Skip to content
Home Buy Coffee
Locations Chevron
About Us Chevron
A Guide to Coffee Roasting Types

A Guide to Coffee Roasting Types

Light, dark – or somewhere in between? Here’s what you need to know.


Coffee Roasting Levels

Raw Green Beans: 
We select with only the highest grade possible of raw coffee green beans. To import or purchase from ROYAL Coffee the best beans, we evaluate the following: bean size, bean color, uniformity of size and color, occurrence of any "defects", and most importantly the flavor of the roasted coffee when brewed.  


Defects found in raw coffee beans can be anything from unripened beans, to broken or discolored beans, to stones, twigs, or any foreign matter. The greater the number of defects found in a random sample of a lot of coffee, the lower the grade that lot is assigned. Higher quality coffee is more carefully sorted to remove all of the defects. This additional sorting takes more time, and as we all know, time is money, which is why higher grade coffee costs more.  

Coffee from a single country is known as an Origin or Varietal. Coffee from any single origin will be available in several different grades of quality, we choose only the best beans which may cost a little more but it produces a better cup of coffee.


The best raw coffee can be completely ruined by improper roasting. Correct roasting is a delicate balance of time and temperature. As coffee roasts, it changes from green to shades of golden-yellow to its familiar brown. The color of coffee is produced through caramelization occurring within the bean as it is exposed to the heat of the roaster.

Roasting unlocks the aroma and flavor inside of “green coffee” beans, or beans that have been milled but not yet roasted. The roasting process causes chemical changes to take place as the beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures. When they reach the desired roast level, the beans are quickly cooled to halt the process.

There are no industry standards for roast levels, so how do we measure different roast levels at Coffee By Design? Here’s an easy guide.


Many people assume that the strong, rich flavor of darker roasts indicates a higher level of caffeine but, in fact, light roasts have a slightly higher concentration.





(1) Light Roast: Light & Cinnamon

Our standard roast - preferred by the vast majority of Americans. This roast maximizes the individual flavor characteristics of each origin by bringing out the best in the bean. It produces a beautiful brown bean pulled from the roaster just before any oils can form on the surface. 

Light Roast is the point where coffee beans have achieved their rich, medium brown color without any of coffee's natural oils appearing on the surface. Light Roast is the traditional roasting style of American coffee. It produces a flavorful, complex cup of coffee. At the Light Roast level, each individual origin coffee will be at its most distinct flavor.

Some our coffees are light roasted to a select flavor standard, rather than to a specific color. This level of roasting creates coffees with balanced flavor and full aromatics, allowing enthusiasts to distinguish taste differences attributed to coffee origins and qualities.

Light Roast is coffee in its clearest state, without any heavy, smoky flavors that dark roasts bring out.

Roasting time for American roast: 9 to 10 minutes

(2) Medium Roast: Vienna 
Vienna Roast is characterized by a slightly deeper color than Light Roast, with small spots of oil on the bean's surface. This oil, which comes from within the coffee bean, is brought to the surface by the prolonged roasting time.

The oil is important in the flavor of brewed coffee at higher roast levels, the greater presence of oil is what gives dark roasted coffee its distinguishable taste. Vienna Roast slightly intensifies the character of each coffee from the different origins, as well as bringing out flavors that may remain hidden at the Light Roast level. This is perhaps the most difficult roast level to master, just moments too long in the roaster will result in too much oil on the bean's surface, and if the roast is finished seconds early no oil will appear.


Roasting time for Vienna Roast coffee is approximately 10-11 minutes.

(3) Medium Dark Roast: City & Full City 
Distinguished by the deep brown color and heavy oil on the bean's surface, Full City Roast further intensifies the unique character of each different coffee. 

Coffee does not become bitter when roasted darker. Bitterness in coffee is from poor quality beans or improper roasting. Dark roasted coffee should have a heavy, rich flavor, never burnt or bitter. The extended time in the roasted not only makes coffee darker, but also lighter in weight. Coffee contains water, that water is turned into steam during the roasting process, steam pressure causes the beans to swell in size. After roasting, coffee can weigh up to 25% less from the loss of water within the bean.


Roasting time for Full City Roast coffee is approximately 11-12 minutes.


(4) Dark Roast: French 

Roasting just slightly longer brings coffee to the French Roast level. With more oil on the bean and a little darker color than Full City Roast, French Roast brings coffee to the height of it's flavor. 


French Roast creates a deep heavy flavor, some of the more subtle flavors of coffee will be hidden by the dark roasted smokeyness. As coffee is roasted longer, the unique character of each Varietal is diminished, all coffee would taste the same roasted dark enough. French Roast is a darker roast with a spicier, bittersweet flavor and lower acidity than other types of roasts. It’s a long-time favorite of many coffee drinkers.


Roasting time for French Roast coffee is approximately 12 minutes.

(5) High Dark Roast: Italian & Espresso 
Italian Roast has an extended roasting time that causes the beans to caramelize to create a spicy, bittersweet flavor with smooth, mellow undertones. Although the color of an Italian Roast is similar to that of an Espresso roast, the flavor is dramatically different.

Espresso Roast flirts on the edge of ruin. Coffee is roasted to its extreme limit, the beans are nearly black with very heavy oils. 

Seconds too long in the roaster will completely destroy all of the natural oils in the bean. Traditionally used for espresso and espresso-based drinks, this roast level has seen diminished use in favor of Espresso Blends, which combine the flavors of different Varietals at varying roast levels to create great espresso.



Leave a comment
Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.