The joke I tell about my coffee consumption is that I like it “black, like my soul.” I’m mostly referring to the fact that I don’t add anything to my mug — no cream, no sugar, none of that garbage. It doesn’t mean that my cup is always filled with a dark roast, though.
In fact, there are a number of reasons to lean towards a light roast coffee, including the fact that it retains more of its original flavor. It also might have a little more caffeine, as a little bonus. If you’re a stranger to anything other than beans as black as tar, you can let out a relieved exhale, because I’m here to let in you in on the best light roast coffee.
It’s actually as simple as it seems — light roasted coffee is roasted for less time. There are obviously a lot of variations to beans depending on where they’re grown, the altitude, etc., but there’s always a scale of light to dark based on the brand.
That’s kind of the kicker here, though: the brand. Every brand has their own scale for roasting — some stick with a standard light, medium, dark, while others extend their steps with medium-dark, extra dark, and any other number of roast levels.
We’ll talk about what a standard light roast means, though, to keep this post from being longer than the time between Cleopatra’s life and the erection of the great pyramids (like 2500 years, if you’re curious).
Roasts are determined by what are called “cracks.” They’re exactly what they sound like.
When the coffee cherry is picked, the bean in the center is green, tasteless, and soft. Roasting brings out all of the deliciousness that we’ve come to know and love.
As it’s roasting, the beans harden. Most light roast beans are removed from the roasters before they reach the first milestone — aka, the first crack. Some versions hit that first crack and are then removed, but rarely is it considered a light roast much longer than that.
The temperature of the roasting process also differs between the varieties. Light roasts are typically subjected to between 356-401 degrees Fahrenheit. It only gets hotter from there as the beans get darker and darker.
It’s an interesting conversation. For years, I was under the impression that darker roasts all came with a massive jolt of caffeine. Leave it to me not to Google-verify that up until a few years ago, only to come away with the idea that light roasts have more coffee — less roasting, less caffeine is lost. Totally makes sense.
Both versions of me were, inevitably, wrong.
Don’t snicker; you’re wrong, too.
The only variations in caffeine depend (mostly) on how you measure your coffee. If you scoop, like most coffee consumers, then, yes, your light roast mug of the good stuff has more caffeine. Light roasts are denser than dark roasts, which ups the ante. However, if you weigh your coffee, like a true connoisseur, dark roasts will end up with the higher caffeine level for the exact same reason.
It’s also worth being said that Arabica beans (the beans you’re looking for when making a hella fine brew) vary wildly in caffeine content depending on its genus.
That being said, you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
The caffeine content difference is nearly negligible — let’s remember the flavor boost here. Light roasts really highlight a bean’s origins, whereas, on the other end of the spectrum, dark roasts frame the roaster’s specialties.
So let’s countdown the best light roasts, with some serious emphasis on the cupping notes.
There’s something to be said for aptly-named coffees that don’t state the obvious. Kicking Horse went simple when naming this bag, and Hola just fits. It’s bright, it evokes something Hawaiian and sunny, and it’s just definitely a light roast, right?
The beans come from Central and South America, and they retain the brown sugar, rich nougat, and cocoa powder taste imbued from the soil they’re grown in. I mean, that’s quite a start to the morning, don’t you think?
It’s fair trade, organic, kosher, and roasted in Canada. Couldn’t ask for more, could ya? Eh?
Setting the right mood in the morning can be tough. If you want to be awake, you need an aggressive alarm clock, sunlight, and a bright cup of coffee. Don Tomas can lend a hand there — their light roast is fruity with a citrusy finish, and it really wakes up those senses.
These beans are grown at an elevation of 4500 feet (awesome), they use shade trees for better coffee plant growth (super awesome), and they have a really commendable dedication to social responsibility — a portion of their profits goes to housing, education, and medical clinics for their works (#respect) (and outstandingly awesome).
Bask in the chocolate, savor the caramel, revel in the hazelnut. You’ll find all of those notes in Wakey Wakey by Perky Perky. As much as those repetitious words make me narrow my eyes in groggy-morning irritation, the payoff might be worth it . Legitimately, though, there are way too many irritating verbs in those four words.
Here’s the big finish: It’s extra caffeinated.
Do I need to say more?
Fine, just a little bit.
This light roast is great for espressos and doesn’t hold the bitter aftertaste that some dark roasts can. It’s responsibly sourced and the company is owned by a badass woman we can all look up to. #goals
Ah, Melitta. I’ve spoken about this notable lady before, and I’m more than happy to do it again. Her family-owned company retains its strength long after her passing, and they’ve continued to hold up her greatest tenets: do the coffee bean right.
Maybe that last statement was a little presumptive, but these high-altitude light roast beans are every bit the morning wake-up or mid-afternoon pick-me-up they sound like. Touted as smooth, bright, and balanced, it’s definitely worth pulling out a bag like this when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
Some mornings it’s just too much. The sun’s glaring in my face, the coffee machine is too loud, I’m out of cereal, I don’t know. There are any number of irritants that can set a person off when this is the state of things.
Veranda prides itself on its mellowness. It has notes of soft cocoa and lightly toasted nuts and it’s a nice way to ease yourself into the day. Even at my bitterest, it’d be hard to find something offensive about this cup.
The Claro Light Roast is the newest edition to this company that’s been around since 1820, and it strikes a balance between tart and bitter for a morning brew that won’t let you laze around for too, too long. With hints of sweetness around the edges, you’ll notice a softer side to this roast that’ll coax your motor into running.
This company grows their coffees at high altitudes from seven regions throughout Costa Rica, and, on top of it, they put emphasis on packaging to preserve all of the goodness.
This is another one of those bags I have to commend for the title. Luminosa is a cool word to start off with, and it encapsulates the light roast feel. Just let that word roll around in your mouth a bit. Luminosa.
These beans come from Huila, Colombia and Ethiopia, and they’re sweet and bright. You can even crack jokes about “taking a break to smell the flowers” because of the delightful floral scent that comes standard with a well-brewed cup of Luminosa.
I can always give an appreciative nod to upfront names. Real Good Coffee Co states what we all obviously want and then backs it up with a chocolatey and creamy taste that tops off with something pleasantly citrusy.
Made with 100% Arabica, this smooth brew comes to you in 100% recyclable materials, which only makes the whole experience sweeter.
A blend of Colombian Supremo, Kona Blend, and Gold Roast Breakfast Blend, this bag strikes a unique, clear, and bright tone. Earthy, 100% Arabica, and sustainably grown, there are just a lot of words and practices here that make Cameron’s Breakfast Blend an enticing option for perkier mornings.
This hand-crafted, small-batch-roasted bean even has a fruity note to it, which is always a nice way to begin the day. Even if that day starts at the crack of way-too-early dawn.
Lemon, orange, and cocoa might seem like an interesting combination of flavors, but Tiny Footprint has really found a way to balance this trifecta into a single cup of what can only be described as “brightness made drinkable.”
Tiny Footprint is the world’s first carbon-negative coffee company, and it really makes each sip of caffeine just that much more enjoyable. If you’re about throwbacks, they use a vintage 1960s German-built Probat roaster retrofitted with some future technology to hit peak perfection on the roasting process.
I wish I owned this company. Between my last name and my love of coffee, I wish I could say that this was mine, but it’s not. I’ll just long from afar.
Anyway, this Breakfast Blend is comprised of 100% Arabica beans that have a “smooth roundness and clean finish,” which sounds like an indulgent reason to be late for work. It’s hand roasted in small batches by California Certified Organic Farmers and then packaged at peak freshness so that you can really treasure your morning brew.
If you haven’t given light roast coffees a go, you might want to give this coffee a crack. I mean, not literally. The whole point is that they’re roasted to right before that first crack, but colloquially… you know what I mean.
To be honest, I’m having a difficult time picking the ultimate choice on this list. It’s a hefty competition going here, and I’ve thoroughly thought this through: any of these bags of beans would likely make you a happy camper.
My top two votes for today (I’m wishy-washy on favorites) are: The Bean Coffee Company Organic Breakfast Blend and Wakey Wakey by Perky Perky. I like my morning joe with a side of a good company story, so these both satisfy my cravings.
If I could make a sampler of every single one of these and send it to all of you, I would. Know that. For now, you’ll have to make up your mind and give one these beauties a go. Enjoy!