When buying coffee beans at a coffee shop or supermarket, what’s the first thing you see on the packaging? Type of coffee and its origin or roast level? Have you ever heard or known about coffee roasting levels? It must feel familiar to hear this, especially if you are a coffee lover. So, what does coffee roasting mean? Check out the discussion below!

Coffee itself can be roasted to different roasting levels. The level of roasting is one of the biggest factors in how the final coffee tastes. The darkness of the coffee beans depends on how long and the temperature at which the beans are roasted.

In the previous article, we briefly discussed the aroma of coffee roasting, here we will explore all the information about knowing the level of coffee roasting.

Get to know what coffee roastingis

Coffee roasting is the process of heating, cooking, or drying coffee beans in a coffee roaster to impart flavor and aroma to the beans.

Roasting removes most of the moisture in the coffee beans and initiates a series of chemical reactions known as pyrolysis, which changes the chemical composition of the coffee and develops compounds associated with the flavor and aroma of the brewed coffee.

Skilled roasters strive to apply the right temperature with the right amount of roasting time to bring out the best flavor of the roasted coffee beans.

Roasters also pay attention to the level of color and aroma of the roasted coffee beans, ranging from very light to very dark. As the coffee beans lose moisture, the density of the coffee beans will also change.

Roasting coffee requires skill as well as the right balance of temperature and time. Typical roasting temperatures range from 188 – 282 degrees Celsius. The roasting time also varies from about 12 to 30 minutes. During roasting, the coffee beans will shrink by about 20 percent of the bean weight turning into a dark color and fragrant aroma.

The roaster also provides the popping sound of roasted coffee. These different“cracks” of coffee beans occur at certain stages of roasting, and there is a first crack and a second crack.

The first crack occurs at around 195 degrees Celsius, usually just a few minutes after roasting begins. The coffee beans appear enlarged because the beans have cracked. Light roasts are roasted only up to the first crack.

The second crack occurs when the coffee bean reaches about 220 degrees Celsius and the cellulose matrix of the coffee begins to break down. This happens usually a few minutes after the first crack. Coffee beans roasted to this stage are usually considered a full roast(medium-dark roast).

Read also: Looking to Buy a Roasting Machine for Your Coffee Business? Check out this article first

Getting to know coffeeroasting levels

The coffee comes in four main roast levels, namely light, medium, dark, and extra dark. Within these four levels, you’ll see the differences too.

The longer the coffee is roasted, the larger the volume of the coffee beans. Therefore, dark or extra dark roast coffee beans are larger in volume than light roast coffee beans.

Light roast

This type of coffee also tends to have a brighter visual flavor than dark or extra dark roast types. With a dry, non-oily texture, these beans usually only reach around 170 degrees Celsius and barely go through the first crack stage.

getting to know roasting levels
Intended to preserve the natural aroma and flavor of the coffee beans, light roast represents the preferred choice of most coffee lovers.

Light roast coffee is often more acidic than dark roast coffee. Therefore, dark roasted coffee is lighter on the stomach, while light roasted coffee often still has the original flavor of raw coffee beans. These flavors include leafy, vegetable, and nutty flavors.

Medium roast

This medium roast coffee usually replaces the bright flavor of light roast with a sweet caramelized flavor formed by a longer roasting time. This additional development time also reduces the acidity usually found in light roast coffee.

getting to know roasting levels
A level above light roast, medium roast can still retain the natural aroma and flavor of the coffee beans.

Coffee beans at this medium roast level are usually still dry and rarely look oily. Coffee is roasted to a temperature of around 200 degrees Celsius, usually only passing the first crack stage and half the second crack stage.

Dark roast

At this level, continuous roasting starts to reduce the natural aroma and flavor of the coffee beans. This creates a thicker, heavier flavor with lower acidity.

getting to know roasting levels
Dark roast coffee beans are often roasted at a dark level to get a strong body impression, for serving milk coffee or creating blended coffee beans.

Dark roast coffee generally has an oily appearance and is dark brown in color, these beans usually reach the second crack stage at around 220 degrees Celsius.

Extra dark roast

When beans are roasted to this level, there starts to be no trace of the original flavor of the beans left.

getting to know roasting levels
Coffee shops rarely use this level of roast because of its bitter, non-complex flavor.

This level of coffee beans appear to release a high amount of oil, have a glossy appearance, and are usually pale in color.

Also read: How to Store Roasted Coffee Beans Well to Stay Fresh

Roasting process

Technological advancements in roasting equipment are transforming the coffee roasting process by adding automated features to monitor and control every step. However, traditional roasting methods require skill to judge the right time in the process.


Roasting changes the color and texture of the coffee beans. These visual cues can help show how the coffee beans go through the roasting process. For example, light roast coffee looks slightly brown with no oil on the surface while dark roast coffee appears dark brown and shiny. Experienced roasters use their eyesight to help determine the exact point of the coffee beans in the roasting process.


During roasting, the coffee beans produce two audible crack sounds. It is this crack that signifies a key stage of the roasting process. For example, light and medium roasts finish between the first and second crack while dark roasts finish after the second crack.


Distinguishing the aroma of each type of coffee bean after roasting is a bit difficult, especially since each type of coffee has a similar aroma, so it takes a lot of practice to know the aroma of coffee beans. As the aroma of coffee beans before roasting still smells fresh and grassy, while coffee beans smell like burning after roasting.

Read also: Aroma and Flavor Delight in a Cup of Coffee


As coffee lovers and consumers, we can get to know the different roasting levels and find the one we enjoy the most. Coffee roasting is categorized into four levels, namely light roasting, medium roasting, dark roasting, and extra dark roasting. The roasting level depends on how long and how high the coffee temperature is roasted, longer and higher means darker roasting.

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