There are significant differences between light, medium or dark roast coffee. For sure, everyone has a preference when it comes to roast level.
This post we break down the three roast level and top tips for each roast level. Let's get started!
Light roast coffees are delicate, nuance and have brighter acidity as compared to darker roast coffees.
Why light roast? This is to best preserve the delicious flavours and aromatics of coffee that originate from it's origin. The darker the roast, all the delicate fruity floral notes will slowly disappear and acids in coffee evaporate.
It's pretty common to see light roasts with high quality coffees. Like Wagyu beef, you want to sear the steak and cook it rare to taste the delicious flavours.
That’s why all the World’s Best Coffees like Panama Gesha are all light roast!
Traditionally, lighter roasts are assumed to have less body and sweetness. However that is not true for now. With the right coffee and roast profile, light roasts can be incredibly sweet and rich.
A top tip, try a finer grind and higher brewing temperature (95ºC above) with light roast coffees to encourage extraction! You’ll get a much sweeter cup that way.
That said, unless you have a specially customised roast, we generally do not recommend light roast coffee to brew on espresso.
Light roasts are not as soluble as darker roast, you are most likely getting a watery and sharp bright acidity in light roast espresso. Definitely not a fan of watery espresso.
Medium roast covers quite a wide range, from medium light to medium dark. To make it simple, as long as it looks brown (like photo above), just call it medium roast.
Medium roast coffee makes a well balanced cup, with mild acidity, good sweetness and mouthfeel, sometimes can taste like fruit juice!
It’s safe to say that all roasters have medium roast coffees in their coffee lineup, as it’s a more generally acceptable roast level for everyone.
The best part of Medium Roast coffee is that it’s suitable for any brew methods, Espresso, Drip, French Press, Aeropress, you name it.
We like to brew medium roast coffee with Hario V60 in the morning. With higher dosage of 21g coffee to 300ml water for a cup that can really wake up!
Top tip, if you are brewing high altitude coffee (1500 masl above), try a step coarser grind to get a clear and crisp cup.
High altitude coffees are more dense and soluble as compared to lower altitude coffee (1000 masl below). Medium roast make it easy to extract the coffee, hence you don't need fine grind to encourage extraction.
Also, if you like a stronger cup, try with more coffee 25g coffee to 300ml water! More coffee, more kaw!
Welcome to the dark side of coffee.
Bold and pungent with no acidity and lingering bittersweetness are the key characteristic of dark roast coffee. You'll also find traces of oil on coffee surface, which commonly seen when coffee are roast to second crack.
The darker the roast, the lower the acidity, the thicker the body of coffee. Like we Malaysians call it, Kaw Coffee!
Dark roast coffee is great for all brew methods too. My Liberica brews the dark roast with syphon and every sip is a real punch! Also, Japanese loves slow drip with cloth filter and ultra high dose of dark roast coffee!
Top tip, try brew with high dose of 8g (or more) coffee with every 100ml water. On espresso, go for shorter pull of 1:1:5 ratio or less
Dark roast coffee are much soluble than lighter roast coffee. Hence it doesn’t need much water to extract the coffee (more water, higher extraction).
Coarser grind size and lower brewing temperature for dark roast are highly recommended. Lastly, keep agitation to minimal while brewing.
These steps prevent over-extraction. Over extracted dark roast coffee is sooooooooo bitter that could possible kill your palate ☠️
If you brew it right, you’ll get an incredibly smooooooooooth and lovely bittersweet cup, with everlasting aftertaste that stays for a long long time.
We like to brew dark roast coffee with French Press. It’s way easier to control the brewing and consistency.
Lastly, certain medium roast coffees makes a full bodied cup too. These coffees are roasted specifically to pair well with milk, as you'll need some weight in espresso to punch through milk.
Yes, most espresso blends are medium dark roast that have hints of acidity to make it interesting and complex, which it's great to enjoy as black and with milk.
That's all about roast level. Don't forget to try out the brewing top tip to brew your very best coffee. Happy brewing!
Espresso brewing can be challenging and frustrating. But when got it right, it's the happiest and rewarding moment ever!
JWC Roastery is the brainchild of Nelson, an absolutely passionate coffee man. He has been roasting coffee in Johor Bahru since 2009, one of the earliest specialty coffee roaster in Malaysia. Here's a short interview with Nelson, check it out!