Getting to Know the Differences Between Roasts: A Primer
There was once a very famous French chef. He rose to popularity and opened his own restaurant in Paris. Dishes were served that were so delicious, people couldn’t wait to eat there again. With the years, though, he decided to retire. He was well prepared: he wrote detailed ingredient lists and instructions and hired some of the most promising cooks in Paris. He retired and, in less than a year, the restaurant lost almost half its business. People said it wasn’t the same anymore.
You see; it’s all about the chef. You could have the best ingredients in the world and still come up with a thoroughly unpalatable dish.
This is particularly true when it comes to coffee: it’s quite complicated to study coffee beans as they cook, so we are still not completely sure what happens and what the “correct” way to roast them is. Roasting is an art, and your best bet is to trust is the roast master’s experience and instincts.
Quality roasting can mean the difference between a mediocre cup of coffee and a coffee that instantly puts you in a better mood.
In this article, we’ll go over four different types of roasts— how they are achieved, what their flavor profile is, and how to better take advantage of each.
#1 Light or Blonde Roast
To start with, we have the mildest type of roast. The light roast has recently been re-branded and re-packed as “blonde”, but it’s the same type of roast. It also goes by the name half city.
In appearance, the beans are a light brown color, akin to that of cinnamon. They tend to be bigger in size than darker roasts, too, and the surface looks dry and smooth.
What makes this roast -the blonde roast- popular is the lack of bitterness in the cup. By cutting the roast short, we avoid creating bitter flavors and retain the more natural flavors of the coffee bean— these are typically fruit-like and floral hints.
To sum it up, light roasts are:
● Lack bitterness
● Fruity and floral
#2 Medium or Breakfast Roast
Despite being a mere one or two shades darker than the light roast, there is a big difference between the two. The breakfast roast offers a rich “roasted” flavor, which is usually absent in lighter roasts and overshadowed in darker roasts.
While the term “breakfast roast” might mean different things depending on the country and the roaster, it’s usually a medium roast, otherwise known as full city roast.
In terms of flavor, breakfast roasts are characteristically savory, which is why they are ideal for drinking black, without milk or creamer. Here you’ll find a mild bittersweetness combined with caramel and cocoa flavor and aroma.
To sum it up, breakfast roasts’ characteristics are:
● Bittersweet and aromatic
● Caramel and cocoa hints
#3 Espresso Roasts
Before coming to the obvious dark roast, it is important to talk about the espresso roast. Now, espresso is a very different type of coffee— it brews for a very short period of time compared to other brewing methods.
This is a high risk for under extraction. Basically, it means undercooking your coffee, and it makes it taste very acidic… something that is almost unbearable in a drink so concentrated as the espresso. Therefore, we have the espresso roast: dark, but not like your typical dark roast.
Instead of simply roasting for longer than the medium roast, espresso roasts are roasted for even longer but the temperature is adjusted. This gives the espresso beans a very balanced flavor and reduces the risks of high acidity in the cup.
Espresso roasts highlight different things depending on the blend. You’ll find it reduces acidity and highlights flavors such as caramel and cinnamon— but again, the highlighted flavor depends on the beans used. This roast is designed to bring out the taste within the bean.
To sum it up, espresso roasts’ characteristics are:
● Longer roasts, lower temperatures
● Reduces acidity
● Highlights flavor notes inherent to the bean
#4 Italian or Dark Roasts
Slightly darker than the espresso roast, we come to the Italian, or dark roast. Beans are now more black than brown. The roast has taken all of the bean’s natural oils out of the inside and can be seen as a shiny layer at the surface of the bean, making them look extra tasty.
These oils are what hold most of the compounds that give coffee beans their flavor (which are, incidentally, more than 500) and the fact that they are on the outside means that the flavor of our coffee is gonna be very, very rich.
However, dark roasts tend to kill acidity, which usually balances out bitterness in coffee. So you get a cup full of flavor and aroma, but quite bitter. But once you get past the bitterness you’ll perceive exquisite flavors that you wouldn’t get to with other roasts. Dark roasts are smoky and tend to have hints of wood, nuts, and dark caramel.
To sum it up, dark roasts’ characteristics are:
● Black, oily beans
● Almost no acidity, yet a lot of bitterness
● Hints of flavors such as wood, nuts, and dark caramel
While there are more roasts out there, these are the basic ones that will help you find your way through the world of roasts. This information alone will enable you to choose a coffee that you know you will enjoy from our shop— not making blind guesses. Although we do recommend going out of your comfort zone once in a while. You might just surprise yourself and find a new favorite roast!