The Difference Between a Medium Roast and a Dark Roast

Every coffee connoisseur has their go-to bean variety and roast for when they want to enjoy the perfect cup. Tastes may vary widely, but generally you will find three different coffee roasts available; light, medium, and dark (there is also green coffee, which is the beans in their natural state, but these are often lacking in flavor distinction).

Light roasts render the coffee beans closest to their natural state, easy to distinguish due to their tan color, and lack of oils that are present in medium and dark roasted beans. It is more difficult to delineate between a medium roast and a dark roast, but each has distinct differences that we will explore.

The smooth balance of a medium roast

Medium roasts are popular for their smooth taste and pleasant toasty qualities. Common medium varieties include, “Regular”, American, Breakfast, and City roasts. Medium roasts exhibit a fuller body than light roasts, and are not usually as bright or acidic as light roasts as well. Medium roasted coffee beans provide a smooth balance between body and acidity. Coffee at this stage will still retain some of the original qualities of bean, but begin to take on some of the flavors and aromas provided but the roasting process.

Medium roasted beans begin to have oils present on their surface that are brought out by the roasting method. These beans are darker in color than light roast beans, but will be lighter than dark roast beans.

Flavor profiles of medium roasts are commonly nutty, including notes of almond, nutmeg, cocoa, grain, malt, and cinnamon.

The bold character of a dark roast

Dark roasts are historically popular in Europe, which is why we have styles like the French, Italian, Continental, and Spanish roasts. 

These beans look as though they could be chocolate, and are very dark brown, almost black, in color. Oils are fully present on the beans at this point, and provide a visual identifying factor to determine the grade of the roast.

Dark roast beans are the most aromatic and bitter, and almost 100% of their flavor can be attributed to the roasting process, and retain very little of the original coffee flavor. This is why it is extremely difficult to discern the origin of dark roasted beans, and usually only those with highly trained palates can identify where the bean originated from.

Typical flavor profiles include earthy notes, as well as tobacco, molasses, smoke, chicory, wood, chocolate, and caramel.

One cup does not fit them all.