You walk into your go-to coffee spot excited to try something new. Maybe today you’ll order something other than the usual vanilla latte to get your morning started. But one look at the complicated menu covered with words like “half city roast” and “continental roast” overwhelms you to the max. Trust me, I’ve been there. Choosing between all these roasts of coffee can be kind of intimidating, and it probably seems unnecessary if you’re just looking for something to keep you awake through lecture. But if you are looking to try something new, here’s a simple guide on the different types of coffee roasts you need to know to expand your horizon of coffee knowledge!
Before we dive in, let’s talk about the roasting process itself and why it’s important. Coffee beans are normally in a green state, and roasting them brings out the coffee aroma and taste in the bean. Roasting is a process in which coffee beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures that causes the oil and moisture from the coffee bean to come out, then the process is stopped abruptly when the beans are quickly cooled, resulting in a crunchy texture that is ready to be brewed. The coffee roasting process can take as little as half a minute to as long as half an hour, depending on the roast. The temperature at which the beans are roasted at also vary from 350°F to 485°F, depending on the level of roast. This process is extremely important to get a diverse range of different caffeine levels and flavors in each batch of coffee beans, which make up all the different choices of coffee we have today.
LIGHT CITY ROAST • HALF CITY ROAST • CINNAMON ROAST
Light roast coffee is light brown in color and is generally associated with milder coffee beverages. Contrary to popular belief, light roasts actually have a slightly higher caffeine level than dark roasts! They are roasted at a lower temperature (350°F – 400°F) compared to the rest, resulting in high acidity levels, which give it an earthy flavor.
CITY ROAST • AMERICAN ROAST • BREAKFAST ROAST
Medium roasts are stronger and browner in color than light roasts because they are roasted in slightly higher temperatures (410°F – 430°F). Since the acidity levels are lower, it brings out the bitterness in the coffee bean and allows for a more balanced flavor.
FULL CITY ROAST • DINNER ROAST • VIENNA ROAST
These roasts are roasted in a higher temperature (about 435°F – 445°F), bringing the oil to the surface of the beans. The beans are a dark brown color and the flavor is bittersweet. Medium-dark roasts have virtually no acidity to them.
FRENCH ROAST • CONTINENTAL ROAST • SPANISH ROAST
Dark roasts roasted in the highest temperatures (465°F – 485°F) have a shiny surface because of all the oil and have the darkest brown color. They also contain the lowest amount of caffeine and taste the most smoky and bitter.
Whether you’re just starting to drink coffee or just looking to add something new to your morning routine, it’s important to know what type of coffee you’re drinking because caffeine levels and coffee flavors depend on which type of coffee roasts you’re buying. There are many other factors that contribute to how it tastes, like the origins of the coffee beans, the processing method and the brewing method, but it’s definitely good to know some basic information about coffee roasts to better plan your day. It’s suggested to start your morning off with a lighter roast, drink a medium roast during lunchtime and end your day with a dark roast paired with dinner. So now that you have this knowledge, be sure to get the full coffee experience, and maybe you’ll appreciate coffee as something more than just a means to get through the day.
Winnie Lam currently serves as the On The Menu Co-Editor. She has been apart of the Nexus since 2017.