The “roast level” of a coffee is just one of many factors that determine how your coffee will taste in the cup. Other elements include the coffee varietal, country of origin, microclimate in which the coffee is grown, green processing method (wet or dry), roasting method or roast profile, freshness of the roasted coffee, grind and brewing method. However, the roast level will give you a good overall sense of what sort of taste profile to expect from a particular coffee and is often a good place to start when choosing your beans. When selecting specialty coffee beans, you will find various descriptions of the “roast level.” You might see a confusing array of terms such as Blonde, Light, Medium, Dark, City, Vienna, French or Italian Roast. The terminology can vary by geographic region, and West Coast roasters often use different terminology than Midwest or East Coast Roasters. To further confuse things, there is no industry standardization and every artisan roaster has their own interpretation of what these various terms mean - one roaster’s “Light” roast may be another roaster’s “Medium,” another roaster’s “Medium” roast may be called a “Dark” roast elsewhere. In order to help you navigate the confusing world of roast terminology and select the best GCR coffee for your personal taste preferences, we offer this primer on coffee roast levels along with an explanation of how to select Gold Country Roasters’ coffees. We have developed our own rating system to help you readily identify the relative roast level of each of our coffees. Each coffee is assigned a “Bean Meter” rating from 1-9, with 1 being the lightest roast coffee that we offer, and a 9 being the darkest. Ratings of 1-3 are Light Roasts; 4-6 are Medium Roasts; and 7-9 are Dark Roasts. Keep reading to learn more about the flavor characteristics of these different roast levels, and recommendations for GCR coffees in each category.
Light roasted coffees are typically light brown in color, with no visible oils on the surface of the beans. These coffees typically have a crisp acidity, a mellow body, and bright, fruity or floral flavors and aromas. Lighter roasts preserve and highlight the origin flavors of the coffee beans. Such coffees are commonly referred to as Light, Cinnamon or Blonde roasts. Some ultra-light roasted coffees can have an unpleasant grassy or toasted grain taste with a pronounced acidity and tea-like consistency and body. This is typically a result of inadequate roasting time or finishing the roast at too low of a temperature (generally below about 395 degrees, up to or right at first crack), which can prevent full flavor development of the beans. Here at GCR, we never roast our coffees to a finished temperature below 400 degrees, as we feel a bit more time in the roaster makes a huge difference to the ultimate taste and body of the finished coffee. Roasting just a bit longer results in a more fully developed flavor profile where the origin flavors of the bean really shine through. Our “Light” roasts are generally roasted to within a range of 403 to 422 degrees, and are identified by Bean Meter Ratings of 1, 2 or 3 depending on where in our Light Roast spectrum they fall. The packaging will say “Light” on it, even though the actual finish temperature of the beans may vary within this range. Click here to view our Light Roast Coffees
Medium roasted coffees are medium brown in color and rarely have an oily surface. These coffees generally have a medium acidity and body, as well as a well-rounded, balanced flavor profile. Roasting to this level typically preserves many of the unique flavors of the coffee’s origin, while bringing out the coffee’s deep caramel sweetness. These coffees are commonly referred to as Medium, American or City Roast. Here at GCR, we consider a coffee to be a “Medium” roast when it is roasted beyond first crack, but not all the way to second crack – typically within a range of 422 to 435 degrees. These coffees are identified by Bean Meter Ratings of 4, 5 or 6, with 4 being at the lighter end of Medium, and 6 being at the darker end. The packaging may say Medium, Medium-Light or Medium-Dark. Click here to view our Medium Roast Coffees
Dark roasted coffee can be dark brown to nearly black in color and often have an oily surface. These coffees have a low acidity, heavy body, and tend to reveal deeper, darker flavors. Coffees roasted to this level tend to not have many of their origin characteristics left. Some coffees lend themselves very well to a deep roast highlighting their chocolatey, nutty, and/or caramel flavors. At this roast level, the flavors and aromas of the roasting process become more pronounced, and the taste of the coffee may be somewhat smoky. Dark roasted coffees are commonly referred to as Full-City, Vienna, French Roast or Italian Roast. Our darkest coffees are roasted to finished temperatures of between 435 and 455. All the coffees in this range are roasted to second crack, however the final roast temperature determines whether they will be cracking in the roaster or in the cooling tray. These coffees are identified with Bean Meter Ratings of 7, 8 or 9 – with a 9 being the relative darkest of the coffees that we offer. Click here to view our Dark Roast Coffees
For optimum flavor and freshness, we recommend that you purchase whole beans and grind them just before brewing. Always use a high quality "burr" grinder (two metal plates that rotate on top of one another) to grind your beans, rather than a "spinning blade" style of grinder. A burr grinder achieves a very uniform particle size that does not vary from grind to grind, thereby optimizing the extraction of coffee flavors. The spinning blade style of grinder "cuts" rather than grinds the coffee creating particle sizes of varying sizes and shapes, which can adversely affect the extraction process and make it difficult to achieve consistency from cup to cup. We recommend the excellent home burr grinders made by Baratza - the Baratza Encore or Baratza Virtuoso+.
Wondering how coarse or fine to grind those beans? It depends on your brewing method and your personal taste preferences!
In general, the longer the grounds will be in contact with your water, the coarser the grind should be; the faster the brewing method, the finer the grind. However, there are no “absolutes” and what matters most is how your coffee tastes to YOU! If you find your brew to be weak or watery tasting, try a slightly finer grind; conversely, if your coffee tastes bitter or too strong, experiment with a slightly coarser grind.
If you prefer to order your beans pre-ground, use the following guidelines to choose the correct grind for your brewing method. If in doubt, call or email us before placing your order for personal assistance in choosing the correct grind.
French Press: Coarse or Medium Coarse (Select COARSE OR REGULAR PERC)
Cold Brew (Toddy or similar): Coarse or Medium Coarse (Select COARSE or REGULAR PERC)
Electric Percolator: Medium Coarse (Select ELECTRIC PERC)
Automatic Drip Coffee Maker (flat bottom or cone): Medium to Fine (Select AUTO DRIP or FINE)
Manual Pour-Over (cone filter): Fine (Select FINE)
Espresso: Extra Fine (Select ESPRESSO 1 or ESPRESSO 2)