same caffeine. However, beans lose water (i.e., mass) during roasting. Hence, the darker the roast, the less mass beans will have. Kicking Horse explains that if you measure your coffee by the scoop, light roast coffee will have more caffeine. But, if you weigh your coffee, dark roast will have more caffeine, due to less mass. Bottom line: There's a variance in the caffeine levels between light and dark roasts, which depends on how you, or your favorite coffee shop, measures the coffee.

What's the taste difference between light, medium, and dark roast coffee?

Interestingly, a fresh, green, coffee bean does not taste like coffee at all. It actually smells like grass and feels like a sponge if you try to bite it (via National Coffee Association of U.S.A). The aroma and flavors of coffee are revealed during the roasting process, according to Coffee Channel. Light roast coffee beans are roasted to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, while medium roast coffee beans reach an internal temperature of 400 to 430 degrees. Dark roast coffee beans are pushed between 430 and 450 degrees. Anything beyond that, and you're left with beyond-dark, burnt coffee beans that have a taste reminiscent of charcoal, according to Java Presse.

You'll sometimes taste notes of citrus in light roast coffee beans, which can be pleasing...or not. Medium roast coffees are preferred by most coffee drinkers in the U.S., according to the National Coffee Association. Medium roast beans are slightly sweeter than light roasts and offer more balanced flavor and acidity. Dark roast coffee will sometimes hint of chocolate or toasted pine, according to Prima Donna Life. And, while some companies try to hide subpar beans through dark roasting, many coffee roasters are most interested in revealing the bold, intense flavors and aromas of a dark roast.