Understanding the Roasting Scale
Note: The above colours are for reference and illustration only, additionally colour changes that can occur with individual computer and web browser settings.
Knowing Your Coffee Roast Levels
Roasting coffee causes the sugars, fats, and starches contained in the bean to emulsify, caramelize, and release. The delicate coffee oil that results from roasting is what gives coffee its unique, distinctive aroma and taste.
In general, lighter roasts tend to be sharper and more acidic than darker roasts. Darker roasts have a fuller flavor, though. Coffee that is over-roasted tends to have a smoky, charcoal-like, or burned flavor (not desirable). Interestingly, darker roasts actually have less caffeine than the lighter roasts. Every coffee is different, though. Colombian coffee will taste different than Sumatra coffee, even if the roast level is exactly the same.
(Cinnamon, Half City, Light, New England)
the bean is light brown and dry with no visible oils on the surface of the bean. The flavor is baked or
bread-like, similar to toasted grain. Depending on the coffee, some sour tones may be present and the
body of the coffee will be minimal.
Medium Light Roasts
(American, Breakfast, Brown, City, Medium)
Medium light brown beans. The American roast is the most common roast used for cupping and
professional coffee tasting. An official Medium or City roast (more common in the Western U.S) is
slightly darker than American (more common in the Eastern and Southern U.S.), and is an excellent
choice for tasting the differences between most varietal.
Full Medium Roasts
(Full City, Light French, Viennese)
Medium dark brown beans. Some oily drops will be present on the surface of the bean when roasted
Full City. Full City roasted coffee will exhibit some chocolate or caramel undertones. Light French or
Viennese is ever so slightly darker than Full City.
Medium Dark Roasts
(After Dinner, Continental, European, French, New Orleans, and Espresso)
At this level, the beans are very dark brown (but not black). French roasted beans are shiny with an oil
coating on the surface. Some burned undertones will be present and acidity is lower. This is a popular
roast for making espresso, though lighter roasts are used also. At this roast level Origin character is eclipsed
by Roast character. This roast type is at odds for buying coffee for its distinct origin qualities.
bean contiues to expand and lose mass. The resulting cup is thin and light in body as the aromatic compounds,
oils and soluble solids are burned out of the coffee. The predominant flavours are smokey, burnt and carbony.
Very Dark Roasts
(Dark French, Italian, Spanish)
Spanish is the darkest roast of all (Dark French and Italian is a little lighter). The coffee beans are
nearly black in color and the flavor tends to be flat with charcoal undertones. Pretty much all of the
sugar in the beans has been caramelized and toasted thoroughly. Most Americans would turn their
noses up to coffee this overcooked but, hey, to each his own.