When people say "light" roasts, what level of roasts are they talking about?

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Sal
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#1: Post by Sal »

Jonk wrote:In this case the OP was looking to use light roasts for espresso. Not exactly a perfect use case for either the Virtuoso+, Sette 270 or Vario with ceramic burrs even though they're all good for other things.
Just curious, when people (both coffee drinkers and coffee producers) say "light" roasts. What level of roasts are they talking about? Are people doing "light" roast espresso really using traditional Cinnamon roasts in which beans don't reach 1C or an internal temp of 400F (204C)? To me, any coffee beans before 1C are unpalatable. I never roast my coffee that light. Similarly, I don't like coffee roasted to 2C or darker. So all the coffee I drink falls in the medium roast range (BT 410F-440F or 210C-226C).

As I explained, I tried using Vario with the original ceramic flat burrs, Vario with steel BG burr upgrade, the DF64, Sette 270, and Lagom-Mini for espresso when I was exploring. With the medium roast range beans, they all worked. But in the end, I concluded that I really don't enjoy straight espresso as a beverage. Occasional milk drinks or making Americano are the only times I use espresso shots now. For that purpose, Vario with original ceramic burrs works fine for me regardless of the roast of beans I use. But sure, that may be just for me.


Moderator's note: Split from Conical Steel vs Flat Ceramic Burrs: Important or Overblown?
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Jeff
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#2: Post by Jeff »

There is light, like typical American filter roasts. Then there is light that starts roughly where Tim Wendleboe roasts and goes lighter from there.

Bulk roast level is far from the only consideration. Roasters who bake their coffees tend to get quickly crossed off my list of sources. If you're used to commodity grade coffee, a baked roast may be more attractive to you than what those with more experience would consider a proper roast. Behind this is the same problem that plagues the "tasters prefer cheap wine to expensive wine" memes that run around from time to time. Of course they do, it's familiar.

To add confusion to things, what is labeled as light by many roasters, even without getting into commodity coffee, is medium or darker on a specialty scale. Starbucks Blonde, as a roast familiar to the general public at least in the United States, was, as I recall, taken into second crack according to their public marketing.

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Sal (original poster)
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#3: Post by Sal (original poster) replying to Jeff »

Sorry, I am not trying to hijack the thread. But the "light" roast labels are still a big mystery to me.

I agree with the confusion of the labeling. I tried a half dozen or so local roasters where I can actually pick up freshly roasted bags in person and often found their light roast is clearly into medium, and their medium was clearly into dark territories. I do think Charbucks really started this trend by shifting the roast levels.

Recently, I started buying higher-end specialty coffee roasters coffees, although they are 2x to 3x more expensive than local micro-roaster bags. So far, I have tried, Tim Wendleboe, George Howells, Passenger, Prodigal, SEY, and the latest Onyx bags coming soon. Because of my preference, when there was a choice, I always included Med roast in my purchase but many were labeled "Light". They do not post the roasting temp on them, but to me, all of the light roasts tasted to be entered at least into 1C. To me, that's a medium roast. So, again, I really don't know what people are referring to when they say "Light" roast.

While those commercially sold specialty coffees with "light" roast labels I tried were all good in their own rights, most did not appeal to my taste buds. I take medium roasts any day. And considering the ridiculous prices and knowing how cheaply I can roast greens on my own, I don't think I will be a repeater.
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Jeff
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#4: Post by Jeff »

There are many others with your preferences, and probably orders of magnitude more the prefer coffee significantly more darkly roasted than you do. Knowing roasters that have good green selection, blending when applicable, and both a roast level and roast style that you enjoy is always valuable. If you're able to do that yourself, perhaps even better.

Here's a relatively brief video that I think is of value in understanding a little bit around roast level and how it impacts flavor, especially for readers without hands on roasting experience. The lineup of beans taken to various roast levels might be a helpful visual.

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Sal (original poster)
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#5: Post by Sal (original poster) »

Jeff wrote:There are many others with your preferences, and probably orders of magnitude more the prefer coffee significantly more darkly roasted than you do.
Yeah, I was never a fan of dark roast. The bitterness in a cup is a defect for me. Having been a home roaster for a few decades, I know I can get basically the same dark roast coffee flavor from ANY origin of green beans. I do remember the marketing gimmick during the start of the second wave of coffee in the 70s mostly by commodity coffee giants like Folgers trying to convince the consumer that dark roasted coffee is "rich" and "flavorful" and thus better coffee than lighter roasted coffees. Of course, if they roast dark enough, even cheap commodity-grade coffees will taste the same as expensive specialty coffees. Many consumers (older generations of coffee drinkers like myself LOL) fell for this and implanted their brains with the idea that dark roast is better.

Well, those coffee drinkers still dominate. When I started sharing my home-roasted coffee with my friends and colleagues and started selling to some, I was so surprised to find out that so many of them wanted darker roast well past the second cracks on a single-origin specialty coffee I was offering. I talked many of them into trying Full City roasted coffee instead which is medium roast on the darker side just before the 2C. Many of them changed their minds and and now prefer lighter roasted coffees (that is if the greens are of high quality). But there were some who still preferred dark roasts well after 2C.
Jeff wrote: Here's a relatively brief video that I think is of value in understanding a little bit around roast level and how it impacts flavor, especially for readers without hands on roasting experience. The lineup of beans taken to various roast levels might be a helpful visual.
I think we are in agreement that anything after the second crack is called a "dark" roast. But what the JH's video fails to show is the definition of what people call the "light" roast in specialty coffee. According to him, it sounds like the "light" roast starts after the first crack. That's an American Roast. And by the time the 1C is finished, it is now City Roast. Traditionally, both American roast and City roast are categorized into Medium roast. So, when the people on this forum say "light" roast, are they talking about those early phases of roasts which I consider to to be medium roasts?

I learned most of the home roasting techniques and terminologies from Sweet Maria's. First on the stove-top popcorn popper and later with several electric home roasters. I have never used commercial-grade drum or air roasters, so maybe beans behave differently, but there seems to be a disparity in what people call "light" and "medium" roasts. Or, is it just me confused? LOL

https://library.sweetmarias.com/using-s ... -of-roast/
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Cranked
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#6: Post by Cranked »

I don't have any good answers and am also interested in this issue, since I don't have many (of any) local options and I'd like to try to calibrate to what others are doing. One local roaster labeled coffee medium and it was dark and oily...so I started roasting my own. The best I can tell from looking at roast profiles here is that people who are into light roasts seem to like coffees dropped about 30s into 1c. That's where I've been experimenting with my roasting.

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Sal (original poster)
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#7: Post by Sal (original poster) »

Thanks to the moderator for splitting this into a separate thread, and sorry for the confusion and diverting the topic on the original thread.

To the "light" roast topic, if the profiler (I am calling this roaster who relies on the profile graph... lol) is calling "light" roast for 30 sec after the very first pop of 1C, then that is certainly early. That could be called New England Roast which is in the Light roast category. The BT would be right around 400F. But depending on the roaster setting, 30 sec is long enough to bring to the rolling 1C, then I would call it American Roast, and it is in the Medium roast category for my classification. The BT should be up to 410F.

Maybe people who enjoy the fruit-forward origin characteristic flavors are calling those New England and American roast which is at the beginning to middle of the 1C a LIGHT ROAST. And anything after the 1C finishes (City Roast) to the verge of 2C (Full City), they are calling it MEDIUM ROAST? And after the 2C (Full City+ and on), they are now DARK ROAST? I am not a profiler. I sometimes use a single BT temperature probe in the FreshRoast, but most of the time don't even bother with that. So, I can't always be sure of the BT during 1C. And there are some greens that behave quite differently using the same roast profile. But I must say I do most of my roast in the City to Full City range which is MEDIUM ROAST.

Another question I often have is about the ESPRESSO ROAST label on some coffees. Are they the same thing as DARK ROAST, meaning they got to at least 2C?
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Jonk
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#8: Post by Jonk »

There is no good definition so we all just have to do our best to guess what people mean, let alone roasteries (many in my area won't even mention roast degree, just a bunch about the farm and taste notes).

I think grinders actually are a good indication. For me, light roasts begin where grinders with traditional style espresso burrs start struggling to produce shots that won't taste a little off. In the very or extremely light roast territory those flavors are pronounced: perhaps astringent, meaty, bready or just wildly unpleasant - not only acidic.

I can only speak for my own roasts but they all reach first crack, though it might just have started or still be underway when they're dropped. It's tricky to talk about BT and exact timing as it depends a lot on probes, profile and machine. Weight loss is usually a pretty good indicator even though it varies some, but my palate roughly agrees with Rob Hoos': https://hoos.coffee/blog/why-take-weigh ... percentage

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#9: Post by Jeff »

"Espresso roast" will depend on the roaster and their target market.

For commodity roasters, it seems it can be most anywhere from on the doorstep of second crack to on the doorstep of charcoal.

For a roaster that typically roasts on the lighter side of things, such as Tim Wendelboe or Coffee Collective, their "espresso roast" is often lighter than the typical American roaster's "filter" roast. I recall mention that the improvements in roast control and experience have moved Tim Wendelboe's "espresso" roast to be lighter than his "filter" roast was a few years ago.

"Omni" roast? It seems to be more of a marketing term than anything else.

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Sal (original poster)
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#10: Post by Sal (original poster) »

Jonk wrote: I can only speak for my own roasts but they all reach first crack, though it might just have started or still be underway when they're dropped. It's tricky to talk about BT and exact timing as it depends a lot on probes, profile and machine. Weight loss is usually a pretty good indicator even though it varies some, but my palate roughly agrees with Rob Hoos': https://hoos.coffee/blog/why-take-weigh ... percentage
OK, now I am almost sure that when people are saying "light" roast, they are not really talking about the traditional "Cinnamon Roast" or even lighter "White Roast" both of which are before 1C.

Thanks for the link. I record Wt of beans before and after the roast, and I can confirm that his % loss corresponds very well to my own roast results and what I have labeled the roast. Yeah, my roast is almost all between 13%-18% WL% which corresponds to Medium and Medium-Dark roast on my chart. I may change the chart a bit to include Light-Medium roast below Medium but above Light roast.

There may be a slight variation from beans to beans if they are different, but from the same bag, repeating the same roast program results in a very close less than 0.1% difference in WL%. After having some interesting discussions with Christopher Feran in this thread
Steaming coffee greens (to rehydrate) before roasting, I decided to purchase a moisture meter. So that data will be added to my roasting record. That should even tighten the WL% loss data and corresponding roast level.
Jeff wrote:"Espresso roast" will depend on the roaster and their target market.

-snip- I recall mention that the improvements in roast control and experience have moved Tim Wendelboe's "espresso" roast to be lighter than his "filter" roast was a few years ago.
I should have ordered an Espresso roast from Tim Wendelboe if I had known this. His filter coffee beans are all Light. Then he offers a few Espresso roasts. I wasn't interested in espresso, so I skipped the choice. I really wish more roasters gave choices in Medium roasts. I understand that is the thing with the third wave. But for most coffee drinkers including myself, well-executed City to Full City roasts are far more enjoyable, I think. I will be receiving an Onyx sample box soon. Not exactly sure what's in it, but their roast profile includes Agtron# and descriptions like "expressive Light" or "expressive Dark". There is no Medium, but they call it Moderate. Will be interesting cupping all of them blind and ranking them.
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