The 10 Best Light Roast Coffees for Specialty Coffee Lovers
There are thousands of coffee roasters worldwide, many producing fantastic coffees from light roasts to very dark. In this article, we look to unpack some of our favorite Light Roast Coffees on the market and share some education about this sometimes-underappreciated roast.
First, we would love to introduce ourselves. We are Coffee Bros., a specialty coffee roaster based out of NYC founded in 2019. We pride ourselves on what we deem as the four pillars of running a coffee company: sustainability, quality, consistency, and freshness. You can read more about our company and mission here.
As coffee roasters, we are constantly sampling coffees for our business and trying everything on the market. As roasters, we sample and cup thousands of coffees a year between what is sent to us from our partners and through the quality control of our own coffee. We also love to see what else is on the market and explore what amazing things other coffee companies are up to.
The list below showcases some of our personal favorites along our coffee-roasting journey and tips our cap to our roasting friends.
Light Roast Coffee
All coffee is based on preference from taste all the way down to what color you deem as light, medium, or dark roasted coffee. We define light roasted coffee not only by the color, but how far along in the roasting development process we take a coffee. We also "cup" or sample our coffees to ensure they are hitting on certain flavor profiles to hit on that "light roast" flavor. All-in-all, color is a great initial determining factor for what is considered light but the ultimate test comes down to development and taste.
Want to learn more about cupping, head over to the SCA for their official sampling best practices.
Here are the best Light Roast Coffees
Coffee Bros.: Light Roast Coffee
Say hello to the Coffee Bros. Light Roast coffee and yes, this is us!
When you first started roasting coffee back in 2019, Light Roasted coffee was not much of a focus as both Nick and I were big enthusiasts of bold and rich naturally processed coffees. While we still love our medium roasted coffees, light roasted coffee has become an important cornerstone to our coffee program for several reasons.
First, to showcase a coffees true flavor profile or "terrior" one must roast the coffee light. When purchasing award-winning coffees through auction like the Cup of Excellence, we prefer to roast those coffees light to highlight its full and true flavor potential.
We carry this same principal when sourcing and roasting for our Light Roast coffee blend. Our Light Roast is an extremely sweet and delicate blend of washed Ethiopian and Colombian coffees sourced sourced specifially to hit on citrusy and floral notes.
“I recently purchased the light roast and this coffee is amazing! I'm not normally a person who can drink my coffee black and usually have to add a creamer to have tasteful coffee. With Coffee Bros I can drink my coffee black as the flavor is smooth and delicious with out any cream, milk, or sugar.”– Alex L (Customer)
Coffee Bros.: Light Roast Details
PT's Coffee: Flor Del Sol
Born out of Topeka, Kansas, nearly 30 years ago, a simple question has guided their judgments on creating and delivering an excellent cup of coffee: "Is our coffee the best it can be?" As true coffee lovers committed to sourcing, roasting, and drinking the best coffees in the world, they roast dozens of single-origin specialty coffees and signature blends that can be found in fine cafes, restaurants, and select grocery stores nationwide.
Some accolades include being named Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine in 2009 and being among the leading roasters reviewed by premier industry resource Coffee Review, with 40 scores of 94 and above and multiple finishes in the Top 30 Coffees of the year.
Flor del Sol is their lightest blend featuring sweet and high-toned acidity, bringing out a citrusy chocolate aroma with a silky body and taste notes of raisin and caramel. With each cup, savor the pleasant finish of caramel, chocolate, and warm Midwestern hospitality.
PT's Coffee: Light Roast Details
Mother Tongue: Mugshots
A woman, Latinx-owned roastery in Oakland, California, concentrates on paying better-than-fair prices to coffee producers that are making a financial difference in the lives of the farmers and workers in producing countries while also creating a sustainable and profitable community. With every feel-good cup of Mother Tongue Coffee, you can be sure that that cup not only tastes great but was also ethically sourced and expertly roasted by Jen Apodaca, founder of #shestheroaster.
Mugshots, their signature light roast coffee, is a blend of Ethiopian & Central American coffees that highlights taste notes such as jasmine, peach, and drinking chocolate. This roast tastes especially incredibly as a pour-over, auto-drip, or espresso.
Mother Tongue: Light Roast Details
Roast Type: Light-Medium
Origin: Colombia and Ethiopia
Taste Notes: Jasmin, Peach, Drinking Chocolate
Bean Type: Whole Bean or Ground
Blue Bottle: Three Africa's
Paying homage to Franz George Kolshitsky’s heroics, Blue Bottle Coffee came to fruition in Oakland, California, in the early 2000s. Though Blue Bottle Coffee has grown to a network of cafes across the U.S., Japan, and Korea, they are still united by the sole purpose of getting a great cup of coffee in your hands or to your doorstep. They work directly with farmers worldwide to source the most delicious and sustainable coffees and have gotten even more specific about freshness and peak flavor.
Certified Organic by CCOF, Three Africas, their brightest coffee, is a blend of coffees from Ethiopia, one washed and one natural, with the balance and authority of a washed coffee from Uganda. The unique taste notes for this blend include Golden raisin, winey blueberry, and lemon zest.
– Ashley (Customer)
Blue Bottle: Light Roast Details
Intelligentsia: Illumination Blend
Chicago-based Intelligentsia has a unique and growing presence in five American cities—Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Driven by curiosity, contribution, and the never-ending quest for the most extraordinary coffee in the world, Intelligentsia offers coffee bars, training labs, and Roasting Works in Chicago and Los Angeles. With coffee subscriptions and national grocery distribution, Intelligentsia’s rotating selection of single-origin coffees and blends can be found in the world’s finest restaurants, hotels, and cafés.
This blend of Colombian and Ethiopian beans is elegant and juicy, with a flavor profile of caramel and stone fruit--the embodiment of the extraordinary beauty that can be found in a cup. This blend is best brewed as a pour-over or an automatic drip home machine.
"Another excellent Intelligentsia coffee.
I like most of the Intelligentsia coffees that I have tried; I find them to be reliably excellent for most of the coffee I drink: coffees, espresso shots, Americanos, Lattes, and Cappuccinos. This particular blend is on the light side, but still full-bodied, and smooth."
– Craig M. (Customer)
Intelligentsia: Light Roast Details
Greater Goods: A.M. Rescue - Breakfast Blend
Greater Goods offers a carefully curated selection of specialty coffees worldwide. From unique single origins to laid-back blends, we pride ourselves on having something to please every palate. We founded our company on responsible sourcing and roasting their beans, giving back to local Texas nonprofits, sharing coffee knowledge through their accredited SCA Premier Training Campus to teach professional certification courses, and nothing less than good Texas hospitality.
A spirited Breakfast Blend of beans sourced from sustainable farms in Costa Rica and Brazil features flavor profiles of honey nut, milk chocolate, and caramel in this spectacular red honey, natural processed, light to medium roast.
Greater Goods: Light Roast Details
Irving Farm: Highline
Established in 1996, Irving Farm New York touts 20 years of roasting and provides an exceptional cup of coffee to all of their customers. Their house blends are known for their balance and sweetness and their single origins highlight some favorite small lot coffees each season. They source all their coffee through sustainable relationships with small producers and hand select freshly harvested lots.
Roasted lightly to bring out bright profiles of lemon, hibiscus, and wildflower honey, their organic Highline Light roast raises the bar resulting in sweet, floral flavors.
Irving Farm: Light Roast Details
Atomic Coffee: Cabot Street
This family-owned business sources, roasts, and serves great coffee that is always specialty grade, as well as ethically and carefully sourced. They offer a range of blends and single origins to provide customers with consistent and reliably delicious coffees that rotate seasonally. All of their coffee is roasted to order, and packaged by hand at their roastery in Salem, MA.
Cabot Street, their light roast blend consists of a beatiful combination of fully washed Colomian and Ethiopian coffees yielding an approachable cup that also pays homage to their origins, with a flavor profile of apricot, vanilla bean, and pastry crust.
– Morgan P. (Customer)
Atomic Coffee: Light Roast Details
Klatch Coffee: Breakfast Blend
Family-owned and run coffee company based in Southern California and distributed worldwide, Klatch sources, roasts, and brews their own coffee while applying their scientific method to accomplish a taste best described with expletives and exclamations. Their methodical approach is a mix of coffee artistry and mad scientist — obsessively meticulous and thoroughly documented otherwise known as their “peak of flavor method”.
Among their offerings of Fair Trade & Organic, Single Origins, espressos, and blends, Vino Blend pays homage to their original cafe, Rancho Cucamonga, which is located at the Thomas Winery Plaza. With flavor notes of black cherry, plum and baking spices with an Ethiopia natural and a honey processed coffee from El Salvador roasted together to a medium-light profile.
Klatch Coffee: Light Roast Details
Regalia: Eucalipto Espresso
Regalia Coffee: Light Roast Details
What to look for when searching for a high-quality, Light Roast Coffee:
It is not always easy to find high-quality and great-tasting Light Roast Coffee. If you are a consumer, your best bet is to find a reliable coffee roaster that you know is sourcing sustainable and high-quality coffee. Most coffee roasters who want to showcase the true terrior (the impact of flavor due to how and where the coffee is grown) of the coffee will roast on the lighter side. As soon as a coffee pushes toward a “medium” or “dark” roast, the roaster itself starts to impart flavors into the coffee (think roasty or smoky notes).
An excellent roaster will put every coffee they purchase through the paces before offering it to their customer base, especially for Light Roasted coffees. For roasters, this often means obtaining pre-ship samples (samples of the coffee before it leaves the country of origin) and then getting samples again when it arrives in the country of import. Coffee roasters whom roast light have little room for error when purchasing and roasting their coffee. Coffee with subtle imperfections will be spotted much easier upon brewing than darker roasted coffees.
As a consumer, you don't always have the option to try before buying high-end specialty coffee. In cases like that, there are a few things you want to look out for that might indicate you are dealing with an exceptional coffee.
The factors to look for when searching for great-tasting coffee
Varietal: The coffee varietal is listed on the packaging or the website description. As you will see in the data below, specific coffee varietals tend to score higher in coffee competitions like the Cup of Excellence. Again, this is just one tiny factor, and great tasting, high scoring coffee has come from several varietals.
The Gesha varietal is one extreme example of a coffee species that is highly sought after due to its high cup quality and delicate taste notes. The Gesha variety originated in the coffee forests of Ethiopia and slowly made its way to Panama, where it gained most of its recognition.
Process: The process of the coffee (Natural, Washed, Honeyed, etc.) loosely defines how the coffee was processed post-harvest. The post-harvest process has a great deal of impact on potential taste attributes and the quality of the finished product. While great-tasting coffee has come from every type of process, you will learn that specific processes may have flavor profiles more in line with your palette.
Many of the highest-scoring coffees in recent Cup of Excellence auctions are processed using anaerobic fermentation (dry fermentation), a technique taken from the wine industry. Coffee producers leverage this technique to impart unique flavor and aromatics into their coffees.
- Accolades: Accolades or awards won by the coffee before release in the market may confirm its quality. Competitions like the Cup of Excellence are highly rigorous, where each coffee that is entered gets evaluated (cupped) upward of 120 times. This extreme level of quality verification sets the Cup of Excellence competitions apart and provides roasters and consumers assurance around quality.
- Post Processing Care: Post-processing prep concerns how the coffee leaves the farm and arrives at the purchasing country (ultimately the roaster). The foundation of any post-processing prep is a good shipping program involving hermetically sealed bags (GrainPro is one we always look for). The GrainPro bags are an extra layer beneath coffee's traditional burlap sacks, which help prevent odors, mold, or moisture buildup. The extra layer means that coffee will maintain its quality and freshness longer than coffee arriving solely in a burlap sack.
What brewing methods work best with Light Roast Coffee
The best way of brewing Light Roasted Coffee is with the pour-over method. The pour-over method, such as using a v60 or Fellow’s Stagg brewer will allow you to extract the full potential of your coffee. We like the pour-over method because of how much control the barista must influence the outcome of the brew. The three most important factors of brewing the perfect cup include time, temperature, and brew ratio (water to coffee weight), which you have control over when doing a manual pour-over.
We find that pour-overs extract the most flavor from the coffee and work extremely well for Light Roasted Coffees. Let’s remember, light roasted coffees are meant to be drunk black (you can certainly add milk, but then you are missing the point of why it roasted light in the first place), which is why we prefer the control and precision of the pour-over method to extract the most flavor.
We also love Light Roasted Coffees such as espresso but know they will be very bright, acidic, and sweet. You can certainly add milk to a lightly roasted espresso drink, but the coffee will get lost in anything above a 1:1 ratio (40g espresso shot to 40g of milk).
When it comes to light-roasted coffees, these ten highly skilled roasters are a great place to start! We suggest brewing your light roast coffee as a pour-over and then expanding to other brewing methods like French press, espresso, and the AeroPress.
As mentioned earlier, start by drinking your new bag of light roast black, as the roaster intends to showcase the intricate taste notes of that coffee’s origin, and most of the flavor gets lost when milk and sugar are added.
Finally, we would love to hear from you and some of your favorite light roast coffee experiences. Do you have a favorite light roast that we don’t have listed here, shoot us an email, and we’ll give it a try and potentially add it to the list!