We don't need much arm twisting to switch up our usual black coffee for a creamy latte now and then. And some basics on the different roast levels of coffee beans allows for changing up which roast you choose to suit both the brewing method and your coffee drink of choice. But first, a bit of background on how roasts have evolved. Dark roasts were considered to be the ultimate choice for 'real' coffee flavour, think Italian or French roasts. But as veterans in the coffee industry will explain, dark roasts often masked the inconsistent flavour of low-grade beans.
That's not the case today though; top-quality beans means that today's dark roasts, such as our 9 Bar Espresso Italia harkens back to classic Italian roasting techniques, resulting in a full-bodied, rich espresso experience.
On the other hand, light roast coffee has completely evolved, from once being considered less flavourful to now being the roast level of choice to reveal nuanced and complex flavours. This evolution is encompassed in what we call the third wave of coffee. The focus is on single-origin coffee and light roasts that highlight specific notes and characteristics. Choose an Ethiopian coffee from the Chiapas region, for example, and delicate lemon and floral flavours and aromas emerge.
Medium roasts tend to be less acidic than light roasts and strike a happy medium between complex tasting notes and roasty coffee flavour. Our Tug 6 Beach Cruiser Espresso masterfully combines beans from Brazil, Sumatra and Colombia.
Based on how you take your coffee, here are a few suggestions regarding roast choices. If you enjoy a latte, cappuccino, macchiato or flat white – your basic coffee and milk drinks, you'll want a dark or medium roast, simply because a fairly light and bright roast will be overwhelmed by all that milk.
For espresso shots, you'll want a dark or medium roast again, but a light one can be used as long as you have the patience to dial it in. But when it comes to the various filter methods, they can handle roasts from light to dark – so lots of room for experimenting with different roasts, water temperature and timing. Decaf is no longer the weak and flavourless alternative it once was. When caffeine is extracted using the Swiss Water method, there is no compromising the beans' quality – our Pallet Sidamo Decaf will attest to that; a medium roast with tasting notes of candied cherry and dark chocolate, just minus the caffeine.
The most important thing to remember is roast level, and the descriptors used are an extremely individualistic choice. What might be a medium to light roast for one company could be an extremely dark roast for another. When we reference roast level, we're speaking directly to the colour of the bean and where it falls on the spectrum.
We'll be exploring the roasting process in future posts; meanwhile, feel free to comment or share this one.