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10 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 ten 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.

Top Pick

Matambo

Square Miles Coffee’s Matambo is a blend that highlights the classic flavours of the Colombian Huila region. With Matambo, this premium-growing region gives us unique fruity flavours with bright acidity.

The 10 Best Light Roast Coffee in 2021

ImageProductDetails
Best Overall Best Overall
matambo square mile
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Square Mile Colombia Matambo
  • No certifications
  • Whole bean coffee
  • Colombia – Huila
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For The Adventurous Coffee Drinker For The Adventurous Coffee Drinker
Kerasha Kinini
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Stokes Kerashi Kinini
  • Ethically sourced
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Rwanda
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Budget Pick Budget Pick
Brown Bear Sweet Brazil
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Sweet Brazil
  • No certifications
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Brazil
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Best Premium Coffee Best Premium Coffee
Ethiopia Yirgachefe G1 Chelelektu
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Ethiopia Yirgachefe G1 Chelelektu
  • Vegan
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Ethiopia
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Rarest Coffee Rarest Coffee
Guatemala El Morito No 97
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Guatemala El Morito No 97
  • No certifications
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Guatemala – Jalapa
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Best African Coffee Best African Coffee
Kimondo PB Tanzania
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Kimondo PB Tanzania
  • No certifications
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Tanzania – Mbozi
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Best Gender Equality Best Gender Equality
pact coffee women's lot
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Remera Women’s Lot
  • Direct Trade sourced
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Rwanda
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Best Natural-Processed Coffee Best Natural-Processed Coffee
Costa Rica San Isidro
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Costa Rica San Isidro
  • Single estate
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Costa Rica – San Isidro
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Best Peaberry Beans Best Peaberry Beans
Kenya Peaberry ADAMS AND RUSSELL
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Kenya Peaberry
  • none listed
  • Ground and whole bean
  • Kenya – Nyeri
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Las Brumas El Salvador
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Las Brumas El Salvador
  • Carbon neutral
  • Whole bean
  • El Salvador – Cordillera del Balsamo
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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.

1. Square Mile Colombia Matambo – Best Overall

Specifications

  • Certifications: none listed

  • Ground or whole bean: Whole bean coffee
  • Origin: Colombia – Huila
  • Varietal: Arabica – Caturra, Colombia

Square Mile Coffee was founded by Anette Moldvaer and James Hoffmann with a focus on wholesale. They work with cafes in and around London that are just as passionate as they are about quality, speciality coffee. But if you’re not near one of the cafes that serve Square Mile, the good news is you can buy the beans directly through the website.

The Huila region of Colombia is one of the country’s premium growing regions, and in 2013 was awarded Denomination of Origin status. Beans from Huila are wash processed and are known for having a very fruity flavour and bright acidity. 

Matambo is a group of 26 smallholders that grow coffee in the Huila region. They grow both Caturra and Colombia varietals that are mixed together when the group combines their beans at a small communal mill. This blend highlights the classic flavours of the region, with notes of cherry and apricot and an all-around juicy cup.

2. Stokes Kerashi Kinini – For the adventurous coffee drinker

Specifications

  • Certifications: Ethically sourced

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Rwanda
  • Varietal: Arabica – Bourbon

Back in 1902, Harold Stokes took over a grocery store in Lincoln and used his new store to sell fine teas and coffees. Many awards later and with two cafes to their name, Stokes is still a family-run business, with a focus on speciality coffees and teas. 

Like many coffees grown by smallholder farms, these beans are named after the local washing station, rather than an estate. Kinini Washing Station works with more than 600 farmers in long-term partnerships, ensuring a stable future in what has historically been a very troubled area.

While you might expect a company with such a long history to go for traditional, tried and tested blends, these beans are aimed more at the adventurous coffee drinker. The slow-grown Bourbon beans have developed an unusual flavour profile – along with typical fruit notes you’ll also taste tangy ripe tomato. They’ve been carefully given a light roast to ensure all of these flavours are retained. Enjoy as a pour-over or French press brew.

3. Sweet Brazil – Budget Pick

Specifications

  • Certifications: none listed

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Brazil
  • Varietal: Arabica

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. Ethiopia Yirgachefe G1 Chelelektu – Best Premium Coffee

Specifications

  • Certifications: Vegan

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Ethiopia
  • Varietal: Arabica – Heirloom

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 have been ethically sourced by Ovenbird, who hunt out beans with exciting and unusual flavour profiles, before carefully hand-roasting them.

Even among Yirgacheffe beans, this coffee is something special. It’s listed as coming from heirloom beans, which aren’t a particular varietal, rather it means these cultivars have been in use for more than 50-100 years (1). It’s common for Ethiopian beans not to be classified by varietal, instead, they are named for the washing station where they are processed.

Chelelektu washing station, found in the south of the country, has been making waves on the international coffee scene, with some incredible beans emerging in the last few years. The G1 here signifies that they are Grade 1 – the highest available. And this particular crop earned a cupping score of 88. The light roast pays tribute to the natural juicy flavours of the coffee, with notes of mango, passionfruit and sweet citrus.

5. Guatemala El Morito No 97 – Rarest coffee

Specifications

  • Certifications: none listed

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Guatemala – Jalapa
  • Varietal: Arabica – Pacamara

Taste, quality and sustainability above all else. That’s the motto of the boldly branded Rave Coffee. It’s true that the Gloucestershire brand manages to balance all of the things we want to see in a coffee provider. They strive to keep prices reasonable, while at the same time sourcing only coffee that scores above 82 for blends, and 84 for single origins. Rave has teamed up with 1% for the Planet, so your purchase will help charities including Fauna & Flora International, One Tree Planted and Project Waterfall.

Farmer Jose Roberto Montessoro is responsible for these beans. Placing 7 times in the last 8 Cup of Excellence Awards, his beans are world-class, and these are no exception. His focus is on careful cultivation to redefine the flavours that a region is known for. Unlike the usual sweet and nutty beans produced here, these Pacamara beans will give you bountiful fruit flavours, with tastes of pomegranate and pink grapefruit, scented with honey blossom and rose.

6. Kimondo PB Tanzania – Best African Coffee

Specifications

  • Certifications: none listed

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Tanzania – Mbozi
  • Varietal: Arabica – Bourbon, Kent

At Artisan Roast, they’re constantly on the look-out for unique flavour profiles and unusual characteristics. This means updating their offerings by the season, refining their in-house roasting process, and doing plenty of travel. Artisan Roast strive to source in an ethical way by forming long-term relationships with micro-lot farmers. As well as ensuring they pay above Fairtrade prices, they support farmers to explore what makes their particular cultivars unique.

Single-origin beans are often seen as superior by coffee snobs but don’t overlook the depth and complexity you can get from a well-crafted blend. The Kimondo label is a product of the Mkulima Kwanza co-operative in the south of Tanzania. Their aim is to get some kudos for this area, as much of Tanzania’s best-known coffee comes from the country’s north.

You can safely say they’ve grabbed our attention with this blend of Bourbon and Kent beans. What you’ve got here is a fruit-forward, citrusy flavour profile, that softens into sweet notes of vanilla and white chocolate. It’s an ideal blend for a pour-over brew.

7. Remera Women’s Lot – Best Gender Equality

Specifications

  • Certifications: Direct Trade sourced

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Rwanda
  • Varietal: Arabica – Bourbon

Pact Coffee has a commitment to ethical sourcing, using the Direct Trade model. This involves creating long-term partnerships with the farmers they source from and paying them well above Fairtrade prices – by an average of 55%. This ethical sourcing happily involves promoting gender equality within the coffee industry.

Women do play a part in traditional coffee production, but where they usually fit in is by hand-sorting the beans at the washing stations. The Remera Women’s Coffee Collective is different – all of these women own their own farms, with a total of 16,420 Arabica trees between them.

Rwandan coffee is known for citrus and berry flavours, with a sweet aftertaste, and these Bourbon beans are no different. Expect rich blackcurrant and lemon in the cup, with a brown sugar finish. This delicate but complex profile is respected by wash processing and a light roast.

8. Costa Rica San Isidro – Best Natural-processed coffee

Specifications

  • Certifications: Single estate

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Costa Rica – San Isidro
  • Varietal: Arabica – Caturra, Catuai

The founding of Thompsons Coffee dates back to 1841, giving them more than 150 years’ experience in selecting and roasting the best beans from around the world. The company is now in the hands of the Jenkins family, but it’s still proudly independently owned. The original Mr Thompson was known for patenting the Napier vacuum coffee maker in 1840, but while the company embraces their rich history, we can safely say that their roasting equipment is state-of-the-art.

The area of San Isidro is found in the highlands of Heredia, a region of Costa Rica that produces some of the highest grades of coffee to come out of the country. Finca San Isidro (named after the area) is a farm run by the Ruiz family for the past four generations, and now with Ernesto Ruiz at the helm.

Ernesto grows a mix of Caturra and Catuai beans to help resist the diseases that have ravaged farms in this area for decades. After going through wash processing and a light roast, these beans will deliver you a fantastic cup of coffee with floral, fruity tastes of honeydew melon, elderflower and nougat.

9. Kenya Peaberry – Best Peaberry beans

Specifications

  • Certifications: none listed

  • Ground or whole bean: both
  • Origin: Kenya – Nyeri
  • Varietal: Arabica Peaberry

Birkenhead roasters Adams & Russell focus on three lines of coffee. First is their Espresso line, medium to dark roast coffee beans suitable for café-style drinks; Single Origin, selected from premium growing regions; and Single Plantation, beans that are fully traceable to micro-lot farms. All beans are then hand-roasted in small batches to ensure freshness and even roasting.

These beans are from the brand’s Single Origin range, sourced from the Nyeri region of Kenya. Beans from this area grow slowly in the volcanic soil, allowing them to develop rich, syrupy flavours. Some have even referred to Nyeri as the Champagne region of Kenya.

Peaberries are a genetic mutation among coffee beans. Around 5% of any given crop will only develop a single bean within the cherry, instead of the normal two. It results in a round, dense bean with a distinct sweetness that roasts evenly. These beans may emit a delicate floral aroma during the brewing process. Once in the cup, you’ll get stronger flavours of citrus and grape, balanced by a hint of bitter cacao.

10. Las Brumas El Salvador

Specifications

  • Certifications: Carbon neutral

  • Ground or whole bean: Whole bean
  • Origin: El Salvador – Cordillera del Balsamo
  • Varietal: Arabia – Bourbon, Pacamara

Kurt Stewart created Volcano Coffee Works in 2010 with a commitment to ethical sourcing and environmentally sustainable production. Farmers are paid a price almost double that of Fairtrade, on long-term contracts to ensure the stability of their livelihood. Volcano only deals with farmers whose practices support the environment and invest in the future of their community. The company’s own sustainability efforts include using Loring smokeless roasters, selling compostable coffee pods and achieving Carbon Neutral certification. 

Las Brumas is a family-run farm in the mountains of the Cordillera Del Balsamo region. Here Aldo Parducci grows Bourbon and Pacamara beans under shade cover before hand-harvesting. The result is a balance of fruit and freshness, with flavours of ripe peaches, baked apples and dried dates.

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.

Bean Origin

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.

best light roast coffees flavors
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Bean type

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.

Light roast coffee in light brown color with no oil on the surface and dark roast whole bean coffee with visibly oily surface
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Certifications

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):

Organic

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

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

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.

Rainforest Alliance

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.

The Verdict

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 Square Lime Coffee’s Matambo. This brightly flavoured organic coffee features tones of apricot and cherry are sure to please.

FAQs

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, (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).

  1. 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/
  2. 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/
  3. 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/
  4. 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/
  5. 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/
  6. 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
  7. (n.d.) CAFFEINE MYTHS: DARK VS. LIGHT. Retrieved from https://www.kickinghorsecoffee.com/caffeine-myths-dark-vs-light

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I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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