Most people believe an espresso is all about the coffee maker you use. In fact, it’s a mix of many variables like bean type, grind, and roast. 

Today, we take a look at our three favorite types of roasts and dive a little bit deeper into the intricacies of getting the perfect roast on a great coffee bean.

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Previously, a roast was known by the geographic area in which it was made, such as Italian, French, City, or New England. Since a geographic area was often identified with a very particular brewing style, and the names given to coffee roasts aligned themselves with that locality’s brewing process.  For example, an “Italian roast” may be understood as being used to make espresso, a common Italian brewing process.

However, as our coffee cultures merge, the language associated with coffee roasts has been significantly distorted. When you factor in the fact that advertisers are attempting to entice customers by using seductive adjectives and language, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know exactly what kind of coffee roast is in the package.

Now that you’ve spent the time studying machines, you’ve discovered the ideal one (possibly through our most recent blog on coffee machines we love). The next move is to master the art of espresso preparation. To make the perfect espresso, you must consider three factors: the coffee, the roast, and the brew.

Before we go any further, it is important to clarify that there is no such thing as an espresso bean. Espresso refers to the brewing method. There are only coffee beans. The roast of coffee beans is what separates them. Coffee beans can be roasted in a variety of ways, from light to dark. Beans that have been roasted in the medium to the medium-dark range are best for making espresso.

Light Roast

The color of beans will reveal a lot about how well they’ve been roasted. Roasts that are lighter in color are heated for a shorter time than darker roasts. They turn out to be the palest shade of brown of all the roasts.

Around 350°F – 400°F, coffee beans begin to take on their final roasted shape. This is known as “first crack,” and it occurs when the moisture being removed from beans is first detected by cracking. Light roasts are rarely cooked beyond the first cracks.

They’ll be the driest beans you’ve ever seen, with little or no oil evident on the surface. They have a more earthy taste. Light roasts have the most potent punch in that department since the roasting process cooks away the caffeine.

Roasted beans that are lightly roasted are also the most acidic. Yet, acidity in coffee does not contribute to the PH balance or what is known as a “sour” flavor, such as lemon. It refers to how similar the bean is to its normal green or fruity state. The more a bean is roasted, the further it is from its “normal” state, and the more acidity it loses.

While any roast can be used in any brewing process, an espresso made with a light roast will be disappointing. A light roast expresso can yield a coffee that is flat and lacks the richness and velvety finish associated with espresso.

Medium Roast

Medium roast beans brought up to a temperature of 410°F to 430°F. Medium roasts are heated until they hit the “second crack” after the first set of cracks.

They’re a little darker brown in color. The coffee’s taste and color would be a little darker than lighter roasts.

Although no oil will be apparent on the surface of the beans, the taste will be slightly less acidic than lighter roasts. They’ll have a little less caffeine content and a more natural flavor than their lighter counterparts.

A medium roast is a good place to start experimenting in your search for the perfect espresso.

Medium-Dark Roast

What we also call “Full City”, these are beans that have been roasted for a few minutes longer than the “second crack” will have a rich, dark color and some oil visible on the surface. The temperature of the roast is around 25°F higher than that of medium roasts.

The roasting time for these beans is from the beginning to the middle of the second crack.

The aromas of the beans would be highly representative of the flavor when roasting medium-dark roasts. Depending on the age and origin of the beans, flavors will vary from bittersweet to spicy, chocolatey, or caramel.

Italian baristas insist that medium or medium dark roasts are perfect for making espresso.

Dark Roast

The outside of dark roasted beans is sticky and shiny. They’ll be dark in color, almost black. These beans are roasted to a temperature of over 100°F higher than light roasts. They’ll be roasted until they’ve reached the end of the second crack, if not longer.

They have smokier, fuller, almost burnt tastes. If you’re a true coffee connoisseur, you can use dark roasted blends in french presses and other traditional coffee brewing methods. But be warned, it’s an acquired taste (that we believe everyone should try once), some find the taste is too powerful.

Having a guide describe what different coffee roasts can taste like is nothing compared to actually drinking the coffee. Knowing what kind of beans you’re having is empowering, whether you’re a regular coffee drinker or just enjoy an espresso on occasion.

After you’ve learned about coffee roasts, you should start looking into different brewing methods. The trick is to find a roast that works well for your brewing process. You will feel the wonder and happiness of a delicious cup of coffee or espresso when you find the perfect match, which is really a match made in heaven.

Try one of these roasts today.