You might be looking to find your next everyday go-to blend, or having company over soon and want a nice crisp coffee ready. Or perhaps it’s your turn to purchase coffee for the office and you don’t want to get complaints.
There are literally thousands of options when it comes to light roast coffee. Having so many choices is fantastic for us, consumers, but it can also be rather overwhelming.
We’re here to help you out with our top picks on the best light roast coffee.
Let’s get started.
In a rush? Here’s the BEST OF THE BEST
Top Pick - Kicking Horse Coffee, Hola, Light Roast
With this light blend that’s roasted in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, you’ll find notes of rich dark chocolate, brown sugar, and roasted hazelnuts. And no, it’s not just because our team is Canadian that we’re recommending this blend. It really is that great! Easily recognizable by its black packaging and pink circle featuring a donkey with heart eyes, it truly lives up to its motto: “Wake Up and Kick Ass”.
Our Joe Rating: 9.5/10
Best Light Roast Coffee Ranked (best to worst)
- Kicking Horse Coffee, Hola, Light Roast
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Breakfast Blend
- McCafé Breakfast Blend Light Roast
- Cameron's Coffee Breakfast Blend
- Caribou Coffee, Daybreak Morning Blend Light Roast
- Victor Allen's Coffee Morning Blend Light Roast
- Starbucks Veranda Blend - Blonde Roast
- Real Good Coffee Co, Breakfast Blend Light Roast
- AmazonFresh Just Bright Ground Coffee, Light Roast
Note: All links to directly to Amazon. If you'd like to know more about each blend, please use the Table of Contents below.
What is light roast coffee?
As the name implies, it’s when the beans are just lightly roasted. They are roasted to an internal temperature of around 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas darks roasts can reach up to 450 degrees. Keeping a cooler internal temperature maintains a more complex symphony of the bean’s natural flavors and aromas. Because of this, some believe it’s the only true taste of coffee.
A little tip: looking at the light-roast bean, they can often be identified both by their lighter shade of brown, as well as by being coated with little to no oil.
Light roasts are sometimes referred to as Breakfast blends. This is a little confusing because not all breakfast blends are roasted lightly and not all light roasts and breakfast blends. If you’d like to know more about breakfast blends, check out our article where we answer the question “What Is Breakfast Blend Coffee?”
An Indepth Look at Our Picks
The following are our picks of the “creme de la creme” of lighter roast coffees widely available on the market today. We’ve already mentioned our top pick, that being the Kicking Horse Coffee Hola Light Roast. In no particular order:
You might be thinking, “I came here to find something unique, perhaps a little kitsch, exclusive, and maybe even slightly pretentious; something I’ve never heard of before.” And here we are offering Starbucks as a contender. Truth is, they wouldn’t have made the cut if they didn’t deliver. Remember that Starbucks isn’t just your overpriced, neighborhood cliché. They are a company with genuine roots in everything coffee. They do have expertise in the field and all the extra pop and fizz they are now was shaped by years of customer demand; every successful company has to adapt in order to stay relevant. Despite the extra “floof” (merch, good, etc.), Starbucks’ coffee quality has been kept consistent. And it first made them a star for a reason.
The popular Latin American Veranda Blend features notes of toasted malt and baking chocolate.
We would have rated this one higher but the taste has seemed to have changed recently, or so say the reviews. When Starbucks updated their packaging for this blend, a lot of people noticed a change (for the worse) in the coffee flavor itself. Maybe some are imagining it since the company stated that it's just the packaging color. Only time will tell how this plays out.
Note: this blend is different than their blonde roast.
Our Joe Rating: 9.1/10
This Wisconsin-based company has a wide range of interesting mixes and flavors (we still want to try their Hostess® Twinkies® Flavored, Medium Roast). However, they also know how to create brew coffee for the common person. Their morning blend has a very neutral kick which is perfect for someone looking for a safe bet.
Our Joe Rating: 9.2/10
Amazon is more known for its overall domination of ecommerce (and the world), not so much for its coffee. Even so, they are trying their hand at the brew game. This particular product is a light roast with beans sourced from Central and South America that are meant to deliver a crisp and clean-tasting coffee. The biggest factor that separates this from others on this list is its budget-friendly pricing.
Our Joe Rating: 8.8/10
Caribou Coffee isn’t a household name like Starbucks is. It has less than 2% of what Starbucks has for stores worldwide. One thing they do have is some great tasting coffee.
This blend of beans come from the Americas and East Africa and is advertised as having a cheerful tangy sweetness with a balanced nutty finish. They describe it as “Sunshine in your mouth!”. We love that analogy.
It’s also Rainforest Alliance Certified which means it’s a product recognized for contributing toward a better future for people and our planet.
Our Joe Rating: 9.2/10
This three-decades-old, Seattle-based company is quite literal with their name – Real Good Coffee. They advertise that they take a simple approach to their coffee which is also shown in their basic, non-flashy packaging. Let’s see if it paying more attention to the beans and less on the marketing pays off.
This light roast features a brisk citrus taste with smooth aromatic notes of milk chocolate and cream.
Our Joe Rating: 9.0/10
Green Mountain puts a lot of emphasis on their responsibility to the land and its people (the farmers and the community). A quick look at their website will show how serious they are about helping to create an ethical farming system. Also, as of 2020, all of their coffee is now 100% responsibly sourced. Does all this love come through in their beans? In a nutshell, yes, it absolutely does.
You’ll find this blend in particular to be mellow, smooth, with a good balance of sweetness and nuttiness.
Our Joe Rating: 9.5/10
Advertised as using only 100% certified specialty-grade beans that make up the top 10% beans in the world. I mean, that sounds impressive but top 10% in what? Quality, flavor, overall, or something else? It’s too vague of a statement to really hit home. Regardless, they do make some darn good coffee. This breakfast blend is one of their tamer options. A quick scan of their lineup will also reveal interesting light roast flavors such as Pumpkin Spice, White Chocolate Peppermint, and Buttered Rum. Yum, Yum!
Our Joe Rating: 9.3/10
We know, we know, this isn’t an exotic option. McDonalds is most well-known for its Big Mac but they’ve been really upping their coffee game in the past decade. They’re even taking market share from big players in the coffee space like Starbucks. You can only do that if you have good tasting coffee and their morning blend if one of the best.
They source the beans from the mountainous regions of Central and South America which is known for growing beans with bright aftertaste.
In their marketing copy, they mention their coffee as being “Fat-Free” which is… a little humorous since all coffee is fat-free but hey, props to their marketing team for steering their public image in a more health-conscious direction.
Our Joe Rating: 9.4/10
Now that we’ve covered the best light roast coffees, here are answers to some common questions we get about light roasts.
What makes light roast coffee better?
This is completely subjective and depends on everyone’s personal taste.
That being said, those who prefer light roasts enjoy the fact that they can taste the country of origin in the flavor of the beans. For example, if you have a bean from, say, Kenya, and if it’s roasted only lightly, the natural fruit flavors get to come through and shine. This characteristic of a light roast is also usually better for those just being introduced to coffee as it doesn’t give off any bitter taste. Some purists believe drinking light brews is the only true way to taste a cup of joe.
On the other side of the coin, those who enjoy dark roasts more boast about its richness and strong, bold flavor. They are the ones who will usually complain that light roasts are too “watered down”.
Is light roast coffee healthier?
The short answer, based on a study completed and published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (a peer-reviewed journal), yes, it is healthier. (1)
In this study, the researchers measured the level of caffeine and chlorogenic acid at four different roast levels ranging from light to French. They determine that the caffeine level varied only slightly but an increased reduction of chlorogenic acid, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties was found the longer the beans were roasted.
This means, if you really want to maximize the benefits from drinking coffee, stick with the lightly roasted beans.
Does light roast coffee have less acid?
No. But on the bright side, it doesn’t have more acid than any other roasts. This can change depending on the origin of the bean and how the coffee is brewed.
On the whole though, coffee isn’t all that acidic. Distilled water has a pH level of 7 (neutral) and black coffee is usually found at a pH of 5. This is the level where you can also find bananas and orange juice. As a reference, lemons have a pH level of 2.
How can I make coffee less acidic?
There are certain tricks you can use to make your coffee less acidic. They include brewing with distilled water, adding a pinch of salt to the beans, finding beans from low elevations, and adding milk or creamer to balance the pH levels.
Truthfully, these are all temporary fixes. It might take some trial and error until you find a blend that sits well with you.
Some companies do offer a “low acid blend” so if you are concerned about acidity, search specifically for that feature.
Is light roast coffee less bitter?
Yes. The longer beans are roasted the more the sugars start to caramelize and the more the aromatic compounds in the beans break down. With light roasts, the roasting process is short enough to not allow reaction to take place.
If you still find light roast coffee bitter, try a coarser grind size with less steeping time. If you’re still having too much of a bitter taste, check to see if your beans are expired. Or, just stick with tea. Another, last-resort option is to find a coffee brewed with a secondary ingredient such as chicory root which simulates the taste of coffee.
What is the difference between light and dark roast coffee?
Ultimately, the short answer here is the roasting time.
The longer the roasting time, the darker and oilier the beans will become, as well as adding notes from the roasting process itself. This provides a fuller, more robust, and smoky flavor. The less time the bean is roasted, the more it will retain of the original flavor and aromas.
Coffee roasters constantly experiment with different origin of beans, blends, and roasting times.
Is light roast coffee the strongest? Which has more caffeine?
There isn’t much of a difference in the caffeine level between light and dark roasts. But, if you wanted to split hairs, light roast will have slightly more if measured by scoop. This is because the beans don’t lose as much water in the roasting process thus, are denser.
If you want more caffeine, add more beans or try another brewing method that allows a longer steep, like using a French press.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best light roast coffees are inspired you to give one we’ve suggested a taste for yourself.
Do you have any experience with light roast coffee? What do you think of it? Did we cover everything? Let us know by leaving a comment below.