Strong vs. Rich vs. Bold Coffee: What's the Difference?

Strong vs. Rich vs. Bold Coffee: What's the Difference? Blog from Clive Coffee and Mistobox

As coffee lovers, we are constantly subjected to marketing ploys where large coffee commodity companies have excelled in utilizing words such as “rich,” “strong,” “bold,” and “full-bodied” to describe coffee and influence our thinking for years. The terms are alluring, but what do they mean? Truthfully, it varies widely depending on which coffee specialist you are talking to. For our specialty coffees, these terms will always refer to a coffee’s character, which describes the personality of the coffee based on acidity, body, and flavor. As your coffee curators, we want to clarify what these terms mean for our MistoBox coffees and how they differ so we can match you with the perfect specialty coffee.

Bold Coffee

We use “bold” to describe a coffee with an intense flavor. Bold coffees are often affiliated with dark roasts, which exhibit an intensity of roasty, carbon, and smoky flavors.

Most coffee professionals also use the term “bold” to describe a coffee with a higher strength due to a lower coffee-to-water brewing ratio (more grounds, less water). Because we do not have control over how strong you decide to brew your coffee, we use it to describe inherent flavors.

Browse bold coffee

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Strong Coffee

Strength refers exclusively to the brewing process. Strong coffee is made using a lower coffee-to-water ratio (more grounds, less water) and refers to the concentration of the beverage rather than the roast level. Espresso is a strong drink since it’s brewed as a very concentrated form of coffee. The opposite of strong coffee is weak coffee, which would be brewed with insufficient coffee grounds in relation to the amount of water used.

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Rich Coffee

Richness is characterized by a " full " coffee in flavor, body, or acidity. People often only think of using “rich” to describe a bold or intense flavor characteristic associated with darker roasts. Still, a light roast with high acidity and/or body can also be rich. For example, the Sermon Espresso from Verve Coffee Roasters is a light roast coffee with a rich, fruity profile and juicy acidity. Verve’s Buena Vista Dark Roast showcases richness with its roasty flavors and syrupy body. Both coffees can be described as “rich” despite tasting completely different.

Find more rich profile coffees 

Full-Bodied Coffee

Another term often associated with bold, strong, or rich coffee is full-bodied. When we refer to the body of a coffee, we are strictly talking about the weight or viscosity of that coffee. How does it coat your mouth? Whole milk is a full-bodied beverage, and by comparison, skim milk is thin or light-bodied. Since the term rich essentially means “full,” we could also say that a full-bodied coffee has a rich body.

Browse full-bodied coffees 

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To Summarize:

  • Bold = intense smokey or roasty flavor
  • Strong = higher brew strength 
  • Rich = satisfying fullness of flavor, body, or acidity
  • Full-bodied = thick or full texture

Taste Characteristics of Coffee. Bold - intense smokey or roasty flavor. Strong - higher brew strength.  Rich - satisfying fullness of flavor, body, or acidity. Full-Bodied - thick or full texture.

Learn more about coffee and taste with our series; check out our specialty coffee article guide to coffee cupping or learning what influences coffee flavors?