“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.” — Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)
Myth-taken Ideas about Dark Roast Coffees
Why the Dark Side of Coffee Doesn’t Have to Be Bitter
The World War II standard of Navy coffee was that it wasn’t ready for the captain until the spoon stood up in the middle of the cup.
Well, we’ve learned a lot more about coffee since then, but there are some myths that still persist about dark roasted coffee. The truth is that not all dark roasts are bitter and not all dark coffee is dark roasted. But before we get into the debunking, we need to understand how dark roasted coffee is created in the first place.
Dark roasted coffee is the product of roasting the beans for a longer time reaching a higher finished temperature. When it’s done right, the sugars naturally present inside the bean caramelize, retaining their natural sweetness, instead of burning. When coffee is improperly roasted sugars burn and breakdown into very bitter and astringent compounds.
The difference between these two extremes is all in the roasting and in the selection of the beans themselves. The roasting process is how a coffee gets its character and flavor, but it’s not just a matter of turning on the machine to a certain temperature and setting the timer. Each type of bean has a different flavor profile and no two beans roast the same. A good roaster has to watch and make adjustments for this difference. It’s also important to check the beans by hand to watch how the beans develop during the roasting process. A highly skilled roaster also knows exactly how the beans should look and sound when they’ve been roasted at the right temperature for the right amount of time.
Now that we know how dark roasts are made, on to the myths:
- The Darkness of Coffee is Related to its Origin –False. Actually, roasting coffee beans releases some of its natural flavors. So, light roasts usually retain more of the flavor related to where it is grown. Darker roasts tend to highlight more of the beans body. Therefore by roasting it longer, it takes on a different character than its lighter roasted counterpart. By example, you could take the same exact beans from the same region and by roasting them at different temperatures and length of time, you could come back with two distinctly different tasting coffees.
- Dark Roasts Have More Caffeine — False. Ironically, dark roasted coffee actually has less caffeine because the roasting process burns some of the natural caffeine out of the beans.
- Espresso is Coffee-Zilla — False. Espresso is a method of brewing, not a particular type of coffee. Typically, dark roasts are chosen because they contain less acid producing a milder, smoother tasting cup and because they are roasted slightly darker, they have less caffeine than coffees that are roasted lighter.
- Dark Roasts Are Easier on the Stomach — True. Dark roasts actually retain less acid, which means there is less of a chance for the coffee upsetting your stomach if you are affected by acid. The longer the roasting cycle the darker the bean and the less acid remains.
One thing about coffee that’s not a myth is that the great variety of coffees available today are a big part of why there has never been a better time to be a coffee-drinker!