Light, Medium & Dark Roast: What's the Difference?

With so much café jargon swirling around, it's all too easy to confuse similar-sounding terms like roast level, acidity, intensity of flavor, and caffeine content. To help you find your ultimate cup of coffee or espresso, let's start by breaking down the basics of light, medium, and dark roast, explaining what each means—and what it doesn't.

Coffee and Espresso Roast Levels

What Coffee and Espresso Roast Levels Mean

Two factors determine coffee and espresso beans' roast level: the length of time and level of heat at which they're roasted. Generally speaking:

  • For a dark roast, beans are roasted above 400 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes as high as 480 degrees, for more than 15 minutes. Dark roast beans are darker in appearance and often shiny, due to the natural oils that are brought to the surface in the longer, hotter roasting process. This results in a slightly thicker mouthfeel, more robust flavor, and lower acidity. (Espresso is typically offered in a darker roast, and L'OR offers a variety of intensity levels to suit every palate.)
  • And for a medium roast, beans are roasted between 10 and 15 minutes in the upper 300s to very low 400s. Medium roast beans are medium-light to medium-dark in appearance, sometimes with a slight sheen on the surface, and have a mouthfeel and level of intensity somewhere between most light and dark roasts.
  • For a light roast, beans are roasted between 350 and 400 degrees for fewer than 10 minutes. Light roast beans are lighter in appearance with a more matte surface, as fewer oils are brought out in the shorter, cooler roasting process. This results in a thinner mouthfeel, more delicate and complex flavors, and higher acidity.

Contrary to common belief, the difference in caffeine content across light, medium, and dark roasts is typically negligible.

Find Your Favorite L'OR Blend

All coffee and espresso beverages begin at the bean; namely, the fresh green seeds of the flowering plant genus coffea, of which at least 120 species can be found around the world. How each batch of beans is heated determines whether it's deemed a light, medium, or dark roast, but how it's ground and prepared afterward determines whether it's coffee or espresso by the time it reaches your cup. 

L'OR's highly skilled Coffee Artists have the ability to detect more than 800 distinct aromas and flavors in a single cupping session. That’s where our quality assurance and taste profiling processes take place, ensuring that each batch of beans is properly assigned to the L’OR blend it fits best.  

For those who prefer a light roast coffee, the silky fruit flavors of L'OR's Bonjour coffee blend are a perfect fit, while for those who enjoy dark roast, the bold, woody profile of Le Tigre hits the mark. Those who reach for a medium roast delight in the balance of Provocateur and Chateau, both thoughtfully blended for ideal depth of flavor.

To try a range of light-to-medium roast coffees, the Light-Medium Coffee Collection offers 30 capsules featuring a trio of blends on the lighter, more delicate half of the roast spectrum, while the Medium-Dark Coffee Collection explores the deeper, richer half. For a broad selection of espressos at every intensity level, the 5 Blend Assortment offers a full array of blends, ranging from mild to bold.

L'OR BARISTA System with Le Tigre Dark Roast Coffee

Especially when prepared with the L'OR Barista coffee and espresso system, these carefully crafted blends deliver the ultimate café experience in every cup. We hope you enjoy the journey to find your favorite.