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A Definitive Guide to Coffee Roasts + 5 Types & Benefits

A Definitive Guide to Coffee Roasts + 5 Types & Benefits

Clark Clark
8 minute read

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Whether you’re new to the coffee game or simply looking to expand your palate, understanding coffee roasts is crucial to finding your perfect cup.

There are 5 types of coffee roasts, ranging from green to dark. Here’s your definitive guide to understanding your next coffee roast, as well as the benefits of each type.

What does roast mean in coffee? In coffee, roast means the heating process that unlocks a bean’s fragrance and flavor. 

The length and heat of the roasting process determine what a coffee will taste like, along with the variety of bean used.

Coffee Roasting Process

Let’s start with the essentials: what the coffee roasting process does to our beloved coffee bean. A tropical shrub produces coffee cherries. Inside those cherries, you’ll find green coffee beans, which are seeds produced by the Coffea shrub.

A green coffee bean is almost unrecognizable from the ones you’d buy in a bag. They have a slightly grassy smell, a pale sage color, and would make a terrible cup of joe. That’s where roasting comes in.

These beans are roasted at temperatures up to 482°F. At 401°F, they experience their “first crack,” starting to heat enough to expand and release moisture, beginning to take on a deeper flavor, color, and aroma. 

When the beans reach 437°F, they also experience a second crack. After this point, we have reached dark roast territory. However, if the beans are heated past 482°F, they’ll burn. A coffee roast is a delicate balance — mere seconds can make or break the batch of beans.

These roasted beans each have different characteristics, determined by the length of time they’re roasted, as well as the temperature at which they are roasted. The higher the internal temperature of a bean during roasting, the darker the roast.

It takes years for a master roaster to learn how to “read” the roast on a bean. So, how does each roast stack up in terms of unique flavor profile, acidity, aroma, and characteristics? Let’s take a look.


5 Types of Coffee Roast [Plus, Which One Is Best]

While coffee roasters are always experimenting with different blends, notes, and beans, the 5 roast styles are a steady way to categorize them. However, in recent years, lighter varieties such as a gold roast have become more popular for their higher caffeine content and lighter taste.

What is the difference in coffee roasts? The difference in coffee roasts is in their levels of oil, caffeine, and acidity. Lighter roasts have less oil, more caffeine, and a higher level of acidity. Darker roasts are oilier with less of an acidic flavor and lower levels of caffeine.

The 5 types of coffee roast, in order from lowest to highest roast level after a green coffee bean, are:

  1. Gold
  2. Blonde
  3. Light
  4. Medium
  5. Dark

Here is a handy coffee roast chart, which lists out the types of coffee roast.

Green Coffee Beans

A green coffee bean hasn’t been roasted at all. This makes it unusable for brewing a cup of coffee, but it’s good to know that this is the level at which all beans start. Some true coffee enthusiasts buy green coffee to roast beans at home with special equipment.

Most coffee comes from Arabica beans, but the less-common Robusta bean is becoming more popular in its own right. Either way, both varieties begin at the green coffee bean stage and are roasted from there.

Once you start roasting, here’s where each coffee style falls:

1. Gold

Gold roast coffee has been roasted very slightly, falling in between a light roast and white coffee. Gold coffee has been roasted at a lower temperature than darker varieties, which allows it to have several benefits:

  • Balanced flavor with no bitterness
  • Less acidic, making it easier on the stomach
  • Stains teeth less than darker roasts
  • 5x the caffeine of other coffee roasts, but without the jitters

Gold roast coffee is the best choice for several groups of people. It’s a gentle introduction for people getting into the coffee scene. It’s also popular among people concerned with their wellness, boasting health benefits and a lower sugar intake.

What is the best roast for coffee? The best roast for coffee is gold roast for its high caffeine content, smooth flavor, and antioxidant levels. If you’re looking for healthier ways to drink coffee, gold roast might be the perfect choice for you.

Since gold roast is a bit newer on the scene, it can sometimes be hard to find. Looking for gold roast coffee in several different flavors? Check out this variety pack

2. Blonde

A blonde roast is another of coffee’s lighter roasts. This coffee is dropped out of the roaster directly after the first crack, exposing it to the heat of the roasting process for a shorter time than many other roasts.

Blonde roasts are known for their high acidity and “bright” flavors.

3. Light

Many coffee drinkers choose light roast coffee for its relatively mild flavor and high caffeine content. While roasted slightly longer than a blonde bean, they still have much of the acidity and very little oiliness.

Common types of light roasts include New England, Half-City, and Cinnamon roast coffee blends. Specialty coffee shops will often have a light roast on tap, while chains are more likely to use a darker batch.

What does light roast mean? A light roast has been heated less than medium or dark coffees. Light roasts are known for their light brown color as well as their bittersweet flavor and low oiliness.

4. Medium

A medium roast coffee is where you’ll start to see the chemical changes from the roasting process produce oil onto the surface of the beans. As with the other coffee roasts, its name comes from its color: medium brown.

Highly popular, a medium roast coffee is common to serve around the house.

Typical medium roast coffee blends include City roast, American roast, and Breakfast blends. The caramelized flavor of the beans starts to shine through in medium coffee roasts due to the higher heat exposure.

Some coffee companies go as far as to classify a separate medium-dark roast. The most popular medium-dark style coffee is a Full City roast. However, we think it’s too complicated to create a separate category for medium-dark.

5. Dark

Dark roast coffee has been through a long, hot roasting process. This produces dark brown beans, a bold and deep flavor, and oiliness on the beans’ surface that gives them a light sheen.

Dark roast coffee is trendy in Europe for its intense flavor, and it has less caffeine than other varieties of coffee. Popular options for dark roasting include:

  • Continental Roast
  • Espresso Roast
  • Italian Roast
  • French Roast
  • New Orleans Roast
  • Vienna Roast

These dark roasts can range from barely dark all the way to almost charred. Due to the intensity of the roasting process, they can lose most of their original characteristics.

What coffee roast is the darkest? Dark roast coffee is, unsurprisingly, the darkest coffee roast. Many would consider French roast coffee to be one of the most intense among the many dark roasts available.

What is the best coffee roast for French press? Most coffee professionals would recommend a medium to dark roast coffee for a French press to pack the most flavor into your cup.


Try Golden Ratio gold roast coffee.

We think gold roast is the best roast for a cup of coffee. It wins for caffeine content, health benefits, and smooth flavor profile. It’s also got a reputation for tasting great whether hot or cold brewed.

Golden Ratio is a coffee that you can feel good about drinking: organically sourced and packaged, fair trade, and sustainable coffee. For the best tasting low acid coffee with 5 times the amount of caffeine, try Golden Ratio’s gold roast coffees. We turn water into gold.

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