Light Roast brewing help needed for Dark Roast folks

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
raeyn

#1: Post by raeyn »

Hi,

My spouse & I both love dark roast coffees but we've been wanting to branch out & try some of the lighter roasts. They are the "it thing" right now, (seemingly for good reason) & I don't want to overlook them. :)

So, I went down to our local coop and picked up some whole bean single origin Colombian from a local roaster. It was called a light/med roast (but it was light, not just from a dark roast perspective). Long story short, we hated it. I only got about 3oz and it was miserable getting through it to use it up, even though it was only a few cups' worth. Using a 21g dose, even 3g of the Colombian completely changed the flavor profile of the cup (by this time we were desperate to hide the flavor, we initially tried it alone, not mixed).

I then got an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (not sure how it was processed) and it was a little better. But then I realized, I'm not sure I'm brewing it to the best it can be, since I have the most experience brewing dark roasts.

I'm hoping you might share some help/advice/suggestions on how to brew light roasts - for a dark roast person? This new year, before I give up and just determine that we're "not light roast people", I want it give it the best chance possible. Right now, we're almost exclusively making espresso but we have other gear, too if needed (Aeropress, French Press, etc) & we measure/grind fresh before each brew. I'd really appreciate any thoughts!

Thanks so much - and happy new year!

SandraF

#2: Post by SandraF »

It is my understanding from this forum, that light roasts require higher temperatures as well as a finer grind than dark or medium roast beans. The "rule of thumb" is to have temps for espresso between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. So lightly roasted beans require higher temps (closer to 205 & some might require higher) to get the goodness out of the beans.

Also, when we're your bens roasted. Generally you should wait to grind & use beans between 5-14 days after roast. For many light roasts, people wait even longer before brewing.

These are generalizations gleaned from scouring these forums.

Rickpatbrown

#3: Post by Rickpatbrown »

raeyn wrote: Long story short, we hated it.

Can you be more specific? What didnt you like about it? To sour? Not enough body? ... etc.

Is this on a Kitchen aid espresso machine? What grinder? The lighter the roast, the more important good equipment is. You need a powerful, well aligned grinder to make excellent espresso with light roasts.

If you cup the roast (10g of medium/fine grind in 185g of boiling hot water), stir at 4 minutes and skim the top ... this should taste pretty good.

What you gain from light roasts are floral, bright, juicy flavors. The brightness can come across as sourness (battery acid in worst case). But you loose the dark, rich, bitter, chocolate flavors and heavy body. Both light and dark should maximize sweetness.

As noted above, light roasts require higher temps than darks. I'd even say >205, but this also depends on your water (hard vs soft vs different minerals)

Certainly, there are people who dont like light roasted coffee.

Maybe also, the coffee you got was not roasted well or is poor coffee ths begin with.

Plinyyounger

#4: Post by Plinyyounger »

Try a bee temp between 203-205 and pull the shot at approx 1-3 instead of 1-2. Play around with it until you find the spot you like. Don't be afraid to Try the Ethiopian with milk too.

You may have to find a diff roaster too if you can't find some good flavors. Don't give up, lights are tasty. I tend to go back and forth from mediums, the occasional dark and back to lights.
Big 98mm flat grinder, been there done that, sold it. I’m happy now.

erik82

#5: Post by erik82 »

If you indeed have a Kitchenaid then there's your problem. Light roasts require serious equipment to extract well. If you don't extract it well it's indeed awfull in most cases.

The biggest thing is grinding finer and doing longer extractions, like 40s for a standard 1:2 double espresso. Be aware that you don't get really really dark spots in the crema because then you're doing too long extractions. And the mouthfeel isn't as thick as with darker roasts and it will be a bit more towards sour instead of mere bitter. It can take some time for get used to and explore the increased complexity in the dfferent layers. Or you just don't like it and should keep enjoying darker roasts. Not everyone likes light roasts.

K7

#6: Post by K7 »

Conventional wisdom is higher temp for light roasts...but it's not always true IME. Many Ethiopians benefit from lower temp than 200F.

Another conventional wisdom many here seem to follow is to grind super fine and pre-infuse super long. Again, I often find it unnecessary or even detrimental.

You might try Gwilym Davies' guide here . He suggests 1:2.6 ratio over 19-22 sec (i.e. fast flow). I find it works really well for my light roast Americanos.

User avatar
Jeff
Team HB

#7: Post by Jeff »

I agree with those that suspect that your gear may not be up to pulling light-roast espresso if it is a Kitchenaid. At the least, I would guess it to be challenging. It's hard enough with an espresso-intended grinder and mid-range machine.

I'd try either cupping or a pour-over or French press to see what the coffee is capable of. If you definitely don't like it, then either try different origins or roasters, or decide you prefer darker roasts. If it's "no good" with a simpler preparation method for your tastes, it's unlikely to be enjoyable for you as espresso.

raeyn (original poster)

#8: Post by raeyn (original poster) »

Thanks so much, everyone. I really appreciate the input.

Yes, it's the new KitchenAid espresso machine from 2021. It's not a great machine but it's not bad either (Christmas present). I'm enjoying it so much that I'm sure I'll upgrade in the future. The nice thing is that is the only residential type machine with dual smart temperature sensors so it keeps a steady temperature and it does pre-infuse.

The grinder is a current pain point. It's rated as a good "budget" grinder. It's the Capresso Infinity Steel but it's literally 15 years old. It does grind fine enough to pull a shot but it doesn't have enough grind settings. I'm actively looking now to upgrade ASAP (we know it won't last forever anyway and after 15 years, it's served us well). That's a different post, though.

I think I'll try it as an Aeropress to see if I like the flavors at all that way. I was given a recipe for light roasts and it least it's easy to follow and I can taste a light roast that I know was brewed fairly well that way to see if it's something I enjoy.

FWIW, we've been using fairly hot water to extract our dark roasts - back from years ago when the SCA started recommending 195-205+. We brew our dark roast (whether French Press or Aeropress) at 205F/96.1C. So, I've learned I'll need to go hotter for light roasts, especially since we're used to fairly high extractions of dark roast.

raeyn (original poster)

#9: Post by raeyn (original poster) »

@Rickpatbrown, that's a great question that I should have thought to include. It wasn't that it was sour it had very little body, I could taste strong caramel flavors, which were nice, but there wasn't much else. Fairly thin texture but just not that much flavor. It tasted like generic coffee from a low-end chain (like the Americano I made the serious mistake of getting at McDonalds several months ago). I know that sounds terrible to say, but it's the closest thing I can compare it to. Maybe I just don't like the light Colombian profile.

I'm going to try the Yirgacheffe in the Aeropress and see if that's something I want to explore more. I've also seen a few roasters who well light and dark roasts of the same beans - I might try this so I know what flavors are coming from the beans themselves and what comes from the roast. :)

Rickpatbrown

#10: Post by Rickpatbrown replying to raeyn »

If that is how it tasted, all is not lost. Sounds like you have plenty of room to improve, before writing off light roasts.

Aeropress is not a bad way to go. Cupping or french press are the least technique dependent methods. They really highlight the coffee and remove brewing error from the equation. Pourover is the most difficult (I think harder than espresso). But you get amazing clarity and really pleasant coffee in large drinkable volumes.

Espresso is a whole other beast. I have plenty of coffee that tastes boring as brew, but explodes with big juicy complexity as espresso. It can go the other way too (good pourover is bad as espreso).

You will definitely need a better grinder for espresso, but can get started on the brew with what you have.

If budget is concern, high end hand grinders will get you fantastic espresso (Apollo, Kinu, 1Zpresso, etc) for $200-400. It's not exactly easy grinding light beans by hand. My wife can not operate the hand grinder. Electric grinders are more expensive. The Niche is the gold standard recomendation for bang for your buck, but there are plenty of less expensive (especially buying used) that can get you light years beyond the Infinity.