coffee roasts

What’s the Difference In Coffee Roasts?

Several factors contribute to the taste of your coffee, with roast being high on the list.

Before roasting, coffee beans are green, spongy and heavier than expected. They’re soft and often have a grassy scent. Brewing them in this state will yield less-than-desirable results, and roasting helps bring out the flavors and aromas you associate with your morning cup.

About the Roasting Process

Since 2008, New Orleans Roast™ has selected coffee beans from 15 origins, including Direct Trade partnerships, to slow-roast in small batches in our facility. We take this careful, detailed approach, as it results in a flavorful, multifaceted beverage that engages the senses once you take your first sip.

The general roasting process is based on chemical changes. The coffee beans are heated to a high temperature in a short amount of time before being cooled. In the process, the moisture present when the beans were harvested evaporates, creating a lighter, more crunchy result that releases flavor once ground and brewed.

Beyond the chemical changes, roasting also alters the color of the beans. What results is a light to dark brown hue, based on how much heat the beans drew in during the roasting process. Darker beans absorbed a greater amount of heat, and oil will appear on the surface. A light or medium roast, by contrast, will be dry. While not a uniform system, the beans’ resulting color and subsequent characteristics describe the common roast options: light, medium or dark.

Understand that while roasting lets the beans’ flavor flourish and reach its full potential, other variables play a role in what you taste, including origins, growing environments, the beans’ age and how the coffee was ground. Based on these factors, New Orleans Roast™ selects the top 1% of Arabica beans, dates everything once it arrives and then leaves our facility, and strives to provide you with the freshest cup worthy of our city’s history.

What’s in a Name?

Coffee roasts come with assumptions concerning caffeine content and bitterness. Unfortunately, not all beliefs have merit.

As one point to be aware of, many roasts tend to be named by brand, with minimal uniformity across the industry, although all are based on light, medium, medium-dark and dark colors. Added to this, certain roasts experience greater regional popularity across the globe. Dark roasts, for instance, tend to be more common on the West Coast and in Europe, while a light or medium roast complements a flavored coffee with a more versatile profile. Light roasts, meanwhile, tend to be favored over other beans in New England.

On the subject of dark roasts, in the quest to know which roast has the most caffeine, many assume that the rich, although slightly bitter, flavor indicates a higher concentration of caffeine. However, caffeine content remains nearly the same no matter the roast. As one factor, a light roast tends to have a denser bean and, in fact, may contain slightly more caffeine than a dark roast coffee.

Light Roast Coffee

Those who enjoy a mild coffee or wonder which coffee roast is the least bitter are looking for a light roast. That means you’ll purchase beans with a light brown color and no oil on the surface.

Once ground and brewed, a light roast tends to create a mild taste similar to toasted grain with more acidity, due to greater preservation of its origins and no oil emerging through to the surface.

To get to this point, green coffee beans are roasted between 356°F and 401°F. Once reaching 401°F, the beans will crack or pop, before being cooled shortly. For a lighter roast, the beans will crack just once before the cooling process starts.

Medium Roast Coffee

A medium roast coffee has a medium brown color and, like a light roast, won’t display oil on the surface.

Compared to a light roast, the grain-like taste is gone and the caffeine content somewhat lower, resulting in a more balanced combination with a stronger aroma and some acidity.

In terms of roasting, the beans will be heated between 410°F and 428°F, during which they crack once and start a second crack before being cooled.

Of all roasts, medium roasted coffee tends to dominate the American market, and in turn, naming conventions either highlight this aspect or call it a “Breakfast” or “City” blend.

Dark Roast Coffee Varieties

As the definitive aspect of dark roast coffee, beans will feature a clear shine from the oil on the exterior. Secondly, after being ground and brewed, you’ll notice a bitterness once you take a sip. Contrary to this perception, a dark roast actually has the least amount of acid and caffeine.

Not all dark roasts are identical, and are typically divided into two types:

Medium-Dark Roast

With this roast, the oil has started to emerge, and the beans have a darker color than a medium roast. The taste and body also run heavier than a medium roast and have more bittersweet notes. A medium-dark roast is achieved through heating the beans between 437°F and 446°F, during which the beans crack almost two full times before being cooled. These coffees may be named an “After Dinner” or “Vienna” roast.

Dark Roast

Exceeding a medium-dark roast, these coffees are distinguished by a dark brown, chocolate-to-black hue. A clear film of oil coats the surface, which then sits at the top of the beverage once you grind and brew the beans.

Compared to all other options, a dark roast has a bitter to smoky taste, which is created by heating the beans between 464°F and 482°F. Some regard it as the strongest coffee roast for its intensity. The beans experience at least two full cracks. At this point, the body starts to thin out and develop a brittle texture.

Due to regional preferences, many dark roast names imply a European audience: French, Italian, Spanish and Continental roasts are some of the more common varieties.

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Try a spectrum of medium and dark roast coffees from New Orleans Roast™, all picked and roasted with freshness in mind. Explore several varieties, including flavored coffees celebrating the city’s culinary legacy.