The degree to which coffee beans are roasted is one of the most important factors that determine the taste of the coffee in the cup.
The degree to which coffee beans are roasted is one of the most important factors that determine the taste of the coffee in the cup. Before roasting, green coffee beans are soft, with a fresh smell and little or no taste. The coffee roasting process transforms these raw beans into the distinctively aromatic, flavorful, crunchy beans that we recognize as coffee.
Other factors of course enter into the complex equation that determines your coffee’s taste. Two coffee varieties, from different countries of origin or grown in different environments, are likely to taste quite different even when roasted to the same level (especially at light to medium roast levels). The age of the coffee, the processing method, the grind, and the brewing method will also affect the taste. But the roast level provides a baseline, a rough guide to the taste you can expect.
The most common way to describe coffee roast levels is by the color of the roasted beans, ranging from light to dark (or extra dark). As coffee beans absorb heat in the roasting process, their color becomes darker. Oils appear on the surface of the beans at higher temperatures. Because coffee beans vary, color is not an especially accurate way of judging a roast. But combined with the typical roasting temperature that yields a particular shade of brown, color is a convenient way to categorize roasting levels.