An Intro to Coffee Roast Levels

Ever wondered why there are names of random countries on your bag of coffee? Vienna. French. Italian. Well, it has everything to do with the roasting levels. Here's what you need to know.

The roasting process is key to unlocking the flavours you want in your morning cup of coffee. We've previously dug deep into the roasting process and how it impacts medium and dark roasts. But today, we want to go even deeper into those roasting levels.

You may have heard the names of the various roasting levels and not really given them a second thought. Whether it's American, Vienna, French or Italian, you have seen those names on your bags of coffee. Why are they there? They are the roasting techniques that originated in those countries. 

The American roasts are on the medium side of the flavour spectrum, whereas French and Italian are darker. The roasting process changes the colour, aroma, acidity, and flavour of the bean. We are going to examine each of the medium and dark roast levels. We'll throw in which Arrowhead coffees fit that profile as a bonus. 

A Brief Intro To Roasting

Roasting is about the crack. As beans are heated, they crack. We are listening for two cracks. The first one signals that we are in light roast territory. Right before the second crack, around 440 degrees Fahrenheit, that's when we have found medium roast perfection. Beyond the second crack, you're experiencing a dark roast. 

It takes years of training to become an expert roaster. It is about constantly perfecting the ability to understand the beans and make decisions with split-second timing. It makes the difference between perfectly roasted coffee and a ruined batch.

Medium Roasts

Medium roasts are slightly acidic, with complex flavours. They are brown and have a little thicker body than light roasts. Because they have roasted for a shorter period, they are less oily than darker roasts and have preserved more of the bean’s unique flavours. 

1. American Roast

You know that you have hit American roast when the coffee beans have achieved a rich, medium brown colour, but no natural oils are on the bean's surface. It should come as no surprise, but American roast is a popular choice across America. It is coffee in its purest state, without any heavy, smoky flavours that dark roasts bring out.

2. City Roast

As a general rule, City roast beans are removed from the roaster at the end of the first crack. Medium brown in colour, the City roast maintains much of the bean's original flavour,  emphasizing its individual characteristics, unique aroma, complexity, and depth. This is where you get the bright, acidic notes. 

Gazer is one of our city roasts. It is a wonderfully smooth coffee that is mild and light with nutty flavours. This medium roast will punch you right in the flavour marker. Perfect for long days at the range, late-night patrols, or before that morning gym session. 

3. Full City Roast

Full City beans are roasted until right before the second crack. A few flecks of oil will appear on the surface of the bean. There is a nice balance between the bean's flavour and the taste of the roasting process. It straddles the line between the two worlds more than the City roast. 

Dark Roasts

When you go past the second crack, that's where the dark roast magic happens. Because they are heated longer, oils move to the bean's surface. A dark roast has a full-body flavour and the lowest acidity. This full-bodied flavour and the darker colour of the bean are what people often associate with a strong cup of coffee.

1. Vienna Roast

Now we are getting to darker beans and have more oil on the surface. The Vienna roast is slightly deeper in colour than the Full City roast. There are small spots of oil on the bean's surface. It has a subtle dark chocolate flavour with a smoky aroma. 

It's what you will experience with Cleared Hot. This bold and full-bodied espresso is balanced, smooth, and excellent for cold brew. Whether you are at home being a lazy sack or brewing long before the sun comes up, this is going to hit your taste buds with a bang

2. French Roast

French-roasted coffee tends to have a dark chocolate colour, with a smokey, rich flavour. It got its name because France is where the roasting style originated in the 1800s. 

The beans have a shiny surface from their oil coming to the surface. French roast coffee is far less acidic and often has a charred, charcoal-like note. At this point, you are tasting less of the origin of the bean. 

If you are looking for a French roast, reach for Our House. Sourced from Guatemala, Our House is an excellent choice for your afternoon post-nap. This dark, medium bold french roast has a beautiful aroma and rich flavour. You can also give Diver's Brew and Original a try.

3. Italian Roast

Now we are moving beyond the second crack. Italian roasted beans have the darkest colour and a shiny surface from their oils—very little of the natural characteristics inherent in the green bean remain. The acidic notes are gone. What's left is a sweet-but-chared flavour.