Common Misconceptions, Our Roasting Philosophy, and the Great Strength Debate
1) Light Roasted coffee has more/less caffeine than Dark Roasted coffee.
There are a couple of dueling misconceptions about light roasted coffee concerning the caffeine content. In our experience, those coffee drinkers weened on the specialty coffee of the 1970's and the famous oily black beans of the era, tend to believe that Dark Roasted coffee packs more punch. Indeed it may from a perspective of pure intensity, but that doesn't mean it carries more caffeine. Then there are those who have come of age in the Third Wave of coffee and are happy to report that in fact Light Roasted coffee has more caffeine since dark roasting burns out all the go-juice. The truth is, however, that the caffeine content in one coffee "bean" is the same no matter if it is Light or Dark roasted. The difference in caffeine content comes from the volume of coffee used when brewing. Light Roasted beans are SMALLER than their Dark Roasted counterparts because their cellular fibers haven't been blown apart and expanded. So if you measure your coffee using a scoop, then yes, you're getting more caffeine when you used a Light Roast because more beans can fit in that scoop. However, if you weigh your coffee (like most coffee pros) the caffeine content should be the same.
2) Light Roasted coffee is milder than Dark Roasted coffee.
Allow us to make a beer analogy. While it would be reasonable, though inexact, to say that Miller is milder than Dogfish Head, comparing the two is like comparing apples and agent orange. This is how we feel about comparing conventional medium roasted coffee like you might find on the grocery store shelf to ANY specialty coffee. A more proper comparisan might be Rogue Mocha Porter vs Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Which one is stronger or milder? Who cares? Strength is not the issue as much as character, complexity, uniqueness, and personal preference. A Lighter roasted coffee has deep complexity, intense sweetness, fruit tanginess, high floral aroma and is representative of the country of origin and the talent of the roaster to bring out those unique elements. A Darker roasted coffee is mainly representative of a particular roast profile reflecting the roaster's ability to create sweetness and richness out of what will inevitably be a less complex character.
Our Roasting Philosophy
We think a lot about coffee. The thing we care most about is doing justice to the great organic specialty green coffee that comes in our doors every week. We buy some of the best green coffee in the world and our mission is to roast that coffee to its fullest potential. To that end, we mostly roast to a light or medium profile in an attempt to bring out the richness and complexity of a particular origin; blueberries in our Ethiopian Harrar, orange zest in our Guatemalan Huehuetenango, lemony brightness in our Colombian Valle de Cauca. While we appreciate that many people prefer darker roasts (see our 4&20 French Roast or our Sumatra Mandheling) our personal preferences guide most of our roast profiles. Our coffees are designed to be sweet, complex, fruity and delicious to drink black at any temperature.
The Great Strength Debate
We often get asked for our strongest coffee. The truth is, this is a misleading question. In our experience, it often seems to refer to darkness of roast and intensity of flavor. However, when we think of the word strength, we tend to think of brew ratios: X amount of coffee to X amount of water. We find this to be a less subjective way to think about strength since it can be accurately measured. While intensity of flavor is a purely subjective choice (strong burned flavor or strong blueberry flavor?) 25 grams of coffee for 12 ounces of water is a true and accurate measure of brewing strength.