There are three levels of coffee roasts which are light, medium and dark. However, there are further divisions
within these three categories. Factors to take into account when assessing the level of the roast are the color of
the roasted beans, whether the color is even or unevenly distributed, the weight of the beans, crevice development,
whether the surface of the bean is dry or oily, brittleness and the aroma.
Light or Pale Roast
This is sometimes also referred to as a cinnamon roast, which is a little confusing because the name bears no
relation to flavoring. The reference is to the light brown color of the lightly roasted coffee beans. The lighter roast is usually used for milder beans and
allows them to release their delicate flavors and aromas.
Medium Coffee Roasts
These are also referred to as a medium high or American roast, which are a general purpose roast. This roast
produces a stronger, richer flavor, and can be sweeter. A city roast is taken a step further, and oils may begin to
appear on the surface of the bean. Chaff at the crevice will have separated from the bean, and the roast darkens.
These beans develop a rich aroma. A full city roast or high roast produces a deep and hearty brew.
Dark Coffee Roasts
Also referred to as double, continental or French roasts, and are at the top end of the scale, as Italian or
espresso roasts. The surface of the bean is likely to be distinctly oily and the coffee will be strong and more
bitter. The Italian roast is almost black and brittle, and should be finely ground for espresso machines. Dark
roasted coffee is usually best drunk as black coffee.
A milder roast brings out the subtle flavors in a coffee, which get masked by the smoky influence that develops
in the flavors of darker roasts. There is a fine line to be judged by the roaster, because under-roasting leads to
tart and weak coffee. Milder beans must be roasted just well enough to bring out their flavors but not over-done so
as to lose the delicate flavors of their aromatic components. Sometimes cheaper beans are dark roasted to conceal
their lower quality.
Dark roasting for stronger coffee beans achieves the strength required for espresso coffees, but should not be
taken too far, so that the beans develop a burnt taste.
The roaster has an important judgement to exercise to decide on the right roast to make the best of the
characteristics of each coffee. A few moments can make the difference between categories of roast. Trial and error
is often necessary to arrive at the best roast for each coffee.