What is the difference between light roast coffee and medium roast coffee?
Light roast? Medium roast? Flavours? Aromas? Where do you even begin!? Although coffee roasts can be described by their colour (light, medium, and dark), their colour alone is not the most accurate way to describe the roast of a coffee. Not to confuse you more, but did you know coffee beans are actually green prior to roasting? When the coffee beans are roasted, they absorb heat which makes the colour change to a darker shade, eventually giving the beans a brown colour.
Since specialty coffee is primarily light to medium roast, that is our main focus at Velo! Each coffee is roasted to a specific profile to enhance the unique qualities particular to each coffee. So, what really is the difference between a light roast and a medium roast? Brew a cup, read along, and find out for yourself!
Coffee beans contain oil, and the roasting process can cause the oil to seep to the outside of the bean the longer the coffee is roasted. This is why lighter roast coffee beans appear to have a dryer look to them. They haven’t been roasted at temperatures high enough or long enough to bring out the oils in the bean. Every coffee is different though and therefore needs to be treated differently.
Contrary to the belief that dark roasted coffee is the strongest in terms of caffeine, it is actually light roast coffees that tend to have higher levels of caffeine. (Who would've thought!?) Caffeine comes from the bean, not the roasting! The longer coffee beans are roasted, the more the levels of caffeine become reduced. Coffee beans make a popping or a cracking sound when they are roasted; this is called first crack and second crack. Light roasted coffees are roasted until the first crack, and then removed from the roaster shortly after to retain as much flavour as possible.
Flavour profiles may actually be stronger in light roasted coffees. Light roast coffees retain more of the natural flavours the coffee enthusiasts go crazy for, such as the floral and fruity notes.
Here at Velo, our coffee roaster can make a recommendation to you for a nice light roasted coffee- our single origin El Salvador, Finca Las Mercedes. This award-winning coffee has an interesting mix of milk chocolate, shortbread, almond, and hints of orange. Definitely a great way to add some uniqueness to your morning cup of coffee!
Medium roasted coffee beans are a perfect brown colour and rarely have an oily surface. Although, compared to light roasted coffee, the surface may seem a little more shiny. A medium roasted coffee is still roasted to the first crack, but is left in the roaster for a few minutes longer than the light roast and removed just before second crack.
Medium roasted coffees tend to have more balanced flavours, such as hints of caramel, chocolate and nuts…YUM! They tend to have a stronger aroma than lighter roasted coffees. While the flavour may be slightly less intense than light roasted coffee, the medium roasted coffees can still showcase a coffee’s natural flavour profile!
Medium roasted coffees have slightly less caffeine than light roasted, but more of a kick than dark roasted. These coffees are a 'perfect balance', and are the most common found in cafés and coffee shops!
We are very proud of one medium roasted coffee we have here! Our BMX is one of our award-winning and most popular coffees! This coffee has notes of rich chocolate, dried fruit, sugar cane, and nuts! It’s a sweet coffee with a long-last finish that will perk you up at any time of the day!
To Wrap-Up Roasting
There you have it! Although some may be subtle, light and medium roasted coffees can have some pretty unique differences! If reading about the variations between the roasts aren’t enough, we at Velo can offer you some tips and recommendations to help you along your coffee journey!
- Visit your local specialty coffee shop or café and ask questions! Ask about what type of beans they’re using, what the process of the bean is (washed or natural), and what type of roast it is. They’ll be excited to have a chat with you and more likely to recommend some one-of-a-kind coffees!
- Do your own coffee cupping at home with light roasts and medium roasts! Record what you smell and taste, and get your family and friends in on it! It will be fun, and you’ll learn a lot!
- Taste the coffee on its own before adding sugar or milk. This will allow you to taste more of the coffees natural flavours! You might even find that you don’t need sugar in your coffee! Our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe is bold, floral, and sweet. It might even change how you see coffee!