You walk up to the coffee shop counter and put in your order. The barista asks, “Light or dark roast?”
You freeze up, paralyzed with existential dread. What does that mean? You always thought coffee was coffee. What kind of world are we living in?
Or maybe you’re just wondering, is light roast coffee better than dark roast? Either way, this article is for you!
Is dark roast coffee better than light roast?
Let’s cut right to the chase—does one coffee taste better than the other? The answer, as you might suspect, depends on your tastes. If you’ve ever had coffee that tasted “burned,” you may have had a roast that was too dark for your preferences. (Either that or the coffee pot was left on the heating element for too long, which is a frequent occurrence at diners.)
Beyond the roast, there are many other factors that are going to affect the taste. From how recently the coffee was ground, to the quality of the beans, to the brewing process, the roast is only one part of what contributes to the coffee’s flavor.
Differences between light and dark roast coffee
Here’s a closer look at how coffee is roasted so you can decide whether light roast or dark roast is better for your needs:
- The process: This includes drying the beans, then browning them, at which point they begin to expand and pop. This creates hundreds of different aroma compounds, and when the beans crack as they roast, even more aroma compounds are created.
- Appearance: Light roast coffee beans tend to retain more moisture, as they’re exposed to less heat during roasting. The beans will feel smooth and dry, and the coffee will be lighter, with a thinner consistency. Dark beans, as you might expect, appear much darker, creating coffee that’s thicker and has a fuller body.
- Flavor: Light roast is associated with berry notes and tends to have a delicate, complex flavor. Dark roast is less acidic and richer, with notes of chocolate.
Many will argue that dark roast is clearly better than light roast. Other people will argue the opposite. Both are wrong. The reality is that it all depends on individual tastes. Countless millions of people drink both light and dark roast coffee every day. Try both and see which you like more.
Some people also say that dark roast coffee has more caffeine than light roast. But in reality, what makes the biggest difference is how the coffee is brewed rather than how it’s roasted. The difference in caffeine between light and dark roast coffee is almost nothing.
One thing to keep in mind no matter what coffee you have: get freshly roasted beans, and don’t leave them on the shelf for too long. Coffee roasted more than two weeks ago will lose some of its flavor.
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