A Guide to Coffee Roasts

A Guide to Coffee Roasts

Posted on January 29 2021, By: Don Cox

A Guide to Coffee Roasts

It seems as if there is quite a bit of controversy when it comes to roast colors. The roast level of coffee is nebulous at best. Kenneth Davids takes a shot at it in his quick Reference Guide to Roast Styles with 22 common names for roast colors used by roasters over the centuries.

Whenever you have a process that has been in operation since the 16th century, you will end up with a lexicon of names that refer to roast colors.

Roast Categories

For simplicity’s sake, I will focus on three categories that I refer to when hosting clients at the Coffee Roasting Institute—light, medium, and dark roasts.  These levels refer to the changing color of the coffee beans during the roasting process. Technically, any bean can be roasted to any level of darkness, though in reality some beans are more suited towards a lighter—or a darker—roast.

In my experience, less is more when providing a starting point to determine which roast level highlights the unique flavors of different beans!  

Light Roast

As beans are roasted, increasing steam pressure inside the beans will eventually cause the coffee bean cell walls to rupture, producing an audible cracking sound known as the “first crack”.  At this stage, coffee tends to display a thinner body, more pronounced acidity, and highlights any floral notes associated with the coffee.

Medium Roast

As roasting continues, a darker, medium roast evolves. This stage is referred to as the development phase of the roast. The coffee begins to brown as chlorogenic acids and sucrose break down. Milder acidity is noticeable, with the varietal characteristics being more pronounced along with a fuller body.

Dark Roast

If roasting continues beyond a medium roast stage, a second crack will occur.  After the second crack, the beans become brittle due to dehydration, Carbon Dioxide is released, and the beans begin to carbonize. Acidity becomes less evident. Primary flavors begin to burn off and are replaced with more noticeable caramelization notes.


I'm personally not a fan of dark roasted coffees! At the request of several friends who like the flavor of dark roasted coffees but are still looking for elemental flavors of the bean, I have come up with a roast profile that I feel retains the varietal characteristics of the coffee.

The result: Dark coffee roasted right!

After experimenting with different coffee origins, I have found three coffees that hold up to the high temps of the roasting process, and the feedback has been more than positive.

So, a big thank you to all of you who were persistent in your requests for a dark roasted coffee, and without further adieu, here are our dark roasted offerings!

Enjoy all our organic coffees, freshly roasted at our own Boone roastery, and available on-line!  Shop all our great coffees now! 

Thank you for supporting our passion and our purpose! 

Don Cox signature