Dark Roast vs. Medium Roast: Which One is Stronger?

A cup of coffee is the most needed thing that people look for to be energized. But that one cup of coffee can taste completely different from another. Apart from some other factors, the roasting level plays a big role in coffee taste. 

Dark roasts are typically bolder and full-bodied compared to the smoothness and balance of a medium roast although the caffeine content is the same. Dark roast coffee is more robust in flavor and taste because dark roast beans go through a longer roasting process. The beans absorb more oil during the roasting process and create a richer, fuller flavor.

In comparison, medium roasts have less body and taste a bit brighter since they contain fewer oils from being roasted for a shorter period of time.

If you want to know more about the strength of dark and medium roast and roasting processes, go through the entire article.

What does “strong” mean in coffee?

Light Roast
Medium Roast
Medium Roast
Dark Roast

You may have heard the words “strong coffee,” “bold coffee,” and “rich coffee” in different coffee advertisements. But do you know what “strong” means in coffee?

In a general sense, strength means the kick you are going to have from your cup of coffee. This kick derives from the flavor and taste of the coffee. Although one of these indicators is caffeine, it is not the only one.

There are other elements as well, such as beans, different coffee plants, farming practices, and processing (including roasting and brewing) that function together to determine the flavor and taste of coffee. 

In technical terms, “strong” coffee refers to “total dissolved solids” (TDS) or how much of the coffee has dissolved into the water. Therefore, roasting and brewing processes are vital to understanding the strength of a coffee.

Roasting process:

The art of roasting green coffee beans determines their flavor in the mug. The coffee beans’ level of “darkness” measures the roasting process, such as light, medium-light, medium-dark, dark, etc.

The more you roast the beans, it will lose their natural flavor and enhance roast flavor. Therefore, people get the bean’s natural flavor in lighter coffee, while darker coffee brings out its roasted flavors, such as spice (like cinnamon), caramel, chocolate, etc.

Brewing procedure:

Mixing water and coffee in the brewing process determines the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. The longer time water contacts with the coffee beans, the more amount of caffeine it generates.

A higher level of caffeine makes the coffee bitter that tastes strong. Generally, the caffeine content of 50g of both dark and medium roast coffee is almost similar [1]. Therefore, dark roast coffee contains a high caffeine level is a wrong perception.

In fact, darker roasts generally have slightly less caffeine than their lighter counterparts. Medium roasts tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Still, any differences are negligible.

Lisa Wartenberg, healthline.com

Caffeine boosts our energy level and helps us to keep awake. Now one may question how caffeine works. Caffeine contains a compound called “adenosine,” which informs our brain whether it’s time to sleep.

A low level of adenosine makes us sleepy. So, when you intake coffee, it increases the adenosine level in your brain. Therefore, caffeine functions by imitating adenosine. However, the effect of caffeine on the brain varies from person to person.

What is a dark roast?

If you are a dark coffee lover, you know that it is blackish in color and tastes bold, smoky, and bitter. It is because dark coffee has dark roasted coffee beans.

Roasters roast the green coffee beans for a longer time at a high temperature to turn them dark brown. Therefore, the beans lose their natural flavor and moisture because of high temperatures and embrace roasting flavors.

Dar roasted coffee

The purpose of roasting the beans is to enhance the flavor of the coffee beans. Due to long time roasting, dark roasted coffee beans lose their natural flavor and moisture.

The flavors that are left are basically the roasting flavors that roasters create by mixing spice, caramel, and chocolate with the beans. Besides, longer roasting duration also creates a bitter, burnt-smoky flavor in the coffee beans. Therefore, they offer the strongest flavor [2].

Dark roast beans are roasted longer than medium roast beans. They have a stronger taste with less acidity. The dark roasting process also removes the flavor of the coffee bean, but people like it better because it tastes stronger.


Dark roast coffee is also full-body, meaning it will coat your tongue with an intensely creamy, thicker flavor. Moreover, it is less acidic than light and medium roast coffee. Since raw coffee beans contain acidic compounds, the more you roast them, the less acidic they will be.

Dark roast coffee is an excellent source of glutathione which is the “master of antioxidants. Therefore, it is helpful to energize red blood cells and Vitamin E for healthy skin. Besides, it reduces the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson, dementia, and cognitive impairment.

Dark roasted coffee prepared at home
Dark-roasted coffee prepared at home

Key attributes of dark roast:

  • It tastes strong and bittersweet due to the longer roasting duration
  • It has a bold, smoky flavor
  • It is less acidic than medium roast.
  • A great source of antioxidants
  • It contains the least amount of caffeine than lighter and medium roast coffee.

What is a medium roast?

The terms “breakfast roast,” “regular roast,” “American roast,” and “city roast” all indicate medium roast coffee. In medium roast, roasters roast the coffee beans more than light roasting but less than dark roasting. Just before the second crack (about 410–418ºF), they remove the beans from the roaster.

Unlike dark roast, medium roast beans are brown in color and don’t have any oily, shiny surfaces. Due to roasting duration, the medium roasted coffee beans lose much of their raw floral flavors and start absorbing roasting flavors that result in a balanced flavor between light and dark roast.

Medium Roast

Moreover, mid-roasting helps the beans retain their moisture, making them sweeter than dark roast. Regarding the body, it can provide a diverse texture in the mouth ranging from tea like feeling to straight-up creamy.

Since roasters roast them in relatively less time than dark roasts, they contain more acidic compounds than darker coffee.

Medium roast coffee also contains powerful antioxidants, like Chlorogenic acid (CGA), that reduce inflammation and cholesterol, repair damaged cells, and boost energy and immunity system.

Medium roast coffee beans in a pan

Key attributes of medium roast:

  • It combines light and dark roast flavors to create a more complex yet balanced flavor.
  • It tastes sweeter than light roast
  • It is moderately acidic
  • Another great source of antioxidants
  • It contains more amount of caffeine than dark roast.

Differences between dark and medium roast:

You have already gained knowledge about the primary differences between dark and medium roast coffee from the above-mentioned sections. However, I have listed the main differences below for the reader’s convenience:

CriteriaDark roastMedium roast
Other namesFull-City Roast, French Roast, Vienna Roast, Italian Roast, After-Dinner Roast.Breakfast roast, American roast, city Roast, regular roast.
TextureOily and shiny on the surfaceDry without oil
Body typesIt is a full-body coffeeIt falls between light and full-body coffee
FlavorIt has a bold, bittersweet, smoky flavor It blends the flavors of light and dark coffee
Acid levelLeast acidicModerately acidic 
Source of AntioxidantGlutathione [3]Chlorogenic acid (CGA) [4]
Level of caffeineAlmost same levelAlmost same level

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of coffee is strongest?

Generally, the unique characteristic of robust coffee is that it will give the biggest kick to energize you, where the caffeine amount appears crucial.

The most robust coffee has the greatest proportion of caffeine relative to water content. In this sense, the strongest type of coffee is ristretto since it contains the maximum amount of caffeine.

What type of roast is stronger?

Dark roast provides a bold, more robust, smoky flavor that tastes bittersweet. Even though the amount of caffeine is almost the same in the dark and medium roast, dark roast feels stronger due to its longer roasting process which eliminates the natural flavor and includes roasting flavors.

What are the most popular medium roasts?

There is a wide variety of medium roasts. Among them, Arabica beans are the most popular. However, if you want an escape from the Arabica beans, you can try the following:

1. Sumatra Mandheling Coffee
2. Cooper’s Kenya AA Coffee beans
3. Peet’s Coffee Big Bangs
4. Caribou Coffee ground Caribou Blend
5. Kicking Horse coffee’s “three sisters”

Final Verdict

There are different types of coffee in the world. Since different people have different taste buds, they prefer different types of coffee. This perspective has raised the debate over “Dark roast vs. medium roast: which one is stronger?”

Dark and medium roasts offer a completely different taste and flavor. While dark roasts offer a bold and smoky flavor, medium roasts provide a balanced flavor.

However, there is no need to think that dark roast coffee contains the highest caffeine content because the same amount of dark and medium roasted coffee has an almost similar amount of caffeine.

In this article, I tried to provide the necessary information to make the readers understand the story behind “coffee strength.” I hope the readers will find the information helpful and valuable.

More Resources: Comparison of Caffeine Levels of Light and Dark Roast K-Cups


  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dark-roast-coffee-caffeine-and-benefits
  2. https://thedarkestroast.com/dark-roast-vs-medium-roast/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21809439/
  4. https://naturalforce.com/blogs/nutrition/chlorogenic-acid-benefits/
Sujit Modak

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