Strong Coffee: Extraction vs. Roast Level

There are so many ways to enjoy a cup of coffee. Some people prefer the sweeter taste that comes from a latte, others like a basic black cup of coffee, while others will go for a concentrated shot of espresso. With so many different variations of beverages made from the coffee bean, it can be difficult to know what someone is wanting when they describe their ideal cup of coffee.

Many people say that they like their coffee “strong,” and mean that they like their coffee as a dark roast. Others may assume that a strong cup of coffee has more caffeine, which is what they are really after. There are different ways to define a cup of coffee, but the term “strength” has less to do with the roast level than it does with the level of extraction (or under-extraction) that goes along with a cup of coffee.

Extraction vs. Roast Level 

A Strong Cup of Coffee 

The strength of a cup of coffee is actually referred to as the extraction. Put simply, coffee that is under-extracted will have less water per gram of coffee, making the coffee taste more concentrated, or “stronger.” Coffee that is under-extracted will be more “watery,” and will not have as strong of a taste. This is what many people may be referring to when they say that they want a strong cup of coffee, a cup of coffee that is more concentrated.

Caffeine Level

The slightly addictive substance in coffee is known as caffeine. People drink coffee for the taste, but the shot of caffeine is what many people are looking for as they brew their favorite morning beverage. Some people may be brewing a “dark” roast because of the idea that this stronger roast level will have more caffeine.

In truth, there is a slight variance between light and dark roast as far as roast level. Some people will tell you that a lighter roast has more caffeine, while others stick to the notion that a darker roast has more caffeine. However, if caffeine is what someone is looking for, the best bet is to use more coffee per gram of water than before. Or, if they are ordering a latte at a coffee shop, to ask for 2 more shots of espresso. The best way to get more caffeine is to use more coffee, not use a darker or lighter roast.

Roast Level

What many people may be referring to when they order a “strong” cup of coffee is a dark roast. The dark roast is a favorite of many Americans and many people around the world, despite the third-wave coffee movement that is pushing lighter roast levels. If someone enjoys a darker roast, then for the sake of the barista knowing what to make them, it would be best to refer to their desired coffee as a dark roast and not a “strong” cup of coffee.

How to Order the Right Drink

Now that we know the difference between extraction, caffeine amount, and roast level, we know the ways to best order the coffee that we want. Some people are just looking for a bit more caffeine to start their day. Others want a dark roast but have not known the best way to refer to their coffee, and others simply want a cup that leans on the under-extracted side because they like the taste of a truly strong cup of coffee.

There is no right or wrong way to enjoy a cup of coffee. Coffee is generally an acquired taste to begin with, and we all develop different preferences when it comes it to our ideal cup of coffee. The best way to learn what one likes is to order lots of different coffee beverages and roast levels and learn which one they enjoy the most!

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