Dark Roast vs. Medium Roast (Let’s Compare)

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Coffee is a popular beverage consumed by people all over the world; it is prepared from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of the Coffee plant.

Coffee beans are typically harvested, processed, and then roasted to variable degrees, depending on the desired flavor profile. The roasting process brings out the characteristic aroma and taste of the coffee. After roasting, the beans can be ground and brewed to make coffee.

There are various methods of brewing coffee, including drip brewing, French press, espresso, and single-serve pod systems. Each process produces a unique or exclusive flavor and strength of coffee.

The brewing process involves using hot water to extract the soluble compounds and oils from the ground coffee beans.

A dark roast is roasted for a longer period of time than a medium roast, which is the primary distinction between the two. The additional roasting time results in coffee that is bolder tasting and less acidic.

However, much of the distinctive flavor and character of the in-question coffee beans is also lost during further roasting.

Coffee Beans

Coffee canephora is the seeds of the Coffee plant. There are several varieties of coffee beans, but the two most commonly cultivated species are Coffee Arabica and Coffee canephora (also known as Robusta Coffee).

Coffee beans with a flavor full cup of coffee.
Coffee beans with a flavor full cup of coffee.

Arabica Beans

Arabica beans are higher-quality coffee beans known for their rich, enhanced flavors and pleasant acidity. They are typically grown at higher altitudes, require specific climate conditions, and are more susceptible to diseases and pests. Arabica beans comprise about 60% of the world’s coffee production.

Robusta Beans

Robusta beans are harder and more resistant to diseases and pests than Arabic beans. They have a more pungent, more bitter taste and higher caffeine content.

Robusta beans are often used in blends or for instant coffee due to their affordability and higher caffeine content. They account for around 40% of the world’s coffee production.

Characteristics of Dark Roast

Dark roast refers to a specific roasting level applied to coffee beans during the roasting process. It is a term used to describe coffee beans roasted longer and at higher temperatures than lighter roast.

When dark-roasted coffee beans undergo more intense heat and longer roasting times, this process causes the beans to develop a dark brown to almost black color, often resulting in the natural oils within the beans being brought to the surface. The beans may appear shiny and have an oily texture.

Flavor Profile

Dark roast coffee is recognized for its bold and intense flavors. The prolonged roasting process produces smoky, rich, and robust flavors. It may also taste slightly bitter, with notes of chocolate, roasted nuts, and caramel. Dark roasts often have a reduced acidity compared to lighter roasts.


Dark roast coffee usually has a strong and distinct aroma. The roasting process can produce deep, earthy aromas, sometimes reminiscent of toasted or burnt aspects.

Dark roast coffee


Dark roast coffee often has a fuller and heavier body. It can feel more substantial in the mouth and have a thicker texture than lighter roasts.

Caffeine Content

Contrary to popular belief, dark roast coffee does not contain more caffeine than lighter roasts. The roasting process can slightly reduce the caffeine content of the beans. However, dark roast coffee may give a perception of being more assertive or bolder due to its robust flavors.


Dark roast coffee is commonly used in espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos because its bold flavors stand up well to milk. However, depending on personal preference, it can also be brewed using other methods, such as drip brewing, French press, or pour-over.

The darkness of a dark roast can vary. Some dark roasts may have a medium-dark profile, while others can be extremely dark, bordering on what is known as “charred” or “French roast.”

The specific roast level can impact the flavor intensity, potential bitterness, and overall characteristics of the coffee.

Types of Dark Roast Coffee

There are several types of dark roast coffee, each with its characteristics and flavor profiles:

  • Viennese Roast beans are roasted until they accomplish a dark brown color with some visible oils on the surface. Viennese Roast retains some of the bean’s acidity and balances a dark roast’s original flavors and boldness.
  • French Roast is a popular dark roast characterized by its very dark brown to nearly black appearance. The beans are roasted until they reach a high temperature, producing a shiny and oily surface. French Roast coffee has a bold, smoky flavor with minimal acidity and may have a slightly charred or burnt taste.
  • Italian Roast is a highly dark roast, often called “espresso roast.” The beans are roasted until they are nearly black and have an oily surface. Italian Roast coffee has a pronounced smoky and bitter flavor with minimal acidity. It produces a solid and intense cup of coffee commonly used for espresso.
  • Spanish Roast is the darkest roast level, characterized by its dark and nearly black appearance. The beans are roasted to the goal of charred and may have an extremely oily surface. Spanish Roast coffee has a heavily smoky and bitter taste with little to no acidity. It is known for its intense and robust flavor profile.

Features of Medium Roast

Medium roast refers to a roasting level applied to coffee beans during the roasting process. It is a term used to describe coffee beans that have been roasted or heated for a moderate duration, falling between light and dark roast.

The specific characteristics of medium roast coffee can vary depending on factors such as the origin of the beans, the specific varietals used, and the roasting techniques employed by different coffee roasters.

Exploring different medium roast coffees allows you to discover unique flavor profiles and find the one that suits your taste preferences.

Medium roast coffee beans
Medium roast coffee beans


Medium roast coffee beans have a medium brown color, often resembling a shade of chestnut or cinnamon. The beans have undergone more roasting than light roasts but less than dark roasts, resulting in a balance between the original bean color and the development of roast flavors.


Medium roast coffee strikes a balance between the inherent flavors of the coffee beans and the flavors derived from the roasting process. It typically exhibits a well-rounded flavor profile with a moderate level of acidity.

The flavors can vary depending on the origin of the beans and the specific varietals used, but standard flavor notes include a combination of fruitiness, nuttiness, and chocolatey undertones.


Medium roast coffee beans offer a pleasant aroma that is not as pronounced as dark roast coffee but retains a distinct fragrance. The smell can vary based on the origin of the beans and the specific flavors that are accentuated during the roasting process.


Medium roast coffee generally has a medium body, referring to the texture and mouthfeel of the brewed coffee. It falls between the lighter body of light roast and the fuller body of dark roast.

The body can vary depending on the coffee beans used and the brewing method employed.


Medium roast coffee is versatile and can be enjoyed through different brewing methods, including French press, drip, pour-over, and espresso; its balanced flavors and moderate acidity make it suitable for multiple taste preferences.

Enjoy the cup of coffee
Enjoy the cup of coffee.

Types of Medium Roast

  • American Roast is a medium-light roast that allows the natural essences of the coffee beans to shine through. It has a mild acidity, light body, and subtle sweetness.
  • City roast is a medium roast slightly darker than American roast. It has a well-rounded taste profile with a balance of acidity and sweetness. The beans may exhibit slight hints of chocolate or caramel.
  • Breakfast roast is a medium-dark roast slightly deeper in color and flavor than a traditional medium roast. It offers a fuller body, a bit more richness, and a touch of smokiness.
  • Regular roast is a classic medium commonly found in commercial coffee brands. It has a balanced flavor with moderate acidity, body, and aroma.
  • Vienna roast is a medium-dark roast that verges on the darker side. It has a darker brown and a more pronounced flavor profile. It features a balance of sweetness and smokiness, with some oils on the beans’ surface (outer shell).
  • Full City roast is a medium-dark roast darker than the Vienna roast. It has a bold flavor with a slightly diminished acidity and more prominent caramelization notes.

Dark Roast vs. Medium Roast

CharacteristicsDark RoastMedium Roast
Roasting levelCoffee beans are roasted longer until they reach a dark brown or black. The beans undergo more intense heat and a longer roasting process.Medium roast coffee beans are roasted shorter than dark roast beans. They are burned until they reach a medium brown color.
FlavorIt has a bold, intense flavor.It has a more balanced flavor. It typically has a well-rounded flavor with chocolate, nuts, and fruitiness notes.
Surface OilsDue to the longer roasting time, dark-roast coffee beans may develop oils on their surface. These oils contribute to the rich and glossy appearance of dark roast beans.Medium roast coffee beans typically do not have noticeable surface oils, as the roasting process is less prolonged.
Bean characteristicsA dark roast tends to mask some of the inherent flavors and nuances of the coffee beans, emphasizing the roasting flavors instead.Medium roast allows the beans’ natural flavors to shine through, representing the coffee’s origin and characteristics.
Dark Roast vs. Medium Roast
Let’s watch this video about the comparison between light, medium, and dark roast coffee.


  • Bold, intense flavors, a fuller body, and a darker color with smoky and caramelized notes characterize dark roast coffee.
  • Medium roast, on the other hand, offers a balanced flavor profile with moderate acidity, sweetness, and a medium brown color, allowing the natural flavors of the coffee beans to shine through.
  • Whether you prefer the robust intensity of dark roast or the balanced characteristics of medium roast coffee is a matter of personal preference.

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