What’s your roast?

Ever wondered what the ‘medium roast’ or ‘dark roast’ tag on your coffee packet means? Confused about which roast you would like?

You’re not alone and you’re definitely at the right place to discover more.


Roasting is a very important step in the journey of coffee from the plantation to your cup, and it turns coffee into the fragrant, dark brown beans that we know and love. The green beans are spongy to bite, smell like grass and are nothing like what we recognise as coffee. However, once roasted, coffee beans smell like the ‘coffee’ we know and develop more complex flavours.


What are the different types of coffee roasts?


There are four main types of coffee roasts – light, medium, medium-dark, and dark. However, in some countries, especially the USA has broken the roasts down into further categories like city roast, full city roast, Vienna roast, Cinnamon roast, Italian roast, etc.

Light Roast
If you are someone who enjoys the original flavour of the coffee bean, a mellow body, and a higher acidity in your cup of coffee, then light roast is the perfect roast for you. A light roast coffee is when the coffee beans are roasted only for a short period of time, thereby retaining a lot of the original bean flavour (which can be quite incredible with the high-quality beans produced by our coffee estates and used by our coffee roasters
these days).
During light roasting, the beans barely reach the ‘first crack’ stage. ‘First crack’ is the stage in roasting when you first hear the ‘cracking’ noise of the vapours escaping the beans.
As the name suggests, light roast coffee is light brown in color. It has a prominent acidity and is low on bitterness. Due to the short roasting time, the sweetness in light roast coffee is quite underdeveloped.

If your coffee bag reads ‘light city roast’, ‘half city roast’, ‘cinnamon roast’, or ‘New England roast’, it is a light roast coffee.

Medium Roast
If you like your coffee with a rounded flavour, a mild body and sweetness, with a little acidity & bitterness, medium roast is what you should be buying.

For medium roasting, coffee beans are roasted for a while longer than light roasts resulting in the coffee beans losing some of their origin characteristics. Medium roast coffee is medium brown in colour. It has mild sweetness and slight bitterness with a balanced flavour and aroma.

Medium roast is one of the most popular coffee roasts in the world. If your coffee packet says ‘city roast’, ‘city plus roast’, ‘American roast’, or ‘breakfast roast’, your coffee is a medium roast.


Medium-Dark Roast
As the name suggests, this roast lies between the medium and dark roasts. If you like your coffee to have a rich dark colour with a distinct bitter aftertaste, a minimal acidity, and a heavy body, a medium-dark roasted coffee will be perfect for you.
For a medium-dark roast, the coffee beans are roasted just beyond the ‘Second Crack’. Like the First Crack, the Second Crack is the stage when the coffee beans emit the cracking sound for the second time during roasting. After the second crack, the beans have almost completely lost their origin characteristics & their acidity. Medium-dark roasted coffee has some oils on their surface. It has a heavy body, a deep flavor, and a strong aroma.

If your coffee bag says ‘full city roast’, ‘full city plus roast’, or
a ‘Vienna roast’, then your coffee is a medium-dark roast.


Dark Roast
This is the coffee roast with the longest roast time. If you like your coffee beans to be shiny black or a very dark brown coated in shiny oils, giving a coffee cup a pronounced bitterness and almost no acidity, a very heavy body and a strong aroma, the dark roast is the one for you.
Dark roast coffee beans are almost black or very dark brown in colour, with oils on their surface. The coffee has a very heavy body and absolutely no origin characteristics. It has a strong aroma, which could have a slightly burnt tinge sometimes. The roast characters are very prominent in a dark roast.


If the coffee menu you are reading says ‘high roast’, ‘continental roast’, ‘New Orleans roast’, ‘European roast’, ‘Espresso roast’, ‘Italian roast’, or ‘French roast’, the coffee will be a dark roast.

Did you know?

In Vietnam, coffee is often coated in butter, mostly clarified butter, and some sugar before roasting, giving a coffee roast called ‘Butter Roast’. Butter roasted coffee has an additional caramelised coating on the coffee beans that gives it a caramelised, buttery flavour.

Next time you grab a bag of coffee or walk into a coffee shop, make sure you check which roast is your favourite and share it with us!

Images courtesy Nousnou Iwasaki and Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

This blog post has been contributed by guest blogger – Bhavi Patel.

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