Dark Roasts Brood Deeper Thoughts
Dark Roast’s Profile is Strong & Bold
Even though most coffee elitists and specialty coffee connoisseurs will be quick to tell you light roast is the best roast, the market for dark roast coffees is, much like its flavor profile, strong and bold. Looking at the best-selling ground coffee on Amazon, the 4 out of the top 5 products are Dark Roasts, with the fifth (and number one best-seller) a medium roast from good old Folgers.
There are no standardized statistical measures for actually gauging consumer preference, but I did find some statistics that paint an interesting picture when it comes to light vs. medium vs. dark debate.
A 2012 online survey found that 39% of those reviews preferred dark roasts compared with 11 % who preferred light roasts. In 2013, the year after Starbucks introduced their Blonde Roast coffee, they sponsored a survey of the product’s likeability and sellability with its customers. 50.8% of respondents found the blonde roast to be only slightly likable and 70.8% were basically indifferent to the blonde roast.
Statistically, What Type of Roast is Chosen At Starbucks?
Further, when given the option among light, medium, or dark roasts at a Starbucks store, 41.2% you would choose the blonde roast over all the others only 25% of the time. These statistics show a preference among Starbucks’ customers for darker roast coffees; but, it is important to remember that this was early in the life of the blonde roast at Starbucks, meaning that the product was still unfamiliar to its customer base. That being said, a similar customer review by the Tim Horton company found that only 24% of their customers preferred light roasts, whereas 83% preferred a medium roast and 39 % preferred dark or bold roasts.
Anecdotally, I’ve frequently heard people say something along the lines of “I want my coffee to taste like coffee” as justification for their roast preference. Dark roast coffee is typical for mass produced coffee, including instant and the main products at Starbucks and other chains. Dark roast coffee also replicates that bitter, full experience that many particularly older consumers may prefer because they were raised on percolators or homebrews that were warmed up instead of being let to go to waste.
Additionally, it is often hard to convince many people that the lighter tasting light roasts are actually stronger when it comes to caffeine. There’s an issue in branding here because robust and bold are defined in different ways within the coffee industry.
Caffeine Content of Dark Roast Coffee
Strong or bold can be flavor and body; but, to many consumers, those labels are also associated, in their minds, with caffeine content. The coffee’s strength is its strength if you follow my meaning. This is exemplified in Starbucks’ branding of its own “light roast” as “Blonde;” a word associated with ditziness, vapidness, and delicate femininity. This gives the consumer the impression that that particular product is not as strong and therefore not as energizing or impressive as the brand’s other products. This type of concept plus the newness of light roasts and single-origins contribute, at least in part, to the continued popularity of dark roasts.
But, of course, that can’t be all. No matter what coffee snobs such as myself think of the different roasts, the people who prefer a darker one aren’t just coffee ignorants, stuck in their old ways, stubborn toward change and without any sense of taste.
Dark roast isn’t that bad, especially if you do it well and especially if you don’t drink your coffee black. I keep a stock of instant coffee in my cabinet for the days when I don’t feel like going through the entire brewing process for my one cup fix. And I like it, genuinely, especially with a splash of Brazil nut milk (I’ve almost made the switch entirely to dairy-free, to the great relief of my digestive system and my partner).
Dark Roast’s Rebel Yell
Dark roasts are full-bodied, which is appealing to a country, especially, that has continually resisted the tea that many other nations so adore and so prefer to coffee. I swear we are like angsty teenagers rebelling against Mother England: “No, I don’t want your stupid tea! I want dark roast coffee, over ice, and I want to chug it!”
Imagine the Queen’s look of utter horror!
Lighter roasts, especially in the specialty coffee and single-origin worlds, are sometimes fruitier, more floral, more citrusy or lighter- bodied even if they do retain higher amounts of caffeine; this resemblance to a black tea may be unappealing if you have a particular preference when it comes to your coffee’s flavor and mouth-feel. It may also have a psychosomatic effect, giving you the impression that the coffee is weaker, thereby minimizing the energizing or pleasure affects the brew has.
Dark roasts are at their peak immediately after roasting; the longer roasting time breaks down the beans more thoroughly, meaning that they break down and lose their freshness much more quickly. If you like the fuller body but want to avoid the bitter or burnt characteristics that can come with a dark roast, some experimentalists recommend brewing on the lower end of the temperature spectrum, around 195 F, as well as testing whether a smaller water to coffee ratio makes a difference.
You could also go through a cold brewing method with your dark roast coffee; most of these methods result in a coffee concentrate which you can water down (or not) to your preferred taste. This gives you increased control over the final result of the coffee as far as body and flavor because you can also experiment with brewing time and you can always heat the coffee up at the end once you’ve found your preferred brew. Cold brewing is also more likely to retain the flavor profile of a darker roasted coffee because darker roasts already have a lower acidity. This is what cold brew is touted for. Darker roasts are more balanced and uniform in general, meaning that you won’t have to worry about a significant change through the cold brewing process.
Lack of Acidity
Dark roasts are also likely to be easier on your stomach because of this lack of acidity, which is especially useful if you have acid reflux or similar problems.
Overall, dark roasts have gotten a bad rap in a particular part of the coffee scene. Despite this, they are still majorly preferred for more reason than because they’re just what people know. Dark roasts can be more balanced and consistent, give you the sense that you’re drinking a strong brew, they’re probably easier on your stomach because of their lower acidity, and they ultimately taste like the tried-and-true, true-and-blue coffee most of us prefer the day in and day out. For me, as long as they aren’t charred-tasting, I like a good full-bodied brew with notes of dark chocolate any day!