One of the unique things about coffee is that a single coffee bean can taste very different depending on how it is roasted and brewed. Let’s explore how roasting coffee beans to various levels will produce different characteristics, especially in terms of light roasts. Light roasts can taste totally different to dark roasts when you brew them, even if you have used the exact same coffee beans.
Before diving deeper into the characteristics of light roast coffee vs dark roast coffee, it’s important to understand the coffee beans’ journey from bean to cup. The humble coffee cherry will go through multiple transformations before it is ready to grind, brew, and extract the coffee from to make your drink. The roasting process is an essential part of the process, during which the coffee bean is transformed from a green, raw bean to the brown, roasted coffee bean that we all know.
How Roasting Impacts Coffee Beans
During the roasting process, the coffee beans will undergo a range of chemical changes through the absorbs the heat. The pressure inside the bean will increase, eventually leading to it crack. Once the first crack occurs, the bean will absorb more energy until the second crack occurs. At the first crack, a coffee bean is considered to be lightly roasted. Dark roast refers to beans that have been roasted to the second crack, and a medium roast is somewhere between the two.
What is Light Roast?
A light roast refers to coffee beans that are roasted until their internal temperature reaches between 355-400 degrees Fahrenheit. They are generally pale brown in color and will be roasted until they begin cracking. Light roasts are not at all oily unlike other roast types and will be roasted to a point where they just start cracking.
In comparison with other roast levels, light roasts also tend to have a higher acidity level since they are the closest to the green coffee bean, which also gives them more complex flavors making the best smooth coffee. If you are looking for a coffee that has more floral and fruity notes, a lighter roast will be the best choice for you. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, it is worth bearing the higher acidity levels in mind as light roast coffee can cause stomach upset in some.
The shorter roasting time when preparing the best blonde roast coffee means that there is less time for the sugar in the coffee beans to caramelize, which leads to a fruitier and milder flavor. When you brew a light roast, you can taste more of the sugar, which makes the coffee less bitter.
How Much Acid is in Light Roast Coffee?
Although coffee might not be something you think of straight away when you consider acidic liquids, all coffee contains acid, produced by a chemical reaction during the process. Light coffee grounds retain more acidity compared to darker roasts, although all coffee beans contain the same level of acidity naturally.
The taste of coffee is a result of the acidity. Too acidic, and the coffee might be too sour to drink. On the other hand, without enough acidity, the coffee may have a flat taste to it. There are several factors that impact the acidity in the coffee regardless of how it is roasted, including the origin of the beans, particularly the soil composition, and the climate where the beans are grown, with cooler temperatures allowing the bean to ripen more slowly, producing more complex flavors.
Light Roast Vs Dark Roast
On the other hand, a dark roast refers to coffee beans that have been roasted for longer, usually until they reach an internal temperature of more than 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will usually be achieved when the beans have gone through both the first and second crack. Any roast that has been roasted to more than 450 degrees F will be considered to be a dark roast, although some roasters do go even higher. The industry standard for the maximum temperature for roasting coffee beans is 482 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is often used for Turkish and French roasts, which are at the higher end of the roasting spectrum and have beans that are almost charred.
During the roasting process, dark roasts are exposed to so much heat that the oil inside the beans is extracted to the outside, resulting in the bean getting an oily sheen on the surface. In terms of caffeine, there is around the same or a similar amount of caffeine in dark roasted beans compared to other roast types. However, since the beans are smaller after being roasted to such a high temperature, there will be a difference in caffeine levels if you measure in volume compared to the same volume of other roasts.
Compared to light roasts, dark roasts don’t have the floral flavors. Instead, you can expect earthier, bolder notes of flavor such as nuts and dark chocolate. Dark roasts are best used for espresso or French press, which are two brewing processes that really bring these flavors out.
Best Ways to Brew Light Roast Coffee
The best light roast coffee is quickly becoming the most popular choice of coffee for coffee lovers around the world. With its complex flavor profiles and delicacy, the key to preparing the perfect light roast brew is in the quality of the beans and the temperature that they were roasted to. To make a light roast coffee, you will need ground, lightly roasted coffee beans, hot water, paper filters, and a pour-over coffee pot or container. Place a filter into the container, pour in your coffee grounds, and swirl the hot water over the top before leaving the coffee to brew for around 3-5 minutes before pouring into a cup.
What Affects the Taste of Light Roast Coffee?
When brewing light roast coffee, there are a few different factors that can have an effect on the overall taste of your brew. These include:
Coffee Filter: The type and placement of your filter can impact the taste of your final brew. Be sure to always place your filter in the funnel, and if you are using a reusable filter, make sure that it is rinsed with hot water before brewing to wash away and residue.
Grind Size: Lightly roasted coffee beans are not as porous compared to other roasts, which can make it harder for the water to extract certain compounds throughout the brewing process. Because of this, fine coffee grounds tend to be the best choice for lightly roasted coffee beans. The finer the grinder, the faster the flavor will be released into your brew.
Coffee to Water Ratio: While the ratio of coffee to water can be adjusted to your preferences, the general rule for a cup of coffee is 21g of coffee grounds to 320g or 11oz of water to get the brew just right.
Water Temperature: When brewing light roast coffee beans, the most suitable water temperature to use is 203 degrees Fahrenheit. However, since lightly roasted beans have a very vibrant flavor, they can be brewed at different temperatures to get different results. For the tastiest coffee, be sure to only use clean, filtered water for brewing.
Brewing Time: The length of time that the grinds are brewed for will also affect the coffee extraction and the flavor. If you’re brewing a pot of filter coffee, around six minutes is a good time, while espresso typically takes around 25-30 seconds.
Coffee Bean Freshness: How fresh your coffee beans are will impact the flavor of your coffee. To get the best-tasting coffee, you should always use the best light roast coffee beans that are freshly ground. This is because as the coffee ages, it will oxidize, altering the flavor. It’s a good idea to invest in a burr grinder so that you can grind your lightly roasted coffee beans on demand at home.
Brewing the Best Cup of Coffee With a Light Roast
The best methods to use when brewing a lightly roasted coffee are the pour-over or hand-drip method. It is the most cost-effective way to brew a tasty cup of coffee and is simple to execute, using a standard container to pour the water over coffee grounds. To use this method, first heat the water to boiling point and fold a paper coffee filter into a cone. Place the cone into your coffee maker and use clean water to get it wet. Then, place your coffee grounds into the filter before pouring the hot water over the grounds in a spiral motion until the water has seeped through them evenly. Leave the coffee for around three to five minutes to brew, before enjoying in your favorite mug.
Lightly roasted coffee refers to coffee beans that are roasted for a shorter period of time and to a lower temperature, just until the first crack appears.