When it comes to coffee, most people have a drink of choice.
For some, it’s iced coffee or frozen coffee, while for others, it’s a hot espresso drink. For many, it’s as easy as choosing between a cup of light or dark roast.
You’ve probably heard people talk about the differences between light and dark roast, and you might even already have a favorite roast of your own. Still, you may be amazed at the differences between the two.
This article compares light and dark roast coffees by highlighting the differences in terms of caffeine content, health benefits, taste profiles, and more.
Before they are roasted, coffee beans are the green kernels of coffee plants that bear little resemblance in color or taste to the morning drink we all know and love.
Roasting these green coffee beans causes a multitude of chemical, physical and sensory changes in the beans and ultimately gives the coffee its typical color, aroma and taste (1).
Coffee beans are typically roasted in large rotating drums where they are heated for 5-15 minutes before cooling and packaging.
It sounds like a simple process, but even minor changes in the roasting time and temperature of the beans can lead to differences in the end product.
Light roasts are typically roasted between 177 ° C and 204 ° C for about 10 minutes or less (2).
Dark roasts are heated above 400 ° F (204 ° C) for closer than 15 minutes. Medium roasts fall in between (2).
In short, the lighter the roast, the lower the temperature at which the beans are roasted – and the shorter the time in the roaster.
Heating coffee beans removes moisture, so dark roasted beans tend to be light and puffy, while light roasts are dense and moist. Roasting also brings natural oils to the surface of the beans, which is why dark roasts tend to be shiny.
Dark roasted coffee beans are heated to a higher temperature for longer than light roasted coffee beans. These variations in roasting are responsible for differences in the color, density, and moisture content of the beans.
Many of us reach for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning or when we need a quick burst of energy. That’s because the caffeine in coffee stimulates brain activity and releases neurotransmitters that make you feel more alert and alert.
Therefore, you may be wondering whether light and dark roasts differ in terms of their caffeine content.
There is a misconception about which roast has more caffeine in it. Some people assume that the darker the bean, the higher the caffeine content. Others have heard that roasting burns caffeine, which means that light roasts actually contain more stimulant.
However, dark roasts tend to have a little less caffeine after the roasting process.
However, both current and previous studies suggest that the difference is negligible. As long as coffee is measured not by volume but by weight, the caffeine content between the two roasts is very similar (3, 4, 5, 6).
Because dark roasted beans puff up with air and expand when heated, measuring coffee by weight is usually more accurate than by volume, such as in teaspoons or tablespoons.
For example, one study found that a sample of light roast coffee contained around 60 mg of caffeine, while the same amount of dark roast contained 51 mg of caffeine – although this discrepancy can vary slightly between bean batches (2).
On average, 1 cup (237 ml) of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. The type of roast, the type of beans, and even the way it’s brewed can change that amount, though probably not by much (7, 8, 9).
Studies have shown that dark roasted coffee beans tend to have slightly less caffeine than light roasted coffee beans. But this is mainly due to the volume of the beans. If you compare the two roasts by weight, the difference is negligible.
After caffeine, the other reason people are drawn to either light or dark roasted coffee is usually because of the taste.
Compared to dark roasts, light roasts tend to have more delicate but complex flavor profiles. Because some of the beans’ original flavors are lost or changed during the roasting process, dark roasts tend to have deep but simple flavors (10).
Light roast coffee also tends to have a thinner mouthfeel than dark roast coffee. The natural oils found in roasted dark coffee beans increase the viscosity of the end product, making it feel thicker in the mouth.
Light roast coffee is often described as:
Dark roast coffee is often described as:
Some people describe dark roast as more bitter than light roast, although the bitterness of coffee can also be caused by many other factors – from brewing time and the coffee-to-water ratio to the temperature of the water used and the grind size of the beans (11) .
In addition, the cultivation of coffee beans, the type of coffea plant, and the processing techniques used to process the beans can all affect the taste of a cup of coffee (12).
For the best taste, light roasts are often recommended for pour-over and drip coffee, while dark roasts are well suited for espresso drinks or those with milk and cream.
You can use different roasts when making different coffee beverages to discover new favorites.
Light roast coffee has a complex taste profile that can be characterized as light and sour. Dark roast coffee has a simpler flavor profile, but is usually described as bold and robust.
Research has linked moderate coffee consumption – about 3 cups (about 710 ml) per day or less – to protection against Alzheimer’s disease, as well as reduced inflammation and better outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes (13, 14, 15, 16).
Yet many of these studies were based on observational results, which sometimes led to conflicting results. Therefore, more randomized controlled trials in humans are needed to determine the health benefits of coffee (17, 18, 19, 20).
Keep in mind that many of coffee’s health benefits depend on how much cream and sugar are added to the drink.
However, it is generally accepted that coffee contains bioactive nutrients, such as chlorogenic acid polyphenols, that can help with weight loss (21, 22, 23).
Older studies suggest that coffee also contains melanoidins, which can have a number of benefits, including reduced inflammation and antioxidant properties (24).
Although both light and dark roast coffees contain antioxidants and polyphenols, light roasts can have higher levels of these nutrients because dark roasts lose slightly more plant chemicals during the roasting process (2, 8, 25, 26).
On the other hand, some studies have found that dark roast coffees contain less acrylamide – a chemical that sometimes forms in foods that have been heated to high temperatures. Acrylamide has been linked to an increased risk of cancer (3, 25, 27, 28).
Light and dark roasted coffees each have nutritional advantages and disadvantages. Light roasts may contain higher levels of healthy antioxidants and polyphenols, but they can also contain higher levels of a harmful chemical called acrylamide.
The differences between light and dark roasted coffee result from the roasting time of the beans and the temperatures reached.
Light roasted coffee beans are heated to a lower temperature for a shorter time than dark roasted beans.
While there are some minor differences between the two, both types of beans are high in caffeine, healthy nutrients, and delicious flavors.
Whether you should drink light or dark roast coffee is a matter of personal preference.