Dark roasts have ruled the shelves for most of coffee drinking history, but light roast coffee is finally having its moment. Sometimes referred to as blonde roast coffee, lighter roasts are still relatively new on the craft coffee scene.
Coffee fans have quickly grown to love the interesting and unique flavors of these beans. They have distinct tasting notes and exciting aromas that you might not expect to get from a cup of coffee. For this reason, we think light roasts make an exceptional brew.
You may not be as familiar with this type of roast, so we’ll give you a breakdown of what the hype is all about. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best light roast coffee to give you an idea of where to start. Plus, we’ll walk you through the unique characteristics of light roasts, what to look for when you’re shopping, and the actual difference between light and blonde coffee.
In the simplest terms, a light roast refers to beans that are roasted just until light brown in color. The process of gently roasting these beans allows more of the natural flavors to shine through. You’ll get stronger sweet, fruity, and floral flavors out of a light roast than from medium or dark roasts. They also tend to be the most bright, crisp, and acidic tasting of the roast styles.
Light coffee is a newcomer on the coffee scene. Until recently, roasting technology hasn’t quite been good enough to do much besides deeply toast coffee beans. Dark roasted coffee has its own delicious characteristics, but light roasts are a little newer and more exciting right now.
Besides the light brown color of the bean, you can also tell a light roast by its matte surface. Dark and medium-dark roasts tend to be oily because the longer roasting process releases their oils. Light roasts haven’t been cooked long enough to release any oil to the surface.
While you can brew any coffee bean any way you like, light roasts are often brewed as pour over or cold brew. These methods are the best way to appreciate the more interesting flavors of light roast beans.
Drinking a high-quality light roast is a completely unique experience. It’s nothing like your traditional cup of dark, diner coffee. The complex flavors and delicate mouthfeel can be surprising if you’ve only ever had darker roasts.
Light roast coffees are prized for having the most distinct flavors of any roast type. The gentler roasting process means these beans hold on to their natural characteristics.
You’ll often hear light roasts described as tasting sweet, fruity, floral, bright, acidic, or complex. Some specific tasting notes you can expect in a light roast include honey, vanilla, berry, citrus, chamomile, and rose.
Light roasts tend to have a thinner body. It’s sometimes compared to tea in this regard. The flavors are also a bit more delicate than in their darker counterparts.
There’s some confusion on the question of caffeine content and roast level. Light roasts tend to have slightly more caffeine due to the shorter roasting process. But the real difference in caffeine has to do with how you measure your coffee.
If you measure your coffee by volume (tablespoons), you’ll get more beans in a scoop of light roast. That’s because light roast beans are smaller and denser than darker roasts. If you measure by weight (grams), you’ll end up with about the same caffeine content. The size of the bean is no longer a factor when you’re weighing it.
Another common question is whether light roast beans are more acidic than darker roasts. Light roasts do tend to have more of an acidic flavor. But that’s different than the actual acid content of the coffee. True acid content depends more on where the bean was grown than how it was roasted.
Light, medium, and dark roasts are generally differentiated by their color. But there are lots of other distinct characteristics between these different roast levels.
Light roasts have the most brightly acidic and distinct flavor. They’re lighter in color and denser than darker roast beans. There won’t be any oil on the surface of light beans. They aren’t bitter but more fruity, floral, and sweet. Very light roasts are sometimes called blonde or cinnamon roasts.
Medium roasts are a nice middle ground. Like a light roast, they maintain a good amount of the bean’s distinct flavor. But they’re a bit more balanced and have a fuller body. They also lack the stronger bitterness of a dark roast. These beans can be matte or slightly oily depending on the relative level of roast. A medium roast is usually referred to as City or Full City roast.
Dark roast coffee is smokey, bold, and straightforward. These beans have a stronger bitter flavor without much acidity. They can be quite oily due to the longer and hotter roasting time. This also means they carry less of the distinct flavor of the bean. These roasts are sometimes called French or Italian roasts.
Selecting a light coffee you’ll love can be a little trickier than buying a standard dark roast. Since light roasts display the coffee bean’s natural flavors more strongly than other roasts, there’s much more diversity in flavors. And, unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to get wrong than a super dark and toasty roast. It can be hard to know where to start if you’re new to light roasts. We’ve rounded up some helpful tips for you to consider when shopping for your next batch of beans.