What is Light Roast Coffee?

What makes light roast coffee beans different from dark roast ones? Nope, it’s not just the colour…


What is Light Roast Coffee?

To understand the ‘light’ bit of light roast coffee, we first need to understand the second: the roasty toasty part.

Light roast coffee beans are those that spend less time in the roaster. When coffee beans arrive at the Two Chimps roastery, they are neither light nor dark. They’re green! ‘Green’ simply means unroasted, and the name comes from the slight olive-like colour of these raw bean beauties.

After analysing the beans, head roaster Andy moves them into the roaster. This is where things start seriously hotting up… to around 206°C! Beats Gran Canaria any day!

These scorching temperatures break down the complex carbohydrates in the green beans. This brings on the most magical transformation ever, as the grassy-tasting raw beans transform into mouth-lingeringly delicious roasted coffee. It’s magic – we swear!


Pulling sample tray containing coffee beans out of coffee roaster



Roasting Light Roast Coffee Beans

But we can’t just stand there gawking. We’ve got a roast to control! It’s all eyes, ears and noses throughout the roast, as we use sensory milestones to get the timings spot on.

Then, we listen out for the first crack. Or ‘first pop’, as it should be called, because this is when the beans start to pop-pop-pop like popcorn! The roasting beans are releasing heat rather than absorbing it. In other (sciencey) terms, they’re entering into an exothermic reaction! Cool! Well, hot, but ya’ know what we mean…


Coffee beans being roasted



And now enter… the Development Phase. This is the time between the pops of the first crack and the end of the roast. This part’s super-important, because it’s where light roast coffee beans gain their light identity. Shorter development times give us lovely light roasts, while longer ones create the rich, caramelised flavours of a medium or dark roast coffee.

And there you have it! Lush, light roast coffee beans for your brew!

Lost your coffee label? No worries. The easiest way to tell if a coffee bean is a light or dark roast is by its colour:

  • Light roast coffee beans are a lighter shade of brown and have a matte finish.
  • Darker roasted beans are (you guessed it) dark brown and shiny.

chart explaining the difference of appearance between light and dark roast coffee beans



What Does Light Roast Coffee Taste Like?

The first word that springs to mind when thinking of light roast coffee taste is…


Because it absolutely is.

Well-roasted light roast coffee treats you to a gorgeously bright acidity (more on this in a mo). You’ll almost always find fruity, floral flavours. Perhaps a sprightly strawberry sweetness or delicate notes of jasmine?

The body will be lighter than a dark roast coffee. Think silky and lusciously tea-like rather than heavy and rich.

Choose a light roast, and you’ll also have a 4D experience of the original bean. Less time in the roaster means light roast coffees retain more of their original characteristics. So if it was an Ethiopian coffee (usually diverse with hints of citrus, bergamot or florals), you’ll really be able to taste that it was an Ethiopian coffee.


Coffee farmer picking coffee cherries in Ethiopia




Is Light Roast Coffee Less Acidic?

Acidity is one of those things that’s hard to explain. A bit like déjà vu or the taste of water, or the notion of being (if we’re feeling really profound).

We can understand coffee acidity in two ways. Firstly, there’s what the acidity tastes like. More acidic coffees might taste:

  • Lively
  • Fruity
  • Bright
  • Refreshingly sharp


Yellow coffee mug sits on a wooden table



Then, there’s the chemical point of view. Acidity is a chemical compound, and a balance of organic acids are essential for top coffee taste. No acidity? Your coffee will taste pretty flat.

As we know, lighter roasted coffee beans maintain more of the beans’ original flavour. Green coffee is more acidic than roasted coffee and these acids start to degrade at very high temperatures. Dark roasts spend more time in the roaster and are (usually) less acidic.

But don’t pigeonhole light roast acidity with ‘BAD FLAVOURS’. Because that is most certainly not the case! Acidity means sprightly flavours of fruit and florals, and a whole lotta deliciousness!


Chart explaining Light roast coffee taste




Which Coffee Is Stronger: Light or Dark Roast?

Strength. Another one of those hazy terms in the coffee world…

If you’re wondering whether light roast coffee is less bitter than a dark roast, the answer is… it depends. On the quality of your coffee roasting team. On your brew ratio. On your brew time.

Bitter flavours can come from:

  1. Over-roasted coffee (this is how commercial roasters hide bad flavours in their low-grade beans)
  2. Over-extracted coffee (when the brew water was too hot, or you brew for too long)

If you’re thinking about how the coffee feels in your mouth – its texture – then the answer is dark roasts. Compared to light roast coffees’ light, tea-like texture, darker roasts feel fuller and heavier in your mouth.


Two Chimps barista pouring black cafetiere coffee into a blue mug


But then, you might be thinking about caffeine strength. You might be wondering whether light roast coffees contain more caffeine.

Again, it depends on the angle you take.

Coffee beans lose mass as they roast, meaning that light roast coffee beans are a smidgen more dense than dark roasts. As such, light roast beans will contain more caffeine if you weigh your coffee (because, by weight, you’ll have more beans). Darker roasts have less mass, so you’ll need a few more beans to get the same weight.

If you simply take a scoop of beans, the caffeine contents will be more or less the same. Your light roast sample might contain a tiny bit more caffeine due to the shorter roast time, but they will be very similar overall.


Graph explaining why light roasts coffees contain more caffeine



Phew. That was intense. Time to get brewing…



Just a tick! Here’s something good before we get onto the best way to make light roast coffee!



  • Step-by-step info of the coffee process
  • Fun coffee glossaries
  • Failsafe brew guides for each method
  • Lots of cheeky tips!

Get it now! It’s totally free!



How to Brew Light Roast Coffee

Yay! It’s time to take up those devices and learn how to brew light roast coffee.

Coffee has pores, did you know? Light roast beans are less porous than their darker cousins, which means their compounds take a little longer to come out.

So slow and chilled is the way to go!

Filter coffee devices like V60s and Chemexes just love light roast coffees. Their steadier extraction leaves plenty of time for those flavour compounds to jiggle their way out and give you one beautiful, balanced brew.


Spooning ground coffee into a v60 sitting on an orange mug


Light roast coffees are also less suited to pressure methods (AeroPress, moka pot and espresso machine) because pressure highlights acidity. Cafetieres rely on gravity to brew, making them a heaven-sent match for your fruity light roast. We think Newton would approve. ?


Stirring coffee in a cafetiere




Light Roast Coffee Beans UK

Need coffee fast? If you’re looking to buy light roast coffee beans online, you’ve found your happy place.

Here at Two Chimps, we carefully roast high-scoring speciality beans throughout the week. And guess what! We’ve got some stellar light roast coffees for your cup. Why not try this fruity morning coffee? Or this beautiful single-origin decaf?

Enjoy speciality light roast coffee beans delivered to your door, or select your fave brew method for coffee ground fresh on the day of dispatch.

Don’t worry; we’ll excuse you while you drift away to coffee heaven…


set of three coffees



Find your new favourite light roast right now! Pop along to our online coffee shop!


Join the troop