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What are the Different Coffee Roasts?

What are the Different Coffee Roasts?

Welcome to what the coffee industry calls your “Roast Level.” There is an incredible amount of variation and names, but generally there are 3 main levels: Light, Medium and Dark. If you remember 1 thing from this post, remember that. Of course we sometimes like to add a little more flare to the naming of roast levels, after all, it is our art, and why not romanticize the variations a bit? I heart coffee.

Here are how the categories break down further:

Light Roasts

  • Light
  • Light City
  • Half City
  • Cinnamon
  • New England
  • Blonde
Medium Roasts
  • Medium
  • City
  • American
  • Breakfast

I’m sneaking in this 4th category. It’s my post, I can do what I want.

  • Medium-Dark
  • Full-City

Dark Roasts

  • Dark
  • French
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Continental
  • New Orleans
  • Espresso   (This is espresso roast, not to be confused with the “Brew Method” of producing a shot of espresso.)

Each roaster uses their own parameters for assigning a roast level. Some use color, others temperature and some moisture loss. As far as color goes, there is some standardization to connect the final color to the roast level but often times it is left to the eye of the roaster. This can be as subjective as choosing a paint color for your walls. Have you ever tried to choose a “white” paint? There’s over 150 variations! My point is, narrowing down bean color to associate it with the precise naming of a roast is challenging… but not impossible.

Here is where I will go Coffee Geek on you. The SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) has helped the process of standardizing roast level through the use of an Agtron gourmet color scale. This method uses a spectrophotometry (color meter) to assign a numerical value to the color of a roasted bean, defining its roast level the amount of light reflected off the bean. The lower the number (or the less light reflected), the darker the roast.

I don’t see a day where you will need to order coffee with an Agtron number but it’s exciting how science continues teaching more and more about what we’re consuming. Ok, not like rollercoaster exciting, but still pretty cool.

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