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Coffee Roasts Explained: The Dark Side or the Light Side?

When it comes to coffee roasts, roastmasters usually give special names to their custom roasts. This results in a lack of industry standardization when it comes the naming, and can lead to a little confusion when you’re standing in the coffee aisle. Especially after the guy in front of you places his very sophisticated coffee order!

There are even some misconceptions regarding caffeine levels in darker roasts being higher, when in fact, the caffeine concentration in lighter roasts is actually higher!


We’re here to help clear up some of that confusion by laying out the differences between each type of roast.

Light Roasts

Light Roasts are light brown in color, and offer milder coffee varieties. The beans have no oil on the surface.

These roasts are commonly known as a Light City, Half City, and Cinnamon Roast. They have a light, fruity smell, which is perfect for drinking black.

Medium Roasts

The coffee brown in color with a stronger flavor is a medium roast. These beans have a non-oily surface. We often call these American Roast because it’s a top choice in the United States.

City Roast and Breakfast Blend, also known as medium dark roasts, are called this because they generally have a good balance of bitterness and acidity.

Medium Dark Roasts

Medium Dark Roasts possess a rich, dark color, slight bittersweet aftertaste, some oil on the surface. They are commonly referred to as a Full City Roast and have a heavy body and bitterness.

Dark Roasts

Dark Roasts range from slightly dark to charred in color, shiny black beans, pronounced bitterness, oily surface. The darker the roast the less acidic the coffee.

Other names for dark roast include High Roast, Continental Roast, New Orleans Roast, European Roast, Espresso, Viennese Roast, Italian Roast, and French Roast. And did you know they’re great for drinking with some milk.

A good cup of coffee is more than just picking the right roast, though. How it’s brewed and the quality of water used to brew it both effect how your coffee tastes.

Need a water filtration system or coffee brewer to get that perfect cup? Head over to our shop page!