Light Roasts - Are they losing their luster?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.

For espresso, what is your preferred coffee roast level?

No preference
Total votes: 182


#1: Post by sluflyer06 »

So maybe it's just a fleeting moment or just something localized to HB member but I'm noticing what feels like a significant increase in the amount of threads and posts surrounding more developed roasts, have we reached a tipping point with ultra light roasted SO's?

If not a downward trend in the pursuit of bright, light roasts, perhaps they've simply been around long enough that people are starting to expand their palates and are again interested in excellent medium to darker roasted coffees?

Or maybe I'm just mistaken.

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#2: Post by yakster »

I'm wondering if light roasts have been around long enough that more roasters and cafes are featuring them, but not necessarily mastering them. Maybe the quality spread of light roasts is much greater than before.

LMWDP # 272


#3: Post by HoldTheOnions »

From a homeroaster's perspective, you can get pretty sideways on a completed 1c and it will still be drinkable, but it's dang hard to do light roasts consistently well. So after sufficient time you either master it or come to peace with just letting it run another 30-45 seconds to know it won't be going in the trash. Guessing most people are of the latter. :?:


#4: Post by CwD »

HomeBarista has never been too into lighter roasts. And always been behind the times in general IMO. All the E61 machines, outdated grinders, lack of refractometry, etc. It's the coffee versions of the audio forums that still think vinyl and tube amps and two inch thick cables are state of the art. If it weren't the only major coffee community using a real forum instead of the mess that is trying to have a discussion on Instagram or Facebook I imagine most people like me would have less than 0 interest in it.

Looking at the specialty coffee community as a whole from the platforms they actually use (which seems to be primarily Instagram), the lighter roasting movement is only growing.

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#5: Post by Almico » replying to CwD »

I spent 10 years in the quest of great audio. I had a sound in my head and I chased it to the tune of way too many pesos. It wasn't until I built my own OTL tube amps and pieced together a pair of altec lansing A5s that my search ended. By the numbers, the frequency response curves are god awful. By my ears, they are heaven on earth. And yes, vinyl sounds better than digital every day of the week. Not a fan of 2" thick cables though. I'm achieving 121dB in my living room with 3W/channel.

And back on topic, light roasts never had any luster for me. I just tried some roasts from the mothership at Nordic Approach and would never consider them for espresso. Not bad as a pour over, but still lacked body. And they are really great with a bit of maple syrup.

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#6: Post by HB »

I have noticed a lot of threads about light roasted coffee, especially with regards to grinder selection (e.g., Grinder upgrade for light roasts). Does this represent a widespread shift in taste preference over time? Maybe, maybe not.

I've added a poll to this thread; perhaps that will give us insights not skewed by confirmation bias.
Dan Kehn


#7: Post by lagoon »

CwD wrote: Looking at the specialty coffee community as a whole from the platforms they actually use (which seems to be primarily Instagram), the lighter roasting movement is only growing.
I disagree. There are close parallels in the craft beer brewing world, where many observers feel that the over-hopped pale ale craze has peaked. Grassy, underroasted coffee has peaked in a similar fashion in my view.

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#8: Post by NoStream »

​There was a push for solubility / even development of coffee maybe 2-3 years ago, and I think that shifted preferences in specialty coffee circles slightly "darker" (from like light city to city/city+). Heart, I think, embodies that movement - they went from roasting super light, non-soluble, Nordic-style coffee to hyper-soluble "omni-roast" coffee. (Honestly, I preferred their older roasts as drip coffee, but they're doing what they set out to do.) Matt Perger and some others have also been pushing for solubility and sweetness over brightness.

As a result of the push for solubility, cafes moving to flat burrs, and many shops pulling 1:2 or longer shots, I find the espressos I have out have improved dramatically in the last 2-3 years. I have way fewer savory, vegetal, underextracted ristrettos pulled from underdeveloped roasts. I think drip coffee from really light roasts can be tasty, so I haven't found drip coffee to have gotten any better. (Some roasters who would serve aggressively underdeveloped drip coffee have upped their game.)

On HB I haven't noticed much change. Talk here tends to be a bit old school with a contingent of more third-wavey folks. I don't think really light roasts ever caught on here, so there's not much room to have a backlash.


#9: Post by nuketopia »

Lighter roasts do not necessarily mean under-roasted.

I absolutely detest "burnt" flavors. I don't like the smell of dark roasted coffee and I can detect that burnt flavor if just a few beans are present in the dose.

Under-roasted is a defect. Over-roast is a defect.

If it has a smokey/bitter/burned flavor, to my taste, that's burned. Defect. Peet and Starbucks and their fellow travelers can keep their burnt espresso.

On the other hand, if it the only flavor note is sourness or worse, grassy, vegetable, or just won't extract, then it is under-roasted. Defect.

There's probably a very narrow window where the best coffees peak. Where you get a wealth of aroma and flavor notes, where it produces a very balanced cup that interesting, complex and pleasant to drink.

I home-brewed beer years ago and my quest was to brew Pilsner style beers, which are extremely difficult to brew at home. Crazy-hopped pale ales you can do without much effort. Very easy by comparison. It is actually a bit harder to brew a good porter, another favorite of mine.

I would expect the same to be true of coffee roasting, where really nailing it takes a lot of effort and experience and precise repeatability in the equipment to do it more than once in a while.

Long live the light roasts.

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#10: Post by Almico »

For yucks and giggles I roasted a pound of Ethiopia very fast last night. The profile got corrupted in resizing, but here is a thumbnail;

Yes, that is a 5:54 minute roast. 1C occurred at 350*F, dry at 265*F. Drop was about 1:30 post 1C. My RoastRite measured it at 59 whole bean and 75 ground. Surprisingly, that is not exceptionally light. I made a cup this morning and it's not underdeveloped, but not fully developed either.

The beans are a bit larger than usual. The extra pressure from the fast roast is probably the reason. It also has reasonably good body and appeared quite soluble in my pour over. I did not measure EY.