Which Roast Reigns Supreme - Exploring The Differences In Flavor, Caffeine Content, And Nutrition Between Light, Medium, And Dark Coffee Roasts

9 min read FEB 25, 2023

Which coffee roast brings out the flavor profile of the region where the coffee is grown?

Does dark roast really contain more caffeine than other roasts?

Is one roast better than another for heartburn sufferers?

Does one coffee roast contain greater benefits to your health than another?

Wait…does coffee roasting actually affect any of these things?


Roasting coffee involves taking the grassy-scented, soft, spongy, flavorless green coffee bean and exposing it to varying temperatures for precise lengths of time, resulting in differing flavor profiles, bean sizes (spoiler alert, this affects caffeine content), and health benefits!

So, today we’re here to explore all things coffee: roast edition. And, we’ll be dropping info and busting myths as we discuss how each roast of coffee, light, medium, and dark varies.

Flavor Profiles by Roast

The McCormick spice company has since changed their slogan, but roughly twenty years ago the brand classically ended their television commercials with the tag: “the taste you trust.”

However, those words make me think of coffee, not spices.

I’m assuming most of us here have a love for truly great coffee. And, this means just any old brew won’t do, there’s truly a taste we trust.

While we may enjoy a variety of flavored coffees, specialty lattes, even a range of roasts, there’s likely one roast that palatably tops the list and keeps us coming back for more.

For me, it’s Lifeboost Light Roast. I crave the brightness. It’s refreshing and crisp, yet oh so smooth.

What about you? Which roast is your trusted taste?

Are you like me, loving a bright, crisp, light roast, or do you prefer a deeply intense, rich, and robust dark roast? Or, perhaps a classic, balanced, medium roast is more your cup of tea…err…coffee?

Aside from the growing region, and the practices used in the growing process, it’s actually the roasting of the coffee that mostly gives a brew its differing flavor profile.

Lifeboost, for instance, is grown in the rainforest mountains of Nicaragua. Coming from this region, our coffee is creamy and nutty, even reminiscent of a chocolate covered dried fig with an overall top note that hints of dried fruit.

But, the time and temperatures used in the roasting process bring out differing levels of these flavors, changing the overall tasting experience.

So, let’s take a moment to examine the three most popular roasts by flavor: light, medium, and dark.

Light Roast Coffee

Light roast coffee has a light brown color and is typically roasted for the least amount of time at the lowest temperature.

This selection is roasted for ten minutes or less and generally reaches an internal temperature of 356-401 degrees Fahrenheit.

Light roast coffee beans generally lack the typical oils found on some roasts of coffee as they’ve not been roasted long enough, nor have they reached temperatures high enough to bring them out.

Since longer roasting times work to pull the acidity out of coffee, a light roast will typically still possess this brightness (acidity).

The roasting process also causes chemical changes to occur within coffee beans, these changes altering the flavors derived from the growing region. And, this is why many coffee connoisseurs reach for a light roast to truly detect these origin flavors.

Light roasts are also described as having citrus flavor notes due to their acidity, which many find refreshingly palatable.

Bonus tip: If you enjoy the flavor profile of a light roast, but don’t enjoy the extra bit of acidity, try cold brewing! Brewing coffee at cold temperatures produces a less acidic cup of joe. And, if you prefer your coffee hot, you can simply warm your cold brewed coffee for a less acidic flavor, still boasting classic light roast notes, with the added benefits of this chilly brewing method!

Medium Roast Coffee

The average American coffee drinker prefers a medium roast. Connoisseurs describe it as having more body than a light roast without being as rich as a dark roast, thus the medium name.

This selection has a true brown color and is said to be the most balanced, roasted until what is known as the second crack, for anywhere between ten and fifteen minutes, to an internal temperature of 410-428 degrees Fahrenheit.

The longer roasting time here also diminishes more of the acidity in the bean.

And, compared to a light roast, the roasting time and temp brings out flavors that can be likened to what happens when you cook sugar on a stovetop. The longer you cook the sugar, it caramelizes, bringing out a rich sweetness.

As in this sugar example, the flavors in a medium roast round out and deepen with longer roasting times (and greater temps) allowing you to experience the profile of the growing region in a more balanced way, complementing those flavors with the rich sweetness of the bean.

A medium roasted coffee can sometimes have a small amount of oil on the bean, and such roasts would technically be dubbed more of a medium-dark versus a true medium. And, a true medium-dark roast would allow for a more bitter-sweet aftertaste.

Dark Roast Coffee

Building on what we described above, the longer roasting times and greater temps bringing out greater sweetness in a medium roast, this is amplified even more in dark coffee roasts.

This selection is roasted for roughly fifteen minutes at temperatures that range from 464-482 degrees Fahrenheit, and these temps can completely remove the origin flavors in the bean.

What is left, however, are rich, caramelized, full-bodied, buttery sweet flavors that dark roast fans know and love.

Some dark roasts even boast a smoky flavor, those roasted at the upper temperatures of the range listed here. But, roasters warn that exceeding this temperature range can burn the coffee altogether.

Dark roast coffee has little to no acidic taste, vastly different from a classic light roast.

This selection should have a shiny black color with an oily residue, brought out by the high roasting temperatures.

Many describe the aftertaste of a great dark roast to be bittersweet, even bitter, much like a fine dark chocolate.

Caffeine Levels by Roast

As with the flavor profiles, the roasting process also causes the amount of caffeine in coffee roasts to vary ever-so-slightly.

But, the difference in caffeine between roasts is only seen when comparing the beans by volume. By weight, the differences here are considered to be minor, even insignificant.

This is why most note these differences to be overly minimal, however, these slightly varying levels are distinct enough that those individuals highly sensitive to caffeine may find the difference noticeable indeed (especially when preparing by volume)!

Therefore, since what may be insignificant for some, could be detectable by others, let’s look at the caffeine levels in each roast, one by one.

Light Roast Coffee

Technically, light roast has the same amount of caffeine as dark roast, but as light roasted coffee beans aren’t in contact with a heat source (in the roasting process) for as long as darker roasts, they don’t have the opportunity to expand as much.

Therefore, light roasted coffee beans are slightly smaller than medium and dark roasted coffee beans.

If you’re measuring your coffee by volume, you’ll notice the biggest difference in caffeine comes as you’ll be getting more coffee beans per scoop than darker roasts which are larger beans.

And, more beans per scoop means more caffeine overall.

This is why many coffee connoisseurs choose to weigh their coffee, ensuring even brewing…and even caffeine levels.

In fact, if you measure your coffee by weight as opposed to volume, you’ll likely notice no difference in the caffeine content at all.

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium roast coffee is often left out of the discussion of caffeine content as the differences between light to medium roasts or medium to dark roasts are so minute that most can not detect any change.

Dark Roast Coffee

Some studies have shown a difference of 9 mg of caffeine (per half cup) between light and dark roasted coffee, with lighter roasts containing the larger amounts.

However, as we’ve already discussed, how you measure your coffee is what likely creates the difference here.

Since dark roasted coffee spends more time in the roasting process and is exposed to higher temperatures, the coffee beans expand through this exposure, resulting in a larger bean when compared to lighter roasts.

So, it’s not that the longer roasting times burn off the caffeine as a common myth suggests.

Instead, dark roasted coffee beans just tend to be larger as a result of the time and heat of the roasting process, meaning you’ll have fewer dark roasted coffee beans per scoop of coffee compared to a scoop of light roasted coffee beans.

Health Benefits by Roast

We know coffee boasts tremendous benefits to our health, from improved cardiovascular health, boosted energy levels, improvements in memory and overall cognitive function, reduced risks of disease, and so much more.

But, here we’d like to explore each roast individually to see if the benefits of coffee are amplified or diminished due to the times and temperatures involved in the roasting process.

Light Roast Coffee

Light roast coffee has been proven to contain higher levels of polyphenols and chlorogenic acid, both of which protect your cells against damage.

These antioxidants are thought to be damaged through the heat of the roasting process, thereby making these, specifically, more abundant in light roast coffee than any other roast.

Longer roasting times are also said to slightly decrease cafestol levels, an antioxidant able to combat inflammation, making light roast a better choice for cafestol content and overall anti-inflammatory effects.

Medium Roast Coffee

Some have found medium roasted coffee to contain an equal amount of health boosting antioxidants as light roast, with medium roasting temperatures still below the heat levels that can destroy these plant compounds.

Medium roasts contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants associated with reductions in inflammation, lowered cholesterol, and improved complexion.

And, a recent publication in a Polish Journal concluded light and medium roasts of coffee have more nutritional value than dark roast coffee.

Dark Roast Coffee

Some studies have shown dark roast to cause less stomach acid production than any other roast of coffee, making this selection an apt choice for individuals suffering from heartburn and other digestive disorders.

And, while we’ve mentioned the detriment of high roasting temps to the polyphenol and chlorogenic acid content of coffee, it is important to note that such heat does not destroy these potent disease fighters entirely.

In fact, dark roast coffee may contain overall higher levels of antioxidants, including glutathione, which helps build and repair tissue while also ensuring your immune system functions properly.

Some studies have also found dark roast coffee to be significantly more effective than lighter roasts in losing weight, where a small study found those who drank two cups of dark roast coffee daily lost (much) more weight in a four week period than those who drank the same amount of light roast coffee.

And, another study found dark roast coffee to be more effective (than light roast) at restoring red blood cell vitamin E, this vitamin crucial in the formation of red blood cells as well as the widening of blood vessels to prevent clotting.

All Coffee Roasts

As the caffeine content, by weight, doesn’t truly vary by roast, the benefits obtained through this component of coffee are true for each roast, light, medium, and dark.

Therefore, the following benefits of coffee are abundant due to its caffeine content, true of each roast:

- Increased alertness
- Increased focus
- Boosted energy levels
- Improved mood
- Improvements in athletic performance
- Lowered risk of depression
- Improved brain health
- Enhanced weight loss
- Boosted metabolism

Caffeine also has antioxidant effects of its own, which may aid in coffee’s other antioxidant content (through plant compounds) supporting your body by preventing and protecting against diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Embolden Dark Roast .


Drop a Comment

All comments are moderated before being published