The Healthiest Type of Coffee: Light, Medium or Dark Roast?

Coffee is the second most popular beverage globally, with hundreds of billions of cups consumed every year. With coffee playing such a major role in many people’s lives, it’s important to understand how different types of coffee can impact your health.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between light, medium and dark roast coffee in terms of their health effects. We will also look at caffeine levels, brewing methods, impacts on body weight, cholesterol, asthma and more. Additionally, we will overview who should avoid drinking coffee altogether. Let’s get started!

Light Roast Coffee

Light roast coffee beans are roasted for the shortest amount of time. This lighter roasting retains more of the bean’s original fruity flavor profile and natural nutrients. However, light roasts also tend to be more acidic.

The health benefits of light roast coffee include:

Higher Levels of Antioxidants

Light roasts retain more polyphenols and antioxidants like chlorogenic acid. These compounds are anti-inflammatory and offer protection against chronic disease. Starbucks coffee had 7mg of chlorogenic acid per cup while some light roast brands measured 157mg.

Increased Iron Absorption

Lighter roasts interfere less with iron absorption from foods. Drinking coffee shortly after a meal can inhibit iron uptake by 39%. Having your coffee an hour before eating is best.

The drawbacks of light roast coffee include:

Higher Cholesterol

Light and medium roasts contain almost twice as much of the compounds cafestol and kahweol compared to dark roasts. These substances can raise cholesterol levels. Using a paper filter removes over 90% of them.

More Acid Production

Lighter roasts stimulate increased stomach acid secretion which can aggravate reflux symptoms. People prone to heartburn may tolerate dark roasts better.

Medium Roast Coffee

Medium roast coffee is heated until the first crack sound occurs during roasting. This reduces some of the bean’s natural acidity while still retaining decent antioxidant levels. For health purposes, medium roasts are quite similar to light roasts with a few key differences:

Slightly Lower Antioxidants

The longer roasting time degrades some polyphenols like chlorogenic acid. There is still variation among brands but levels are generally 10-30% lower than light roasts.

Less Impact on Iron

Drinking medium roast coffee after a meal interferes slightly less with iron absorption compared to light roast. But it still inhibits uptake substantially.

Lower Cholesterol Compounds

Medium roasts tend to be halfway between light and dark roasts regarding cholesterol-elevating oils. Always using a paper filter is still recommended.

Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roast coffee beans are roasted the longest, resulting in a richer flavor. But many nutrients are lost, caffeine levels drop substantially and acrylamides form. Let’s explore the health impacts:

Highest Weight Loss Benefits

For overweight adults, drinking two cups of dark roast coffee per day resulted in six pounds of weight loss in one month. These benefits were not seen with medium roasts.

Lowest Cholesterol Effects

Dark roasts contain roughly half the amounts of the cholesterol-raising compounds cafestol and kahweol compared to light/medium roasts, making them more friendly for those monitoring cholesterol levels.

Less Acid Production

People prone to reflux will likely tolerate dark roast coffee better as less stomach acid is secreted compared to lighter roasts. Always check with your doctor.

Lowest Antioxidants

The heavy roasting degrades natural polyphenols and antioxidants substantially, sometimes by 90% or more. Benefits vary by brand but are generally lowest in dark roasts.

Higher Acrylamides

Acrylamides are carcinogenic compounds formed during high-heat cooking, including dark coffee roasting. Light and medium roasts form little to no acrylamides.

Brewing Methods

From cold brew to espresso and beyond, how you make your coffee also influences its health effects:


Flavorful espresso concentrates nutrients but has higher cholesterol oils without paper filtering. Heartburn sufferers often do better with espresso if avoiding milk.

Drip Coffee

Automatic drip makers produce a quick cup of coffee. Always use a paper filter to remove cholesterol compounds and lipids for better heart health.

French Press

The full-bodied flavor of French press is delicious but watch your cholesterol as the lack of filtering allows oils into your cup.

Cold Brew

Steeping grounds for 12-24 hours makes a smooth cold brew. Benefits include 70% less acidity and lower rates of heartburn symptoms.

Decaf and Instant Coffee

Think decaf and instant coffee have less benefits? Think again!

Same Antioxidants as Regular

Surprisingly, decaffeinated coffee retains its high levels of beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols. Chlorogenic acid content equals that of regular coffee.

Fewer Effects on Iron

Unlike regular coffee, decaf does not hinder iron absorption substantially when consumed with meals or shortly after eating.

Possible Weight Loss

Research indicates decaf may offer similar weight loss effects as regular coffee even without the caffeine. Both led to fat breakdown.

High Nutrient Retention

Instant coffee is made from brewed beans so it maintains decent antioxidant levels, even rivaling fresh grinds. This makes it healthier than expected.

Coffee and Body Weight

Coffee is known to stimulate weight loss but which roasts are best?

Dark Roast Best for Weight Loss

For those currently overweight, drinking two cups of dark roast coffee per day helped trigger an average weight loss of six pounds in just one month. These benefits were not seen with medium roast intake.

Decaf Also Effective

Surprisingly, decaffeinated coffee provided similar weight loss results as regular coffee in research trials. Both led to fat breakdown and drops in body fat percentage. Coffee appears to stimulate metabolic fat burning by raising the stress hormone cortisol. However, moderation is key as excess intake can have reverse effects.

Coffee’s Effects on Cholesterol

Does coffee raise or lower cholesterol levels? Research indicates complex effects based on brewing method and roast style:

Paper Filtering Eliminates Issues

Using a paper filter removes up to 90% of the cholesterol-elevating compounds cafestol and kahweol, negating coffee’s effects on cholesterol for any brew method.

Dark Roasts Best for High Cholesterol

People with elevated cholesterol responded best to dark roast intake, which is lowest in cafestol and kahweol. Light/medium roasts raised LDL and total cholesterol substantially more in research.

For those needing to watch their cholesterol levels closely, dark roasts and paper filtering is the best way to drink coffee while avoiding negative impacts. Checking with your doctor is always advised.

Coffee and Asthma

Can coffee really help with asthma?

Coffee Improves Asthma Symptoms

Many asthma sufferers report immediate symptom relief from drinking coffee. Caffeine opens airways similarly to asthma drugs like theophylline.

Not a Cure

While useful as an emergency rescue remedy during attacks, coffee cannot cure or replace asthma treatment. Always carry your inhaler. Identify and avoid triggers for prevention.

Who Should Not Drink Coffee?

While coffee has many evidence-based health benefits, some people may be better off avoiding it or limiting intake:

Sleep issues

Coffee can significantly worsen sleeping problems. Avoid afternoon/evening intake if insomnia is a concern.

High blood pressure

People genetically prone to hypertension may experience increased cardiovascular risks with excess coffee consumption.


Drinking coffee can raise eye pressures, exacerbating glaucoma. Those with a family history should exercise caution.

GERD/reflux sufferers

Caffeine relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, triggering acid reflux symptoms. Always check with your doctor first.


While the data is mixed, many doctors recommend pregnant women limit caffeine intake to 200mg or less per day.

The healthiest coffee depends greatly on your personal health needs and genetics. People monitoring cholesterol levels may do best healthwise with dark roasts and paper filtering to avoid lipids in the cup. Those concerned with maximizing antioxidants might prefer light or medium roasts. And if you suffer from reflux, experiment between roast styles and avoid milk to minimize heartburn issues.

Understanding the impacts of roasting methods, brewing practices and additives allows customizing your coffee for optimal wellness and enjoyment. Drink consciously and see how you feel – because there’s a bean for everyone!


We’ve explored the key differences in health effects between light, medium and dark roast coffee. While no roast is universally “healthiest,” light and medium roasts provide more antioxidants, while dark roasts excel at safeguarding heart health and aiding sustainable weight loss.

Brewing method also greatly impacts your coffee’s nutritional value and wellness effects. So tailor your practices to your personal health needs. For example, always paper filter your coffee if watching cholesterol.

Moderation remains key as excess intake has risks. Those with certain conditions like hypertension and glaucoma should exercise caution or avoid coffee altogether after consulting doctors.

Hopefully this guide gives you some tasty food for thought on selecting and enjoying the healthiest cup of coffee for you! Let us know if you have any other coffee health questions in the comments below.