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Light roast, dark roast, my roast, your roast

Landon Porter

light-darkroastsDuring my time in the coffee world I have witnessed the battle of the roast preference. I have heard about every debate out there, from light roast coffee is acidic to dark roast coffee is burnt. Everyone has their favorite place on the roast spectrum, and with a patriotic spirit they will rise up to defend their roast preference if anyone dares to attack it. We are creatures of habit and if we came into the gourmet coffee world liking one roast over the other, then that’s probably where we have remained. I hope to challenge your favorite roast preference and shed some light on why you may appreciate that roast you happen to look down upon.

I will take on the light roast first since this is all the rage in the specialty coffee industry. Light roasted coffee is often praised because you can taste more of the coffee’s true characteristics. It offers sweet, juicy, and vibrant flavors with a clean finish! Sounds tasty, right? While some of us sip our lightly roasted coffees and proclaim how magnificently sweet it is, others are simply noticing that the liquid in their cup is acidic and makes their tongue tingle. We cannot convince people they should drink a coffee that they obviously do not enjoy, but many a coffee drinker miss out on some really nice flavors that come about as a result of the lighter roast.

Now for Dark roast…and I can already see the coffee nerds cringing. The biggest complaint I hear about dark coffee is that it’s “burnt”. While this may be true in some cases, most of the time, it is not burnt if you’re dealing with quality, small-batch roasted specialty coffee. Dark roasts usually have prominent flavor notes like dark chocolate, and caramel hints with a heavy, lingering finish. Sounds like a delicious dessert to me! As a roaster, there are some coffees that simply lends themselves better to a darker roast and some work better as a lighter roast. I like to experiment and test to find the right roast balance and make a coffee taste as good as it possibly can.

Let me sum it all up by saying I believe most of our taste for a particular coffee roast profile developed as we made our respective journeys to the world of specialty coffee. Going from that “stuff” in a tin can that was ground 18 months ago, all the way to where we are now, we have developed our likes and dislikes. So why should we base our roast preference off of the sludge that we all used to drink years ago? There are actually some light roasted coffees that are smooth and lingering that I have let “dark roasters” try and they thoroughly enjoyed them! On the flip side, there are sweet and complex dark roasts that a light roast drinker will definitely appreciate.

The point of all this is that we have access to some of the finest fresh roasted coffees in the world, so why should we limit ourselves to what we consider to be a “better” roast? I know this because I was one of those people who stuck by their roast with pride! Our palates change over time and we could be missing out on the best coffee we have ever experienced, so don’t be afraid to get outside of your roast profile comfort zone. Drink deeply…and enjoy!

– Landon