Studies show that the smell of coffee is one of the three most recognizable scents. The other two are roses and peanut butter. It’s no wonder that we consume over 151 million bags of coffee each year. Nevertheless, no matter how you drink it, overly ‘bitter’ coffee is something most people try to avoid. So, we decided to see which type of roast affects the level of sharpness of your coffee. Is light or dark roast coffee more bitter?
It depends on the specific roasting style and type of coffee bean, but on average dark roast coffee tends to be more bitter than light roast coffee. This is because dark roast coffee is often more burnt than light roast coffee which gives the beans a bitter flavor.
The coffee industry rakes in $100 billion worldwide. This makes coffee a highly demanded commodity capable of catering to such a broad user base. Accordingly, there are different grind textures, brewing styles, and equipment to suit every taste preference.
Read on to find out more!
Which Coffee Roast is More Bitter?
Dark roast gives coffee a more bitter taste, much more than light to medium roasts. The science behind it is that the longer you heat coffee beans, the stronger the acidic taste tends to be. The culprit? Chemical compounds.
All coffee beans start with the same amounts of chemical compounds known as acid lactones. They’re responsible for giving coffee its light and well-balanced flavor. When they’re exposed to heat, lactones are converted into another compound, known as phenylindanes. It’s these chemical compounds that give off the sharp, harsh-tasting flavor in dark roasts.
Author Note: Research shows that darker roasts contain higher amounts of phenylindanes. So, the stronger you roast coffee, the more these compounds are drawn out. Also, roasting reduces the water content in the coffee beans.
So, you have more phenylindanes and less water. As a result, you get dark roasted coffee that has a jarring, bitter taste that seems to linger. Light roasts, on the other hand, are still able to hold on to their acid lactones. Since the coffee beans aren’t exposed to heat for long, the lactones don’t have enough time to break down into phenylindanes.
Light vs. Dark Roast
Coffee beans are green when they’re first picked. Then, they’re heated and roasted to extract their flavors and aromas. Through this roasting process, the beans turn from green to brown. Once roasted, coffee beans are then ready for grinding and brewing.
Here’s a quick rundown of the two main types of roast: light and dark.
Light Roast Coffee
Light roasts are those that have been heated for about 5 to 10 minutes at a temperature between 350℉ and 400℉.
Beans that have been lightly roasted have a light brown hue and no oils on the surface. They’re known for their bright, creamy flavors. Lightly roasted beans are also denser because they retain moisture. This is what gives the coffee a delicate and smooth taste with a thin consistency.
These types of beans are best suited for drip and pour-over brewing. The reason is that these two processes tend to bring out the flavor in the beans more than other types.
Dark Roast Coffee
To make dark roast, coffee beans are heated at high temperatures for a longer time than light roast. This results in their darker color with an oily exterior.
Using dark roast plays a major role in how your coffee tastes, which has little to do with bean type. For a dark roast, coffee beans should be kept at an average temperature of 465℉ to 480℉. Roasting time should be no less than 15 minutes and no longer than 30.
During the roasting process, coffee beans lose their moisture. This is why dark roast coffee has a thicker texture.
Top Tip: The beans also contain more oils than light roast beans. The oils add the rich and bold taste with which we associate dark roasted coffee. Despite this, darker roasts seem to contain moderately lower levels of caffeine than light roasts.
Dark roasted coffee is best suited for brewing processes that bring out its intense flavors. Some of these include espresso machines and French press coffee makers. Turkish coffee is also made with dark roasts, usually with extremely fine grounds that bring out the flavor even more.
How to Reduce the Bitter Taste in Your Coffee
Like many other beverages, coffee is an acquired taste. Some like theirs slightly harsh, while others prefer it sweet. However, we can all agree that drinking bitter coffee isn’t something we look forward to. We now know that the darker the roast, the more acidic your coffee will taste.
Here are some more reasons why your coffee has a sharp, acidic taste. Plus, we’ll give you a few tips on how to balance out coffee’s natural bitterness for a perfect cup of coffee every time.
The Golden Ratio
One of the most common problems people face is not knowing the amount of coffee grounds to use to make one coffee cup. If you put in too much, you’ll have a cup of charred coffee on your hands.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends that we use their ‘golden ratio’—18:1—when making coffee. According to their research, to make a well-balanced cup of coffee, you should use 18 grams (3.5 teaspoons) of water to every one gram (1/2 teaspoon) of coffee.
Yet, if you ask any coffee expert or barista, they’ll tell you it’s not a hard and fast rule. This golden ratio is flexible because some people enjoy their coffee at a ratio of 16:1 or 19:1. So, there are slight variations. These depend mainly on your taste preference, as well as the type of brewing equipment you’re using.
The Size of the Grind
The texture of the grind dictates the level of bitterness in your coffee. Grinding your coffee beans to an extremely fine grind means you’re extracting higher amounts of coffee than necessary. This results in acutely bitter coffee.
If the grounds are too grainy and coarse, it means you’ve extracted less coffee during the process. Under extraction leaves the coffee tasting sour and dull.
The trick is to use a grinding method that gives you consistent grounds. This can be with the help of a high-quality grinder, either a burr or a blade grinder. You can also grind your beans without a grinder with simple kitchen tools.
The Right Steeping Time
Steeping is a brewing method that calls for a direct mix of water and coffee grinds. This is typical in French press coffee makers and espresso machines, where the rich coffee flavor is extracted to perfection.
There’s no doubt that steeping creates delicious coffee if it’s done right. The problem occurs when you steep the grinds for too long. They end up being over-extracted, and you’re left with a bitter, acidic flavor in your coffee.
Author Note: At the same time, not steeping enough means the coffee will be under-extracted. Too little extraction gives your coffee a weak and sour taste.
To help solve this problem, experts recommend that you use a manual French press. This will give you better control over the steeping time. Try to reduce the steeping time from six minutes to four and see if the sharp taste is gone.
You can also use an automatic drip coffee maker or espresso machine. These machines drastically reduce the chance of your brew being over-steeped. They’re programmed to start and end at specific times to ensure a perfect cup of coffee.
The Source of the Bean
Certain coffee bean species are naturally high in acidity. They give your coffee a sharp, bitter taste.
One example is the Robusta coffee plant. It’s found typically in East Africa, in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, where coffee drinking is believed to have begun in the 9th century. It remains to be the biggest coffee exporter in all of Africa.
For a less bitter taste, try Arabica coffee beans. These beans give a creamy and smooth taste no matter how they’re brewed.
Central America produces some of the flavorful and aromatic coffee beans in the world. This small part of North America is home to five of the most influential coffee-producing countries in the world. Some of these countries include Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Not to be outdone, South America is also famous for producing coffee beans that are low in bitterness and rich in flavor. Brazil is the largest coffee-growing nation in the world, but it also has many neighbors that produce high-quality coffee beans.
While we can’t live without coffee, we certainly can do without its bitterness. Dark roast coffee is certainly more bitter than light roast.
For the perfect cup of coffee, pay attention to the water-coffee ratio, size of the coffee grounds, steeping time, and bean type. You now know what goes into making a well-balanced coffee cup that has a fantastic blend of rich, smooth flavors.
Stay caffeinated friends!