How To Brew Dark, Medium and Light Roast Coffees

Olympia Coffee Roaster’s Little Buddy Blend, Cat and Cloud's night-shift coffee blend, Verve bronson-french-roast,

One of the best things about coffee is the sheer variety of flavors you can get with coffees from different growing regions and with different roasts. When you get your hands on a new coffee it can be tough deciding where to start with a recipe. We always recommend asking a barista or roaster when you can. If all else fails, there’s a simple rule of thumb that’ll help you get the most out of your coffee. 

Here we have some of our favorite coffees. One’s a dark roast, one medium, and one light. Generally speaking, roast profile has the greatest impact on what recipe you should choose. For all of these, we’ll be using a 20-gram basket with this LUCCA M58 V2, so we’ll be using a 20-gram dose to match.

The simple thing to keep in mind with different roasts is that as you roast a coffee the beans become more porous and certain compounds breakdown. Because the bean becomes less dense as you roast, it becomes easier for water to pull the delicious dissolvable solids out of the grounds. In effect, it’s easier to pull flavors out of a dark roast than it is a lighter roast.

Coffee Roast Profile Chart

With that in mind, let’s start with the medium roast: Cat & Cloud’s Night Shift Blend. When I’m working with a medium roast I always start with a recipe that’s right in the middle of that road. This is our standard “Clive Recipe” that we recommend all first time home baristas start with. My goal is to pull a shot with a 1:1.5 ratio of coffee to water which translates to a 30-gram shot. I’m also going to keep the PID at a temperature of 200°F, which is right in the middle of the optimal temperature range for brewing. I’ll use this recipe as a guideline, dial in my shot, and then make adjustments based on taste.

Let’s move over to a dark roast: Verve Bronson French Roast Blend. The nice thing about roast levels is that, even if there’s nothing on the bag, you can tell what the coffee needs just by looking at the beans. Looking at these, you can clearly see it’s a darker roast. Since this is a dark roast, we want to be a little bit gentler with our recipe to ensure we don’t over extract and get flavors we don’t want.

When I’m working with a dark roast the first thing I want to do is adjust the temperature a few degrees lower, starting at 195°F. I’ll also keep my brew ratio the same but adjust my grind such that I get that same 30-gram output in around 22 seconds. Both the lower temperature and shorter brew time help reduce some of the bitter aspects of a dark roasted coffee. This way the shot is a bit sweeter and smoother, with those chocolate and molasses notes coming through.

Last let’s pull shot with a light roasted coffee: Olympia Coffee Roaster’s Little Buddy Blend. Once again, a glance at the color of the beans makes it clear that this is a lighter roast. This is one of our favorite coffees around here, we try to make sure we always have a bag on hand. Because this is a lighter roast, it’s more difficult to pull flavors out since the beans are denser. With this in mind, I’ll start with a slightly higher temperature of 203°F. I tend to prefer lighter roasted coffees pulled with a slightly higher ratio, so I’m going to aim for a 1:2 ratio with a yield of 40 grams of liquid espresso and a longer shot time of 28-30 seconds. By increasing our time and temperature we’re ensuring that we get all the flavors we want from our coffee. If I were to use our dark roast recipe for Little Buddy the shot would come out tasting super sour and salty. This recipe will result in a more balanced, sweet shot that I’d be glad to drink or serve.

Coffee Roast Recipes for Dark Medium and Light Roasts

All three of these shots came out nicely, but in coffee, there’s almost always room for improvement. These recipes serve as a good guideline but after tasting my first shot I’ll almost always make slight adjustments to get that little touch of extra sweetness or brightness out of a coffee. Adjusting your temperature or shot time by a second or two at a time is a great way to explore what a particular coffee has to offer and find that perfect balance that we’re all chasing.


  • Thanks for the strait talk no refreshing and guess what it works as a great starting point. On my recent purchase E61 Bianca I can now go to grocery store ( here in Fresno it’s Vons) buy several varieties of single origin coffees and sample the flavors stated on the bags…it a new world for me. Thank you for expanding our world of coffee. No a “ cup o joe” is not just coffee..

    JosephBianca on

  • @Gary: Generally we’d recommend dosing 20g with the Pro 800’s standard 20g basket but if you’re getting better results with a slightly higher dose you should feel free to run with it. The toughest part of the learning curve with the Pro 800 tends to be nailing pre-infusion time. Since it also has an impact on the total volume of water in the brew chamber small differences in timing before lifting the lever can have a pretty big impact.

    The 800 is very much a “practice makes perfect” machine, so run with the 21 or 22g doses and just focus on making your motions and routine as consistent as possible. I’m sure you’ll get it down in no time but if not, always feel free to call or chat to get some one-on-one help from our experts!

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • Charles – I have a Profitek Pro 800. Do your suggestions for 20 grams in and 30 grams out still apply? I am finding that at least 21-22 grams and longer shots – 35-40 seems to have better results than 30 sec. Frankly, I’m all over the place and can’t seem to get consistent results even tho I use a scale and timer and same amount of coffee. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    Gary on

  • Hi, stupid question, are you timing from preinfusion or first drip?

    Many thanks.

    John on

  • I was a bit confused by the comments in your “Coffee Bag” article:

    “If you’re switching to a coffee that is darker than your last coffee, it will want to extract faster. Try adjusting your grind setting a little coarser and using less water to brew.

    If you’re switching to a lighter roast, the coffee will want to extract slower. Try adjusting your grind setting a little finer and using a little more water to brew."

    After reading this article, is the reason one chooses a coarser grind on a dark roast is to decrease the surface area of the coffee? As it is more soluble and less dense, the water does not have to come into contact with a lot of coffee, ie, large surface area. And that in turn is reflected in the decrease in time. The opposite would hold true for a lighter roast. Please correct if my thinking is wrong. Thanks……

    lyle on

  • @Jeroen Geurtsen: You can always pull a larger volume of espresso if you wish. Try pulling your shot with a 1:2 or 1:2.5 ratio. What’s good to remember is that this 40g+ shot will be considerably more diluted than the 29g shot you were pulling. If you find that it’s too diluted for your liking you may simply want to pull two 30g shots.

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • I keep coming back to the same problem, as how do I make a double shot with a medium roast in a portafilter (18-19 gramms) with double spout if I can only go 1:1,5? That only gives me 28-29ml

    Jeroen Geurtsen on

  • Amazing results!

    I am not sure I can fully express my appreciation for the guidance/information provided by the video and the article.

    I changed the settings on my ECM Synchronika for dark roast coffee in accordance with the parameters set in the article and used the Acaia Lunar for the shot measurements. The shots results are most amazing, sweet, smooth shots – very consistent, every shot tastes the same with no bitterness.

    This is the most improvement I have gotten from one single article, I highly recommend you try it. The video was great as well.

    Aviv Damari on

  • Excellent video!! I had no idea you should adjust the temperature and extend the ratio for a light roast. Our favorite coffee is from Olympia Coffee and can hardly wait to try the new recipe. Thank you for a well laid out and easy to understand video.

    Gordon on

  • It would be nice if we could get a PDF of these so we can print them.

    Wayne Hudson on

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