Skip to main content

Light roast vs. dark roast coffee: Which is better?

How much caffeine is in your favorite cup of coffee?

pour over coffee roast
fornStudio / Shutterstock

Every coffee lover knows that not all coffee is created equally. If you’ve found yourself wondering how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee, you’re not alone. However, this commonly asked question does not have a simple answer, as the caffeine in coffee differs depending on the type of roast. 

Think you’re a coffee connoisseur? Let’s dive into a comparison of light roast vs. dark roast coffee to test your knowledge. Below, you’ll learn more about the caffeine content in each of these roasts and explore a comparison of flavors.

two cups of coffee being made at a shop
Chevanon Photography/Pexels

What is stronger: light or dark roast coffee?

The strength of coffee roasts is often confused with caffeine content, which are both unrelated. In terms of strength, light roast coffee offers a more delicate taste and appears lighter in color. This coffee roast is considered milder in taste compared to dark roast coffee. You might find light roast coffee called “breakfast blend,” as it offers a light, delicate flavor.

On the other hand, dark roast coffee offers a stronger, bolder taste. Since dark roast coffee beans take longer to roast, the result is a more robust coffee. Coffee lovers who enjoy a rich, bold taste often prefer dark roast coffee over light roast coffee.

two cups of coffee being made at a shop
Chevanon Photography/Pexels

Light roast vs. dark roast caffeine content

Ultimately, the choice between light and dark roast coffee in terms of taste comes down to your personal preference. However, don’t let the names of these coffee roasts fool you. A dark roast coffee that is bold in taste and appearance does not necessarily contain more caffeine as a result. Light roast coffee often contains more caffeine than dark coffee roasts.

Dark roast coffee beans require a longer roasting process, which can mean some caffeine content is lost in the process. Due to the high temperatures, dark roasts generally end up with less caffeine per serving than light roasts. However, it’s important to remember that this can vary from cup to cup, depending on the measurement/weight of coffee beans used in the roast.

Cup of coffee with beans on table
Mike Kenneally/Unsplash / Mike Kenneally/Unsplash

Which is sweeter: light or dark roast?

Most coffee lovers agree that light roast coffee tastes slightly sweeter than dark roast coffee, though individual tastes may vary. The sweeter taste of light roast coffee is due to the natural sugars in the beans and the shortened roasting process. As a result, light roast coffee offers a brighter, more delicate, and more acidic taste.

Dark roast coffee needs more time to roast, which leads to the caramelization of the beans. In turn, this can remove some of the beans’ natural sweetness, leading the final brew to be darker, bolder, and more bitter. 

The type of coffee beans used, method of brewing, and weight of beans can also impact the sweetness of a coffee roast. Many cold coffees, such as iced coffee or cold brew, may have a stronger, more bitter taste.

Does light roast taste better?

Which coffee roast tastes better is up to personal taste preferences. Of course, how you choose to take your coffee (cream, sugar, etc.) will also impact its taste and enjoyability. Although light roast contains slightly more caffeine than roast coffee, the difference is negligible. Some coffee drinkers have a strong preference for roast, while others enjoy both coffee roasts.

Medium roast coffee is an excellent option for coffee drinkers who find light roast too light, yet dark roast too bitter. This coffee roast will be slightly lighter in color than a dark roast yet darker in appearance than light roast coffee. The flavor of a medium roast coffee blend is smooth and well-rounded, making it a classic favorite among all coffee lovers. 

Due to the versatility of medium-roast coffee, it is often used for methods beyond traditional drip (hot) coffee. Medium roast coffee blends can be used in pour-over methods and for cold coffee beverages.

Two hands together holding a bunch of whole coffee beans.
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash / Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Which is the healthiest coffee: light or dark roast?

Neither light roast coffee nor dark roast coffee offers health advantages over the other. Both coffee roasts offer general health benefits, which apply to any roast of coffee. When consumed appropriately, coffee could help you extend your lifespan, increase your energy levels, or even help you reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

If you seek to take advantage of the health benefits of caffeine, you might prefer to drink light roast coffee due to its slightly higher caffeine content. For those who have medical conditions that advise against excessive caffeine consumption, a dark roast coffee or decaf blend is likely preferred.

Finding your perfect blend

The decision between drinking light-roast coffee and dark-roast coffee comes down to personal preference. Opt for light roast coffees for a slightly larger caffeine boost and brighter, lighter taste. Meanwhile, those who prefer a rich, bold taste may prefer dark roast coffees. 

Not sure which coffee blend you prefer? These are our favorite coffee bean brands for 2023, offering a great selection of light, medium, dark, and extra-dark coffee roasts.

Editors' Recommendations

Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
The secret to gauging meat tenderness is easier than you think
This simple trick is easy to learn
A plate of grilled meat and vegetables on a rustic wooden platter with a black background

Forget temperature guidelines or cooking time constraints. The best way to gauge meat tenderness is by way of an old culinary school trick. Turns out, you don't need much when assessing the doneness of steak. You can detect its status simply by comparing how it feels to certain parts of your hand. Dubbed the touch test, it's a handy way to quickly see how ready your meat is.

We first heard about the test through Dan Thiessen over at Walla Walla Steak Company. He's made a career out of cooking steak and uses the touch test often. What it may lack in exacting precision it more than makes up for in convenience and efficiency. Plus, it doesn't require any tools or expensive gadgetry. It's easy to memorize and a fun little party trick for your next backyard gathering.

Read more
The iconic Benjamin Steakhouse shares its best meat cooking tips
Executive chef imparts decades of steak cooking knowledge from top NYC steakhouses
Benjamin porterhouse whole

Cooking a great steak requires both technique and practice to get it right. Although it appears straightforward, there are a plethora of choices and decisions that go into proper steak cooking. What's the best cut? How do you season a steak properly? What temperature should the grill be at? For the best advice, why not seek the help of a steakhouse professional?

As a steak expert, Executive Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steakhouse has a wealth of knowledge on beef. Possessing over 30 years of preparing meat between Benjamin Steakhouse and Peter Luger, McLeod knows his beef. Benjamin Steakhouse is a family-owned restaurant that prides itself on high-quality steaks and fantastic service. Besides New York City, the restaurant has locations in Tokyo, Japan.
Porterhouse, the steakhouse classic

Read more
How to grill the steak of your dreams: An aspiring steak master’s guide
Grill up your steak just like a pro with these tips
Sirloin steak on a grill

With summer coming faster than expected, you’re likely firing up that grill every day to cook ribs, grill vegetables, or smoke a brisket. We love them all, but to be frank, nothing beats a perfectly grilled steak. Its succulent, smoky flavor alone is enough to bring your loved ones together for a protein-packed cookout in the backyard. And that makes grilling steak a rewarding culinary experience.

Grill masters have probably mastered the art of grilling. But if you just purchased your first grill or are looking for some beginner-friendly pointers, we’re here to help. We enlisted the expertise of Dusmane Tandia, executive chef at Mastro’s Steakhouse in New York City, for some expert tips on how to grill a restaurant-quality steak. Light up your grill, don your best apron, and read on to learn how to grill a perfect steak.
How to grill the perfect steak

Read more