The 10 Most Popular Coffee Roasts

Why do coffee beans need to be roasted?

Roasting coffee is essential in order to turn the raw, green coffee beans into something drinkable. Unroasted coffee beans have a grassy, hay-like taste which is unpleasant. Roasting brings out the aroma and flavor locked inside the green coffee beans, as well as imparting new flavors through chemical reactions.

Whilst most countries only use the terms light, medium, medium-dark and dark for their coffee roast profiles, some countries such as the US like to break the categories down even further.

Breaking the roast types into smaller categories aids in communication between roasters. Each subtype is defined by color, which is determined by the internal temperature of the coffee beans.

Now when shopping for coffee beans, the seemingly endless choice of coffee roasts on offer can be pretty confusing. Let’s delve into the different types of coffee roasts so you can make the best decision.

Type of roast




Light brown

Toasted, light body, high acidity



Rounded, sweet flavor, extra body


Dark brown

Heavy, full body, bittersweet



Smokey, burnt, intensely bitter


These four types can be further broken down in 10 different roast profiles. The roasting process is usually determined by the quality of the coffee beans. Find out which coffee roast you should buy for delicious coffee that’s bitter-free.

Light roast coffee beans

Light roast coffee is so named because of the short roast time that leaves the beans with a light brown color.

Light roast coffee beans reach an internal temperature of between 180°C – 205°C (356°F – 401°F).

Light roast profiles

196°C (385°F)
New England
205°C (401°F)

At around 205°C (401°F), the coffee beans begin to make a popping sound, known within the coffee industry as first crack.

The cracking sound is caused by the beans expanding and the moisture evaporating. The moisture creates steam along with a buildup in pressure, which forces the beans to crack open.

The cracks begin at intervals of a few seconds and gradually increase in speed. The sound is very similar to when corn is heated to make popcorn.

Coffee that is considered lightly roasted is stopped just before or at the very beginning of the first crack stage.

Lightly roasting coffee requires both an excellent raw ingredient and a skilled coffee roaster. If the coffee isn’t roasted properly, it will have undesirable flavors that are peanutty, grassy and savory. Roasters refer to this as an underdeveloped coffee.

When done properly, a lightly roasted coffee is exquisite. The result is a coffee that is light in body and high in acidity. Just as with wine, acidity is very important in coffee as it provides a refreshing quality.

The terroir – where the coffee originates from – is highlighted in lightly roasted coffees as the beans have the least influence possible from the roasting process.

Light roast coffee really opens your eyes to how coffee can really taste, and it’s definitely something you should try. 

Medium roast coffee beans

Medium roast coffee beans are a slightly darker shade of brown. The colour change is caused by the natural sugars within the beans beginning to caramelize. This also results in a stronger aroma coming from the beans.

For a medium roast, the internal temperature of the bean reaches somewhere between 210°C – 224°C (410°F – 435°F).

Medium roast profiles



210°C (410°F)


219°C (426°F)


224°C (435°F)

The longer roasting time causes the beans to shrink by some 13 percent as the moisture evaporates.

Medium roast beans are finished roasting partway through first crack or shortly after it’s stopped.

The increased roasting time has given the beans a little flavor from the roasting process, but the terroir is still very clear.

The extra roasting makes the coffee more rounded with an increase in sweetness and body but with a little less acidity.

Along with a light roast, medium roast coffee is also delicious. In fact, light and medium roasts are the two best-tasting coffee roasts.

Medium-dark roast coffee beans

Medium-dark coffee beans are a very dark shade of brown. Some of the oils that were trapped inside the beans may now be visible as they’ve risen to the surface.

Medium-dark roast profiles


Full city

225°C (437°F)

Full city+

234°C (454°F)


The beans have reached an internal temperature of 225 – 234°C (437 – 454°F)

at this stage.

second crack occurs when the internal temperature reaches 230°C (446°F). A medium-dark roast is cut short just before the second crack begins to get underway or shortly after having started.

Most of the acidity has now been lost in a medium-dark roast, and the coffee is left with a distinct bittersweet aftertaste caused by further caramelization.

The coffee has also lost most of its original characteristics as the prolonged roasting imparts more roasted flavors. The result is a coffee that has a much heavier body with a deep flavor and a very strong aroma.

Coffee is usually roasted this dark is because it’s cheap, low-grade coffee. The roasting process covers over defects and inconsistencies caused during the production and processing of the beans.


Dark roast coffee beans

Coffee beans that are darkly roasted have lost their brown colour and become black. The beans also become shiny at this stage as they are heavily coated in their oils.

The coffee beans have passed second crack, reaching an internal temperature between 239 – 246°C (462 – 474°F).

Dark roast profiles



239°C (462°F)


243°C (469°F)


246°C (474°F)

At this point, all the original flavors and acidity have been destroyed, and the beans are burnt and charred.

The only remaining taste is the roasted flavor that the roaster has imparted. The coffee has a burnt and smokey taste that is intensely bitter.

Again, coffee that is roasted this dark is only done for one reason: to hide how awful the green coffee tastes due to poor processing. Only the very cheapest, low-grade robust coffee is usually ever roasted this darkly.

Coffee that has an internal temperature of 252°C (486°F) could be as much as 25 percent ash. Roasting coffee past this temperature can also be extremely dangerous.

Upon releasing the beans from the coffee roaster, the sudden rush of oxygen can actually cause a fire, so extreme caution has to be taken when dark roasting.