If you're looking to get the most energy out of your cup of coffee, you may find yourself asking which coffee roast has the most caffeine. The caffeine in different coffee roasts varies widely and the answer isn't always straightforward.
Roasting is a vital part of what makes coffee what it is. The process of roasting releases the flavor and aroma in the coffee bean and determines its flavor profile, acidity, and even caffeine content. Roasting coffee well takes a lot of patience, practice, and skill which is why it's such an important step in the global coffee production chain.
4 Main Coffee Roast Types
The duration of roasting is what separates the 4 main types of roasted coffee. Each roast type has its own characteristics and caffeine content. Before we dive into which roast has the most caffeine, let’s understand the basics of different roast types.
Light roast coffee is coffee that is roasted uo till just before the first crack. Cracking of the beans happens at high temperatures and there are usually two cracks if you keep applying heat. To make light roast coffee, we stop roasting very early so that we don’t reach the first crack, keeping the internal temperature of the beans at around 400° F. Light roast coffee has a light brown color, no oily residue on the beans, and the flavors are light, floral or fruity, with a sharp acidity.
Medium roast coffee is roasted to the first crack, reaching a temperature around 400-428° F. This gives you a darker brown color, no oil on the beans, and a smoother, balanced flavor. Medium roast coffee is the most popular and most commercial coffees are medium roast. The balanced flavor and lower acidity is great for casual coffee drinkers or those new to specialty coffee. But does medium roast have more caffeine? Not always and this roast often gives you a balanced caffeine content.
Medium-dark coffee roast is roasted just till the second crack or a little longer after it. The beans reach an internal temperature of 437-446°F. Vienna roast is the most recognizable medium-dark roast. Coffee with this roast type has low acidity, a full flavor, a heavy mouthfeel, and slight oiliness on the surface of the beans.
Dark roast coffee is roasted past the second crack till the beans reach a temperature of roughly 464°F. This gives you the darkest color, almost black and the most oiliness on the beans. Dark roast coffee is often referred to as Italian roast or French roast. This roast gives you a burnt, smoky cup that is best for drinks like espresso. Is there less caffeine in dark roast coffee? Surprisingly, yes but not for the reason you think.
Caffeine Content in Different Coffee Roasts
The most common misconception is that darker roasts like French roast has more caffeine content. In reality, it’s more a question of mass and the volume of coffee used.
The longer coffee beans are roasted, the more they expand and lose weight. This means they are less dense. Lighter roasts are denser, so scoop for scoop it has more caffeine because there are more beans in 50g of light roast than in 50g of dark roast. The process of roasting itself doesn’t burn away caffeine, it simply alters the size of the beans which affects the final amount of caffeine in each cup.
A bigger indicator for caffeine content is the type of beans used. There are two main varieties of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is used to make specialty coffee while Robusta is usually reserved for instant coffee and cheaper alternatives. Robusta has almost double the amount of caffeine per bean than Arabica.
Ultimately, it’s not always a question of does dark roast have more caffeine than medium roast or which roast is the best. It depends on your personal taste and the number of beans you use to make your cup. Select a light roast and you have more beans per scoop, giving you more caffeine in your cup. Dark roasts being less dense have fewer beans per scoop and so you get less caffeine after brewing. And if you really want a big caffeine boost, consider Robusta beans. Specialty Robusta coffee is fairly new in the coffee world but worth trying if caffeine is your highest priority.