Light roast beans have a light brown color, and they'll have no oil on their surface because they haven't roasted long enough for the oils to reach the surface. They'll have a fruity, grassy smell, and the flavors of their origin will be more distinct. Beans are considered medium roast when they begin to turn medium brown, at which point they'll have a sweeter taste and achieve a balanced level of aroma, acidity and flavor.

Dark roast coffee beans will have a shiny black color with an oily surface. Unlike medium-dark roasts that have a bittersweet taste, dark roasts will have a substantial bitterness to their taste. This is also because the flavors from the bean's origin have been lost to the roasting process. Medium-dark roasts will be rich, dark and somewhat oily in appearance, though not as shiny dark roast beans.