Common Roast Levels
Many roasters have unique titles for their specialized roast levels. This can cause some confusion when buying, but in general, roasts fall into one of four color categories — light, medium, medium-dark and dark. Using the four-color categories, you are likely to find common roasts as listed below:
Also called Light City, Cinnamon, New England, Half City
With a dry bean surface and light brown in color, this roast is more commonly used for balanced and approachable coffees. Acidity is usually high, while body and aromatics are not as pronounced. Because of shorter roast times oils do not break through to the surface of the beans.
Also called City, Breakfast, American
Medium brown in color with some evidence of oil on the surface of the bean, this is a preferred roast level in most of the United States. Acidity, body, and aroma are increased in this roast level compared to Light Roast. More oils from the center of the bean make their way to the surface of the bean.
Medium Dark Roast
Also called Full City, Light French roast
This roast produces rich, dark brown colored, shiny beans with significant signs of oil on the surface. While acidity in the bean starts to decrease at this point, body and aroma are typically at their highest level. Many single origin coffees for espresso are roasted to this level.
Also called Espresso, French, Italian, Viennese, High, New Orleans, European
This roast produces shiny black beans with an oily surface. The darker the roast, the less acidity will be found in the coffee resulting in an overly bitter taste. Aroma and body are still present.