Coffee Roast Levels Chart (With Roasting Guide)

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Poulami Ganguly

Coffee Roast Levels Guide

Curious to know about what goes behind the scene? Cool!! Simply stick to this post as today, We are going to share the secret of perfect coffee roasting through this exclusive and handy coffee roast levels chart. Read on!

Once coffee used to be a little-known delicacy that was remembered only to aid a few religious rituals. But, when this rich, dark liquid started flowing across the globe and greasing the steering of economies, it turned into an indomitable force. Though it sounds surprising, every day, more than 2 billion cuppa joe is produced and consumed across the globe, making it one of the most traded commodities on the planet. 

Even conventionally tea-loving countries like China and more have been seduced by the gorgeousness and charm of coffee which is gradually making its way to become the world’s most desirable drink. But what steers this insane thirst, and how this apparently modern beverage is progressively conquering the world?

Well, the reasons include its aromatic yet abrasive flavor profile that can be pointed to as the source behind its crazy favoritism, and when it comes to extracting the raw coffee beans’ flavor profiles and nuances at their best, the art of roasting does all the wonders. 

After sourcing them from different lush highlands, the coffee beans are dried before the process of roasting transforms them into nutty and hard nodules, which we typically feed our grinders. Thus, it won’t be an exaggeration that if the roast is magic, the roasters are the alchemists! With the supernatural craft of outstanding roasting, they turn coffee into a reportedly life-enhancing beverage that goes far beyond a simplistic caffeine kick.

Coffee Roasting or Toasting – Nailing the Craft

Before getting into the story of coffee roasting, we will have to dig a little deeper into the basics, and here’s a least expected twist in the story – coffee beans are not beans at all! Wait, I’m not here to confuse you and provoke you to bang your head – I’m just sharing the real story. So, if they are not beans, what are they?

The straightforward answer is – COFFEE BEANS ARE GREEN, HARD, AND BARELY AROMATIC SEEDS THAT GROW IN HIGH ALTITUDE AREAS. Those familiar, fragile, brown, and robustly aromatic nodules are the result of the roasting process. You can even call it coffee toasting because the process of roasting is quite identical to toasting a slice of bread.

The only difference is that everything needs to be perfect here – perfect temperature, perfect time, and perfect result. If you over roast, the coffee beans will be burnt, and they will fail to render the end result that features perfect brown-shaded and deliciously aromatic coffee beans. 

Though technology advances have brought up a lot of smart roasting equipment, which allows automation of the process, the conventional roasting method requires two definite skills for the successful completion of coffee roasting. They are – 

1. Sight

Every expert roaster knows that perfect roasting changes the texture and color of coffee beans. With the help of these visual cues, they can identify the progress of the process and determine the roast level of the beans. While lightly roasted coffees are slightly brown and don’t leave any oil on the surface, the dark roasted ones look shiny and dark brown.

2. Sound

Coffee beans produce identifiable cracking noises while being roasted, and this noise talks about the different stages of the process. They crack when the moisture of the raw seeds evaporates, causing the bean to expand. While medium and light roasts are done a little after the first crack, the dark roasts are done after the second crack.

Coffee Roast Levels Chart – With Details Explained

The typical classifications of coffee roast levels are limited to three different variants – light, medium, and dark. But, that doesn’t reflect the full story. Here’s a to-the-point primer that will help you know about the different roast levels of coffee perfectly. Here we go!

Coffee Roast Levels Chart

Download the high-resolution coffee roast levels chart.

Unroasted – Green Coffee

These are the seeds of the coffee cherry, which are dried and sometimes water processed from decaffeination before they head to the roaster’s office. 

Drying Coffee

When your coffee beans are mid-roasted and the process of moisture evaporation is in full swing, you can call those beans drying coffee. They typically give off a sweet grass and hay aroma, but you shouldn’t use them for grinding or brewing your cup as they will definitely taste horrible. 

Cinnamon Roast

This is the first stage of roasting that makes coffee beans consumable. With cinnamon roast beans, you can enjoy a cup with a nuanced grassy taste. However, it’s worth remembering that the beans are still underdeveloped at this stage, so it’s not ideal for brewing your drink using them. 

Light Roast

Also known as city roast or New England roast, this typical roast type is highly appreciable to a group of global coffee aficionados. At this stage, the coffee starts to smell like nuts and chocolate. The recommended method of brewing a light roast coffee is the pour-over. 

It allows the beans to be soaked in the water for a longer duration which results in a light-bodied, clean taste complemented by subtle flavors. Besides, it’s always ideal for preparing hot coffee using lighter roasts and adding a splash of cream or milk to bring out its highest delectability. 

Light to Medium

The tail end of the first crack is defined as the light-medium roast. There shouldn’t be any oil on the beans, and these roasts typically allow you to taste the individual character and flavor of the coffee. Cups that are made of medium roast beans are full-bodied and bright. 

Full Medium

In the stage of roasting, when the first crack ends but the second crack doesn’t begin produces full medium roast beans. They are not oily, and they create a balanced flavor profile which includes the blend of the individual nuances of the beans and the aroma that comes out of the roasting process. 

This is the roast that can give you the best of both worlds. The acidity is balanced, and the delectability stands out in the crowd – this is how you can define a cup made using full-medium roast beans.

Learn more about Coffee Acidity with our complete guide on Coffee pH Levels.


Before the medium roast touches, the lines of darkness after the first few snaps of second cracks are called medium-dark or full city + roast. There will be a few flecks of oil on the beans, and these beans hold a fair balance of original and roasted flavors. Besides, they are less acidic. 

Be it a light-medium roast, a City + roast, or a medium-dark roast, the best way to brew them is using the drip coffee method, French Press, or cold brew. All of these brewing patterns involve longer brewing time which allows you to extract the best flavor notes. Besides, the espresso method also works well with medium roast as it involves high-pressure extraction, ensuring marvelous tasting notes.  

Dark Roast

Also known as Vienna roast, this is the stage when your beans enter the territory of darkness. They will shine with natural coffee oil on them, and they will contain more roasted flavors than the original. However, a number of dense beans like Indonesian ones can still maintain a clear origin flavor even if they are roasted dark. Dark roast coffee beans are less acidic and brighter. 

Dark roasts are best for Aeropress and espresso methods. Cacao and toasted bread tasting notes, least acidity, and velvety mouthfeel define dark roasts the best when it comes to specialty brews like macchiato, mochaccino, cappuccino, latte, etc. 

French Roast

This is the stage that kicks in when the roasting process reaches the end of the second crack. At this stage, the beans will be covered in a sheen of oil, and they will be free from their original flavor. To keep it simple, you can say that whatever coffee you roast to French roast level, it will taste almost the same. Besides, your cup will hold a thinner texture and a burnt undertone. 

Spanish or Italian Roast

This is the stage when your beans will smell like burning tires and will turn black instead of brown. It’s highly recommended that you drink this terrible stuff only when you meet up with a roasting accident. In case you are keenly interested in experimenting with a Spanish or Italian roast, go ahead and do it at your own risk. Please don’t blame me later on that; I haven’t warned you before. 

The Truth behind Caffeination Explained

Like many others, you may have also heard that darker roasts contain higher caffeine levels. However, reality differs! In actuality, the caffeine content of lighter roasts is slightly higher than the dark ones. It happens because of bean density. The longer you roast the beans, the lower their overall density will be. 

It clearly states that a dark roasted coffee bean contains less caffeine than the light roasted one. This little imbalance can be corrected when you measure coffee by weight. On the other hand, when you measure coffee by volume, for example, using scoops, the minimal difference in caffeine levels shows up. Besides, the other factors that affect caffeination include the dosage and method of brewing.

How to Roast Coffee at Home?

Experimenting with coffee never reaches the level of saturation, and this craving to explore better methods for producing world-class cups may induce the irresistible willingness to roast your own coffee at home. But, what’s the best method to perfectly roast coffee beans at home? Check it out now! 

Step 1: Get Unroasted Green Seeds

Visit your local store or order unroasted green coffee seeds. You should always buy the tinner greener versions of their fully roasted selves. 

Statutory warning – Never ever try to taste one if you really don’t want to crack your teeth.

It’s worth keeping in mind that when they are roasted, the coffee beans will increase in size, and they will lose around half their weight. So, if you are looking to yield 1 pound of roast, buy 2 pounds of green beans. Additionally, be careful about the fact that every raw bean has its own flavor profile. Therefore, do some research and be sure about your preference before getting them home. 

Step 2: It’s all about Rounding-Up the Equipment 

You can definitely go ahead and get yourself an expensive, commercial-style roaster. However, be aware of the fact that you can use them only when you have tons and tons of coffee to roast. To turn out small batches at home, you can settle for a good countertop roaster, and in case you want to mimic it as well, you can simply use a popcorn popper or an iron skillet. 

Here it’s worth understanding the concept of roasting – the entire thing revolves around the objective of heating up the beans in a confined area and roasting them to temperatures up to 450 degrees, and the corn poppers can do the job pretty well. In case you don’t have a popper hand, you can consider using a cast-iron skillet and a wooden spoon for stirring the beans. 

Step 3: Proceeding with the Roasting Thing

Do you know what the best benefit of roasting coffee at home is? Well, you have full control over the flavor and boldness of your cup. To start roasting, you need to dump the raw beans into your heating equipment. Once done, simply crank the heat and start stirring. While stirring, you will gradually notice that the beans will slowly start to change their colors from green to yellow.

Eventually, they will turn light brown, and this is the time to pay attention so that you don’t miss the sound of the first crack. Roast till the level you prefer the most. For example, if you want a light roast, quit the roasting process right after the first crack. 

On the other hand, if you want to keep it darker, hang on for a few minutes and quit roasting when you reach the dark roast level. Again, keep in mind, don’t let your coffee beans turn as black as charcoal.

Step 4: Cool them Down

Once you have determined the roasting level, it’s time to remove the beans and let them cool. For cooling, you simply swoosh them between two metal strainers or lay them on a paper sheet. Be careful while cooling your beans, as they will be incredibly hot! 

Step 5: Allow them to Breathe before Brewing

Once your beans are nicely cooled, store them in an airtight container. However, make sure that for a day or two, you leave the lid slightly open. Avoiding doing so may cause an explosion as roasted coffee beans usually off-gas carbon dioxide. It’s best to use the roasted coffee beans within 5 days to enjoy the ultimate freshness. 

Now, you know the secrets of embracing your next-level coffee snob-don! 

Wrapping up

That was all about roasting! Hope you have found this guide useful and implementable. Roast like a pro and enjoy a customized coffee experience every day and celebrate your passion for delectability at its best.


How many types of coffee roasts are there?

Overall, you can categorize roasting levels into four types – light, medium, medium-dark and dark. However, there are sub-variations of these four types of roasts – the light roast has two variations- cinnamon roast and New England roast. The medium can be categorized into the city and full city roast. The medium-dark one has two sub-variations, full city, and Vienna roasts, and the dark roast has two subtypes – French and Spanish or Italian roasts.

How to understand that your beans are burning?

When they start looking unusually black and give off a smell like burning tires, you need to understand that they are burning. 

Can I Roast Coffee Beans Without a Roaster?

Yes, you can! You can finely roast coffee beans using a popcorn popper or an iron skillet. All you need to do is, dump the raw beans into your heating equipment and start roasting!

What’s the temperature of the “first crack?”

The “first crack” appears when the roasting temperature reaches 196 °C.

What is the Maillard reaction in coffee roasting?

The series of chemical reactions that plays a vital role in developing the flavor characteristics of coffee is known as the Maillard reaction. It occurs when the temperature of the roast reaches 160°C.

How long does it take to roast coffee beans?

Well, the duration of coffee roasting depends on the roast type. However, the average time for a nice roast is approximately 10 minutes.

How does the heat shock technique help in coffee roasting?

When you use a heat shock technique, you enable yourself to use a pretty higher charge temperature, allowing the coffee beans to absorb the radiant heat from the popper or skillet.

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