Roast, Body, Acidity

Here at Alterra, everyone from the baristas to accountants to coffee packers is invited to meet a couple of times a month with our head Roastmaster George to taste and talk about coffee. We've come to realize that appreciating the subtleties in your coffee can make the experience even more enjoyable. Click on the headings below to learn more about roast, body, and acidity and how they translate to your cup, or check out our coffee offerings page to sort our coffees according to your preferences.


Whether it's light or dark or anywhere in between, every coffee has a sweet spot. Our roasters manually add and subtract heat and monitor the progress of the roast from start to finish ensuring that the coffee is roasted in a way that maximizes its potential.

Lighter roasts tend to emphasize acidity and preserve many of the unique characteristics of the coffee. As you get darker and darker, the sweetness from the acidity diminishes and is replaced by sweetness from sugars that caramelize during the roasting process. Nuances that are present in lighter roasts will gradually disappear as you get darker while certain aspects of body will develop.

If you like coffee with low acidity and darker, smoky, "roasty" flavors, pick something on the darker end but if you like sweet, bright, nuanced coffees without the roasty flavor, pick something on the lighter end.

Whether light, medium or dark, all of Alterra's "single origin" coffees have been roasted in a way that maximizes their characteristics, while blends like French Roast, Italian Roast, and coffees with a "Dark" prefix are specifically roasted dark to appeal to customers who want those flavors.

Any coffee can be "strong", because your brewing method ultimately determines the strength of your coffee. Many people, however, tend to associate dark with strong and dark-roasted coffees usually taste better to coffee drinkers who add milk or cream, because the "dark, strong" flavors do a better job of standing up to milk. Conversely, many people who drink their coffee black choose light or medium roasts because the distinctive character of the bean has not been roasted away.

As always, it comes down to personal preference. You may find that you like different levels of roast for different reasons.


The tactile, physical sensations you experience on your tongue and other parts of your mouth when you drink coffee all fall in the category of body. Think about milk. Skim milk and 2% milk are both milk, yet they have noticeably different "mouth feel". The 2% milk feels heavier because it is heavier. The same applies for coffee. Some coffees have lighter, more delicate body and some coffees feel like you could eat them with a knife and fork.

Unlike the acidity scale, the Body scale on our website is a quantitative judgment. Higher up the scale the heavier the body. There are qualitative adjectives to describe the different characteristics of body such as dense, oily, buttery, viscous, thick, thin, etc, and you might come across some of these words in the description of the coffee. Once again, more or less is neither better nor worse; it's all up to individual tastes.

It's important to remember that the strength of the brew and/or the brewing method can greatly affect the body of the coffee. Our ratings are based on consistent brewing method.


Acidity is not and should not be a scary word when used to describe coffee flavor! In fact, well-developed acidity is the one of the most highly-prized attributes in washed Arabica coffee. Acidity refers to the sweet, tart sensation perceived on the front and sides of the tongue and is evident in almost all high grown, washed coffees.

The acidity ratings on our website represent a qualitative judgment rather than quantitative. "Smooth" refers to a coffee that tends to have lower acidity and therefore smooth body becomes the primary characteristic. "Balanced" is when the acidity and body have reached equilibrium and "Bright" is when acidity is a prominent feature in the flavor of a coffee. All versions are good depending on the origin of the coffee and the preferences of the coffee drinker!

Bright, sweet, citrusy, piquant, crisp, winy, zesty, tangy, nippy and sparkly are all ways to describe the sensation that acidity brings to your palate and there are many more where those came from. Call it what you want, it's important to remember that good acidity is a necessary component of balanced coffees and without it certain coffees would taste lifeless or dull.