Characteristics of Coffee and Types of Roasts

There are several different types of coffee roasts, and each has its own unique flavor. First, it is important to understand that where the coffee beans are grown affects the flavor. For instance, beans grown in Sumatra will have different taste from beans grown in Columbia.

Lighter roasted beans have more caffeine than the darker roasts and allow the unique characteristics of the bean to show. When beans are roasted, the fats, starches and sugars blend, becoming caramelized. Darker roasts have a stronger, fuller taste, but can lose some of the nuances of the beans’ origin. If beans are over-roasted, they can have a charcoal or burned flavor. Here are the unique characteristics of different types of coffee roasts.


This has a weak, grainy flavor and is too under-roasted for most people’s tastes. The bean is light brown and dry.

New England

This term is most common in the eastern United States. It doesn’t have the grainy flavor that the Cinnamon has and it is a little darker. The New England roast may have a sour note.

American, Light

This is the roast that you will commonly find in the United States. The beans are a medium-dark brown.

City Medium

Think chocolate. This roast is medium-brown and is most common in the western United States.

Full City

These beans start to show oiliness on their surface and are a medium brown. This roast has a chocolaty or caramel undertone. This roast is sometimes called “Vienna Roast.”

French, Espresso

These beans are oily and dark brown. Mistakenly, some think this is the darkest roast available. French Espresso roast is commonly used to make espresso.

Italian, Dark French

This has a stronger burned flavor than the French Espresso. It is very oily and dark. The beans’ variety is not usually mentioned because during roasting, the beans take on a carbon taste.


This is the darkest of all the blends. The flavor has a flat charcoal undertone and it is the least palatable of the roasts. It is nearly black.

The different levels of roasting are achieved by roasting the beans to a certain temperature. The lighter roasts are removed during the “first crack” stage. The “first crack” occurs around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When the beans crack, it sounds similar to popcorn. The darker roasts are left in the roaster until the “second crack.” The “second crack” takes place around 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If you continue to roast after the “second crack” has been reached, the beans will taste burned and may catch on fire.

There are six characteristics that are used to judge coffee: aroma, body, flavor, acidity, sweetness and aftertaste. The origin of the beans and the roasting process can affect each of these characteristics, altering the flavor and color of the beans. The different varieties of coffees are very diverse. Some great ones to try are the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and the Hawaiian Kona coffee. Both are rich and delicious.

Take time to learn more about how coffee is grown, where it is grown and what level of roasting it was prepared with and you’ll find a coffee that perfectly suits your taste.


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