The Subtle Difference Between Continental And High Roast Coffee

Coffee beans and wooden spoons
Coffee beans and wooden spoons - Aoy_Charin/Shutterstock

Looking at the range of coffee beans, it's easy to tell what makes dark roast coffee taste different from light roast coffee. Farther along that scale, specifically when medium roasts start to turn dark, it's more difficult for the average coffee consumer to note the disparity between two similar roasts. Although they're only a few degrees apart, there is a subtle way to tell continental and high roast coffee apart.

Out of the 16 types of coffee roasts, continental beans mark the transition into darker roasts. They're heated at 440 degrees Fahrenheit, a 10-degree increase from the maximum at which medium roast beans are roasted. The higher temperature gives the beans a deep brown color and a slight, oily sheen. On the surface, they may look almost identical to high roast beans, but the slight degree difference between them makes an impact.

High roast beans are heated at an even higher temperature, making the rich brown color more intense. The skins become noticeably more oily, something that occurs when coffee beans are roasted for longer. The sheer silver skins you see on continental beans are practically gone on high roast beans. Both coffee roasts have surpassed the temperature at which caramelization occurs, with the continental roast developing a heady, caramel flavor. High roast beans are a little more complex — they're smokier with some spiced, fruity notes. They also give off a textured mouthfeel, almost like sipping on wine or eating dark chocolate.

Read more: 26 Coffee Hacks You Need To Know For A Better Cup

What Are Continental And High Roast Coffee Beans Best Used For?

Roasted coffee beans and wooden spoon
Roasted coffee beans and wooden spoon - Igor Normann/Shutterstock

Although continental and high roast beans are seen as interchangeable, they have different roles in which they operate best. They're both bitter, yet continental's taste leans a little more straightforward with its smoky, caramel flavor, making it a great option for milkier coffee drinks. A continental roast holds its own in lattes and cappuccinos, not letting the added milk wash out its taste. Additionally, the caramelized flavor isn't at odds with sweeteners added to the coffee.

It's this blend of bold, sweet, and straightforward qualities that makes a medium continental roast one of the best types of beans for a well-balanced Irish coffee. The boldness of the coffee is still present, but it doesn't dominate the Irish whiskey or whipped cream, making for the perfect nightcap. Speaking of, high roast coffee on its own operates beautifully in that role as well. It's the bold, smooth type of drink you want to sip on at the end of dinner. The fruity, chocolatey nuances make for an excellent cup of java to drink alongside dessert. Best drunk undiluted and uninterrupted, high roast coffee is a delicious way to end your evening.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.