How to Buy Coffee Series - Step 1: Understanding Roast Levels

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Step 1: Understanding Roast Levels

With so many coffee options out there, choosing what kind to buy can be an intimidating task. 
Do you like light, medium or dark roasts? Should you get a blend, or a single origin? If you get a single origin, what country should you pick? 
Luckily for you, it’s our job to know these things. We know way too much about coffee, and we genuinely like sharing what we know with other people. 
Let’s start with an overview of how roast levels work. 

Roast Levels

Roast levels are really tricky, as there’s no standardization among roasters. This means one person’s definition of “medium” could be drastically darker than someone else's. The best way around this is a little trial and error to find a roaster you trust and like. 

Typically, the lighter the roast, the more “origin” characteristics are preserved, and the darker the roast, the more “roasty” the coffee can taste. 

Think of it as a spectrum: On the lighter end, there will be more acidity and less bitterness.  Then, as it comes into a medium roast, more sugars are caramelized, but you can still taste the origin characteristics, although they won’t be quite as “bright.” On the darker end, the acidity is muted, and the bitterness increases. 

Once you’ve settled in on a roast profile, you should consider regions and what characteristics they typically have. We will go over that in our next blog post, so stay tuned! 


Treeline founder, Natalie Van Dusen, looooves talking coffee! Check out what she has to say about roast levels in the video below!