When it comes to coffee, as we often say, the quality of your coffee will never exceed the quality of your beans. But the more you learn the more you begin to see that there are many aspects to any coffee bean; the origin or coffee farm to which it can be traced, the altitude it was grown at, which variety it is, how it was processed, and of course how it was subsequently roasted.
The roast of a bean can have a significant impact on the taste of your morning cup of coffee. While many caffeine enthusiasts have traditionally stuck to dark roasts, light roasts are quickly becoming popular in the specialty coffee community. Light roasts are particularly popular for manual brewing methods such as pour over and Aeropress.
Here, we’ll be going over our favorite light roast coffee brands to help you pick the right blend to start your morning.
What is Light Roast Coffee?
Before you grind up your beans to make yourself a steaming coffee, you need to roast them. Roasting releases the oils contained inside the beans, allowing them to give your coffee a bold, robust flavor. In fact if you tried to make a coffee out of unroasted green coffee beans you would find the result to be a rather revolting grassy drink.
Roasting is generally measured by when coffee beans begin to crack. This happens when vapors inside the bean get hot enough to expand, eventually splitting the tough outer shell. When you roast coffee, you can judge how well-done it is by the beans’ audible cracking.
Light roast coffee beans are heated at a lower temperature than other blends and the roast is stopped just on or after the first crack. Most coffee makers offer a range of roasts for each bean, from light to dark, depending on their customers’ taste preferences. Many brands even have their own scale of what constitutes a light roast.
While you can roast your own coffee beans, our preference tends to be to buy beans that have already been professionally roasted. The process of roasting your own beans while satisfying, does tend to be both messy and somewhat inconsistent.
Light Roast vs. Medium Roast vs. Dark Roast
In the past, many coffee connoisseurs have stuck to dark roasts. Traditionally, people have thought these to be stronger and more robust than lighter flavors. However the pendulum is now beginning to swing. It is now commonly acknowledged that darker roasts, while enjoyable, tend to mask rather than showcase the unique distinctive flavor notes of different beans. Light or medium roasts are quickly gaining popularity for their complex flavor profiles.
Dark roasted beans range from dark brown to shiny black in color and typically have oil on the surface. These beans have been roasted at around 430F and 450F, typically until the second crack. Some dark roasts, such as French, Italian, Neapolitan, and New Orleans, are treated at higher temperatures for an even darker color and a smoky flavor.
Dark roasts retain little of their origin flavors, with most of its flavor being produced from roasting. Dark roasts have little sweetness or acidity but an in-depth profile that includes notes of chocolate, nuts, or caramel. Dark roasts often taste bitter or smoky.
If you roast beans at lower temperatures, you get a flavor profile somewhere between a dark and a light roast. Medium roasted beans are usually golden to medium brown, and the surface is rarely oily. The beans are roasted at 400F and 430F, typically just beyond the first crack.
Medium roasted coffees are renowned for being well balanced, with a mixture of the coffee’s origin flavors and brightness complemented by a richer body produced from roasting. Medium roasts typically have the roasty flavors such as caramel, chocolate and nuts balanced with acidity and sweetness.
Light roasted beans are typically light brown in color with no surface oil. Light roasted coffee is typically roasted to just 350F and 400F and barely reaches the first crack.
In general, light roast coffee is relatively mellow, though it’s often more acidic than other coffee varieties. It tends to retain more of the bean’s origin flavor to give you a bright, clean profile, full of floral and fruity notes.
What to Look for in a Light Roast Coffee
With the rising popularity of light roast blends, there are more options now than ever from which to choose. Here, we’ll go over the most important things to consider when picking out the right light roast for you.
Where Does It Come From?
The origin of a coffee bean can affect its taste based on growing and storage conditions. Different climates and types of soil can produce beans with vastly different flavor profiles. Some experienced coffee drinkers can even gauge origin by taste alone.
Origin is particularly important for light roasts, as they retain much of the bean’s original flavor. The country of origin that you choose will depend mainly on your personal preferences. For example, coffee grown in South America is known to be mellow and mild, while coffee from countries such as Ethiopia is prized for its fruity notes.
No matter where you get your coffee, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s ethically sourced. Look for brands that offer a Fairtrade certification. You can also find coffee with Direct Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Proudly Made in Africa certifications.
How Is It Roasted?
Every coffee company has a different standard when it comes to what defines a light roast. It can be a challenge to gauge whether a particular bean will be stronger or more acidic than another. As a general rule of thumb, you should stick to light roasts treated between around 350F and 400F. Any higher, and you may find yourself with something closer to a medium roast.
It’s also important to consider the roasting date. Older beans can lose some of their flavors over time, particularly in light roasts. You should aim to buy coffee that was recently packaged and use it within a week or two of the roasting date. It is a good rule of thumb in general that if a bag of beans doesn’t show its roasting date then don’t buy it!
Best Light Roast Coffee Brands
Lifeboost Coffee– Our top pick
Lifeboost coffee is an up and coming coffee roaster who produce high quality organic light roast coffee. Their coffee is shade grown in Nicaragua and has naturally low acidity levels. Lifeboost take the utmost care when harvesting and processing their coffee; their beans are hand picked, sun dried and then washed in spring water before being hand roasted. As a result their beans contain no chemicals, pesticides, GMOs or Mycotoxins. Their Light Roast coffee beans are a single origin coffee with a nutty profile balanced with hints of caramel and vanilla. To read our Lifeboost coffee review click here.
This light roast is made with 100% Arabica beans for a bright, crisp flavor. The beans are imported from Central and South American locations and packaged in the U.S. soon after roasting.
The beans are treated in small individual batches to unlock more flavor with each roast. They’re roasted at slightly higher temperatures than many other light blends, giving the beans a slightly nutty, caramel flavor.
You can buy this roast in a single pack, or save money by purchasing a pack of three. If you prefer a little bit of variety, you can also buy this light roast in a variety pack alongside its companion dark roast. This is a great option if you are looking for some affordable light roasted beans.
This light roast blend from Caribou Coffee is designed to help wake you up in the morning. It boasts a sweet, smooth caramel flavor and a nutty finish that goes great with porridge, cereal, pancakes, and much more.
This roast is made from high-quality, 100% Arabica beans. It’s roasted just long enough to bring out the beans’ complexity without giving the coffee too strong or bitter of a taste for light roast enthusiasts.
Caribou coffee is ethically and sustainably sourced, making it a good choice for eco-conscious coffee enthusiasts. It’s also Rainforest Alliance certified so that you can rest easy knowing your morning coffee isn’t harming the world’s rainforests.
New England Coffee is a widely renowned family brand that’s been producing high-quality coffee roasts in the U.S. for more than a century. The company uses 100% Arabica in their light roast, sourced from Africa, Central America, and South America. The New England Coffee Sustainable Cup Project helps support farmers in these communities for a more sustainable future.
Beans are roasted slowly and in small batches to produce a smooth, mellow flavor. This coffee blends well with sweet foods, particularly breakfast foods such as donuts. However, this roast is mild enough to pair with most meals.
All New England Coffee is 100% gluten-free, making it safe even for sensitive stomachs. It’s also certified Kosher. Easy-to-read instructions are included on the side of the packaging to help you brew the ideal cup.
This pre-ground roast is bright and bold, pairing rich berry tastes with honey and brown sugar. It’s got a sweeter, richer flavor than many other light blends, boasting notes of dark chocolate and hazelnuts.
Kicking Horse Coffee is all 100% Certified Organic, made of Arabica beans sourced from Central and South America using sustainable growing practices. It’s roasted in the U.S. out of the Rocky Mountains.
This coffee blend is certified Fair Trade as well as organic and is fully Kosher. Kicking Horse recommends that you use their coffee in a drip machine, a pour-over coffee maker, or as a cold brew. However, you can easily use this ground coffee as you see fit.
The Best Light Roast Coffee
In our humble opinion if you are looking for the best light roast coffee we highly recommend Lifeboost Light Roast Coffee. They use high quality, organic beans to produce a great coffee that has the added benefit of being low in acid.
If you’ve historically been a dark roast drinker, you may want to consider trying out a light roast the next time you reach for your carafe. Light roast coffees offer a bright, complex flavor profile that dark roasts can’t match. There are plenty of high-quality options available on the market that will help you to amp up your morning routine and start the day right.
Does Light Roast coffee have more caffeine?
You may have heard it said that light roast coffee has more caffeine in it than dark roast coffee. This is not true. Lighter roasts have a higher concentration of caffeine per bean because they weigh more than dark roasted beans (which loose more moisture during roasting). So if you brew a coffee using volume rather than weight, you will be using more light roasted coffee and therefore getting more caffeine in your cup.
What are the other names of Light Roast Coffee
Light roast coffee is known by many different names. Here are some of the common ones: