Best Light Roast Coffee in 2023 (Treat Your Taste Buds Right)
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 six picks for the best light roast coffee this year. These are the cream of the crop.
The 6 Best Light Roast Coffee in 2023
|San Lorenzo Colombia Single Origin||
|Coffee Masters Colombian Organic||
|Ethiopia Yirgachefe (Volcanica)||
|Goat Story Rwanda Gasharu Rugori||
|Brazilian Santos Coffee Beans||
First off, what makes coffee light roast? Simple. The answer lies in the length of the coffee 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.
Note: This guide will focus on light roasted coffee only. For other great coffee beans read our guide to the best coffee beans here.
1. San Lorenzo Colombia Single Origin – Best Overall
Enjoy a low-acidity coffee that’s produced in fertile volcanic soils and carefully created microclimates. This is a rare single-origin coffee from Colombia that’s grown in ideal altitude conditions.
San Lorenzo coffee has notes of raisin, dark chocolate, and lychee. You can brew it as a filter coffee and it works perfectly as an espresso.
It is grown organically without the use of pesticides. San Lorenzo Single Origin has been tested for pesticides and mycotoxins, so you get a healthy coffee that can be consumed every day.
It works with espresso machines, Aeropress, mocha pots, and cafetière. It’s delicious with milk and on its own.
2. Coffee Masters Colombian Organic – For the Adventurous Coffee Drinker
Coffee Masters Colombian is an organic fair-trade coffee ideally made for espresso. Made with 100% organic Arabica beans, this is a light roast single-origin coffee. It has a unique taste with winey notes that will remind you of orange zest and dark chocolate.
There is a sweet aftertaste of caramel with slightly roasted nuttiness. The coffee beans are grown in Antioquia/Medellin in Colombia and roasted in the UK. While it’s ideally made for espresso, you can also make a French press with a cafetiere.
This Coffee Masters coffee comes with a fair trade certification meaning the Colombian farmers were provided fair working conditions and workers received decent wages for their work.
3. Sweet Brazil – Budget Pick
The Brown Bear Coffee Co. adds a bit of a feel-good factor to the purchase of their beans. They work in partnership with Free the Bears UK, donating 5% of their sales to the charity. Free the Bears works to rescue bears in SE Asia from bile farms and raise them in sanctuaries.
Beyond feeling warm and fuzzy, you’ll also be getting a good brew at a nice price. The 100% Arabica beans have been sourced from Brazil, with a blend that shows the soft, sweet characteristics that the country is known for. With plenty of chocolate and caramel notes coming through with the light roast, this coffee is best enjoyed without milk.
You can buy this as ground coffee, but you won’t have the choice of grind sizes. Brown Bear offer what they call their Omni grind, which is best suited to a French press, drip filters or AeroPress.
4. Volcanica’s Ethiopia Yirgachefe – Best Premium Coffee
Yirgacheffe is one of those names that immediately grabs the attention of serious coffee lovers. Just like Kona or Blue Mountain, it’s a growing region that produces highly sought-after beans. These beans are gathered from wild coffee trees from the Yirgacheffe region in southern Ethiopia.
A cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is medium bodied, fruity, sweet and deeply complex. It even manages to bring a slightly bitter element without upsetting the cup. Flavours include hints of strawberry, dark chocolate, cedar, and pineapple guava, along with chocolate, lavender, and a “spirits-tinged finish.” Volcanica is one of our favourite roasters, so you won’t make a mistake if going with them!
5. Goat Story Rwanda Gasharu Rugori – Rarest Find
Goat Story’s Rwanda Gasharu Rugori is a delicious coffee and a social movement all wrapped up in one. Rugori means “Woman’s Crown” in the local language, a reference to the inspiration behind this coffee: to make women’s work better acknowledged in the coffee industry. These beans were produced and processed entirely by women, and one sip will be all it takes for you to understand their importance.
The Gasharu Rugori is a fantastic and complex coffee. It has been awarded an 86 out of 100 by the SCA, well above the 82 needed to qualify as specialty coffee. In the cup you’ll taste red berries, green tea, herbs, and cherries, with subtle acidity in the form of apples and oranges. This flavour profile is common in East Africa, also characterizing many of the best Ethiopian and Kenyan light roasts.
This light bodied coffee makes an excellent pour over brew, giving a clean cup that allows each flavour to shine. However, it also makes a fine French press and a surprisingly refreshing cold brew.
6. Brazilian Santos Coffee Beans – Best Brazilian Coffee
This light bodied-coffee comes with complex flavours and is ideal for an experienced coffee aficionado. It has a mild and smooth flavour with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Brazilian Santos has a distinctly balanced aroma that will take you back to the coffee plantations in Brazil. The coffee is hand roasted which gives it a uniform light roast.
Scott and Co is a small family-based business that offers high-quality coffees roasted in Yorkshire. Since all coffee is hand-roasted, each bean gets human attention and the coffee is quality-checked before being packed.
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.
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.
Note: If you want to understand the how’s of roasting coffee and how the roasting process 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 (2).
[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 (3).
Long regarded as the higher-quality coffee 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 (4).
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 content 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 favourite 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 lightly 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 San Lorenzo’s Colombian Single origin. This brightly flavoured organic coffee features tones of raisin, dark chocolate, and lychee which 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. These coffee beans are also great for 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, (5), others have shown that dark roast coffees are better for reducing body weight and restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione concentrations (6). 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 (7).
- Harper J. (2019, March 19). Understanding The Myth of Heirloom Variety Coffee. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/03/understanding-the-myth-of-heirloom-variety-coffee/
- 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-coffee/
- 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/
- 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://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21809439/
- (n.d.) CAFFEINE MYTHS: DARK VS. LIGHT. Retrieved from https://www.kickinghorsecoffee.com/caffeine-myths-dark-vs-light