Which Coffee Roast Is the Strongest? It’s not what you think


Coffee It gets you up in the morning, helps jettison us to work, and sometimes even helps cure those heinous hangovers. Coffee is a magical beverage. Dogs are a man’s best friend, but coffee is a close second. 

The coffee world is similar to the one of wine, meaning that many of its methods and techniques are fiercely debated.

But a more infamously arguable opinion is dark roast vs. light roast. Many coffee addicts have remained at the forefront of this debacle for years.

It turns out, light and dark roasts have identical caffeine concentrations!

The only difference in caffeine starts with what type of bean you used.
But as the roast wars wage on, I’m putting myself on the frontlines to help clear up this confusion.

Caffeine Concentration from Bean to Bean

cup of coffee beans

As unworldly coffee may seem at times, it does actually grow here on earth…from a plant.

Coffee comes from two plants actually, Arabicas and Robustas.

These cool-sounding plants are the two main species used for harvesting coffee beans. They are different species within the same floral family.

Although Arabic and Robusta come from the same family, each comes with a variety of differences. Kind of like you and that one crazy cousin. 

Arabica beans exhibit a sweeter, more vibrant flavor than their cousin Robusta.

They are typically used to make the more high-end gourmet coffee. 

It’s widely accepted that Arabica beans are tastier than their counterpart. The International Coffee Organization (Wikipedia) has stated that at least 60 percent of global coffee manufactures use Arabica.

Like I’ve previously stated, the Robusta bean is the crazy cousin to Arabica. It truly puts the “robust” in Robusta. It’s known to be incredibly resilient and packs about 2x more caffeine than its cousin bean! But its increased kick does come with a fault.

Since caffeine is known to have a bitter taste, Robusta’s increased concentration provides a harsher flavor than Arabica. For this reason, they are often cheaper and used to make lower grade coffees. Most novelty and flavored coffees are made with Robusta beans.

It’s like whiskey. You wouldn’t add coke to a Lagavulin, so why would you add flavor to Arabica beans?

Arabica coffee beans
Arabica Coffee Beans

Now, there is one hidden contender in the war of the beans. The lesser-known green coffee bean.

Green coffee beans are regular coffee beans left unroasted. They are raw coffee beans and the more herbal option than their caffeinated brethren.

When coffee is roasted, it loses some of its acidity and natural oils, but green coffee retains all of those components. The bean’s extra acid is known to help with weight loss, but there’s little scientific evidence to back this up.

If you’d like to read more about green coffee and weight loss, read about it from today.com.

Which Coffee Roast is Stronger, Light, or Dark

Light and dark coffee beans

Now that we know about different levels of caffeine in coffee beans, what about its roast?

A blunt answer would be neither. Depending on the type of bean, they both have the same amount of caffeine. But unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple. There are a lot of interesting yet confusing factors at play here.

Coffee beans lose their mass while roasting. The longer they bake, the smaller they get. This means that dark roasts (beans that roast longer) have less density than lighter roasts.

For example: Let’s say that you have one bag of light roast coffee, one bag of dark roast, and they both weigh two pounds. The dark roast will contain more beans by mass.

Since the lighter roasts maintain more density, they are physically heavier than the dark.

If light and dark roast weigh the exact same, there will always be a higher quantity of dark beans.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m spewing this nonsense at you, but it’s essential to understand to attempt resolving this epic roast debate.

If you’d like to read more about light coffee vs dark coffee, Kicking Horse Coffee goes more into this and they sell great coffee as well.

Coffee Bean Volume vs. Weight

Coffee beans being weighed

A light roast measured by volume will always have more caffeine than darker roasts because of its increased density.

If a darker brew is measured by weight, it will produce a stronger java cup due to its overall increased amount.

At the end of the day, you probably will not notice the difference in caffeine between the two roasts. The main difference lies in the beans themselves (Arabica and Robusta). But if you are a real aficionado, be sure to stay keen on how you measure out different roasts for maximum effect.

Which Coffee Has the Most Caffeine

All coffee typically has the same amount of caffeine unless you are comparing Robusta beans to Arabica. Robusta has twice the amount of caffeine.

It also depends on what type of coffee beverage you’re talking about.

The average cup of joe (8oz) has about 94mg of caffeine. At the same time, a shot of espresso (usually 1oz) contains about 62mg. It may look like coffee has more, but espresso is the winner here, as it contains more caffeine per volume than standard drip coffee.

The amount of caffeine also depends on the serving size you choose. You can add more caffeine to your cup by simply brewing higher quantities of grounds.

If you’d like to find out how long caffeine stays in coffee check out our post, Does Ground Coffee Lose Caffeine Over Time?

How long does caffeine stay in coffee

Why Do Some People Think Dark Roasts Are Stronger

I think for some people, it’s a classic case of “chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows” syndrome.

They believe that just because the coffee roast is dark, it has a fuller flavor with a more intense kick.

We have to remember that this is not true and that different roasts are only more potent than each other based on how they’re measured.

Another Coffee Myth

Another myth to dispel is that caffeine is “burned away” while roasting for longer. This is false.

For caffeine to be broken down, the temperatures would have to reach upward to 600 degrees(F).

In the standard roasting process, temps can be anywhere between 300 and 415 degrees(F), at the very most 450(F).

This myth could also have to do with how people measure their coffee before brewing.

As we’ve already discussed, lighter roasted beans have a greater density. If you had both light and dark roasts, but measure them both by a standard scoop, the lighter roast will actually be more robust.

For this reason, it is important to purchase coffee based on its weight rather than its volume. This stuff isn’t cheap, so get the most for your money.

I Still Want Strong Coffee, What Brand Should I Look At?

Death Wish Coffee is known as a brand that makes strong coffee. They make a blend of coffee, (we go over how to make your own coffee blend in our article here) that has a strong caffeine concentration. If you’re not happy with their coffee they even offer a 100% money-back guarantee.

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