Light roasted coffee sees less heat than a dark roast. Heating coffee beans is like cooking any other ingredient: You’re essentially forcing water and moisture out of the bean by evaporation. Since light roasted beans aren’t left on the roasting machine for as long as dark roasted beans, they’re left with more moisture inside the bean, making it denser.
Dark roast coffee beans stay on the roasting machine for a longer time or at a higher temperature. This means the beans will lose more moisture, making them less dense, less caffeinated, and more single-note in flavor. The complexities that light roast coffee start to disappear the longer you leave the beans on the roasting machine.
A denser coffee bean will give you more caffeine, more brightness (also referred to as “acid,” but not actually chemically acidic), and more fruit-forward, herbal flavors. There will be more going on in terms of complexity in a light roast coffee. But the body will actually be thinner than that of a dark roast, and will almost drink more like a strong black tea. And yes, the caffeine thing: If a serious coffee buzz is what you’re after, light roast is definitely the move.
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