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Mastering the Art of Coffee Roasting: What is Light, Medium and Dark Coffee Roast?

Coffee roasting is an art and science: a fascinating process that transforms green coffee beans into the aromatic and flavourful brew that we cherish every day. The roasting journey not only brings out the distinct characteristics of each coffee bean but also plays a crucial role in shaping the taste and quality of the final cup.

A chart of green, light, medium, medium-dark and dark roast coffee

What are Coffee Roast Levels?

Coffee beans can be roasted to various degrees, and each level imparts unique flavours, aromas, and characteristics to the final cup. The three primary roast levels are:

a) Light Roast:

  • Lightly roasted coffee beans are roasted for a shorter period and at lower temperatures, which preserves the bean's natural flavours and nuances.

  • The lighter colour of the beans indicates that they have not undergone extensive caramelisation or oil development during the roasting process.

  • The resulting brew from light roast beans tends to have a brighter, more acidic mouthfeel, crispness, with floral, fruity, or tea-like notes that are unique to the coffee's origin and variety.

b) Medium Roast:

  • Medium roasting strikes a balance between preserving the bean's original characteristics and developing some toasty, caramelised flavours from the Maillard reaction.

  • The beans reach a deeper brown colour, and any surface oils are less pronounced compared to dark roasts.

  • This roast level brings out a more well-rounded and balanced cup of coffee, where the acidity is still present but mellowed, allowing the sweetness and body to shine through.

  • Medium roast beans are often preferred by a wide range of coffee drinkers as they offer a pleasant combination of flavour complexities and approachability.

c) Dark Roast:

  • Dark roasting involves exposing the beans to higher temperatures and extended roasting times, leading to the beans' dark and shiny appearance due to the coffee oils being pushed to the surface.

  • The original flavours of the coffee are heavily masked by the bold, smoky, and bittersweet characteristics developed during the roasting process.

  • The acidity in dark roast coffees is significantly diminished, and the brew tends to have a fuller body and a noticeable bitterness.

  • The longer roasting time breaks down more caffeine, resulting in slightly lower caffeine content compared to lighter roasts. However, dark roasts often give an impression of being stronger due to their bold flavour.

Witch Coffee coffee roasting process in Melbourne

Does Dark Roast Coffee Have More Caffeine?

Contrary to popular belief, many coffee drinkers assume that dark roasts contain more caffeine and deliver a stronger kick compared to light roasts. However, the truth is that caffeine content remains relatively consistent throughout each stage of the roasting process. The variation between roasts lies primarily in taste, not the caffeine amount.

While the flavour, aroma, and colour of coffee beans undergo significant changes during roasting, the caffeine content does not concentrate or increase. In actuality, darker roasts generally have slightly less caffeine than their lighter counterparts. Medium roasts typically fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

Coffee Roasting: Time and Temperature Control

Witch Coffee Melbourne barista single-serve specialty coffee bag - Red Label, next to a cup of 100% Arabica coffee beans

High-quality coffee roasters understand the significance of precise time and temperature control during the roasting process. By carefully managing these factors, we ensure the even development of each coffee bean, avoiding scorching or under-roasting.

This level of precision allows the unique flavours and characteristics of every coffee bean to shine through, showcasing the distinct attributes and nuances.

A cup of espresso using Witch Coffee Black Label specialty coffee bag, for coffee lovers in Melbourne

At Witch Coffee, we prioritise quality, and take this important process one step further.

We roast our coffee beans from different regions to very specific times and temperatures, tailored thoughtfully to their unique attributes and how they react when blended using our barista-crafted recipes. For the specialty coffee bags within each label, we utilise at least 4 distinct different times and temperatures, which are controlled, alongside at least 4 distinct grind sizes. All this is strategically blended to achieve the signature tasting notes of our Black, Red, Blue and Gold Label coffee blends.

This meticulous customisation ensures that we extract the optimal flavours, aromas, and distinctive qualities inherent in each individual bean. By embracing such attention to detail in time and temperature control, we unlock the full potential of our beans, delivering an exceptional coffee experience that we're truly proud to share with our valued customers.

A Common Shortcut to Be Aware of: Overroasting the Beans

Unfortunately, many lower-quality coffee producers resort to shortcuts that compromise the true essence of the beans. One common shortcut is over-roasting the beans to achieve a dark roast, attempting to mask any defects in the beans. However, this practice sacrifices the bean's unique flavours and complexity, resulting in a less enjoyable cup for discerning coffee enthusiasts.

Moreover, many big-batch roasters cut corners by opting for rapid roasting methods at extremely high temperatures, aiming to roast larger quantities in a shorter time. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to burnt beans and a significant loss of flavour. In their pursuit of efficiency, these roasters inadvertently sacrifice the delicate nuances that make each coffee bean origin special.

Truly exceptional coffee roasters, on the other hand, prioritise a slow and careful approach to bring out the beans' true potential. At Witch Coffee, we understand that roasting is an art that requires patience and precision, and time is the essence to allow each bean to be nurtured to perfection. By roasting in smaller batches and allowing the beans to develop gradually, you can preserve the bean's distinct flavours better, ensuring that each cup delivers a delightful and memorable coffee experience. For coffee lovers seeking the most rewarding brew, supporting roasters who avoid shortcuts and prioritise flavour is essential.

High-Quality Coffee Roasting Starts from the Green Coffee Bean

A bag of Premium quality 100% Arabica green coffee beans

To achieve exceptional roasting, the initial step involves carefully selecting top-notch green coffee beans. The potential for roasting is heavily influenced by factors such as the origin, variety, and processing methods of the beans. However, when purchasing coffee, consumers should be mindful that many coffee brands, labelled as '100% Arabica' do not provide specific information about the coffee's origin. Often, the common practice is to opt for the cheapest and most readily available beans for roasting and packaging.

Since not all Arabica beans possess the same quality, it becomes crucial for buyers to scrutinise the packaging or website for transparency regarding the coffee's regions and whether the blend adheres to a specific recipe. By ensuring such transparency, coffee enthusiasts can have greater confidence in the sourcing and roasting process, leading to a more satisfying and enjoyable coffee experience.

Witch Coffee Blue Label coffee bag sachet, with biodegradable coffee bag, on a flat lay on a marble table with a cup of Witch Coffee espresso


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