Light vs Medium vs Dark Roast Coffee: Which is Better?

When it comes to selecting the perfect brew, the difference between light vs medium vs dark roast coffee comes down to more than just flavor. These three roasts also differ in health benefits and caffeine content:

  • Light roast coffee is roasted for the shortest amount of time so the coffee beans retain much of their original flavor, making it a more acidic roast. It's also rich in antioxidants and more caffeinated than the other roasts.
  • Medium roast coffee is the perfect middle ground with the most body and richness of flavor. It’s also the richest in health-boosting antioxidants.
  • Dark roast coffee is roasted the longest, creating a stronger taste that’s more smokey and bitter. It packs the least amount of caffeine and may boost the antioxidant glutathione.

Read on to learn more about the distinct differences between these unique roasts and which is the best roast for you!

In this article you'll learn:

What is the Difference Between Light, Medium, and Dark Roast Coffee?

Besides the obvious taste and color differences, the roasting process is what truly sets light, medium, and dark roasts apart. Here's how it works:

Light roast coffee beans are lightly roasted, meaning they're roasted for the shortest amount of time. To make a light roast coffee, raw green coffee beans are placed in the roaster at 350°F – 400°F and finish roasting the moment they reach an internal temperature of approximately 385ºF. At this temperature, the beans make their first popping sound or, as it's called in coffee lingo, the "first crack." Beans removed from the roaster immediately after the first crack are light roast beans.

Light roast beans are also referred to as Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast, and New England Roast.

For a medium roast coffee, beans remain in the roaster for a longer period of time, until an internal temperature of approximately 420ºF is achieved. Instead of waiting for a second crack, the beans are removed anywhere from just after the first crack or moments before the second crack.

Medium roasts coffees also go by the names American Roast, Breakfast Roast, Regular Roast, and City Roast.

The difference between dark roast coffee and its counterparts is the most dramatic. The beans are roasted the longest to approximately 440ºF - just until the second crack or shortly thereafter.

Dark roast beans are also known as Full-City Roast, Vienna Roast, After-Dinner Roast, French Roast, and Italian Roast.

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Dark, Medium, and Light Roast Coffee Health Benefits

When it comes to health benefits, light, medium, and dark roasts each have something to offer.

Light and medium roasts are most potent in the polyphenol chlorogenic acid (CGA), a powerful antioxidant that gives coffee its health-boosting benefits.

CGA helps with everything from reducing inflammation to repairing cell damage to lowering cholesterol and improving your complexion. This important polyphenol can even help boost energy levels and immunity by fighting pesky antibodies. Since CGAs are decreased in the roasting process, dark roasts contain far fewer.

Dark roast coffee may boost antioxidants like glutathione, which is referred to as the “master antioxidant" and can also restore red blood cells and offer a healthy boost of skin-healing vitamin E.

It is important to note that coffee quality matters. Conventional coffee brands are often ripe with mold, toxins, and pesticides which can quickly outweigh the antioxidant benefits of coffee. Choose a coffee brand that tests for the absence of these health-harming contaminants to ensure you're reaping all the benefits of your morning brew!

Does Dark, Medium, or Light Roast Have More Caffeine?

Let’s be honest, caffeine is one of the main reasons we drink that morning cup of coffee, so what’s the caffeine difference between light roast vs. medium roast vs. dark roast?

Technically, the roasting process does not affect the caffeine content of coffee beans so light, medium, and dark roast beans all contain the same amount of caffeine. That being said, however, the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee depends on whether you're measuring by weight or volume.

How does this work?

If using a coffee bean scoop to measure by volume, the light roast beans will result in more beans per scoop because they are smaller and denser. On the other hand, a scoop of the dark roast beans, which are larger, will equal fewer beans per scoop and therefore less caffeine. So when measuring by volume, a cup of light roast will have a higher dose of caffeine.

If measuring coffee beans by weight using a scale, the more caffeinated brew will come from the dark roast beans. As noted, the dark roast beans weigh less, therefore it takes more dark roast beans than light roast to reach the desired weight.

Medium roast beans are a great middle-ground, resulting in a more consistent level of caffeination regardless of how you measure your beans. 

Light Roast vs Medium vs Dark Roast Flavor

Light vs dark roast coffee flavors are like night and day and like anything, it comes down to your personal flavor preference.

Light roast coffee has a grainy, more acidic taste, more closely resembling the raw green coffee bean. On the other end of the spectrum, a dark roast has a bitter, smoky, and slightly burnt taste. Due to the longer roasting time, dark roast beans lose most of the green coffee flavor and inevitably take on more flavors from the roasting process.

With a medium roast, you get the best of both worlds. Most medium blends are roasted until just before the second crack, right before the body of the bean starts thinning and becomes overpowered by the roasting flavors. That’s why medium roasts are known to have a more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity compared to light and dark roast coffees.

If your coffee tastes strangely bitter, or if you get stomach aches, brain fog or jitters after drinking, these may be telltale signs that your coffee contains mold or mycotoxins. These toxins can linger in your intestinal lining, triggering inflammation and oxidative stress in your body, and over time, long-term exposure to mold and mycotoxins may lead to respiratory diseases, chronic fatigue, and even cancer. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms after your morning cup of joe, it's time to upgrade stat!

Which is the Best Coffee Roast?

Though light, medium, and dark roast coffees all have their own unique flavor health benefits, and caffeine content, we think medium roast has the perfect balance of each extreme.

With a cup of medium roast coffee, you're getting a moderate amount of caffeine, a potent dose of the health-promoting antioxidant, chlorogenic acid (CGA), and a robust flavor with the perfect body and aroma.

This is why we chose a medium roast for our new Clean Coffee - and then optimized it to be the best cup of coffee on the market. We've specifically designed our sourcing, processing, roasting, and packaging process to create a bean that's as healthy as it is flavorful.

Each batch of our Clean Coffee starts with the top 1% of hand-picked Colombian Arabica coffee beans grown using organic methods. Then, it's roasted in a smokeless coffee bean roaster to contain up to 200% more antioxidants than your average cup of coffee. To ensure our coffee delivers the maximum health benefits, we third-party test every batch to ensure the absence of mold, mycotoxins, and pesticides.

But you don't have to take our word for it! Try our Clean Coffee today and experience the difference for yourself. We guarantee it will be the tastiest cup of coffee you've ever had - and will leave you feeling great. 


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