How do you like your coffee?
Are you a medium roast kind of person or do you prefer it dark as night?
In recent years, there has been a shift towards lighter roasts, with some saying this allows the subtle flavors to shine through.
So here’s our guide to the best light roast coffee brands.
Top 5 best light roast coffee brands of 2020
1. Cafe Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic Gourmet Coffee - Light Roast (Our Top Recommended)
These 100% arabica beans are from the Marcala region of Honduras.
They are grown at 3,805-4,290ft (1,160-1310m) and belong to the catuai varietal.
They are certified by the USDA as organic, are free of GMOs and are grown without the use of any pesticides or insecticides.
Tasting notes describe a rich, chocolatey flavor with profound depth that shines through due to the light roast.
The body is rich and velvety, and the acidity is low. The finish is crisp and clean, and the coffee displays notes of milk chocolate, honey, cocoa and caramel.
2. Kicking Horse Coffee, Hola, Light Roast, Ground
This is a blend of shade-grown 100% arabica beans sourced from Central and South America.
They are certified as Fair Trade, ensuring equitable treatment for farmers, and are 100% organic.
They are recommended for drip coffee machines, pour-over brewing and cold brew.
The flavor profile displays a juicy redcurrant acidity with a creamy honey body.
The aroma contains hints of condensed sugarcane and the finish offers hints of brown sugar and hazelnuts.
This is an excellent choice for sampling the subtle flavors of an expertly done light roast coffee.
3. Caribou Coffee Daybreak Morning Blend - Best Light Roast Ground Coffee
Caribou Coffee source their beans from sustainable Rainforest Alliance-certified farms, ensuring a fair deal and ethical treatment for farmers and protection for the environment.
This light roast coffee is a blend of 100% arabica beans from the Americas and East Africa.
Tasting notes for the Daybreak Morning Blend describe a sweet, subtle flavor with floral cherry overtones and a caramel and nut finish.
The subtle flavors are accentuated by the light roast.
4. Coffee Bean Direct Hawaiian Kona Blend Coffee
This Hawaiian Kona blend from Coffee Bean Direct is designed to give you the authentic taste of 100% Kona but at a more affordable price.
It contains 10% pure Kona beans plus a blend of other high-quality 100% arabica beans sourced from Central America.
Tasting notes describe hints of coriander, butter and macadamia nut, with a well-rounded body and a cheerful, bright acidity.
This coffee is roasted in small batches for the utmost freshness and is suitable for use with most brewing methods.
5. Starbucks Veranda Blend Light Blonde Roast
Starbucks has something of a reputation for over-roasting their beans.
So if you are a fan of the high street coffee giant but find their coffee too dark, this coffee might be for you.
This lighter roast allows more of the complexity of the coffee to show through and be fully appreciated.
Light blonde is Starbucks’ lightest roast and offers a gentler taste that is flavorful but not overly bold.
The coffee is described as being mellow with more approachable flavors than darker roast coffees.
A great choice for Starbucks devotees who prefer a more delicate coffee.
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Best Light Roast Coffee Beans Buying Guide
Why do we roast coffee?
If you’re interested in trying some lighter roasts, let’s take a moment to look first at the process of roasting and how different roast levels affect the flavor of the coffee.
Why do we even roast coffee beans at all?
If you took a handful of processed green coffee beans, ground them up and tried to brew a cup of coffee with them, the result would be not much more than a cup of dirty water.
It wouldn’t have much flavor, and it certainly wouldn’t bear any resemblance to what we think of as coffee.
This is because the flavors and aromas in coffee beans are created during the roasting process through something called the Maillard reaction (1).
The Maillard reaction
The Maillard reaction is what happens when you heat certain foods; it is what turns bread to toast and a slab of beef into a juicy steak.
It is also the process that transforms tasteless, odorless compounds inside green beans into the flavors and aromas we know and love.
Check out this video explaining the Maillard reaction.
By changing the temperature and time of the roast, we can control the flavor profile of the coffee.
The longer the beans are roasted and the higher the temperature, the darker the roast and the more intense the aroma and flavor.
However, when coffee is roasted to a darker level, some would claim that the more subtle, complex flavors of finer specialty coffees are lost.
In a way, we can draw a parallel with cooking a steak.
Some people prefer a rare steak because they believe it leaves more of the flavors (and tenderness) intact.
Others prefer their meat well-done because they enjoy the smokier, more “cooked” flavor.
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Roasting beans is a fine art that takes much practice to master.
Knowing the best roast for a bean depends on the bean itself as well as the type of coffee it is to be used for.
For example, an experienced roaster may decide that a particularly robust coffee bean would benefit from a darker roast to produce a rich and intense brew.
Another more delicate bean might be better light-roasted to highlight its full bouquet of flavors.
Beans intended to be brewed using the pour-over method or in a siphon might be better as a light or medium roast.
While coffee used in espressos is almost always dark-roasted to produce that condensed, intense shot of coffee so beloved of espresso connoisseurs.
Check out this video about roasting coffee.
Traditionally, people have tended to prefer medium and darker roasts.
This is especially true in countries like France and Italy where people commonly drink espressos or similar types of coffee.
However, in recent years, with the advent of the Third Wave of coffee and a growing interest in gourmet and specialty coffees, people have begun experimenting with lighter roasts.
This is because, as mentioned, darker roasts overpower the more delicate flavors of a good specialty coffee.
There is little point in sourcing beans that were painstakingly nurtured at high altitude and meticulously picked by hand if you are then going to incinerate the flavors.
As people become more aware of coffee as a luxury item rather than just as a basic commodity, lighter roasts are growing in popularity.
If you want to experience a truly fine coffee in its full glory, often, the best way to do it is a light roast.
That’s not to say that there’s no place for dark roast coffees.
Some beans are better at darker roast levels, and espressos will always be made with darker roast beans (even if some people are experimenting with lighter roast beans to make more complex espressos now too).
A note on caffeine
There is a common myth that seems to have been around forever that darker roasts equate to a higher caffeine content.
People apparently imagine that roasting the beans to a darker level somehow “activates” more caffeine. This is simply not true.
Green beans contain caffeine. If you eat green beans, you will ingest all that caffeine (although most people wouldn’t enjoy this since eating green coffee beans tastes a bit like eating grass).
No more caffeine is created during the roasting process; on the contrary, it seems that some is actually burned off.
Some people even go as far as to say that if you want more caffeine in your coffee, you should opt for lighter roast beans since more caffeine is left intact.
The truth is that while roasting may destroy a certain amount of caffeine in the coffee, caffeine is largely unaffected by the temperatures it is exposed to during roasting and.
In fact, there is very little difference between the caffeine content of dark roast beans and light roast beans.
Light roast to set the flavors free
As you can see from our reviews, these light roast coffees are all bursting with subtle and complex flavors that would be lost with darker roasts.
If you want to truly appreciate and savor the fruity, nutty and chocolatey notes of these fine coffees, they need a delicate light roast.
If you are more used to drinking dark roast coffee, perhaps you should give some of these lighter roasts a try.
If you want to expand your coffee experience and try something more than just the usual strong and sometimes burnt flavor of dark roasts, these five coffees would be an ideal start.
Do you prefer light roast or dark roast coffees? Do you buy beans pre-roast, or do you roast yourself? If you roast your own, do you have any tips?
If you have anything to tell us or our readers, please leave a comment – we love hearing your thoughts. And please don’t forget to give us a share!