This past weekend, we were giving out samples of Crickle Creek coffee to the attendees of a Chinook Blast Fat Bike event held at Shaganappi Point Golf Course. While there, someone I was chatting with asked: “Does coffee that has been roasted longer (dark) have less caffeine?”
I’ll describe the roasting process simply before getting to the answer. When you roast coffee, you are basically applying heat to the bean and transforming its structure to create the amazing product we all enjoy so much. The first thing that happens is a loss of moisture in the bean. The bean basically goes from a 10-12% moisture content to 1-2% as water is lost. The coffee beans expand and begin to change colour from pale green to pale yellow, then tan and finally brown.
Through the roast, the coffee beans begin gaining acidity and aroma, as well as body as Maillard reactions occur. I am no expert but these are the chemical reactions between amino acids and sugars that give the coffee bean its complexity. I only took chemistry in high school, so I am no expert!
However, there is a point in the roasting process when acidity and body begin to decline while bitterness begins to go up. That is the reason that bitterness is more prevalent in the darker roasts like our Guatemala or Sumatra.
So what happens to caffeine? Well, caffeine is stable at roasting temperatures so it basically remains the same inside the bean. However, beans lose mass during the roast, with darker roasts losing more mass. So, if you weigh the beans when making your cup of coffee and brew it using a ratio of water to coffee, you will actually end up with more caffeine intake from the darker roasts since you will need more beans.
So, that was the long answer. The short one, the roast level does not impact caffeine content. It is basically the same!
Now, here is a parting tip this week. You do not have to choose between caffeine or no caffeine in your coffee. We have some blends that are “half caffeinated”, like our Sunnyside Light. We basically blend a decaf with a regular coffee and you get half the caffeine. Caffeine will stay in your system for the same amount of time (I have read 12 hours) but it won’t be as much. For folks that developed a sensitivity to caffeine, this is surely a great alternative. Same amazing taste and body, plus a bit of kick minus the jitters.