Coffee Roast Levels
Posted by ANDREW MORSE
Roast levels are a function of time and internal bean temperature. As the bean temperature increases, it undergoes many chemical changes accompanied by two releases of energy known as the first crack and second crack. Stopping the roasting process in relationship to these two critical events results in a range of commonly known roast levels.
Apart from the underlying bean itself, roast levels can influence flavors in the cup. Generally, the darker the roast, the more the roast level influences flavor. For example most of Longbottom’s regional coffees use a lighter American style roast. At this roast level, the flavor characteristics of origin and processing can be identified and savored in the cup with minimal influence from the roasting process.
American or Light Roast
This is the lightest roast Longbottom uses. The beans are a medium brown in color with slightly muted acidity and the origin characteristics are prominent. Most of our Single Origin, flavored coffees and some blends designed to preserve regional flavor profiles benefit from this roast level.
City Roast will be slightly darker than our Light Roast with a darker brown color. This roast level tends to be smooth in taste, with milder acidity. This is just before the roast characteristics start to kick in, so you are primarily getting the unique flavors from each region - unobscured by the roast profile. Longbottom uses this roast level for our Dark Single Origin coffees because we find it is the best balance of time and heat to unlock a coffee’s distinct origin with the roasting process releasing much of the organic compounds that define a coffee’s potential.
Full City or Medium Roast
For a Full City roast, we stop right at the verge of the second crack. It is noticeably darker than our City Roast and you will start to see the beans take on a glossy appearance as some oils begin to rise to the surface. This roast is often smooth in taste, with even less acidity. Some Longbottom Signature Blends shine at this roast level including our Sweet Espresso and Viennese Blend. The unique flavors from each regional component are still present but more character starts to come from the roast process. Toasted notes, caramelized sugars and some additional sweetness starts to form.
Vienna or Dark Roast
A classic Vienna roast is darker still. Beans at this level are glossy in appearance as more oils rise to the surface and become a prominent component of flavors in the cup. This is just when the roast characteristics really kick in. Vienna roasts tend to be smooth in taste with even lower acidity (brightness) and some distinct bitter-sweet tones begin to appear. Longbottom has many popular Signature Blends at this roast level, including our trademark Black Gold Coffee Blend and our Whitelightning Espresso.
Here the roast level overtakes the bean’s natural flavor. Beans darken to the hue of a rich, dark chocolate and are very shiny with oils. Caffeine content begins to drop. The tastes here come almost entirely from the roast and may range from rich caramel notes to toasted and bitter-sweet. Longbottom Signature Blends like Italian Roast, Gourmet Espresso and our Caffe Italia Espresso line use this roast profile.
Approaching combustion, the beans quickly become an inky velvet black with a highly glossy appearance. The secret to a great French Roast is to bring it rapidly to target temperature then rapidly cool it. Only an hot-air roaster with its high pressure air flow can do this well. Traditional drum roasters take too long to hit the target temperature or are not precise enough to drop the beans at exactly the right moment. With this approach we avoid the burnt quality that is typical of a French from other roasters. The resulting cup is bittersweet in flavor, with smoky undertones and very light body or mouth feel.
What's your favorite?
We hope this quide to our roast levels helps you to select the perfect coffee for you! You can select and filter based on these values when browsing our coffees so make sure to use the Coffee Roast, Body and Acidity attribute filters to narrow your search! We'd love to hear which coffee is your favorite and why.