IKAWA Blog: Exploring Roats - Light, Medium, and Dark 🔭



Why is there a trend of light roasting? Is roast flavour bad? Light roasts vs dark roast - what’s the difference?

A new post with a REALLY USEFUL graph:



Ineresting read, thank you for sharing @Geoff_IKAWA. Nice to get some confirmation in my own tasting area (medium roast). Whats funny though is that you describe ‘light roast’ as ‘city roast’ and medium as ‘city +’, while I’ve learned to call light ‘light’ and medium ‘city’ (as you can gather from one of my earlier posts), but I’ve also learned that these terms are all over the place. The most consistent use still is ‘light’, ‘medium’, and ‘dark’, the others like ‘city’, çity+’, ‘french’, ‘italian’ etc. are apparently all over the place.


Thank you @Geoff_IKAWA for a great blog post again!
Sure lots of discussion and exploration of that theme is needed. (Though I can say the shift back from very light to more medium roast allready happened here, for example doubleshot roastery used to be roasting lightest roasts I had ever tried few years ago but shifted to a little darker over time, and I can track a simillar trend with more roasters that did great light roasts)
From your description I would say I am more in the left side of medium teritory too, though I try roasting light. And its because of the same reasons you described, I want to keep the acidity, but at the same time mix in enough body and character, and get away from underdeveoped tastes. And I also find a hints of roast taste, though I try to keep them very very low (yet its true that it can add to the taste when its just the right amount of it).
Where I am having big problem with most of the roasts I do and I try from pro roasters, is that I am getting a feeling that most of them are very sweet, and I only very seldom get that amazingly high but beatifull acidity I remember to taste in those Yirgachefe Ethiopians some time ago. Not sure if its in the roasts, different processing or just environment affecting growth. Or it might be me and my taste getting so much used to it that I dont notice it (which I feared to be the case but after some discussion with others experiencing the same … hard to say …)
But very much true that if we buy a high quality beans we should let it shine at its best potential.

Regarding troubless with extracting a very light roasts, Its true that one has to go quite far in equipment quality and knowledge to be able to do it well (especially espresso from light roasts is hard but very rewarding when done well), but I think one can get very high quality equipment for a reasonable prices these days, no need to have EK at home :wink: So we can actually do a lot more at home than what can be practically done in a cafe (like sifting the grind to get more even particle sizes, and more even extraction - cant imagine someone would do that in a cafe :)) )

All that being said, I have yet to drink a satysfying coffee made from a dark roast, when the roast flavour gets more intensive its just not for me anymore :smiley:


I’ve never understood the “city” tags - I’ve always presumed them to be an Americanism?

Tasty is what I go for rather than any particular label. I like sweetness so roasty is a no go area for me.

One of the reasons I got the Ikawa was to explore. So, say take a standard 250g bag from a roaster - if I can get 250g of greens I can roast 5 ways and not be tied down by the one roast from the pro roaster.

A good example is a Kenyan which can be differently delicious at a variety of roast levels from Nordic light to medium dark.

I’ve got an utterly delicious Rwandan at the moment which is all about the huge creamy mouthfeel. Too light and you would be missing out on some of that.

Sometimes you have got to take a hit when it doesn’t work out, but it’s only 50g.


Whatever helps to be understood. As long as we can understand each other that helps. I’m in the camp with whatever tastes bests for what you want. If you want fruit then go light and going dark for chocolate, molasses or other “dark” flavors. I do distinguish between “going dark” and getting ashy, carbon. and I call that, over roasted. I wouldn’t call city +, medium more like light medium. Its all a gradient so I guess hitting a general area is good enough.

For us I think it might be best to mark things in relation to 1st crack-2nd crack because using the same coffee +/- a couple degrees and 5-10s can make a pretty big difference IMO. For instance, I just roasted this Guat, using a ET style temp profile. With a high charge to 400F, some spike action and slow increase to 490F and even though the bean is light brown, it’s not smooth or expanded and certainly hasn’t hit 1C and wont until 480ish*F when it is fairly dark.


Yes … and also I have noticed that the colour does not translate into development without thinking also about the bean origin and variety. I had some pretty caramel coloured ones beeing too far developed to my liking and on the other hand pretty dark ones that were underdeveloped (its usually africans I see being dark brown though still not developed enough.
I would love all my roasts to have a colour closer to caramel than a dark brown, because I feel its potentially creating more harmfull stuff when darker in colour, but it does not seem to be always possible…

And one more thing I confirmed for myself with this Costa Rica - its not even nearly the same to drop it 30s after first crack and say Ethiopian, this costa rica seems to ask to be dropped way sooner to het to the same point in development - i wanted to make one batch that would get to 44g (from 50g green) - and even stopping the roast before the 1st crack ended did not get me close to that (43,4 i got I think) …
So for me, its now more about those “bulges” in the graph … I am thinking about the point where I get past underdeveloped tastes, a point where Sweetness or body could be at a maximum, a point where a roast flavour apears and where it gets too strong for me (and an elusive point where I would maximize the good acidity - this one I can not find mist of the time, though I have some feeling of where it should live)


well for sure I figure acidity’s home lies somewhere in gentle slopes and lower temperature, but I still have been coming the the question of how to achieve a “low” (what is a low temp? 460? 450?) temp on the finish while also carrying the momentum of the roast through the development. I feel like I am given this unusual music and asked to dance to it. I’m not sure if I can two-step to all the songs. We are all wall huggers forced to bare the spotlight on the dance floor. But the desert that I find myself in is what is the aroma that I am supposed to be getting. I have been leaning towards the thinking that if I am not starting to get the smells of proper sweetness and fruits starting to poke out, I have missed the roast and I am not sure where to correct the profile to get the roast profile to follow what the beans want to be roasted like.


Ok @Geoff_IKAWA and @deven.patel411 you inspired me to do my widest set of developmet samples on Rwanda to see whether I am not making mistakes when not going further into the development. Will see more when I taste them but so far it seems I might be really not at the full potential of it at 30s after the end of 1stC.


Thanks for the note @rsegers. Truthfully I have never used those terms myself and pulled those from a few sources online. It’s possible that I need to adjust where I place the City labels.


Hey @pavel, good point on the equipment side, we are in a great time for home coffee! When I was writing that I was thinking of the general coffee enthusiast - I would say that most of you writing in here are at that professional amateur level, above most most enthusiasts in knowledge and $ investment haha. But it is true, we are able to push the boundaries further, it’s awesome. Just a thought on your acidity… have you tried different water compositions?


Cool I’m interested to hear your results!


there are many many links out there with descriptions, but this one is from the: national coffee association in the US:
giving it a bit more merit.



This is another obstacle I have been trying to understand and move past. So far I have noted that its due to extending the dry phase (which is of course not a new concept) but I have been doing this by extending the time under the 340-360*F range. I really like the taste results when I can get in 13% moisture loss.

My theories:
underdeveloped: the middle part, it is in relation to the length of time and the speed up to where 1C is. increasing roast time after 1C does not remove underdeveloped taste and does not develop it without a necessary carry over of speed (momentum) to after the 1C. But if you hold the 1C temp, its not going to help for specific profiles. IF you are using ET profiles, aka umbrella profiles then this doesn’t apply.

Sweetness and body: no idea. Seems like these two things are at odds to me and I want to cop out with saying that these factors depend on the bean :stuck_out_tongue:

Roast flavor: all about life after 1C, the temp it’s at, speed to get there

I love tooting my own horn, so I’ll say I am very proud of the “A” profile. It is the F1 car I mistakenly built when I was trying to make a workbench. It is a difficult profile because it is so precise and with no controls on the fly it really makes life that much more difficult. It’s like trying to do 1 arm pull-ups. But theoretically it’s great because it’s precise and simple.