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Coffee – Choosing The Right Roast For You

Are you confused by the choices of coffee roasts at your local grocery store? Not sure which one is right for you? Once you know the difference between the degree of roast, you will be able to choose one that you can delight in.

All coffee beans start out as green beans. They look like a dried legume and have small resemblance to the final product. Coffee beans are roasted by trained professionals. Each degree of roast, or how dark the bean becomes, is chose by the roaster based on where the coffee comes from (it’s origin) and the type of bean it is. Roasters spend many hours roasting and tasting coffees to find the perfect balance of flavors for each origin. The roaster’s goal is to bring out the best qualities of the coffee.

Light roasts have several different names. If you read a package with the following terms, it is normally a lighter roast coffee: Light, Cinnamon, New England. The color of these beans will be close to milk chocolate. Many of the bean’s unique flavors are apparent with this roast. The coffee will have a snappy brightness, often with some floral or citrus undertones. This is also referred to as ‘acidity’ in coffee. Coffees that have a more delicate character do best with a light roast. Contrary to well loved belief, light roast coffees really contain more caffeine than dark roasted coffee – up to 10% more! Origin coffees which are traditionally roasted to a light degree are: Kenya AA, Peaberry, Columbian and Guatemalan.

The names you will see associated with medium roasts are: American, Breakfast, City or Medium. Medium roasted coffee beans are a dark brown color and may have oily spots on them. The oily spots are some of the coffee’s natural oils coming to the surface. There is less acidity with this degree of roast and some caramelization is occurring. More spicy and nutty undertones also become apparent. A excellent medium roast can truly highlight the best qualities of each type of coffee. Some typical origin coffees that do well with a medium roast are: Costa Rica,

Dark Roasts usually are described as: European, French, Italian, Espresso, Full City or Viennese. Note that these aren’t origins, just the description of the degree of roast. Coffee roasted to this level will appear nearly black in color and be very shiny or oily. Many of the flavor characteristics are gone from beans roasted to this level and have a smoky, deep flavor. There will still be some caramel notes as well, due to the caramelization of sugars in the bean. This roast has more of a bittersweet flavor to it. Some of the origins that hold up well to dark roasting are: Sumatra, Mocha Java and Sulawesi (Celebes).

When choosing a coffee, reckon about whether you like bright, citrus notes or possibly nutty, carmel flavors. Or even a smoky, earthy flavor. While there are blends of coffee which also combine the different roast levels, this should get you started down the road to your perfect cup!

Michael Russell
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