Dark Roast vs Medium Roast Coffee Beans 

Many of us have scratched our heads while looking through aisles and aisles of coffee at the supermarket. It can be overwhelming, yes. A common question and misconception regarding coffee beans are to do with their roast levels

Simply put, roast levels describe how long and at what temperature coffee beans have been roasted. They are of broadly three types: light, medium, and dark. Here, we discuss the differences between medium and dark roast coffee.

So, what is the difference between dark roast and medium roast coffee beans?

Roast Levels of Coffee Beans

When coffee beans are harvested, they look (taste or smell) nothing like the dark brown, aromatic beans we are all familiar with. Raw coffee beans are soft green beans that have a distinctly grassy aroma. When roasted, they undergo certain chemical changes that alter the taste and smell of the beans. Roasting coffee beans gives each type of coffee its characteristic flavor profile.

The roasting process involves heating coffee beans to very high temperatures and cooling them quickly once the ideal roasting level has been achieved. This darkens the beans and determines their flavor, strength, and physical attributes. But, all roasted beans smell like coffee. They are crunchy and ready to be brewed. 

Fun Fact: Dark roast coffee has lower caffeine levels than medium roast coffee!

Medium Roast Coffee

As the coffee beans are heated, they begin to develop cracks. The first crack makes the light roast, after which it is roasted for a little longer at about 410–440 F to make a medium roast coffee. A medium coffee is roasted just until before the second crack appears. Since this type of coffee is roasted for a shorter time than a dark roast, it is sweeter and has floral to chocolatey notes.

Medium roast coffees take on some flavor from the roasting process while losing some of their bright floral aromas. They have a balanced flavor and typically retain some of the unique qualities of their respective regions. They also have a more acidic taste. 

Fun Fact: A medium is often referred to as the American roast because of its popularity in the US

Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roast coffee beans get their dark chocolate color from the longer roasting process they are made to go through. They have a stronger, bolder flavor and minimal acidity. Coffee made from dark roasted coffee beans gives the strongest kick, but contrary to popular conception, they actually have a slightly lower caffeine content than their light or medium counterparts. 

A dark roast coffee bean is slightly oily to the touch because the roasting process releases the natural oils from the coffee beans. They have a distinct bitterness and are best suited for quick-brewing methods like espresso or Aeropress. A dark roast coffee makes the perfect latte, cappuccino, and mochaccino.

Fun Fact: Dark roast coffee is one of the best sources of antioxidants in the dietary pattern of Americans.

Medium and Dark Roast Coffee Terminology

Medium and dark roast coffees are often referred to by different names. Sometimes, these will vary between brands, but by and large, these names should help you select your choice of coffee at a store.

Medium Roast CoffeeDark Roast Coffee
BreakfastNew Orleans

Top Medium and Dark Roasted Coffee in 2022

Medium RoastsDark Roasts
Lavazza Super CremaDeath Wish Coffee
Stumptown Hairbender CoffeeKicking Horse Coffee
Kenyan AA Coffee BeansLifeboost Dark Roast
Caribou CoffeeSumatran Dark Roast Coffee

Tips on Choosing your Medium and Dark Roasted Coffee Beans

  • Irrespective of whether you are a fan of medium or dark-roasted coffee, always pick whole beans over pre-ground beans. Coffee tends to lose its flavor once it’s roasted, and the decline is faster once it is ground up. If you are a regular coffee drinker, you can invest in a good quality coffee grinder and make fresh coffee powder every few weeks.  
  • Check the roasting date on the packaging when you buy your coffee. The fresher, the better.
  • Don’t buy coffee beans in bulk. Instead, order in small shipments or visit your nearest specialty coffee store.
  • Store your coffee beans in an airtight container, away from sunlight and moisture. But don’t stick it in your refrigerator!

So Which One Is Better? Medium Roasted or Dark Roasted Coffee Beans

There is no right or answer to this question. Medium and dark roast coffee have their unique flavor profiles. Darker roasts are generally more robust with less acidity, while medium roasts have a more well-rounded flavor. But ultimately, your choice of coffee will rest on your personal preference.

I'm a coffee lover, foodie, and blogger - passionate about coffee and all the things that go with it. I write about coffee, and news, learn about new coffees from across the world, do some home roasting, and share my thoughts on various other topics.

Leave a Comment