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Jan 25, 2007 09:06 AM

Coffee - light roast v. dark roast

Hi guys:
Just wanted to pose this question, since my boyfriend and I seem to be disagreeing. I read an article a while ago in GQ about cofee, and I could have sworn it said that dark roasted coffee retained its regional flavors much more than light roasted cofee. He remembers the article stating the opposite. Can't find that particular issue now, so wanted to know if anyone here can help.


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  1. I believe he is right, from what I have read. I do know that light roast has more caffeine.

    1. Regarding caffeine, it is the type of brewing that brings out the caffeine. The longer the brewing process, ie drip, which is 3 or 4 minutes the more caffeine is present. It would probably surprise you that espresso which is brewed in 25 seconds has the least.

      Usually a light roast has a more acidic flavor as apposed to the darker roasts which if brewed correctly usually have a more chocolaty taste. sometimes we confuse this acidic taste to strong caffeinated coffee.

      1. The short answer to your question is that light roasts tend to reveal and retain more regional and varietal flavor characteristics than dark roasts.

        Here's a longer answer:

        1. The trend among many of the best espresso joints is toward lighter roasts of single origins, often using a cooler temp for the extractions (e.g. Daterra roasted at City instead of Full City and extracted at 194F instead of 200F. However, since most espresso is blended, those blends will usually be a Full City or even stronger.

          Progressive "third wave" coffee thinking is to let the coffee express itself. In other words, one should roast in order to taste everything the bean has to offer while not tasting "the roast" per se.

          That said, lighter roasts seem better suited for espresso and extractions like the Clover and Aeropress as opposed to longer extractions as with drip or press pot.

          Of commercial roasters, only SBUX has the cojones to come out say that their scorching temps are what's best for the beans. They have good reason to char their beans however, since most go into large milky flavored drinks.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Panini Guy

            Thanks for all the replies!

            My next question then is what commercial places DON'T char their beans?

            1. re: waterisgood

              waterisgood, your question presents me with a dilemma. As you may have guessed, I am a coffee professional. I think it would be crass to use this site to promote my own products, and I do not wish to advocate my competitors’ wares. Please abide my silence on this issue.

            1. re: billjriv

              apparently, the answer is not so simple, and the difference is so small as to not really matter.


              1. re: chipman

                Well, yes and no. If you're talking about a drip French Roast vs. a Daterra Americano, the difference in caffeine content could be very signficiant. Remember that caffeine extraction also depends on the brewing method. If you get a 12oz drip, you'll get more caffeine than you would in a 12oz Americano simply because the drip extraction is significantly longer period of contact between water and grounds than is an espresso extraction.

                1. re: chipman

                  Just the way light roast digests allows for more caffeine to enter your bloodstream,dark roast is already broke down and dissipates quickly.All those soccer moms don't drink at Starbucks for nothing cause if they got a real caffeine buzz they'd probably never come back.Best coffee is light roast perked or brought to about 170 but not boiling directly in a pan of water till the foams almost gone out of the beans,then filter by putting a filter in a filter holder and hold over a coffee pot then pour hot coffee and grounds into it carefully,this is real coffee.Most coffee pots never get hot enough to make anything really superb.Probably afraid to make pots that way because the plastic would melt.