Light roasts are especially popular because it retains the nuanced flavors of the country and soil it was grown in.
A light roasted coffee will also retain more of its chlorogenic acids and caffeine, making it a "healthier" option. This effect is relatively minuscule however, accounting for only roughly a 5% difference compared to a dark roast.
There is no accepted "standard" color for what a light roast is - this will vary depending on origin and crop and has to be determined by a master roaster.
This usually occurs after just several minutes of roasting.
Light roasts are light brown or chestnut brown in color with a dry surface and toasted grain taste, and with no trace of a dark (burnt or smoky) roast.
A benefit of a lighter roast is that the coffee tends to retain more of its origin flavors that reflect the natural qualities of the coffee including the origin of the coffee plant as well as the climate and soil of the region where the coffee was grown.
Traditional Light Roasted Coffees
Light Roasts are also referred to as:
- Cinnamon Roast
- Half City Roast
- Light City Roast
- New England Roast
Any roast can be used to make an espresso with any espresso machine - while a very dark roast is typically associated with "espresso", calling it an "espresso roast" doesn't technically mean anything. The flavor of the coffee will change quite a bit with a light roast versus the traditional super dark, with more pronounced single origin characteristics that may be off-putting to people who have developed an expectation for more of a dark roasted flavor.
What's actually important is to select the appropriate grind for your espresso maker. Machines are designed to work with a given pressure from the pump - too fine a grind can cause a backup and damage the pump, while too coarse a grind will let the water through too quickly and result in an underextracted, weak brew.
For tips on brewing a really delicious cup of coffee make sure to see our section on coffee brewing. Then you can peruse the detailed coffee flavor profiles of gourmet coffee and instructions on preparing Espresso Drink Recipes.