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Does anyone else but me prefer, or even insist on, light roast coffee?

It seems like dark roast coffee has taken over the world, maybe it's the Starbucks effect but if feels like people have this (misbegotten?) notion that dark is always better than light.

That's just not true.

If you're working with quality, single-origin beans you'll more likely pick up on the subtle nuances of the terroir from light roasting than roasting the hell out of that sucker.

In fact, if one wants to hide the flatness of mediocre beans the best way to do it is probably to roast and burn all the flavor dimensions (good and bad) out of that bean.

Anyone with me?

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  1. Well, since Starbucks themselves have been emphasizing first their medium-roast Pike Place Blend (which is actually a perfectly fine cup of coffee) and now their new lighter Blonde Roasts (which I haven't tried yet because on those rare occasions that I go to Starbucks, I just stick with the PP, which I know I like), I'd say that you're far from alone!

    I tend to prefer medium-roast beans in general myself, as far as that goes.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      I can't have caffeine so I have ordered the decaf blonde. They make that on the Clover. I still taste burned flavors. Maybe that's a carryover from whatever else they put through the Clover. I am part of a group whose weekly meeting is at Starbucks.....I have yet to find anything there that I enjoy drinking.

      Though I like light roasts like Eight-o-clock and Dunkin Donuts, I do brew my coffee strong. Trader Joe's now has decaf 100% arabica beans in medium roast. The roast gave me pause but I bought it, and LOVE it. I just use the regular amount rather than the extra half scoop per mug that I have been doing with other decafs.

      1. re: greygarious

        There is a difference between dark roast and brewing your coffee strong.

        You can get light roasted beans and brew them as strong as you want.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Apparently I did not make it clear that I know that and brew accordingly.

          1. re: greygarious

            I didn't mean to suggest you didn't.

            I was just saying it to throw it out there.

    2. I hate dark roast coffee. At least if Starbucks had good coffee it would just be the roast that I didn't like, but mediocre quality + lack of light roasts (most of the time) means no Starbucks for me. Thankfully I live in an area where I can get lots of different single-origin beans roasted many different ways. I've gone so far as packing my beans and grinder on trips with me when necessary.

      1. I prefer to taste the essence of the bean rather than charcoal.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Jerseygirl111

          Dark roast coffee for me is like well-done steak.

          If I have some prime sirloin, I want it medium rare. Same with coffee beans. If I have some high quality SHG single-origin beans, don't burn them.

        2. Ipse, I loves the blondes. I like my coffee black, so I tend to prefer coffee that isn't overpoweringly bitter to begin with.

          1. Mocha Java when avail was always my preferred med roast. Since I drink coffee black how it tastes straight up is key. But, unfortunately true Mocha Java is hard to find now.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HillJ

              Mocha Java Is probably available at a small specialty roaster. Check one out. Supermarket not doing it.

            2. I've never liked Starbucks and have only had their coffee a few times. It always tastes burnt to me.

              I roast my own and take it just to the start of the second crack.

              1. Yes, I am with you. So much so that I have considerably curbed my coffee consumption over the past couple of years, the shops in my area seemed to move to all overly dark, almost burnt tasting varieties. It has been probably a year since I bought a cup of coffee.

                1. If it tastes burned, it's over-roasted. But there is no ideal roast for any coffee. There are tradeoffs in roasting. Darker roasts can lose the nuances of flavors, but they also break down the acids. Under-roasted coffee with too much acid is much worse than over-roasted coffee. I prefer low-acid coffee, because I drink a lot of it.

                  1. It's only been since I first began roasting my own beans that I've gotten into the lighter roasts. Too light and, while you do pick up on some fruity notes, you add the possibility of it being over acidic. Too dark (like when the beans are covered in a sheen of oils) and you start getting that burned taste of which you speak. Sometimes, depending on the particular bean and/or temp, the interval between the two can be a very short length of time. Home roasters are advised to "think 15 seconds ahead" in the process since cooling isn't immediate and one must allow for that. For a point of reference, I wonder if you might take a look at the chart (link) and tell us which you would consider the right color of the roast you would find most preferable.

                    1. I think the variety/origin of the coffee should determine what roast it gets. The Ethiopian Sidamo I buy is light to medium roasted but is very bold and full bodied, and smooth, too.

                      I think different beans call for different roasts, and I like some dark and some light. My decaf is a combination, and it's full bodied and delicious.

                      I don't think the problem is dark roast so much as the wrong roast, or how dark.

                      I have two issues with Starbucks; one is the nym Charbucks, which the've earned for burning, not just dark roasting, their beans. The other is they're brewing weaker coffee than they used to, a dastardly combination.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mcf

                        Finally someone else that thinks Starbucks has gotten weaker! My husband and I have always enjoyed the dark roast until about 2 months ago. Complained to barrista, but they act suprised.

                      2. I prefer a dark roast but I can drink a light one, as long as it has been brewed strongly AND isn't too acidic. I really dislike acidic flavors in coffee, and I find the best way to avoid them is to go for medium or darker roasts, but I know it's possible to get a non-acidic light roast if you try!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: biondanonima

                          If you want to avoid acid do cold brew. I do it every day for my mother cause she can't tolerate acid. I do it the old fashioned way 1/2 cup coffee in a quart mason jar. Let sit on counter for 12 hours. Strain and drink. that method was good enough for my Grandma and works for me.

                        2. I've never liked dark roasted coffee. It's always tasted burnt and bitter to me, and like you, ipsedixit, I've come to believe that the way coffee roasters disguise bad quality coffee is by over-roasting it. It's hard to believe that "Charbucks" has become so big selling the stuff.

                          I really enjoy a cup of fresh, light roasted coffee, and lately light roasted beans are all I've been buying. And I don't want my coffee to be called "morning buzz" or "afternoon delight." I want to know the country of origin AND I want to know how long ago it was roasted. That last one is often hard to learn.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: CindyJ

                            It's funny but it seems like just about everyone at Starbucks fills 1/4 of the cup with milk and some sort of sugar or spices.

                            Every time I see that I always think if I want sugared cream or milk, I'll just eat ice cream.

                            Almost makes me wonder if the dairy producers are in cahoots with Starbucks ...

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              isnt that why they roast so dark? so they can sell more expensive milk drinks?

                              1. re: linus

                                I could be wrong but I believe I read somewhere the profit margins on their regular coffee is higher than the specialty milk-based ones. I could be mistaken however.

                                The problem is that most Americans don't really like the taste of coffee. So instead of letting the customers add cream and/or milk for free to regular coffee Starbucks figured they might as well charge for the privilege.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  "the problem is that most americans don't really like the taste of coffee."

                                  that's a bold statement. based on what? and please don't say because they put milk in it.

                                  though, if you want to take it to the next level, i suppose you could say most people in the world don't really like the taste of coffee.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Your Starbucks doesn't provide endless free half and half, sugar etc? Really?

                                    Maybe the ones on the West coast are different. When I'm shopping, in the mood for decadence and need a coffee fix, I'll get a cup of regular brew at Starbucks, ask for them to do just a half of the pour-over, leaving lots of room for half and half. It's always available in pitchers. Sometimes I'll dust it with cocoa powder and cinnamon, also always available. Makes me happy and gives these old bones a caffeine jolt so I can continue shopping.

                                    1. re: ItalianNana

                                      Your Starbucks doesn't provide endless free half and half, sugar etc? Really?

                                      Yes, they do. All of them do. Why?

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      Following that logic should I presume the English and Indians don't like the taste of tea?

                                      If I add dairy or sweetener to my coffee it is because I want the end product to be a little more "filling".

                                    3. re: linus

                                      I think they roast it so dark so they can brew it weaker and therefore use less of it.

                                  2. re: CindyJ

                                    Actually, no. The most discerning and OCD coffee drinkers and roasters are obsessed with making the best quality espresso. Just visit coffeegeek.com for an eye opener.

                                    I thought I was a discerning coffee drinker before reading reviews there!

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      Some of them strike me as the Ghost Pepper fans of the coffee world.

                                      1. re: grampart

                                        Yeah, there's some serious dick-swinging thereabouts. Everybody has their obsessions, I guess.

                                  3. I detest Charbucks and Dunkin' Donuts dark roast coffees. I much prefer light to medium roast.

                                    1. I'm with ya there. I like double-strength, light-roast. Extra benefit: More caffeine!

                                      That's how we make it in our restaurant. Most of our older guests like it but our younger patrons, having grown up in Seattle, have never tasted real coffee and are somewhat confused by it.

                                      1. Hmm... you've got me thinking, Ipse. I really like dark roast coffee. But it occurs to me that I have never given strong-brewed light roast coffee a chance. I know that I don't like weak coffee, which is why I always show up at the mother-in-law's with a full travel mug ;-) But I'd like to try what you are selling. So tell me, is Starbucks Blonde, or another chain that might be near me, a good example? What should I try, short of buying a bag of beans that I am not sure I will like? I am certainly open to suggestions!

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Cheez62

                                          If you want to try a light roast, your best bet (aside from buying a bag of light roast beans yourself and brewing it at home) is to find a coffee shop that has a good selection of light roast beans.

                                          Dunno where you are at, but in Chicago and LA there's Intelligentsia Cofee, in SF and NYC there's Blue Bottle.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            NYC has Oren's, too. Superb coffee and brew practices.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Very spendy, too. On Long Island, Fairway's former roaster, Georgio, has set up his own shop, too. Also spendy.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Hahaha, yeah, I'm in Canton, Ohio. Any other ideas?

                                              1. re: Cheez62

                                                Oh man, Canton, OH? You're on your own. :-)

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Haha, now you see my lot in life. If it weren't for the fact that I spend 100+ days per year on the road for work, I would lead a very sheltered existence. That is why I asked about Starbucks - not because it is good (or not good), but because such things are all that we have. But it turns out that I will be staying in Brooklyn next week for a few nights, so I may find the opportunity to look up Blue Bottle. I'll let you know my thoughts if I get there. Thanks for the "help"!

                                            2. re: Cheez62

                                              Starbucks Blonde (there are two varieties) is quite good if you can get it fresh. I've had it out of a Clover machine before, not bad at all, certainly the best coffee I've ever had at Starbucks.

                                            3. Black. Light roast. Drip. and DO NOT leave extra room for cream - what part of black did you not understand?

                                              I'm a regular at many of my local coffee shops and the only chain that seems to have a light roast is the coffee shop that is in whole foods.

                                              1. I've never enjoyed the dark roasts that Starbucks, Pete's and various metropolitan chic places originally popularized. I generally ask for the lightest and freshest roast they've got on hand.

                                                1. It's so funny that you mention this because I have the opposite problem -- I am a dark roast drinker (always black coffee, Chemex) and I am always wondering to myself why medium-bodied coffees are so popular. All the trendy coffee snob places like Blue Bottle, Grumpy etc seem to me to almost never have a darker, richer roast. Got a subscription to Craft Coffee and I have seen nary a dark oily bean in any of their shipments.

                                                  Barring the basic Starbucks blends and brews (which I do not typically drink) I think it's mostly a matter of personal preference. For me lots of the medium or light beans produce a coffee that tastes sweet (to me, cloyingly so), and I just like the bitter, chocolately richness of a dark roast.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Mandymac

                                                    +1, couldn't function without my chemex. I seldom order coffee out because its just not worth it.

                                                  2. Depends on the extraction method. I prefer darker beans when I use the press, lighter when I use the Gaggia.

                                                    Dark roasted beans are prefferred by purveyors because they are more shelf stable.

                                                    1. I hate the charred taste of Starbucks (and preferred Seattle's Best before S'Bucks bought them out - no char taste). That being said, what I want is rich taste, regardless of roast. I've been served coffee that one could drink all day long and not feel satisfied because it is brewed too weak (and usually with canned preground coffee). I want to taste the bean characteristics when good beans are used and care taken with the roast. As with any other food, excellent raw materials plus talented preparation of it plus proper ambience equals a quality experience whether at home or elsewhere. I like a light roast when beans that are complemented by it are used. And like darker roast when beans beans that are complemented by that are used.

                                                      1. I live for two to three months each year in Antigua, Guatemala, a region famous throughout the world for the quality of it’s coffee. Just yesterday I was in Tostaduria Antigua, a tiny shop in town run by a gringo coffee nerd who buys only shade-grown highland coffee from small growers who dry their naturally sweet Arabica berries in the sun. He roasts the coffee in his shop and offers a dark, medium, or a light roast. When I first met Tony a couple of years ago, I was a die-hard dark roast drinker. Tony convinced me to try the medium roast and I’ve never looked back. I did try the light roast once, but it just didn’t have the richness of flavor I was looking for. Coincidentally, I was in the shop yesterday and Tony was telling me that very few of his customers order the dark roast once they’ve tried the medium and that he hates it when he has to grind it for someone because the whole shop smells as though something burned for at least half an hour afterwards.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                          Lucky you. The coffee must be great.

                                                        2. Ever since Starbucks somehow made themselves THE place to go for coffee, they have convinced the public that their coffee is the best. I think it's over roasted and over priced! I much prefer medium roast, but it's hard to find.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: bpepy

                                                            I don't know where you live, but if you're anywhere near a Whole Foods, check out their coffee selection. Our local WF has a nice selection of locally roasted coffee in light and medium roasts.

                                                          2. I, too, like medium roast coffee. Dark roast has a taste of burnt coffee beans which I hate in hot coffee but like in iced coffee w/vanilla and whipped cream. Dunkin" Donuts is the best hot coffee. Wawa is second and I don't know how anyone drinks Starbucks hot coffee!!!!!

                                                            1. No "dark roast" for me. And no "light or "blonde" roast (gotta laugh at that one) for me either.

                                                              "Medium", or as it used to be called "regular" roast for me every time.

                                                              1. No way. No light roast coffee for me, of any kind. You have had too much burnt Starbucks. Why anyone drinks that is beyond me. Most coffees are best at medium or dark. It depends on the coffee. Just had some Kenya AA at medium. Delicious.Work at a roaster. Know what is good.coffee is me.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: NOLA_Pam

                                                                  I have a problem with the oils that surface with the darker roasts. I don't like to see oil topping the coffee in my mug.

                                                                2. Forgot to say the roast is not as important as the freshness of the coffee. We roast every day and rush it to our customers. The max life of a coffee preserved in a vacuum is 4 weeks. You drink my fresh stuff and you will be blown away.

                                                                  1. My first really good cup of coffee was a dark roast at Starbucks when they first came to Chicago (eons ago).

                                                                    I have moved toward lighter roasts. Starbucks originals now taste bitter. Since I have easy access to Inteligencia - where they are very conscious of matching the roast to the beans (really good beans) - I routinely opt for a non-dark roasted coffee.

                                                                    1. OMG - yes, light roast, almost impossible to find in San Diego these days, brews up an intensely aromatic cup with the varietal characteristics intact. Been grinding my own whole bean coffee since about 1974, and among the best I've had was light roast in this small coffee producing and roasting town somewhere in south eastern Mexico. As many have commented, depending on the bean and brewing method, as well as personal preference, darkest roasts, oily Italians, sometimes medium, do the coffee justice. But my holy grail is light roast from wherever - many countries grow beans that are spectacular when roasted light and carefully dripped cup by cup @ about 180 degrees. Recently had an exceptional cup at Sightglass in SF. Years ago found exceptional light roasts at Common Grounds in Venice (LA). In my opinion the "blond" roast at Starbucks is pathetic! Oh yeah, I drink my coffee black without sugar! And yes, strong!

                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                      1. re: dyakoubian

                                                                        I too prefer lighter roasts. Have you tried any coffees from Bird Rock roasters? I like their espresso because it is a lighter roast. Have you ever tried roasting at home?

                                                                        1. re: Modz9636

                                                                          Isn't espresso, by definition, a dark roast?

                                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                                            "Roasting for espresso is the same as roasting other coffees, part 2, but not all degrees of roast are suitable. There is a common misconception that espresso is a very dark coffee. This might have come from the practice of some roasters using low quality green beans and over-roasting to cover up the flaws in the beans. Good espresso needs good green beans and the roast should bring out the better flavours inherent in the bean. The lighter espresso blends are a medium roast taken into the second crack but cooled before any oil is on the beans, any lighter than that and the espresso will taste sour. Darker espresso can be roasted until there is a bit of oil spotting on the surface of the beans. This gives a less bright shot and enhances the caramel and spice notes. Taking the beans to a full dark or a black roast will result in an unsuitable thin and bitter coffee when extracted as espresso."


                                                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                                                              Grampart has the answer. Also, espresso is a brewing method that uses steam forced through very finely ground coffee. So you can indeed use different roasts, not just super dark oily beans. When you go with lighter roasts, you can taste more of the actual flavors.

                                                                              I once read this comparison somewhere - that when you toast a slice of bread and an English muffin until they are burnt, they taste the same, but when not burnt they taste different.

                                                                              1. re: Modz9636

                                                                                Actually, espresso is not brewed as you described. It is liquid water, not steam, that is forced through coffee at around 9 bars of pressure.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyjack

                                                                                  Got it, should have said steam "pressure" that forces water through the coffee. Mine is a non-pump machine.

                                                                            2. re: Modz9636

                                                                              I've heard Bird Rock is great - but its way expensive. Coffee & Tea Collective on El Cajon just below 30th also roast light, also way expensive, but their pour-over is only $3, a great value and its my absolute favorite cafe brewed coffee in SD.

                                                                              1. re: dyakoubian

                                                                                You can do a pour over at home for 50 cents with $20/lb coffee.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyjack

                                                                                  Hmmm - not sure you can get 40 12 ounce cups out of a pound, but it certainly is cheaper than $3 a cup. I just think that for $1 more than an ordinary, blah cup of coffee from a vacuum pot that $3 a cup of exceptionally roasted and brewed coffee is a good deal. I'm drinking what is considered a good cup of coffee house coffee now, and its literally hard to drink an enjoy after Coffee & Tea Collective.

                                                                                    1. re: dyakoubian

                                                                                      A pound of coffee will yield, at minimum, 240 oz. of brewed coffee. Some folks will get half again as much. At $20 per pound, that's a buck for each 12 oz. serving, although I've never been served a 12 oz. mug in my life in a coffee shop.

                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                        So for 8 ounces it be 63 cents. Sorry I was off by a bit :P

                                                                            3. went into my local Von's market couple weeks ago and got their (is it) blonde roast?
                                                                              not bad but have heard it's stronger caffeine wise-not sure though. I make a weaker coffee - simply because it takes my face off if it's really strong

                                                                              1. Yes I do I prefer light roasted coffee especially when I roast by myself

                                                                                1. Yes I prefer the light roast. I also order "regular coffee" and not espresso for the latte type drinks.

                                                                                    1. somewhere on here I posted recently buying the dark roast of Yuban just because I was curious to try it and see if hubby liked it. past experiences have been that although it was always a top brand, it was too strong for me..............................but.....................over about the last year my taste buds have mostly been on vacation due to sinus infections that are a constant. my smelling isn't near as keen as it should be and therefore often I really can't taste much. so coffee of any strength I had better not judge right now.
                                                                                      I'm happy when my tasters are normal but wonder why my sinus's are so problematic.

                                                                                      1. Considering the nationwide popularity of Intelligentsia's beans (if they ever roast beyond medium, I haven't seen it), it would seem there are plenty fans of lighter roasts. I'm one, myself.

                                                                                        1. The dark roast coffee at my local (a big chain) smelled obnoxiously of burning cigar today .


                                                                                          1. My preferred bean is a light roast Sumatran Mandheling, which was first offered by Green Mountain; this was discontinued many years ago, in favor of the darker roasts which have become so prevalent in the industry. The Sumatran produced a full-bodied, 'hot chocolate' mouth, low in acid, with subtle tones, and a pleasant aftertaste.

                                                                                            1 Reply