Degree of Roast

I get a lot of questions that refer to Degree or roast so I wanted to address most of them with this post. I hope you enjoy.

What is "Degree of Roast"? "Degree of Roast" in a very simple form is how cooked the bean is. A "Light" roast is cooked for less time than a "Dark" Roast.  

In the coffee industry, there is a very simplified classification for the degree of roast which includes Light, Medium, and Dark (we'll call it the Simple 3). There is also many more complex and confusing classification for the degree of roast which can include as many as 17 (or more) different classifications. Most roasters recognize 6-9 different degrees of roast. Some use more some less. But For this article, I am going to focus on the 6-8 most common which are the ones we use here at Good Sense Coffee.  

When we started out we were using the Simple 3. As time when on, we realized that it was difficult to describe the range of our roasts accurately with only three classifications so we started to move away from the Simple 3 and started using 8 different classifications. We have done this because we want to educate our coffee drinkers and we want you to get a better idea of the exact degree of roast you generally prefer. So let us dive in. 

Below you will find a chart with the 6 most commonly recognized degrees of roast (let's call it the "Common 6"). They start at City and go to French. as you can see Light, Medium, and Dark not only have overlap but also cover a range of roast degrees. For example, one roaster may label a Full City+ roast as Medium and another may call the same roast Dark. This causes confusion. Confusion is bad.  



We like the Common 6 but in an effort to show that City is not the lightest roast and French is not the darkest roast we included one more classification on each end of the chart. Cinnamon which is lighter then City and Italian which is Darker then French.

Below you can see the shade of color from a Green coffee bean (Top Left) to an Italian Roasted Coffee Bean (Bottom Right) The first 8-10minutes of roasting is represented by the top line of coffee beans while the last 4-6minutes of roasting is represented by the bottom line of coffee beans. As you can see a lot happens in the last 4-6 minutes.

At Good Sense Coffee we focus our roasting between the City and a Vienna. (see Below Picture) We have never had a coffee that we felt was best at Cinnamon roast and we have never had a coffee that we felt showed well at over Vienna. Therefore as I said we focus on the 5 degrees in the middle (underlined in Green) 

Below is a Chart describing the sign, taste, smell, and feel of the coffee bean at each roast level. We hope this is helpful in determining which roast you may like best. Please note taste is largely influenced by the coffee growing region and bean process method but this should give a general overview of what to expect.  

Roast Level
Sight Taste Smell Touch
City-City+ Splotchy, light brown no oil, no cracks near bean tips, slight expansion Bright, sweet, juicy, light body, fresh fruit Malty, sweet, floral, herbal Bumpy, uneven surface, no sheen
Full City-FC+ More even, no oil, medium brown, slight cracks at tips, moderate expansion Balanced, bittersweet, medium body, ripe fruit Chocolate, bittersweet,
ripe berry, caramel hints
Smooth, more even surface, slight sheen
Vienna-French Even, dark brown, bigger cracks at bean tips, oil on the surface, large expansion Bitter, thin body, not very sweet, carbon Roasty, bitter, dark chocolate Oily, more loss of weight, brittle


In an effort to be even more descriptive of the degree of roast some roasters have adapted more names for the degree of roast. This is done in an effort to be even more specific to the degree of roast in each bean. Even with the Common 6, there is still slight overlap and although we want to be more specific than just light, medium and dark we don't want to overwhelm too much so we will stick with the common 6 (plus 2).

Below is a list of 19 different names for the degree of roast from lightest to darkest. We have highlighted the 8 we use to give you a reference point for each roast level. 

Light City, 

Half City, 


New England Roast 

Regular Roast

American Roast

City Roast

Breakfast Roast,

City+ Roast,

Full-City Roast,

Full-City+ Roast,

After Dinner Roast,

Vienna Roast,

French Roast,

Italian Roast,

Espresso Roast,

Continental Roast, 

New Orleans Roast,

Spanish Roast. 


I hope this helps identify the "darkness" or Degree of Roast for the coffee you drink. If you have any further questions please let me know!


~Ian Boyle

Good Sense Coffee

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