Two different coffees never have the same taste, flavor notes, acidity or aftertaste. Flavor notes vary depending on the bean type, its origin, processing method, its freshness and other factors. But, when you know its roast level, you can know what to expect from a certain blend.
When choosing coffee for the first time, always start from its roast level.
I know how busy you are and I’m pretty sure you don’t have all day to read about City Roast, Full City Roast, Vienna, French roast or Agtron system. Let’s just skip the technical part and move to 3 roast levels important to us: light, medium and dark roast.
LIGHT ROAST COFFEE
Bright, crisp and acidic. It does not have too much sweetness but highlights origin characteristics and fruity, citrus notes. The mouthfeel is clean with a sharp aftertaste. Usual notes: lemon, peach, grapes, green tea, lime, vanilla, melon, honey.
If you love your coffee black and strong you probably won’t like light roasts. The lack of body and deepness results in a “weak coffee taste”. However, due to a fact that short roasting time keeps all the origin characteristics and flavor notes, some of the most popular coffees at specialty coffee shops are actually light roasts.
If you would like to try different coffees and get more than just a caffeine kick, you might want to try some popular lighter roasts.
Popular light roasts (specialty coffee): La Colombe Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Blue Bottle Guatemala Huehuetenango La Esperanza, Verve La Candelaria, Stumptown Guatemala Semillero.
Popular light roasted blends (grocery store): When you see morning/breakfast blend, that’s usually a light roast. For example Green Mountain Breakfast Blend, Starbucks Blonde roast; Folgers morning blend; Seattle’s best levels 1 and 2; Maxwell House Breakfast Blend. Flavored coffees are usually light roasts.
Medium Roast Coffee
Medium roast is always a nice choice. It is a perfect combination of floral & fruity notes and caramelized chocolate flavor. Usual notes: cherry, blackberry, plum, caramel, toasted nuts, chocolate, maple. This roast has a certain level of acidity but it’s well balanced, has complexity and deepness. What I like about medium roast is that it allows to play with different brewing methods and achieve different results using the same coffee.
Medium roast keeps origin characteristics and it’s well balanced: sweet, deep, fruity and creamy. In fact, medium roast is the most popular roast in the U.S. Most “house blends” are medium roasts.
Popular medium roasts (specialty coffee): Stumptown Hair Bender, Verve Seabright House Blend, La Colombe Nizza.
Popular medium roasted blends (grocery store): Starbucks House blends; Green Mountain Vermont; Maxwell House House Blend; The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Sumatra; Folgers House Blend.
Dark Roast Coffee
The best part about dark roasted coffees is their strength and deepness. They usually have full body, complex taste, and lasting aftertaste. Instead of fruity notes, dark roasts bring deep woody, ashy and earthy tones. Usual notes: dark chocolate, cocoa, almond, brown sugar, pepper. They are rarely acidic. The mouthfeel is very deep, bold and smoky.
For light roast fans, dark roast is usually too strong or bitter. Of course, if you love your coffee black and strong, dark roast is perfect. It’s also a great choice for coffee recipes with milk and iced coffees.
Popular dark roasts (specialty coffee): La Colombe Savoia, Stumptown French Roast, Verve French Roast, Death Wish Coffee.
Popular dark roasted blends (grocery store): Starbucks Sumatra/ French Roast; Folgers Black Silk; Maxwell House Dark roast; Green Mountain Dark Magic and Sumatran, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf French Roast.
I hope this helps!