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What Does Coffee Roast Level Really Mean for Flavor? Part 3: Dark Roast

April 16, 2018

Dark roast coffee

Editor’s Note: This blog series examines the specific misconceptions that many hold about light, medium and dark roast coffee and how these roast levels translate into the final flavor profile once it has been brewed and reached your cup. Our hope with this series is that you’ll walk away with a better understanding of the type of coffee flavors that you prefer so you can more easily find it when purchasing specialty coffee to brew at home.

| By Savannah Phillips |

This third and final blog on the subject of roast levels is all about “dark roast” coffee. There are quite a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about coffee that is categorized as dark roast. That is also true for light and perhaps somewhat even for medium roasts, but it seems dark roast has been stigmatized more severely by both the general public and some of the craft coffee snobs out there for very different reasons.

Before “third wave”, specialty/craft coffee came into the picture, people mostly drank coffee that was roasted dark. Mainly because that’s pretty much all that was available. Additionally—as powerhouse roasters like Starbucks and other similar large coffee companies became household names—marketing dark roasts as higher quality, more desirable and having bold flavors became commonplace. Much of the general public came to believe that dark roast always equaled better.

One main reason these large coffee companies focused more on marketing dark roast coffee was simply for cost. They could easily purchase a lower-grade or lower-quality bean and by roasting very dark, the smokey, and oftentimes ashy flavors would cover up the defects in the inferior quality beans. Some dark roast coffees have been found to be made up of 25 percent ash. I don’t know how you feel about that, but to me that’s just nasty.

Then, with the rise in craft or specialty coffee roasters over the last few years, dark roasts in general were all of a sudden demonized for many of these reasons by specialty coffee snobs. It became, for some, something a true coffee connoisseur would never allow near one’s lips. After that, almost in an effort to further scorn and label dark roast as undrinkable, some of these roasters began roasting coffee way too light, which I discuss what that means in part one of this blog series. The end result is a coffee lacking any natural sweetness, very sour taste and has no balance whatsoever.

Specialty coffee snob-bashing comments aside, as a specialty coffee roaster ourselves, we are devoted to procuring high-quality coffee, but are no means averse to dark roast coffees—as long as they are still roasted properly of course. Most of our darker roasts are blends because we can pick and choose certain bean varieties that compliment each other for sweetness or body to make a balanced coffee.

What that means is when you taste a nice dark roast you should pick up a subtle smokey flavor, dark chocolate, maybe caramel and depending on the bean origin, some of the nuttiness still may also come through. If however it starts to lack body and becomes astringent and dry, like poorly brewed green tea or has a burnt or ashy taste, then you know it’s way too dark. At that point it’s literally been cremated.

If you’re interested in tasting some of our darker roasts, pick up a bag of Portofino, Cove Blend, Peru French Roast or our Verão Espresso in our cafe or online store.


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Savannah Phillips

Quality Control
A Level-Two Certified Barista, native Northwesterner turned So-Cal girl, Savannah is also addicted to yoga, hiking, meditation and long drives up Coast Highway 101. She doesn’t remember ever not loving coffee. Even as a child, when most other kids typically hate the taste, it was something she craved, which looking back, was unquestionably an early prediction of a career devoted to specialty coffee.

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