Light or Dark Roast. Which Has More Caffeine? Surprise…

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coffee beans (Large)
Medium, light and dark roast beans. Which has more caffeine? It may surprise you.

It’s morning and you need that first jolt of coffee in the morning. What do you choose? Dark roast or light roast.

Or you’re having that “discussion” with your friends about which is more caffeinated, dark or light roast coffee. And you really need to have the answer because you just want to know.

And, well, who pays for lunch is on the line.

So you came to our house because, with a name like ours, we’d know for sure, right?

No need to argue, fuss or fight. Grab your cup, we’ve got the unequivocal answer.

And that answer is:

It depends…

Which is More Caffeinated?

Great answer, huh? Here’s why there’s so much waffling, confusion and wrong answers. There are at least 3 reasons that have caused the battle of the caffeine confoundment (and no sir, I didn’t make that word up.)

So many think that dark roast is more caffeine laden because of its intense bold taste. It’s potent tasting so it must have a lot of caffeine, right?

Wrong, taste isn’t a function of the caffeine. The buzz you get is, but not the boldness or flavor profile of the coffee. This is the roasting process bringing the oils to the outside of the bean and defining the flavor. Boldness merely refers to the amount of water to coffee that you use.

The flip side argument is that the light roast must have more caffeine. The reasoning here is that most of the caffeine is lost during the roasting process. Longer processing, more caffeine lost.


Nope. Little caffeine is lost in the roasting process. But roasting does have an effect, though it’s indirect.

How Does Roasting Affect the Bean?

Here’s what that means. All green beans start out the same size. In the roasting process a couple of things happen.

As the beans are roasted longer moving toward the darker roast range, they start to expand. They can expand 50% or more of their original size.  As they expand, they lose water and becomes less dense.

The light roast beans, roasted for a shorter time, don’t expand or lose very much water. So they’re much denser. Here’s the thing, a light roast bean may now weigh more than a dark roast bean, but they still have the same amount of caffeine.

Think of it this way. It’s a little like sand and Styrofoam pellets. Volume and weight wise, a scoop of sand is quite different from a scoop of Styrofoam pellets.

It’s the same with the denser light roast. There’s more coffee and caffeine in the light roast scoop even though a scoop of each roast looks the same.

The dark roast is less dense, just like the Styrofoam pellets. The scoop of dark roast will be weaker and less caffeinated because there’s less coffee.

This is why we recommend weighing out your coffee. In order to get equal amounts of coffee, you’re going to use more of the dark roast by weight. This will also give you a better tasting cup of dark roast because you’re now using the proper amount of coffee.

What About Other Coffee Types?

MODOGlendoraAnother influencer of the thinking that dark roast is more caffeinated is canned coffee. It’s dark roasted and somewhat coarsely ground.  But, more important to our conversation here, it’s a mixture of bean varietals — Arabica and Robusta.

The Arabica is mild in flavor and moderate in caffeine. It’s the desired bean for most coffees but somewhat expensive to grow and process.

Robusta beans are less expensive because their process is less labor-intensive. So, to fill out the can and keep the cost down, Robusta beans are used.

But, Robusta is quite bitter and much higher in caffeine. This is another way that dark roast got connected to high caffeine content.

Our Take?

So, if you want a more intensely flavored cup, have the dark roast. As for the caffeine, take your pick because now you know either roast will have just about the same kick if made correctly.

Now, go collect your bet.

Or pay up…

Battle rages between which
has more caffeine. He says Light
Roast, She says Dark Roast. Guess
what? You’re both sorta right.

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