When you’re a barista, everyone asks you about the “strongest” coffee. They want it dark, they want it black (or so they say), and darn it, they want it HARD CORE. Because that’s what makes you a serious coffee lover, apparently.
But there are other fantastic coffees out there. It would be a shame to miss out just because dark roasts make you sound hard core.
So if you’ve been wondering: does light roast coffee measure up to darker roasts? The answer is YES.
I’ll walk you through the best light roast coffee brands, blends, and roasts.
Whether you already love them, or are just walking away from the dark side, give one of these a try, and you just may find the light.
What Coffees Are Light Roasts Best For?
Ideally, only the best beans are used for light roasts.
That’s easy to say, since everyone wants a more delicious coffee, regardless of roast type.
But since light coffee is so mild in flavor, it benefits from high-quality beans even more than stronger, bolder dark roasts, which seem to weather subpar beans better.
The flavor notes are so pronounced in light roasted coffees the quality of the beans is all the more obvious.
The very best coffee beans for light roasts are African beans. Their tendency to lean toward the floral end of the tasting spectrum helps balance the bright acidity and fruitiness without diminishing their bright tastes.
If you see a light roast, chances are good it will be from Africa. However, some parts of Indonesia or even South America can produce excellent light roasts.
In terms of brewing coffee, the best choices for light roast coffees are methods that will bring out their natural sweetness, fruitiness, and floral notes.
Slower methods like drip, pour over, and French press will usually be your go-tos. With stronger and more robust light roasts, cold brew can also be an intriguing brew method.
It’s harder to find good light roasts for espresso, AeroPress, or Moka pot, but they do exist. Look for light roasts with notes of cocoa or earthy flavors.
Factors To Consider When Buying a Light Roast
In addition to factors that affect the flavor profile (which we’ll get into below), it’s important to remember a few things when buying a light roast:
- Light roasts have more caffeine. Light roast coffees are usually the most caffeinated. Since they’re also light in flavor, you may want to watch your overall coffee/caffeine intake. Especially if you tend to brew your coffee strong or want to drink several cups a day.
- Light roasts tend to be lighter and fruitier in flavor. Light roasts often make for a bright coffee, with fruity and even floral notes, though it might be a smooth and almost tea-like cup at the same time.
- Light roasts are (usually) more acidic. Not only in terms of flavor, a light roast blend tends to be the most acidic — although it will also be the least oily. If acid is a problem for you, seek out a rare low acid light roast or opt for something medium or darker.
- Light roasts are mild, but are more flavorful. Although it may sound conflicting, while light roast beans are generally milder coffees, they tend to show off their tasting notes and natural flavors more. The acidity, fruity, and/or floral natures are more pronounced.
Best Light Roast Coffee 2023
Looking for the best light roast coffee beans? From single-origin coffee to specialty coffee blends, we’ll show you some of the best light roast coffee brands with the most high-quality beans on the market:
1. Tanzanian Peaberry
Fresh Roasted Coffee’s roasts are certified fair trade, direct trade, USDA organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Kosher. Their Tanzanian Peaberry is a mild and bright dream.
Fresh Roasted Coffee (FRC) sells Tanzanian Peaberry whole or ground (fine, medium, coarse) and as a one-off or a subscription (called “auto deliver”) with a discount. If you buy in bulk ($35 or more) you can also get free shipping.
Tanzanian Peaberry is smooth with a mild body. It has notes of lemon, peach, and black tea. (That’s fitting, because lighter roasts can be almost tea-like in their smoothness.)
This roast is especially light even for a light roast, with an almost sweet finish.
This peaberry is sourced from the mountainous Mbeya region in Tanzania. The region is volcanic, which means more robust nutrients and better water retention in the soil.
Coffee in this region is usually shade grown under a canopy of banana trees.
The rare peaberry coffee cherry has just one seed or bean each. So it’s thought each bean absorbs more of the nutrients and therefore has a superior taste.
Either way, the Tanzanian Peaberry is fruity and lively with medium acidity.
Best Brewing Methods
For the most delicious results, stick with brew methods like French press or pour over, like Chemex.
It’s an especially good idea to use something with a metal filter if you have the choice since peaberries run oily.
Metal filters will catch some of that extra oil. And if you like light roasted cold brew, peaberries are a great choice!
2. Lifeboost Light Roast
Lifeboost is a fair trade brand that’s close to my heart.
The Lifeboost Light Roast Bean is certified low-acid, despite being a lighter roast.
Committed to producing low-acid, organic coffees, Lifeboost tests for toxins, mold, and pesticides in their beans and grows them to maturity to maximize nutrients. The healthy coffee brand’s light roast is pretty darn good, too.
This Lifeboost coffee is a typical light roast with a light body, pleasant taste, and low acidity. It’s citrusy, tea-like, and not at all bitter.
Lifeboost offers subscriptions with reduced rates as well as one-time orders. You can also save by ordering 3 or more bags at once and freezing the extras.
All of their coffees are available as ground or whole bean coffee. Most roasts offer a choice in grind, too.
You can order most standard grind sizes by brew method. Lifeboost also promises to replace or refund your order if you don’t like it.
But for now, they only ship to the U.S. and Canada.
These light roast Arabica beans are sourced from across Africa. This single-origin coffee is shade-grown, high-altitude beans picked by hand, semi-washed, and, of course, lightly roasted.
Best Brewing Methods
Any light roast coffee will shine in a drip or pour-over, so you may want to try this first with your Lifeboost Light Roast.
But since Lifeboost coffee is guaranteed to be lower in acidity, you may want to use that to your advantage.
If you shy away from brewing methods like French press because they add more acidity to a cup, then consider this your best way to enjoy a much less acidic light roast French press. (That’s something I never expected to write!)
Immersion methods (including AeroPress) are also a good way to enjoy African beans. They might be less acidic if you’re hoping to make your brew as low in acid as possible.
Since this is another roast from FRC, you have your choice of whole bean coffee or ground, with different grind options (fine, medium, coarse). You can purchase a bag or two at a time or go for a subscription with a discount.
FRC even sells a Swiss water decaf version of Ethiopian Sidamo, although it’s more of a medium roast. Still, finding decent decaf coffee on the lighter end of the spectrum is hard, so it may be worth considering.
3. Ethiopian Sidamo
Another great roast from Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, the Ethiopian Sidamo is a great earthy choice for light roast coffee lovers looking for a fair trade coffee.
Subtle and very sweet, this Ethiopian Sidamo finishes creamy and smooth. In fact, its tasting notes are creamy, blueberry, and earthy — which is an interesting, but incredible, combination of flavors.
It’s been fully washed and dried on raised beds and is definitely on the mild side.
This roast is made with Heirloom coffee beans, grown from plants that have gone basically untouched for centuries. Assuming that’s true, coffee beans like these are as close as you’ll get to ancient coffee. Ethiopian Sidamo tastes great either way.
This roast is specifically sourced from the family-owned farms in the Shoye Cooperative in southern Ethiopia. They’re fair trade and organic. And best of all, they tend to be sweet and complex.
Best Brewing Methods
Your best brewing methods here will still be an automatic drip/percolator or pour-over. But because this roast finishes so sweet and creamy, it’s also a great candidate for a cold brew.
4. San Augustin Good Citizen Coffee Co
San Augustin from Good Citizen Coffee Co. is a rare beauty: a Colombian LIGHT roast coffee.
Although bordering on a lighter medium, San Augustin is still an unusually light Colombian bean. (Many of the popular coffee-growing regions in South America, like Colombia, are known for their bitter dark roast coffees.)
It’s sweet and tart with notes of cranberries, other berries and “ripe” fruit, green apple, molasses, orange, and sweetened vanilla.
Or if you want a more thorough description, San Augustin has a “pleasant honey sweetness” to round out “bright notes of raspberries, cherries, and green apple.”
It’s almost syrupy in body, a far cry from the usually mild body of most light roasts. With the blend of molasses and fruit, light roast smoothness, and syrupy body,
Good Citizen’s San Augustin is a great choice for anyone who wished they could cross a dark roast with a light roast.
You can buy San Augustin as whole bean coffee or ground for most home brewing styles (including cold brew, espresso, and drip).
Subscribe for free shipping and better rates. You can even change the frequency of subscription orders.
This washed process coffee is from the Huila region in southern Colombia at reasonably high elevations (1,500-1,800).
San Augustin is a “community lot,” sourced from coffees from multiple Huila farms. A dozen of those contributing farmers have won Cup of Excellence awards, too. You can be sure these are some high-quality beans.
Best Brewing Methods
It’s worth playing around with San Augustin.
You can tease out the lighter notes with drip, pour over, or even French press coffee.
For more adventurous coffee lovers, lean into the rare richness of this light roast coffee and opt for something deeper that will bring out the molasses syrup notes, like a Moka pot.
But, you’ll need to be careful as lighter roasts are more difficult to brew in a stovetop coffee maker.
5. Ethiopia Siadama Ardi
Here’s another Ethiopian beauty for you.
Equator Coffees’ Ethiopia Siadama Ardi is a Siadama heirloom treat. This super light roast has tastes like vanilla, lavender, and sweet lemon. Although its notes are listed as “chocolatey, floral, citrusy,” making for a complex cup.
Not many coffees have hints of cocoa and pistachio mingling with lilac and grapefruit, but Ethiopia Siadama Ardi is unique.
Enjoy the juicy-sweet, floral Ardi with hints of rich cocoa in this cup.
Again, you can buy this roast as a ground or whole bean coffee, with a few options for grind size. Like many coffee roasters, you can opt to subscribe and shave a little off the cost.
Grown in the Guji region in southern Ethiopia, this Arabica bean heirloom variety was grown at high elevations (5,800 feet) and naturally/sun-dried processed.
Best Brewing Methods
For these Arabica coffee beans, opt for brew methods that will draw out their natural sweetness with slow methods like drip, pour over, and French press.
Despite the hints of cocoa, this is not the best light roast for espresso. Although you may find the depth of an Ethiopian Siadama Ardi cold brew intriguing.
6. Colombia Cerro Azul Enano
Another roast from Equator Coffees, Colombia Cerro Azul Enano is another South American treat.
A light roast coffee with more traditional — though not milquetoast — flavors, Colombia Cerro’s primary notes are citrusy, berries, and floral. Specifically, it’s a bold, complex taste with pineapple, strawberry, rose, and lime flavors.
It’s very light and fruity, washed coffee, but it isn’t too sweet.
As another Equator Coffees roast, you can buy Cerro Azul whole bean or ground, with a few options for grind size.
Colombia Cerro Azul Enano beans were grown in the mountains of Valle del Cauca in western Colombia (at 5,200-6,550 feet).
The variety grown at the Cerro Azul Enano finca (farm) — which make up this roast — are actually a mystery!
They were originally purchased and planted as a supposed “Gesha” variety of coffee bean, but it quickly became clear when they grew up that these were not true Gesha coffee plants.
These beans come from an unknown — but delicious — dwarf (“enano”) variety of coffee plant.
Still, these Enano beans have a Gesha-like floral undertone and resemble Gesha more and more. It’s possible you’re getting a distinct Gesha dwarf with Cerro Azul. No matter what, you’re getting something unique and tasty.
Best Brewing Methods
The best brewing method for this exceptional mystery bean is probably a French press, which will naturally draw out the fruity, floral notes of this brew.
But a pour over, especially a Chemex, or even a drip will never go amiss with a light roast.
7. Breakfast Blend | Klatch Coffee
Finally, we’ve got a classic Breakfast Blend from Klatch Coffee via Beanbox to round off this list of light roast coffee beans.
This Breakfast Blend is light and balanced and tastes like apple, pear, and something floral. It’s sweet (“as sweet as fruit juice” according to Klatch) and silky (like milk chocolate), while still offering the almost floral bouquet of a garden.
It’s a neat blend that becomes fruitier as it cools. You’ll enjoy the smooth, yet playful nature of this one first thing in the morning.
You can buy Klatch Coffee whole bean or ground. The grind size of the sole ground option is not listed, so it’s probably ideal for an automatic drip/percolator.
Klatch Coffee’s Breakfast Blend coffee beans come from Colombia.
Best Brewing Methods
This is the best light roast coffee for espresso lovers! Note – you’ll need to be a ninja level coffee lover to have this balance well, though.
Despite being a breakfast blend, Klatch Coffee recommends enjoying these beans in your espresso maker, which means a Moka pot or AeroPress are also going to be great second options.
Since this light roast is as “silky as chocolate milk,” you might even try it as a cold brew.
Although the floral and sweeter notes might be an unusual choice, this blend may be just rich enough to make a good iced coffee.
Light Roast Coffee Buying Guide
The further you go into the world of coffee, the more you understand how much variety there is in each coffee bean.
Where a coffee bean originates — country, subregion, and climate — impact its flavor.
We’ll talk about broader country profiles below, but there are other pieces to a coffee bean’s origin that impact its profile, like the growing environment.
Many coffees are grown in higher altitudes, in mountainous regions. These cooler temperatures mean slower growth for coffee trees (and coffee beans), adding more complexity of flavor.
Lower altitude coffees tend to be mild and subtle. Higher altitude coffees get sweeter, richer, and even spicier, though the exact notes will vary by region.
For example, a high altitude Colombian coffee from the Andes will get bitter and rich. Whereas a high altitude Ethiopian may get fruity, floral, and wine-like.
Too much sun can damage the coffee bean, almost scorching the coffee cherry. Good tree coverage can help, though. Shade growing makes a more delicious coffee and keeps the sun from over-roasting coffee cherries.
Coffee growing regions with richer nutrients, like volcanic areas, will support more robust, richer, and more complex coffee flavors. Less verdant environments may produce simpler cups.
Country Flavor Origins
Where a coffee bean originates has a huge impact on its flavor.
Country of origin impacts which plants or varietals are used, the soil composition (and which nutrients are absorbed by the bean), and the weather.
This also affects how the coffee is processed, which in turn impacts the flavor.
Each region is known for its commonalities in roast type, flavor, and body.
African coffees, especially from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, are common sources for light roast beans.
In general, they tend to be fruitier and more acidic in flavor. Since most of them are more naturally processed, many African beans will taste like berries, wine, stone fruit, and citrus fruit.
Some, like Ethiopian roasts (which you’ll see on this list), may also have floral notes to balance out their fruity acidity.
Indonesian coffees tend to be dark, bold, and earthy. They can be woody, smokey, and even have hints of chocolate or tobacco. You may find them as dark roasted coffee or even as light roasts.
Coffees from Central and South America are not as commonly treated as light roasts, and instead tend to be a dark or medium roast. Although some will surprise you, like the Colombian light roasts on the list above!
Many coffees from South America are known for their bitter, deep, and chocolatey flavors, with thick, syrupy bodies. You can even see that in the light roasted Colombian blends above.
Central American coffees tend to be nutty, chocolatey, and smooth, sometimes with hints of something sweeter like brown sugar. They’re rarely bitter, but have more body and less acidity.
Time From Roast
Coffee beans lose their flavor and robustness quickly.
The worst is after grinding, when beans lose a lot of their oomph within about 20 minutes.
But even if you purchase whole beans and wait to grind them until right before brewing, they will still lose flavor soon after roasting.
In general, you should try to use coffee beans within 7-21 days after roasting. And since packaging and shipping beans takes a few days at best, you should try to find coffee brands that prioritize speedy shipping.
A brand that roasts multiple days a week is also a good idea, since these brands are more likely to cycle roasting and shipping (or do both simultaneously) regularly.
If possible, you want your whole beans to ship within 3 days after roasting. That way they should arrive at your door before a full week has passed, giving you some time to actually brew and enjoy your beans before they lose too much flavor.
Light Roast VS Dark Coffee
Light or dark roast, which to choose?
Light roasted coffee and dark roasted coffee are basically at opposite ends of the roasting spectrum.
Light roast coffee beans are made when green coffee beans are roasted just until the first crack is heard in the roasting process, about 3-5 minutes in.
Coffee beans absorb heat during the roasting process and then release it, making a cracking sound. Dark roasts are roasted much longer (10-16 minutes).
Since light roasted coffee beans are roasted for shorter periods of time, they are lighter in color and flavor (usually), with sweet, acidic, fruity, and even floral tasting notes. Lightly roasted coffee beans have more caffeine and are more acidic.
Dark roasts are roasted longer, getting darker and richer in flavor. They have less caffeine and less acidity, but are also oilier (oil is introduced into the bean during the roasting process).
They tend to have bitter, richer flavors with chocolate, molasses, or even tobacco notes.
Light roasted coffee is often smoother and more mild in body. It’s much more likely to have a bright or vibrant taste. Darker roasts tend to have a heavy to medium body and are often bold in flavor.
Is Light Roast Coffee The Strongest?
Generally, light roasts are the strongest coffee beans in terms of caffeine content.
Roasting coffee beans effectively burns off some of the caffeine content. The longer coffee beans roast, the less caffeine they’ll have.
So a light roasted coffee — which keeps its light color because it has been roasted for shorter times — is the most caffeinated.
But if we’re talking coffee that’s been brewed “strong,” it depends.
Light roasted coffee can certainly be brewed strongly. And the sharper, fruitier, and more acidic flavors that light roast coffee is known for are usually strongly pronounced in the cup after brewing.
But any coffee roast can be brewed stronger. The strength of a cup of coffee depends on how much coffee grounds you use in proportion to water, how fresh the beans/grounds are, whether you’ve bloomed the coffee, and a few other factors.
Your light roast coffee certainly could be made stronger in flavor to match the strength it already has in caffeine.
But at the end of the day, light roasts are known for their lighter flavors. So while the taste may be well pronounced in your cup, it’s probably not the kind of “strong” you’re thinking of when it comes to the idea of “strong coffee.”
Which Coffee Is Better For You, Light Or Dark?
When it comes to light vs. dark roast coffee and health, the “best” one for you depends on a few factors.
Light roast coffee has more caffeine, which can be an issue if you’re overdoing your consumption or extra sensitive.
Dark roast coffee has been roasted for longer periods of time, which reduces the acidity, but also makes it oilier, which can upset some sensitive stomachs.
A 2011 study also found dark roasts were more effective than light roast coffee in restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione (an important antioxidant) concentrations.
So the benefits appear to be more pronounced when you drink coffee made with darker roasts rather than lighter roasts. (Although medium roasts have the highest concentration of the antioxidant chlorogenic acid)
However, that doesn’t mean light roast coffee beans offer no potential health benefits. Because they absolutely do.
At the end of the day, the average healthy person can handle a reasonable amount of caffeine and acid from 1-3 cups of coffee, regardless of roast.
So unless you are sensitive to acid or caffeine, choosing a light roast over a dark roast should not impact your experience negatively.
For most people, light roasts and dark roasts are (effectively) equally fine for you. Just don’t overdo your coffee/caffeine consumption.
Is Light Roast Coffee Strong?
Yes, light roast coffee can be strong in terms of flavor and caffeine.
Light roasted beans are generally the strongest in caffeine content, with “blonde coffee” being the most caffeinated. (Blonde coffee is basically really light roasted beans.)
(Unless you find a decaf light roast, of course.) Caffeine content decreases over the course of the roasting process, and since light roasts are roasted the least, light roasts have the most caffeine left.
In terms of flavor, the strength of light roasted coffee beans will vary by each blend or batch. Some light roasted beans have a strongly acidic and fruity flavor. Others are mild and floral.
In general, however, the lightness of a light roast might make it less “strong” to a fan of a medium or dark roast. Light roasts tend not to have the intense bitterness of many dark roast beans.
They also tend to have a light to medium body, without the syrupy intensity of a darker roast.
The Final Verdict: Best Light Roasted Coffee
With light roasts, only the best beans will do.
The best light roast coffee beans have to be Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Tanzanian Peaberry. With its lightly fruity and tea-like herbality to temper it, it’s the ultimate peaberry batch.
But you can’t go wrong with any on this list. Lifeboost’s light roast blend is your stomach’s best friend.
And the Colombia Cerro Azul is a unique flavor combination from an equally unique source that’s begging for some experimentation.
It’s time to pull out the big mugs.