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What Do Shiny Coffee Beans Mean? | Dark Vs Light Roast

  • Date: December 15, 2020
  • Time to read: 8 min.

Shiny coffee beans are also called oily coffee beans because of their sheen and glossy appearance.

Sometimes, newly converted coffee lovers are amused to see shiny coffee beans.

However, many don’t know whether the shiny appearance is a sign of good coffee or bad coffee.

What do shiny coffee beans mean? Shiny coffee beans mean the lipids within the bean has come to the surface in the form of oil as a result of the roasting process.

In this article, we walk you through what shiny coffee beans mean, so you can decide whether these are right for you.

Are Shiny Coffee Beans Fresh?

There is one thing in favour of shiny coffee beans.

That is that the shininess verifies that the beans were roasted recently and are relatively fresh. 

Fresh coffee beans retain most of the unique coffee flavours and taste.

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That can be quite reassuring about coffee beans because you can find coffee beans that have been lying in storage for months, and they do not give you the same stimulating flavour or rich taste.

Are Shiny Coffee Beans Dark Roasted?

Without making it too complicated at this initial stage of the discussion, it will be worthwhile to tell you that shiny coffee beans are the result of a roasting process. 

It is the same coffee bean but roasted for a longer duration.

The coffee beans roasted in this manner are called dark roasts, compared to light roasts. 

You will notice that shiny coffee beans are invariably dark.

Both dark and shiny appearances come from a roasting process that was long enough to turn the colour of the coffee beans into dark brown.

Coffee beans are basically the seeds of the coffee fruits or cherries. These beans are washed, hulled, and dried before the roasting takes place. 

Roasting coffee beans is a highly technical job that, and to do perfectly requires trained and experienced roasters.

Coffee beans are roasted at 230 to 260 degrees centigrade that is 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

As coffee beans are seeds, they have many different types of compounds that include protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

During the process since specialty coffee beans were picked from the trees before roasting, the oils in the coffee beans have undergone a structural change from being lipids to a solid fat.

Now, when the coffee beans are being roasted, their cell structures break down and fats melt.

As the roasting continues, the melted fat makes its way to the surface through the broken cell structures. 

Dark roasted coffee beans are the ones that see a longer roasting process making the beans assume a dark colour.

But the longer duration of roasting, results in more oil coming to the surface, compared to the light roast coffee beans.

Thus dark roasted coffee beans becoming shiny.

When Do The Shiny Oils Appear?

In the case of dark roasted coffee beans, all the oil does not come to the surface right after the roasting. 

Rather, by the end of the roasting, the oil oozed out of the coffee beans may not be significantly different between light roasted and dark roasted coffee beans.

Much of the oil coming to the surface in dark roasted coffee beans happens afterwards, from the 3rd day to 3 weeks.

The oil in the dark roasted coffee beans keeps coming to the surface as the cell structure of the coffee beans is not able to hold the oil anymore.

coffee beans, specialty coffee, coffee smell

But once the oil comes to the surface it evaporates quickly. So, it must be consumed before the oils disappear from the surface.

Most of the taste and flavours in natural products lie embedded in their fats. 

So, if fats disappear from your coffee, it means much of the unique and savoury flavours and tastes are gone.

If the coffee beans are still looking shiny, it means they have been roasted recently and they would have a better taste and flavour quality right now than say after 2 months or more.

What To Look Out For When Buying Shiny Coffee Beans?

A very important note that all shiny dark roast coffee lovers should keep in mind is that, marketers often give dark roast to cheap varieties of coffee to hide away their inferior quality.

So, just don’t go by the glossy look of the beans. 

You must find out more from the label and make sure that it is indeed the quality that you are thinking you are buying.

Consider the coffee bean origin, the roasting date, and how the beans have been packaged.

“While the glossy appearance of oily coffee beans isn’t a clear indicator of quality or age, it’s definitely a feature to steer clear of if you prefer a lighter roast, or if the beans aren’t very dark and no roast date is specified”.


What Do Shiny Coffee Beans Taste Like?

As there is so much discussion about taste and flavour, it would be appropriate to talk about it in more specific ways. 

So, how does the shiny dark roast coffee taste? To answer that let me ask you how chocolate tastes before it is sweetened? Does it taste a little bitter?

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Well, your roasted coffee is not exactly chocolaty but, it is in the same direction. Like chocolate, it will pair well with milk.

To be precise, your dark roast coffee may have taste notes such as smoky, charred, and even a little burnt.

Many suggest, the taste of good coffee has come to be associated with this kind of taste profile.

What Are The Negative Effects Of Dark Roast Coffee Beans?

Baristas and home coffee brewers often complain that grinding shiny coffee beans can cause implications and even break down their machines. 

The oil from the roasted coffee gets deposited in the interiors of their machine, making it hard to run and eventually breaking down. 

Therefore, when regularly using shiny dark roasted coffee beans, you will have to clean your coffee grinding machine, and other equipment more frequently than normal.

What Do Dull Looking Coffee Beans Mean?

Dull looking coffee beans signify two things.

First, it could be a light roast. Second, it could be dark roasted with a shiny surface that may have vanished due to a long time in storage.

The light roast coffee beans are obtained through a shorter roasting process.

Generally before they have got a dark brown look with oils easily oozing out to the surface of the coffee beans. 

These beans have been roasted through the same process and at the same temperature.

But, the duration of the roasting was much shorter, before the beans would become a dark brown colour or the oils would cover the surface. 

The oils in the light roast coffee beans are within the surface of the beans. That’s why it does not have a glossy look.

Now, when you are buying coffee beans in the market, if you buy dull looking coffee beans thinking that it’s light roasted, there is a chance of you buying the stale variety of dark roasted coffee. 

So, you must check and ascertain that the dull-looking coffee is actually light roasted and not the dark roasted coffee that has lost all its sheen.

The latter may taste differently and you may miss the flavour for which you may have paid a premium price.

Why Do Some People Like Light Roast Coffee?

To say that a light roast coffee is more of a connoisseur’s choice is true to a large extent. This kind of coffee is obtained through light roasting of the coffee beans. 

As dark roasting is a roasting choice, so is the light roasting – this has been done on purpose.

However, cheap varieties of coffee are often given dark roast to hide away their inferiority.

Since light roast coffee has much of its oil inside the bean, it is more flavourful and has a wider taste profile. 

pouring specialty coffee, filter coffee

As you drink light roast coffee, you will notice many different notes, but perhaps not chocolaty.

The taste of light roasts, it may have floral, fruity, and sweet notes.

Drinking such a flavourful and tasty coffee is a unique experience.

You will agree, the taste may have even notes including blueberry and lemon.

What Are The Best Brewing Methods For Dark Roasted Coffee Beans?

The three best brewing methods for shiny dark roasted coffee beans include;

Espresso coffee is popular in all coffee shops.

espresso machine, americano

It’s a versatile brewing method as it is also used as a base for many other coffee beverages.

Espresso coffee uses high pressure heated water to extract coffee concentrates.

This method is believed to be able to bring out maximum flavours and tastes from the coffee. 

While many people prefer a darker, more intense coffee for French press and AeroPress.

However, some of the lighter, fruitier coffees, like a Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee can go well with this brewing method too.

Shiny Coffee Beans F.A.Q’s

frequently asked questions
Q: Are oily coffee beans better?

A: Darker roasted coffee bean are typically oilier in nature. Dark, oily coffee beans are typically strong tasting, bold and bitter.

Q: Why are my coffee beans so shiny?

A: Shiny coffee beans come from a chemical reaction between the internals of the beans and oxygen.

If a bean is roasted too long where the internal shell cracks and lets out CO2, it will react with Oxygen almost immediately and create that oil.

Q: Is a dark roast coffee stronger?

A: Measured by scoop, light roast coffee will have slightly more caffeine, since the beans are denser than a darker roast. Because they’ve been roasted longer, dark roasts have less mass.

Q: Is dark roast coffee more bitter?

A: Dark roast coffee beans will have a shiny black colour 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 flavours from the bean’s origin have been lost to the roasting process.


Overall, shiny coffee beans bring a personality of their own.

Among the roasted coffee beans available, the shiny coffee beans look much darker then other types of coffee beans.

But in terms of taste and flavour, shiny coffee beans are smoky, earthier, acidic, and charred.

In contrast, the dull-looking light roast coffee beans have floral, fruity, lemon, blueberry, and sweet notes. 

Coffee is a beverage with many nuances, and the more you drink, the more you get to understand.

If you enjoyed this article, read more like this by checking out our Specialty Coffee Beginners Guides.

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