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