Why do people buy light roast coffee?


I like my coffee strong, so I’ve always purchased dark roast beans or grounds. However, it amazes me to see how many light and medium roasts are available at retail. Since these cost just about the same per ounce as the dark stuff, why don’t people just buy dark roast and use fewer scoops? This would seem to achieve the same result as buying a light roast, with the benefit of being a lot cheaper per cup of coffee that you’re brewing.

Perhaps people who like lighter coffee think that dark roasts are for type A personalities or hardcore coffee addicts, so they don’t even consider dark roast as an option. Or maybe the coffee industry has achieved something similar to the “rinse, lather, repeat” messaging that helped shampoo companies increase their sales over the years. In other words, the directive to use one scoop of coffee per cup of water is so powerful that people don’t even consider the option of buying a stronger coffee and reducing the amount they use.

Whatever the cause, the ability of marketers to target different types of coffee to different groups of consumers is an impressive example of product positioning at work. As for me, I switched a while ago from french roast to espresso roast, and I’m using even fewer scoops per pot. I guess that puts me in the tiny subset of coffee drinkers who even think about the math behind it, while everyone else continues to buy the type of coffee that marketers tell them to. That’s a little sad, but certainly attests to the influence that marketing can have on people’s purchasing choices.

2 Responses to “Why do people buy light roast coffee?”

  1. Thanks for the info — I never knew there was such a fundamental difference between the types of beans that are used in each roast. Of course, I’d venture to say that many of the people who prefer lighter roasts probably couldn’t tell the difference between a cup of coffee made with one full scoop of light roast, versus a half-scoop or three-quarter scoop of dark roast. It would certainly be an interesting taste test, if nothing else.

  2. 2 Bill

    Dark roasting beans is essentially cooking the beans longer, which releases more of the compounds that makes coffee bitter and destroys more of the flavor compounds that make different coffees taste different (that’s why espresso roast is made with inexpensive and somewhat flavorless robusta beans while lighter coffees are made with more expensive but more flavorful arabica beans). Consequently the chemical makeup of darker roasts is actually different, making the flavor different.

    Thus, “why don’t they buy dark roast and use less of it” is kind of like saying “butter is just like concentrated milk. So why not just buy only butter, but use less of it in place of milk?”