Guide To Roast Colors


Roast colors differ from roaster to roaster and that seems to be more true today than ever before. Light, Dark, Full City, Viennese, Cinnamon, French and many other terms have been used in the past to describe the color of coffee.

Historically, we used Medium, Viennese, Dark Viennese, and French, but as more people describe coffees on the Light/Medium/Dark spectrum we have switched over to that naming methodology.

We want you to be able to select the right coffee that suits your preferences, and with an inability to physically see the beans, we expect that this guide will help you make a more informed decision and buy the right beans on the first go-round.

The Quick Cheat Sheet:

Here is a chart to help you understand where we roast for our versions of light, medium, and dark. If you want more detailed descriptions, you'll find them below the chart. 

mclaughlin-coffee-roast-color-guide

Light Roast

Our light roast is medium brown in color and is the most acidic of our offerings. There may be slight oil on a bean or two, but for the most part, the beans are completely free of oil. We roast it dark enough to remove some of the sourness that can come from an underdeveloped bean, but light enough to highlight the unique flavors from the origin. This roast is stopped around the end of the first crack. 

SHOP LIGHT ROASTS

Medium Roast

This is what we used to call our Viennese roast color and it is at the beginning of the second crack. At this stage, oils are just beginning to form on the majority of the beans. The beans are a brown color, darker than our light roast, but not approaching a dark brown color yet. Some of the acidity is reduced at this stage, and there is a slight introduction of the roast taste into the flavor. 

SHOP MEDIUM ROASTS

Medium-Dark Roast

We used to refer to this roast color as Dark Viennese. Here, we roast further into the second crack and the oils are really developing on the bean. The bean is dark brown in color, most of the red/orange shades of brown are gone at this point. We find that this roast color tends to pull more sweetness out of the bean and the roast taste is further introduced into the flavor. There may be slight acidity at this stage, depending on the origin. 

SHOP MEDIUM-DARK ROASTS

Dark Roast

Our dark roast is a traditional French Roast. The beans are oily and black with a brown shade to them. At this stage, the roast taste is fully present and tends to present itself as the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness that you would find in dark chocolate. The origin flavors are much more subtle here, and there is essentially no acidity. 

SHOP DARK ROASTS

Roasting French is a delicate art, and we are very careful that we roast to maximize the dark roast flavor without introducing over-roasted bitter flavors that you would associate with burnt toast, or other overcooked foods. When the beans lose all of their browns and start to have grey or blue undertones, we feel the coffee has been over-roasted and the dark roast flavor goes from "good bitter" to "BAD bitter" very quickly.

In closing

Choosing the right coffee for your taste is an important part of the process. There are now roasters in the field who roast their dark roast about the same color as our light roast. If you are a light roast aficionado, then you should probably go no darker than our light roasts. If you want a good balance of origin flavor and sweetness, try our medium roasts. If you love a dark roasted bean, but don't want it to be over roasted and bitter, our Dark Roast is the one for you.