Roasting is a vital step that brings out the delicious flavors stored in your coffee beans. Find out how each Roast Level affects the taste of your favorite beverage.

This article is part of our series on Coffee Labels. If you haven’t caught on yet, check out our other articles in the series:

What is Roast Level?

Roast level refers to the degree to which your coffee beans have been roasted.

Before roasting, green coffee beans have a fresh “grassy” smell with little or no taste.

Coffee roasting transforms these tasteless beans into the aromatic and flavorful beans that we recognize as coffee.

In this article, we will take you through each roast level and highlight how they can affect your coffee’s taste profile.

You might also like: Stages of Coffee Production: The Journey from Seed to Cup.

Light Roast

  • Color: Light Brown
  • Surface Dry
  • Agtron: 80 to 70
  • Other names: Light | Cinnamon | Half City | New England
  • Roast profile: Usually roasted to the internal temperature of 180°C – 205°C, just before the “first crack”

Taste Profile

Light roasts preserve most of the origin’s flavor and quality of the coffee, because the process of caramelization has just started when roasting is stopped.

This may translate to an amazing coffee experience for high-quality beans. Conversely, defective notes can also be more apparent with low-quality beans.

Check out: All Light Roasted Coffees

Medium Roast

  • Color: Medium Brown
  • Surface: Dry
  • Agtron: 70 to 50
  • Other names: Medium | Regular | City | American
  • Roast profile: Usually roasted to the internal temperature of 210°C – 220°C, at the end of “first crack” and just before the “second crack”

Taste Profile

As the process of caramelization develops further from light to medium roast, the coffee exhibits a more balanced aroma, flavor, and acidity.

Medium-roasted coffees are commonly used in cupping protocols for specialty coffees to determine the different flavor qualities due to their balanced characteristics.

Check out: All Medium Roasted Coffees

Medium-Dark Roast

  • Color: Medium Dark Brown
  • Surface: Patches of oil
  • Agtron: 50 to 40
  • Other names: Medium-Dark | Full-city | Viennese
  • Roast profile: Usually roasted to the internal temperature of 225°C – 230°C, at the beginning or middle of the “second crack”

Taste Profile

Pushing into medium-dark roast, acidity begins to mute with a concurrent increase in roasty flavor.

Medium-dark roasted coffee generally pairs well with milk due to its pronounced roasty flavor with thick mouth-feel.

Check out: All Medium-Dark Roasted Coffees

Dark Roast

  • Color: Dark Brown
  • Surface: Shiny surface
  • Agtron: 40 to 35
  • Other names: Dark | Espresso | Full-City+ | French | Italian
  • Roast profile: Usually roasted to the internal temperature of 240°C, at about the end of “second crack”

Taste Profile

Minimal acidity and origin’s flavor. Roast note and bitter flavor dominates. Mouth-feel slightly reduced compared to medium-dark roast.

A dark roasted coffee should not be mistaken for a burnt coffee. A good dark-roast can reveal the bittersweet notes of chocolate without the smoky and ashy taste of burnt coffee.

Check out: All Dark Roasted Coffees

Summary

Knowing how each Roast Level affects your coffee is a vital first step in your journey into the world of specialty coffee.

However, do take note that one Roaster’s definition of a Roast Level may be very different from another Roaster’s due to the differing standards.

As such, Roast Level should only serve as a guide to help you decide the range of coffees that fit your preferences.

Once you have identified the Roast Level that you prefer, you can then move on to explore other Coffee Labels.