Educational, General

Light, Medium, Dark: The Difference in Coffee Roasts

From seed to farm, farm to roast, roast to grind and grind to brew: Every step in the coffee production process affects what you’re sipping in your favorite mug.  Whether you like to start your day with a cup of New England roast, American roast, French roast or Folgers instant coffee, the seemingly arbitrary names given to the style of coffee you prefer represent an understanding of why that particular roast tastes so delicious to your taste buds.  Each recipe for roast brings something different to the table

To some, coffee is just coffee as long as it’s hot and caffeinated– and even better if it is free at the bank or in a motel lobby accompanied by stale ginger-snap cookies.

Here at Planetary Design, we live for coffee.  Our team is constantly seeking a deeper understanding of the beans that help us create the best products for fellow coffee lovers.

In our latest research, we have been studying the three broad categories of coffee roasting styles: light, medium and dark. Each individual strategy is distinctly different from the next, and thus fosters a unique aromatic and gustatory experience during your first morning sip.  

Green Coffee Beans

This is where it all begins: the raw and very green coffee bean.  Much of the coffee grown today comes from South America and Southeast Asia, and just as the origin of the bean, roasting technique is intricately related to the aroma and flavor of the coffee.

Coffee Roast

Once you’ve got your green coffee beans, it’s time for the roast.  The roasting process can be as simple or as complex as desired, but all roasting recipes follow the same basic premises: Heat the beans to a specific temperature while constantly stirring for a set amount of time to remove moisture and release that oily goodness.  By varying the amount of heat applied and the amount of time spent in the roaster, a vast multitude of flavor profiles can be created from the same bean. Pretty neat!

The wonderful people in charge of roasting our coffee have a boundless and nuanced understanding of how the intricacies of their roasting affect each green bean they begin with.  Truly talented and knowledgeable coffee roaster may hone their skills over a lifetime, but all roasts, no matter how complex, can be classified as one of the following:

Light Roast

An up-close view of freshly roasted coffee beans with a light roast

Photo courtesy of

Light coffee roasts require the least amount of time in the roaster and are heated at the lowest temperature of all three coffee classifications.  Beans roasted in this way retain a relatively large amount of their original raw moisture. This leftover essence of the bean’s location, climate and soil of origin allow for native tastes and aromas to shine through on your palate.  

In other words, if a green coffee bean grown in soil known to produce undertones of cacao is given a light roast, brewed and poured in your cup, you will be greeted by an inviting aroma and experience the warming taste of chocolate in every mug.

Medium Roast

An up-close view of freshly roasted coffee beans with a medium roast

Photo courtesy of

Following the light roast, medium roasts are meticulously heated for longer and at a higher temperature.  While these beans do retain some of their moisture, a medium roast does not highlight the native flavors of origin as well as a light roast.

Boasting a fuller body than a light roast, but a much less heavy sip than a dark roast, a medium roast creates a harmonious balance between body, acidity and sweetness.  The longer time and higher temperatures necessary to produce a medium roast naturally caramelize the sugars within the green beans to create a delightfully-yet-unassumingly sweet cup of joe.

Dark Roast

An up-close view of freshly roasted coffee beans with a dark roast

Photo courtesy of

Roasted for the longest amount of time and at the highest relative temperature, coffee with a dark roast has the most robust flavor and aroma when compared to light and medium roasts.  Due to the additional heat and roasting time, the oil within the beans exudes to the beans’ surface during a dark roast.

The oils on the surface of the beans create the intense bitter and smoky flavor all black coffee drinkers love.  With the fullest body of any roast and a deep, warm mouthfeel, a dark roast is perfect for your first cup of the day, the shot of espresso in your after lunch mocha or anything after and in between.

No matter what kind of roast you enjoy…

Let us know what kind of roast you like the most here, we are always excited to hear from like-minded coffee enthusiasts!

And check out this short video, which takes you on a relaxing journey through the roasting process: