May 18, 2023

Is dark roast coffee better than light roast for coffee capsules?

Look around any major store and you’ll see how popular coffee pods and coffee capsules are right now. This boom has meant that we’ve now got more choices than ever before. Today, there is a large range of flavors, origins and roast profiles on offer.

But to be honest, it can also be a little confusing. What’s the difference between Ethiopian and Brazilian coffee? Which brand should you buy? And what are light and dark roast coffees?

For that last question, there’s a pretty simple answer. These are phrases that describe how long and the level to which a coffee has been roasted. Roast level has a major impact on how it tastes, sure. But is one better than the other when you’re buying espresso capsules? Let’s take a look. 

A lever on a coffee roasting machine used for controlling temperature.

What is dark roast coffee and how is it different from light roast coffee?

Once a roaster buys a bag of green coffee, there is one more step before it’s ready to grind and fill one of our espresso capsules: roasting.

Roasting coffee is key to unlocking its innate flavors. When you roast coffee, it goes from being a raw, non-volatile product (tough, hard green beans) to volatile, aromatic, and ready to grind and brew. 

Roasting coffee is a precise art. There is a “sweet spot” based on temperature and color where you need to stop, depending on your flavor preferences. That spot can be anywhere between 385 and 470°F. Below this, the coffee is still “raw” and doesn’t break down properly in a grinder. Beyond this, you burn it, and end up being able to taste nothing but smoke and ash.

But within this temperature range, there is still plenty of variance. In the coffee industry, we often use a scale that runs from “light” (less time in the roaster) to “dark” (more time in the roaster). “Medium”, unsurprisingly, falls somewhere in the middle. 

The flavors of light and dark roast coffee

The lighter you roast, the more delicate the coffee is. With lighter roasts, you’re more able to taste subtle, complex flavor notes that are created as a result of the coffee’s variety, the processing method, the weather, altitude, and soil content – all the things farmers work hard on before it’s shipped to the roastery. 

The exact flavor will differ massively depending on these factors. However, you can generally expect more acidity, fruity and floral flavors (depending on origin), and a lighter mouthfeel. 

As we roast darker, the more delicate flavor notes in coffee disappear. In their place, we get a full body and a more uniform flavor profile, with common notes typically including caramel, chocolate, and toasted nuts. Dark roast coffees also work incredibly well with milk.

Ultimately, light roasts have become more popular for pour over, batch brew, and other drip coffee brewing methods. On the other hand, dark roasts are more universal, with a bold, “classic” flavor profile that many coffee drinkers still love.

A coffee capsule machine specifically designed for Metropolis Coffee pods.

How do coffee capsule machines extract coffee?

At Metropolis, we carefully manufacture commercially compostable Nespresso original line coffee capsules using a cutting-edge Italian filling and sealing system. Our capsules are filled to perfection, sealed with filter paper, and nitrogen-flushed to ensure customers always get a cup of fresh, high-quality coffee.

When you slot one of our espresso capsules into a Nespresso original line machine, the magic begins. The water in the machine is heated to approximately 194°F, and forced through the pod at high pressure, breaking the seal. The water then pushes through the coffee, extracting all the flavor and aroma compounds. Finally, it runs through the machine’s spout and drops into your cup.

Coffee capsule machines are calibrated to provide consistently high flow rates. This ensures that each cup is consistent and not under or over-extracted. This is also why it only takes seconds to make a coffee with one of our espresso capsules – everything has been fine-tuned to perfection.

This extraction time is a big discussion point – and it’s also relevant when we talk about roast profiles. Dark roast coffee is more soluble (which means it extracts more quickly). So, does this mean it’s better or worse for espresso capsules?

Coffee professionals sample roasted coffee intended for coffee capsules.

So which roast profile is the best?

The simple (but annoying) answer is that it depends on what flavor you’re looking for. Provided you’re buying good-quality coffee capsules and using the right kind of machine, the extraction time for your coffee capsule should be fine no matter how the coffee is roasted and the flavor will be delicious.

study conducted in 2020 shows that there are a set of rules that you can follow if you want to figure out which coffee works best for single-serve (i.e. espresso capsule) coffee. However, given the variation in single-serve production (between espresso capsules, coffee pods, and so on), it’s difficult to generalize.

Similarly, while many capsule machines have similar capabilities and mechanisms, extraction does vary from model to model – making it even more difficult to make any sweeping claim about one roast profile being better than another.

Ultimately, whether or not dark roast coffee is better than light roast coffee for capsules will also depend on your customers. Dark roasts tend to be a bit more universally popular across demographics. They have a “classic”, bold flavor profile, and they work well with milk. This makes them a safer bet for most large-scale hospitality applications – such as hotels and restaurants.

That’s not to say certain consumer demographics won’t prefer a lighter, more delicate coffee, however. Specialty coffee drinkers have shown a preference for complexity and nuance in the coffee they drink – so your mileage may vary. 

Metropolis Coffee espresso capsules

Luckily, we've done all the hard work and research so that you don't have to. Our team knows everything there is to know about espresso capsules, and with a range of light, medium, and dark roast coffees.

Working with a private-label or co-packing coffee capsule company also makes it much easier to offer high-quality coffee capsules – you don’t need to worry about needing an industrial-grade roller mill, a filling and sealing machine, or nitrogen-flushing your own coffee.

Interested in learning more? Check out our wholesale co-packing and private-label espresso capsule solutions today.

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Metropolis Coffee is not affiliated with, endorsed, or sponsored by Nespresso. Nespresso is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé.