Most common types of coffee roasts

One of the first words you learn when becoming acquainted with the rudimentary elements of coffee production is “roast.” If you’re a longtime lover of coffee, you probably already know your favorite roast(s) by heart. But if you’re relatively new to the art of coffee, you might be thinking, what’s the difference: isn’t coffee just coffee?

The truth is, there are many variations of roast profiles, but as a consumer, you’ll typically interact with one of four categories of coffee roasts. When you know what to expect from each type, you can be more confident the next time you order at a cafe or buy your own beans. Perhaps this article will inspire you to try out your new go-to roast (or maybe it will confirm that your tried-and-true favorite is still unrivaled.)

Either way, let’s dive into the world of coffee roasts and take a look at the most common types of roasts. 

What does coffee roasting mean?

Before we dive into the specifics of different coffee roasts, it is important to understand what goes behind the actual roasting process. 

When coffee is initially imported from the origin in which it was grown or produced, the beans are actually rock hard, dried seeds, and greenish gray in color. By rapidly bringing these uncooked seeds/beans to a high temperature and then quickly cooling them down, the roasting process perfectly prepares the beans for grinding and brewing.

This sophisticated procedure gives the coffee beans their:

● Trademark fragrance

● Signature brown color

● Complex flavor profile

As we mentioned, there isn’t just one way to roast beans—just like there isn’t one masterpiece you can make with any one ingredient. Like the versatility of flour, coffee beans can be roasted in ways that spotlight the bean’s unique composition. However, the overall quality and taste is derived primarily from the origin, variety (think Granny Smith vs. Red Delicious apples), and the way it was processed. Roasting provides an additional layer of added flavor should the roaster be compelled to do so. Many times, the roaster is simply trying to showcase the character of the coffee without masking it with the flavor of roasting. 

By knowing which umbrella a particular roast falls under, you can grasp a better idea of how it may appeal to your existing tastes. This is because the roasting process has a key impact on the core elements of how coffee appeals to the senses. Factors like: 

● Body 

● Acidity 

● Caffeine

● Flavor 

Considering how vastly different each roast can taste, there truly is a cup of coffee that can please every palate. Read on to discover which type of roast best matches your preferences. After all, part of the fun of drinking coffee is exploring new and unique flavors.

Light coffee roast

To be classified as a light roast, coffee beans are generally heated to an internal temperature of 180°C – 205°C (356°F – 401°F).

As the name suggests, this roast takes on a lighter hue of brown. That’s because these beans are roasted for the smallest time period at the lowest temperatures. As a result, they feature no oil on their surface because the oils within the beans aren’t given enough time under heat to emerge. 


The light coffee roasting procedure allows beans to achieve a milder flavor. If you’re looking to really experience the full natural taste of a particular coffee, try a light roast. This method showcases the bean itself instead of highlighting flavors that come solely from the roasting process. 

Light roasts are generally the thinnest and least aromatic variety of coffee. They often offer fruity and floral flavor notes, which is why you may come across coffee that claims to have unique and surprising flavors like blueberry. 

Caffeine level

Many people assume that lighter equals weaker when it comes to coffee. However, lighter roasts actually contain the most caffeine as compared to other varieties of coffee. Because the roasting process actually pulls caffeine from the beans, lighter roasts that were heated less retain a higher caffeine content by volume. 

Examples of light roasts

All light roasts are not exactly the same, and unfortunately, there’s no true classification or regulation around the nomenclature. So, always look for terms that directly state the roast profile over a name that insinuates it. However, if you’re unable to find a coffee that actually states the roast profile, the following titles provide a fair chance that you’re encountering a light roast or something that closely resembles one: 

● Light City

● Half City

● Cinnamon

● New England 

● Blond Roast

● White Coffee

Medium coffee roast

In order to meet the qualifications of a medium coffee roast, beans usually reach an internal temperature of around 410–418°F (210–214°C).

Medium brown colors define the appearance of these coffee beans. The roasting criteria for this category involves heating the beans until they crack once, but stopping the process before a second crack occurs. Much like light roasts, these beans do not feature an oily surface. 


When it comes to flavor, medium roast offers the best of both worlds. It’s truly a crowd-pleaser that offers a moderate, generally agreeable experience on all fronts and it can be successfully brewed in a variety of different ways. Just be sure you know how to store coffee beans to preserve the taste of the beans. 

When opting for a medium roast, you should expect strong and delicious yet balanced flavors with the acidity and body of the coffee falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Medium roasts often achieve a flavor that could be considered nutty or even chocolatey. 

Caffeine level

A medium roast tastes great to a wide variety of palates because it holds a balance between having slightly less caffeine than a light roast and having a slightly more robust body. If you enjoy US-made coffee, you are probably most familiar with this type of roast. 

Examples of medium roasts 

These common coffee titles will indicate to you that you’re encountering a medium roast: 

● City

● Regular

● American

● Breakfast

● House Blend

Medium/dark coffee roast 

You can identify this roast by its rich, dark brown color. These beans remain under high temperatures until a second crack appears in the roasting process. Unlike the two previous categories of roasts, medium/dark roast coffee beans will have some visible oil on their surface. 

The internal temperature parameters that the medium/dark coffee roasting process utilizes necessitate heating the beans to 225°C (437°F) or 230°C (446°F).


The flavor of medium/dark roast beans is slightly more intense than its lighter counterparts. The body is elevated, but acidity is decreased. Your coffee drink created from this roast will likely give off a bittersweet aftertaste. 

If you’re wondering about what kind of specific taste elements you can expect from a cup of medium/dark roast coffee, the taste has been described as similar to dark chocolate or almonds. 

Caffeine level

Compared to light roasts, medium roast coffee or dark roast coffee has slightly less caffeine. That’s because the more a bean is roasted, the less caffeine ends up in the final cup. This makes medium/dark coffee roasts ideal for people who aren’t seeking a ton of caffeine. 

Examples of medium/dark roasts 

Have you seen these common types of coffee listed on a shelf before? The following titles all fall under the category of medium/dark coffee roasts: 

● Full City

● Viennese

● Continental

● Light French

● Light Espresso 

Dark coffee roast 

During the roasting process, dark roast coffee beans reach an internal temperature around the height of 465–480°F (240–249°C).

Coffee beans roasted to this extent will be closer to black in color. Because lots of oil is released during this extended roasting process, these beans are typically shiny in appearance. They are roasted past the point of a second crack, a long process that allows the sugars in the beans to caramelize. 


Remember how light roasts are considered the best way to enjoy the natural flavor of a coffee bean variety? Dark roasts are, in some ways, the opposite. 

The roasting process for this category of coffee is so intense that the beans end up reflecting the flavors of the roasting more than the original terroir of the dark roast coffee beans. For this reason, dark roast coffee can offer a more predictable, consistent taste. 

Caffeine level

Much like medium roasts are all the rage in America, darker roasts are popular amongst Europeans. You might favor darker roasts if you enjoy sweet flavors, full body, low acidity, and low caffeine. There’s also a distinctive complexity that is associated with roasts of this kind. 

Examples of dark roasts

This lengthy list of common and recognizable coffee names all refer to dark roasts: 

● French

● Dark French

● Italian

● Turkish 

● Espresso

● European

● High

● Heavy

● New Orleans 

● Spanish 

● Neapolitan 

When to use different coffee roasts

There’s a time and a place for everything, and certain roasts are more complementary to certain forms of coffee consumption:

● Light roasts are often utilized for drip or filter coffee as they highlight a more complex and bright flavor profile. Additionally, some may prefer to use light roasts in cold brew coffee because they retain their acidity and flavors well even when brewed cold. 

● Medium roasts are very versatile and can thus perform well in countless forms. From espresso to automatic drip to pour-over, French Press, and Aero Press, medium roasts can adapt to almost any preparation seamlessly. Medium roasts are also known for having the biggest target (most forgiving).

● Medium/dark roasts are often enjoyed through preparation methods such as espresso and French Press. This is also where the flavor of roast will begin to sneak into the perceived flavors. Automatic drip and pour-over methods work just fine as well. 

● Dark roasts can be a great option for someone who wants to enjoy coffee with a lower caffeine content. Many people enjoy their dark roast cups of coffee with cream and sugar to create a smoother drinking experience. Common brewing practices for dark roasts include French or Aero Press, automatic drip, and espresso. 

Explore the world of coffee roasts with Breville

Part of the beauty of loving coffee is trying out different roasts. You just might end up surprising yourself by developing a penchant for a new flavor profile you never thought you’d favor. 

Here at Breville, we engineer premium coffee and kitchen equipment that empowers you to create premium drinks from anywhere you choose. We believe everyone deserves the right to craft cafe-quality coffee with superior equipment fit for the most bona fide baristas. 

From smart sophisticated coffee grinders that can prep your beans to perfection to espresso and drip coffee machines that craft delicious drinks, we have everything you need to experiment and find your favorite roast. Browse our collection of innovative and dependable coffee equipment to elevate the way you caffeinate.



1. National Coffee Association USA. Coffee Roast Guide.

2. Coffeelink. How dark should your Coffee roast be?

3. Healthline. What is dark roast coffee?

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