Which Coffee is Stronger Light Roast or Dark Roast?

Coffee roasts are categorized according to their color: light, medium, and dark. Which coffee is stronger light roast or dark roast? Read on to know the truth.

Coffee beans inside a glass jar found in the kitchen area
Roast varies in terms of flavor, acidity, taste, caffeine content, or oiliness

The strength of the various coffee roasts is a thing that I have always sought to know. In my mind, I had the perception that dark roast is stronger and always avoided it. I liked my cup of Joe light and sweet and always used light roast to make it.

However, a thought crossed my mind – “What if I’m wrong?” That is when I decided to do research on the strength between the two.

So, which coffee is stronger, light roast darker roast? Well, each roast is stronger than the other in various aspects. Such include flavor, acidity, taste, caffeine content, or oiliness.

The light roast leans on the high end on the first four aspects while the dark roast on the last one only. So, if your definition of roast strength is the first four aspects, then, the light roast takes the day.

Most people have the perception that the dark roast is stronger because of its appearance. I used to have the same perception until I did my research. Below is an outline of everything you need to know about what makes light roast stronger than dark roast and vice versa.

What Is A Light Roast?

A light roast is a roast subjected to heat for a short time. It is characterized by light brown color. This roast has little or no oil on the surface because the beans have not been exposed to heat for long enough for the oils to break through to the surface.

This roast has an earthy, acidic, and grainy taste. The roast is mostly used in making milder varieties of coffee.

What Is A Dark Roast?

This is the roast produced in the last stage of the roasting process and results from exposure to heat for a long time. The long-time exposure breaks the oil in the beans resulting in dark shiny beans. This is the main character that defines this roast.

Light can reflect off this roast because of the smooth shiny surface that has minimal texture. This roast has a noticeable bitterness despite having low acidity. This roast is mostly used in making espresso blends.

Various Elements That Define The Strength Of A Coffee Roast


Flavor profiles vary from one roast to another. Since coffee is a fruit, you will find that it will taste like one when not roasted for a long time.

Therefore, light roasts will have a fruity flavor due to the short roasting period. It has retained most of the bean’s unique flavors.

Dark roast, on the other hand, has a smokier burnt flavor. Why? The long roasting period it is subjected to.

It is the same when you overcook your food. You will end up with a meal that has lost flavor and other characteristics.

The flavor of the roast decreases with the roasting level. Therefore, if your definition of a strong roast is all about flavor, then the light roast is stronger than the dark roast.

Which coffee is stronger light roast or dark roast?
The flavor of the roast decreases with the roasting level

With the light roast, you will get the true flavor of your coffee beans. With the dark roast, you will get a fuller flavor and chocolate notes from the roasting.

Caffeine Content

This is the measure that many people use to say this roast is strong than the other. I bet you are no different. Most people assume the bitter taste of dark roast comes from high caffeine content.

However, that is not true.

Well, the dark roast has low caffeine content because some are lost during the prolonged roasting time. A light roast has high caffeine content which makes it stronger than a dark roast if you use caffeine content as a means to determine the strength of your roast.

This means if you want to stay active throughout the day, starting your day with a cup of Joe made using light roast can help. Remember caffeine is a stimulant? A dark roast can be for those days when you want to sleep like a baby but still want to enjoy a cup of coffee before heading to bed.


Do you define the strength of roast based on the aroma it produces? Well, if the light roast is ground and used within a short time, it produces a rich aroma that will make you want to drink more and more coffee.

Dark roast, on the other hand, has a Smokey and carbonic aroma that varies depending on how long it is roasted. If roasted for too long, it doesn’t produce any aroma. So, if you use aroma as a basis to determine the strength of a roast, a light roast takes the day.


Most people assume that a dark roast is stronger than a light roast because of its strong bitter taste. Well, roasting burns off sugars in a bean.

That means the more the roasting, the more sugars are burnt. This makes dark roast have a bold body, rich taste and is highly bitter.

Sometimes the bitterness may be too high and would require careful brewing to keep it in check and make coffee made out of it consumable. Light roast, on the other hand, has a sweeter taste. So, if your definition of a strong roast is the level of bitterness, then a dark roast is stronger than a light roast. If you like this post, you might be interested in learning why your coffee tastes like water.


Is acidity your parameter for determining the strength of a coffee roast? Well, light coffee roast then wins. This is because it is highly acidic compared to dark roast.

This explains why some people complain of stomach aches after taking a cup Joe made using light roasts but won’t suffer the same when they take an espresso and other varieties made using dark roasts.

The high acidity of the light roast causes acid reflux hence the stomach aches after taking coffee. If you don’t like using the dark roast in making your coffee, you can still use the light roast and not experience any ill effects after enjoying your cup of coffee. How?

Learn how you can make your coffee less acidic.


Oil is one of the elements that define the strength of a coffee roast
Heat extracts oil that makes coffee beans looks shiny

Dark roast is stronger than dark roast when it comes to the oil content in the roasts. For an extended time, dark roast is exposed to heat, the heat extracts oils to the surface hence its shiny appearance.


FAQs About Which Coffee Is Stronger Light Roast Or Dark Roast

So, I was wondering, which roast level is the best to use?

One thing you need to know is that the ideal roast level depends on various factors like your preference, what you want to prepare, and the method you will be using. However, you should make your choice based on your preference. Try various roasts i.e. light, medium, or dark to know which one works for you.

I used dark roast the other day and felt it tasted like a cigarette. Why is that so?

Well, the dark roast has smoky and burnt notes, especially when freshly ground. That may explain why you felt your coffee tasted like cigarettes. However, this doesn’t mean that is how dark roast is supposed to taste.

There are chances you bought a low-quality roast or one that was badly roasted. Consider changing the brand or where you bought and check whether there will be a difference.


There is no straight answer to the question “which coffee is stronger, light roast or dark roast?” It all depends on your preference. Your reference to strong coffee may be different from mine.

For instance, you may consider a bitter-tasting coffee as strong. For me, I may consider an acidic cup of Joe as strong. You see, it all depends on personal preference.

However, one thing you will note is that dark roast is bolder but that doesn’t make it stronger. The above guide has outlined all that you can use to say whether light roast is stronger than dark roast or vice versa. It’s all up to you to make your conclusion.

See Also:
What Is A French Press Coffee Maker?


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.

1 thought on “Which Coffee is Stronger Light Roast or Dark Roast?”

  1. LightJoeDrinker

    I must be weird because dark roast turns my stomach and nearly always causes a stomach ache where light roast never causes an issue. But then again I like spicy food that would kill or severely injure most people.

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