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Roast Levels, Strength & Caffeine

Color is commonly used to describe roast levels since it is one of the first things you notice when looking at coffee beans. And, while there are some misconceptions about light versus dark roasts, including its correlations to strength and caffeine level which we will address shortly, the color can actually provide some insights into how a coffee will taste*. The five roast levels we go by are:

Half City [Light] - The bean’s unique flavors from origin shine through the brightest at this level, hence this roast level is often used for cuppings. Beans are light brown in color, and have been roasted to first crack.

City [Medium] - The beans’ distinctive flavors from origin are balanced with a roast flavor. Beans are medium brown in color, and have been roasted into first crack.

Full City [Medium Dark] - Origin flavors and characteristics begin to fade, and there is an increasing roasted/bitterness taste. Beans are darkish brown in color and may have an oily sheen. These have been roasted to the start of second crack.

Vienna [Dark] - Roasted/bitter flavor with no origin flavors. Beans are very dark brown in color and oily. They have been roasted into second crack.

French [Very Dark] - Heavily roasted/bitter/burnt flavor. Beans are black in color and extremely oily. They’ve been roasted to, perhaps even beyond, the end of second crack.

Touching on the topics of strength and caffeine level, the myths that dark roasted coffee is stronger and more caffeinated are completely false. Oh my! What does that mean?? How strong a cup of coffee is actually has nothing to do with the darkness or lightness of a roast, and everything to do with the coffee to water ratio. A good starting point is 2 healthy tablespoons (about 17 grams) per 8oz of water. To make your cup stronger, increase the amount of coffee you’re using. And, on the note of caffeine, because everybody wants to boast they’re getting an awesome kick from their brew, right? Lighter roasts are actually more caffeinated than dark roasts. Yep, fun fact - caffeine is essentially roasted out of the bean...so the longer a bean has been roasting the less caffeinated it becomes. Ok, now looking at the two together - a stronger cup of coffee will be more caffeinated simply because there’s more coffee in it, so there’s the tie between strength and caffeine.

With all of this being said, we’re not hating on dark roasts. In fact, coffee beans from different origins, of different varietals, processed differently, etc. are only able to fully come to life in your cup at different roast levels, which is one of the most fun and exciting challenges of the roasting process - determining what level is best suited for each particular batch of beans. Now, of course, everyone’s opinion of “ideal roast level” may not be the same for any number of reasons, but we really hope you enjoy and appreciate our best efforts to showcase the beans we source and roast! As always, please shoot us any questions/comments/feedback you have.

*Just because two roasts, of even the same coffee, look the same (are the same color) it doesn’t mean they will taste the same. How the coffee is roasted plays a huge part in taste...meaning the same color can actually be achieved through different roasting profiles. The more you know :)

January 12, 2018 by Lee Nichols