Selecting the best coffee roast can be overwhelming. There are lots of coffee companies. Which bean is the best coffee? Is there a best coffee? And where do you even start?
Coffee beans will naturally produce a range of flavors. These flavors depend on where they are from, how they are processed, roasted, and brewed. Some of these notes can be surprising. Need a refreshing treat? You might enjoy a cold brewed Ethiopian Harar that was naturally processed, light roasted, and tastes like hand-picked blueberries. Or you might be drawn to a warm bold, darkly roasted blend, not everyone wants blueberry-tasting iced coffee.
And that's okay.
There are an abundance of coffees, and they all have unique flavors. So how do you narrow the choices?
First, find a roaster you can trust to prioritize purchasing top quality beans.
The world's best Coffee Roaster will produce poor tasting coffee if the green beans used are low quality.
There are three basic roast categorizations; Light, Medium, and Dark
Generally speaking, each of the three roasts has distinct characteristics. Once you have learned what to expect from each roast profile, you can interpret tasting notes provided by your roaster and find your perfect-for-you coffee.
Snapshot Comparison: In general, the qualities of coffee roasts can be summarized by the table above.
Light Roasted Coffee
Light roasts are coffee beans that have spent the least amount of time in the roaster. The beans tend to be light brown in color and retain most of the coffees raw flavor characteristics.
Light roasts are the brightest of the three roasts profiles. "Brightest" is coffee lingo for highest flavor acidity.
Many specialty coffee drinkers enjoy the easily distinguished unique flavors of a light roast. They prefer being able to pick out each of the brighter notes. However, the light roasts are not the most popular choice overall. The high acidity can be distasteful for some people.
Medium Roasted Coffee
Often, a medium roast will have a dark brown color, there may be oils visible on these beans, but only in small beads. Medium roasted coffees are the most balanced coffees of the three.
In a medium roast, the beans have begun to caramelize, bringing sugary-syrup qualities to the coffee.
A good medium roast will preserve some of the beans unique flavor characteristics and add sweetness from the caramelization process. The harmony of flavors gives these coffees a universal appeal, which makes medium roasts the most popular choice among dedicated coffee drinkers.
Dark Roasted Coffee
Dark roasted beans appear oily, and very dark brown (sometimes almost black).Traditional, quality, dark roast coffees tend to offer flavors of chocolate and smoky caramel.
Dark Roasted coffees have bold bodies and rich taste, the bright acidity present in a light roast is replaced with a heavy caramelized sweetness.
Typically the country of origin and the processing employed will have a huge impact on the flavor of the coffee, this is less important with dark roasted coffees. With a dark roast it can be difficult to pick out the characteristics of a coffees origin, you will almost exclusively taste the rich, dark notes from the roasting process.
Decide if you want a Blend, or a Single Origin.
Now that you have an idea of what the best roast is for your tastes, choosing either a blend or a single origin is the next step on your journey to finding your new favorite coffee.
Look out for future posts where we explain the differences and similarities between Blends and Single Origin coffees, and how the origin and processing of a coffee affects the final brew's taste.