Coffee is harvested as cherries, it's the roasting and sometimes blending processes that make it ready to brew. Details about specific roasts and blends are often guarded as trade secrets, but knowing the basics will help you determine if a particular coffee will suit your tastes and preferences.
Proper roast time and temp are dictated by the beans. Origin, flavor and aroma profiles are all taken into account during the roasting process to bring out the best characteristics of the beans. Here's a primer on what you can expect from popular roasts:
Cinnamon - Roasted to 383 °F. Beans are tan in color and yield toasted grain flavors with noticeable acidity, almost tea-like characteristics.
New England - Roasted to 401 °F. Beans are dark tan in color and still acidic but with less toasted flavors, relatively light bodied.
American - Roasted to 410 °F. Beans have a medium-light brown color. This roast is the traditional roast of the eastern U.S. coast.
City - Roasted to 428 °F. Beans display a medium-brown color, flavors are well balanced.
Full City - Roasted to 437 °F. Beans have a medium-dark brown color and a bit of sheen to them, bittersweet notes can sometimes be detected with this roast.
Full and Dark Roasts
Vienna - Roasted to 446 °F. Beans are moderately dark, with noticeable surface oil. Expect caramel flavors and muted acidity.
French - Roasted to 464 °F. Beans display a dark brown color and are moderately shiny, expect a heavy mouthfeel.
- Italian - Roasted to 473 °F. Beans have a deep brown, almost black, color with a lot of surface oil, nearly imperceptible acidity and noticeable burnt notes.