Roast Level Terminology

There are many terms for different roast levels. Here are some of the basic ones:

baby coffee trees
Future Coffee Trees

ripe coffee cherrys
Ripe Coffee Cherrys



light cinnamon roast


Light Cinnamon: Light Brown – Typically tastes sour. Used in inexpensive commercial blends. Beans have a dry surface. Has nothing to do with the spice, therefore a lot of roasteries are hesitant to use this term. These beans were roasted to just a bit after the beginning of "first crack"


city roast

American or “City”: Medium Brown – Fully developed flavor, bright acidity, characteristics of original green coffee beans are apparent. Beans have a dry surface. These beans were roasted to end of first crack. Second crack had just begun.

This style roast is ideal for drip or press-pot brewers. Lighter roasts such as this tend to carry brightness into the cup. If used for brewing as espresso, this brightness would tend to become bitter tasting instead.

viennese or full city roast

Viennese or “Full City; Medium Dark Brown – Sweetness and body of the coffee become more apparent. This is the norm for Northern Italian-style espresso. Beans are dry with shiny patches of oils emerging from within.

French Espresso; Very Dark Brown – Typically used by West or Southwest roasters. Mild in acidity (brightness). Bittersweet tones dominate. This is considered the norm for American-style espresso. Beans have a shiny surface.

Viennese and French roasts are actually quite similar, so only one image is shown here.

italian roast Italian; Very Dark Brown - Low to no acidity, somewhat bittersweet with muted but clear characteristics of the original green coffee. When roasting beans for espresso, it is desirable to choose beans with low acidity. Typically (but not always!) high-grown (Sumatran, Sidamo) and/or dry-processed (Brazil Santos, Ethiopian Harrar) beans are considered good origins for creating blends because they are low-acidic and heavy body (heavy bodied coffees hold better at darker roasts). Note the very shiny surface of these beans as the internal oils have migrated to the bean exterior. Roasted to near end of second crack.
spanish roast Spanish; All individual characters of the green coffee are gone. Charred or burned notes dominate. Very thin body with flavor reduced to faint sweet tones. This image is actually more of a "Dark Italian" roast because there is still a large presence of oils on the beans. If these beans would have been roasted just a bit more, the shine on them would have become much duller in appearance as the oils evaperated. These beans were barely poppin' anymore - 2nd crack was pretty much over with.