8 Best Light Roast Coffee Beans
Recent years have found light roast coffee beans growing in popularity. Rather than hiding behind the dark and toasted flavours of the roasting process, light roasts let the beans’ natural characteristics shine through; no wonder the consumers are developing a taste for their bright acidity and mild body.
If you’re looking for great beans that showcase these characteristics, read on for our top eight picks for the best light roast coffee this year. These are the cream of the crop.
Note: This guide will focus on light roasted coffee only. For other great coffee beans read our guide to the best coffee beans here.
Lifeboost Light Roast
Founded by a nutrition expert, Lifeboost coffee delivers some of the healthiest and most richly flavoured coffee. They’re committed to sourcing the best single-origin beans, which are shade-grown in the mountains of Nicaragua. Their organic light roast offers a nutty taste profile balanced with hints of caramel and vanilla.
The 8 Best Light Roast Coffee in 2020
First off, what makes coffee light roast? Simple. The answer lies in the length of the roasting process. Light roasted coffee beans are roasted for a shorter period of time. But what makes light roasted coffee beans special?
With their ability to showcase the nuances of a coffee’s flavour, light roasts have been growing in popularity. With so many on the market, from single acidic origins to mellow blends, it can be hard to choose the right one, so here are nine great options.
Lifeboost Coffee was founded by nutrition expert Dr. Charles Livingston to deliver delicious coffee with a nutritional boost. He achieved this through a commitment to sourcing only the top quality coffee, with just 0.5% of beans grown worldwide, meeting their stringent standards.
This organic light roast consists of single-origin arabica coffee beans from the mountains of Nicaragua. They’re organically grown in the shade of guava trees on a small plantation located at 5,700 feet on the slopes of Mt. Kilambe.
The beans are hand-picked, sun-dried, and washed in spring water to preserve the purity of the coffee throughout the process. As a result, they are third-party certified to be free from mycotoxins, potentially harmful toxins in low quantities in most coffee beans, notably lower quality ones.
The result is a bright coffee with a medium body that is low in acid for a light roast, making it exceptionally smooth and easy drinking.
The dominant flavour profile is nutty, with undercurrents of caramel sweetness. Vibrant aromas of vanilla and hazelnut accompany such features. It’s so good that we can’t help but call it the best light roast coffee.
We’ve also reviewed Lifeboost coffee in one of our video reviews. Check it out here:
A top-of-the-line single-origin bean usually comes with a price tag to match. Still, the Ethiopian Sidamo Guji coffee from Fresh Roasted Coffee is the rare exception, making it our pick for the best value light roast whole bean coffee this year.
The growers choose their beans carefully and sustainably, considering origin, flavour profile, and quality. Afterward, they roast the beans in a specialty Loring Smart Roaster, which offers enhanced roasting precision while cutting carbon emissions by up to 80%.
Guji is in the Oromia coffee-growing region of Southern Ethiopia. This region is said to produce some of the highest quality coffees in the country. It features a dry climate and acidic soil that grows coffee beans renowned for its remarkable fruity flavours.
Sidamo Guji coffee is dominated by fruity and wine-like flavour notes, featuring cherry and strawberry, and the use of natural processing further enhances this. Expect a medium body, bright acidity, and an excellent earthy finish.
Founded over 50 years ago in the San Francisco Bay area, Peet’s Coffee is renowned for its signature blends. They’ve put their decades of experience to good use in crafting perfectly balanced flavours designed to showcase each roast.
Rather than tone down the inherent brightness of a light roast, their Cost Rica Aurora blend puts it front and center.
The first step in creating any blend is quality sourcing, and Peet’s works directly with farmers to ensure they are getting the top specialty coffee beans. They have even pioneered a Farmer Assistance program, which assists farmers who have the potential to grow specialty coffee but lack the techniques needed to do so.
This both expands Peet’s supply of high-grade beans and provides economic assistance in coffee-growing regions.
The Costa Rican beans in this blend are the highest quality Strictly Hard Fancy grade, sourced from the mountains of Tarrazu and Naranjo. They offer notes of clean, sweet citrus reminiscent of a lemon bar.
The flavour is with the addition of Kenyan beans, which deliver the deep, silky flavours of molasses, brown sugar, and blackcurrant for which the region is known. We could just as quickly describe this blend as an augmented single origin.
With their unique design and high-quality coffee, Kuju’s single-serve pour-over coffee packets were impossible to leave. These single-serve packets, made from environmentally friendly compostable and recyclable materials, turn into small pour-over filters, prefilled with measured amounts of ground coffee beans and designed to anchor on any coffee mug.
All you need to do is add water. It’s as easy as instant coffee, but with the quality of a great pour-over brew.
Made from 100% arabica beans, Kuju’s specialty grade light roast ground coffee is known as Angel’s Landing. The beans are a blend sourced from around the world, but primarily from a Thailand grower who employs former victims of sex trafficking as they re-establish their lives.
The dominant flavour notes are floral, nutty, and citrus, and this roast features a medium body with light acidity. Each packet is nitro-flushed to remove all oxygen and keep the ground coffee beans as fresh as possible.
Kuju’s state-of-the-art facility functions on 100% wind power, and they are a member of 1% for the PlanetPlanet, donating 1% of all their sales to the National Park Foundation. Kuju coffee is the rare single-serve convenience product that you can feel good about using.
Dune Coffee Roasters is a small-batch roaster based in Santa Barbara, California, and they know good coffee. So much so, one of their employees placed third in the 2018 United States Barista Championship (5).
The Zip Zinger is their signature light roast breakfast blend, which they adjust seasonally to ensure it features only the freshest coffee. This light roast ground coffee’s current mix consists of Brazilian, Ethiopian, and Colombian beans. Combined with both washed and naturally processed beans, the blend achieves a perfect balance of bright acidity with rich, darker undertones, yielding an incredibly versatile brew.
With dominant flavour notes of stone fruit, caramel, and chocolate, this is the rare light roast that shines on its own and is equally delicious with the addition of milk or cream.
You might even like it as an unusual and tasty espresso, with the familiar chocolate notes enhanced by the bright acidity and mellow sweetness.
A top of the line decaf coffee can be challenging to find as not many roasters are willing to put the full weight of their expertise behind a product with such a small fan base. A high quality light roasted decaf is an even rarer beast.
Luckily for decaf fans, Tandem Roastery, of Portland, Maine, is up to the task. Their Sun Lamp blend isn’t just good decaf; it’s good coffee. Like a sun lamp, it isn’t quite the sun, but it’s nearly as satisfying as real good coffee.
The producers decaffeinated it via the sugar cane E.A. (ethyl acetate) decaffeination process. This process is also known as natural decaffeination. This method makes a lot of economic sense in regions like Colombia, where sugar cane is abundant and avoids excessive heat or pressure, which can radically disrupt a green bean’s cellular structure (6).
Made of wet-processed Colombian coffee beans, it shines with flavours of berries and sweet vanilla and features hints of marshmallow, graham cracker, and green grape. The result is a bright and exciting coffee experience that perks you up even without the caffeine.
The Colombia Luminosa Breakfast Blend was Peet’s first signature light roast blend, devised after years of research and testing. Roasted in small batches, the result is a carefully crafted combination that perfectly highlights the best features of light roasted beans: its bright acidity, smooth flavours, and mild body.
Luminosa means “shining” or “bright” in Colombia, and that is undoubtedly the defining feature of this peppy blend.
Its foundation is high-altitude beans from the Huila region of Colombia’s mountains. Grown at over 4,500 feet, beans from this region are known for their smooth, sweet character. Furthermore, they balance the flavour with beans from Ethiopia, the homeland of coffee. Ethiopian beans are known for their fruity and floral character.
While this light roast whole bean coffee would make an excellent pour-over, we love it even more as a cold brew. The long steeping time brings out the more subtle flavour notes of the dual origins, while the inherently mild body keeps it from swinging from refreshing to overly rich.
You can expect a pronounced sweetness with hints of apple, cherry, and a touch of cocoa.
Based in California, Verve is another small batch roastery committed to sourcing only the highest grade specialty coffees from around the world and roasting them to just the right level to amplify their natural qualities.
The Kenya Karimikui stems from the Kirinyaga region of Kenya, located at over 6,000 feet on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya. The Karimikui factory purchases coffee beans from over 1,000 nearby small farms, all members of the Rungeto Farmers Cooperative Society.
The society has been a remarkable success story in the region. The Karimikui factory is now known for producing some of the best coffee beans in the world.
The whole beans are wet-processed in Kenya, and Verve selects only the largest A.A. beans for roasting to a perfect light roast in California. The result is a dynamic and dense brew that is surprisingly full-bodied for light roasted beans.
The flavour has a sweetness that sings of carrot cake and balances acidic notes of lime and guava.
How to Choose the Best Light Roast Coffee
There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right light roasted coffee. Do you want a single origin or a blend? Arabica coffee beans or Robusta beans? Do you prefer 100% Arabica beans? How important is an organic or fair trade certification? Don’t worry, our buyer’s guide is here to walk you through it all.
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||Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Ethiopian Sidamo Guji Coffee||
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||Peet’s Coffee Costa Rica Aurora||
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||Kuju Coffee Angel’s Landing||
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||Dune Zip Zinger||
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||Peet’s Coffee Colombia Luminosa Breakfast Blend Light Roast||
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One of the biggest contributions to a coffee’s taste is its region of origin. The climate, soil, growing conditions, and processing methods influence the flavours equally. This is particularly true of light roasts because, as compared with dark roast coffee, their flavours are less affected by the roasting process.
(If you want to understand the how’s of roasting coffee and how roasting affects flavour, you might want to know how to roast coffee yourself or learn about light roast, medium roast, vs dark roast here)
A bag of coffee beans can consist of all beans grown in the same area, known as single-origin, or of a mixture of beans from different regions, which is known as a blend. There are pros and cons to each style. In either case, if you have access to a good grinder, opt for the whole bean rather than pre-ground coffee. In this way, you can be sure you’re experiencing them as fresh as possible.
A great light roasted coffee is an excellent place to start if you’re interested in the flavours of a specific region.
In a blend, we use different beans to mellow out the overall flavour, making them more approachable and more consistent. In contrast, single origins are unique and exotic, showcasing the flavours and terroir of a specific area. Still, they can have sour notes or strong acidity that doesn’t appeal to every palate (1).
[SIngle origin coffee] flavour depicts its origin, possessing characteristics of that specific area where the particular coffee was grown.
Yet, if you’re looking for a light roast blend, they are often labelled as a breakfast blend.
There are two commercially grown coffee bean types around the world, Arabica and Robusta. When buying light roasted coffee, you almost certainly want to seek out Arabica beans (2).
Long regarded as the higher-quality bean, Arabicas make up about three-quarters of current commercial crops. Their prized reputation stems from their more pronounced acidity and a sweeter, softer taste, with notes of sugar, fruit, and berries, all of which is perfectly highlighted in light roast coffees (3).
Light roasts retain more of the flavours of the coffee bean and this profile can emphasise floral and citrus notes.
In comparison, Robusta beans have a harsher, grain-like taste, with a nutty finish. They remain popular, particularly in instant coffee, because they can thrive at lower elevations and are more resistant to pests and weather fluctuations. They also contain twice as much caffeine as Arabicas and have garnered some fans as a result.
The most enjoyable coffee for sale today is Arabica, which is particularly true for light roasts. For a selection of great Arabica beans, check out our list of best coffee beans.
That said, some producers experiment with higher quality Robustas. These offer their nuanced flavours that appeal to some tasters’ palates and make an excellent addition to Arabica-Robusta blends. Rich and dark roast Robustas will balance the fruity and acidic Arabica.
Shopping for coffee by considering certifications is a socially conscious decision. Still, for light beans, this is especially important as they draw the essence of their flavour from the bean origin rather than the roasting. Thus, the way coffee beans are grown, collected, and distributed is a determining factor in their quality and taste.
There are many certifications available to coffee beans these days, with different countries and special interest groups offering their own. So, it can be difficult for the consumer to determine the legitimacy of each.
Here are some of the most common certifications available and what they mean (4):
In the U.S., coffees are USDA Organic if they are grown in a way that supports biodiversity and enhances soil health by using only approved substances and organic farming methods. If organic is important to you, here are our favorite organic coffee brands.
Fair Trade is another American certification that ensures that coffee production includes social, environmental, and economic standards that protect the health of people and the Planet. Coffee farmers receive a fair price, community development projects, and establish long term working relationships with buyers. Similar practices might be labelled “ethically sourced” or “direct trade”.
Read more about fair trade coffee here.
Kosher is a term used to describe food following the strict dietary standards of traditional Jewish law. Coffee naturally complies with Kosher standards, but a Kosher certification ensures that you are getting 100% coffee, with no additives or processing methods that might violate Kosher standards.
Coffees certified by the Rainforest Alliance take into account biodiversity conservation and community development, a combination that improves both environmental and socio-economic aspects of coffee growing regions.
Brewing light roasted beans is a great way to experience the inherent flavours of the coffee beans honestly. With their bright acidity and typical fruit and chocolate flavours, there’s a light roast out there to satisfy every coffee lover.
Our favourite this year is Lifeboost’s signature light roast, made up of single-origin whole beans shade-grown in Nicaragua mountains. This brightly flavoured organic coffee features tones of hazelnuts, caramel, and vanilla that are sure to please.
Blonde coffee is not the same as light roast. A blonde roast is a new term that refers to a roast that is lighter than the typical light roast, though unfortunately, some companies use the term interchangeably with a light roast.
Yes, light roast coffee is usually less bitter than dark roast coffee. However, the type of coffee bean and the method of preparation can also play a role in perceived bitterness and acidity of your drink. That said, light roast coffee beans are great for cold brew and pour over method, but they are not quite ideal for French Press or espresso. If bitterness is a huge deal breaker, why not consider flavoured coffee beans instead?
No, a light roast coffee is not inherently healthier than a dark roast. While some studies have claimed that light roasts have more antioxidants than dark roasts, (7), others have shown that dark roast coffees are better for reducing body weight and restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione concentrations (8). In either case, effects are small, so you’re better off drinking a cup of coffee with delicious taste, which boosts your mental health.
No, light roast coffee doesn’t have more caffeine, though that is a common myth. The truth is that light roasted beans are simply denser. So, if you measure by volume, rather than by weight, you will be brewing more coffee when you make a light roast, and thus getting more caffeine (9).
- Pipunic, A. (2015, September 14). Everything You Need To Know About Single Origin Coffees. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2015/09/everything-you-need-to-know-about-single-origin-coffees/
- Balwin, J. (2009, June 22). Arabica vs. Robusta: No Contest. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/06/arabica-vs-robusta-no-contest/19780/
- Riportella, K. (2019, October 9). How to Adjust Your Brewing Recipe for Coffee Roast Level. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/10/how-to-adjust-your-brewing-recipe-for-coffee-roast-level/
- Bradley, E. (2017, August 10). Coffee Certifications. Retrieved from https://www.freshcup.com/coffee-certifications/
- Forster, M. (2018, May 2). Kay Cheon’s Coffee Mastery. Retrieved from https://www.independent.com/2018/05/02/kay-cheons-coffee-mastery/
- What is Sugar Cane E. A. Decaf? (2017, August 30). Retrieved from https://speedwellcoffee.com/blogs/news/what-is-sugar-cane-e-a-decaf
- Bellomo, R. (2017, July 7). Why You Should Always Order Light Roast Coffee. Retrieved from https://www.delish.com/food-news/news/a54182/light-roast-coffee-health-benefits/
- Kotyczka C, Boettler U, Lang R, Stiebitz H, Bytof G, Lantz I, Hofmann T, Marko D, Somoza V. (2011, October). Dark roast coffee is more effective than light roast coffee in reducing body weight, and in restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione concentrations in healthy volunteers. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21809439
- Kicking Horse Coffee. (n.d.). Caffeine Myths: Dark Vs. Light. Retrieved from https://www.kickinghorsecoffee.com/en/blog/caffeine-myths-dark-vs-light