Vienna roast: Understanding its appeal for coffee roasters

Peter Lancashire
August 1, 2022
Vienna roast: Understanding its appeal for coffee roasters

While lighter roasts tend to dominate the specialty coffee sector, the smooth and balanced flavours of a dark Vienna roast are a popular choice for consumers around the world.

While it is by no means exclusive to the US coffee giant Starbucks, a Vienna roast is often found across many of its stores. This is because the added sweetness and heavier body pair perfectly with espresso-based offerings, such as cappuccinos, macchiatos, and flat whites. 

Notably, a recent study by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) found 65% of American consumers add milk or sugar to their coffee, for an average of three cups a day.

As such, they are often dubbed “crowd pleasers” thanks to their widespread popularity among coffee consumers. This means roasters who are willing to experiment with Vienna roast offerings have a large target market to tap into. 

Find out more about a Vienna roast and why roasters should consider adding it to their offerings.

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A close up image of dark roasted coffee beans in an article about understanding the appeal of Vienna roast for coffee roasters

What is a Vienna roast?

The specialty coffee industry generally breaks down roast profiles into four main groups: light, medium, medium-dark, and dark.

That said, the majority of roasters have specialised names for their favoured roasts, such as “Light City”, “American”, “Vienna”, “French”, and “Italian”, to name a few.

Occasionally referred to as Viennese roasts, Vienna roasts are known for their depth in colour and the light oil spots on the bean’s surface. The oil comes from within the coffee beans and is brought to the surface by a prolonged roasting time.

While it still sits at the darker end of the roasting spectrum compared to similar roast profiles like French or Italian, Vienna roasts are the lighter of the three. It will still hold signs of the bean’s natural characteristics that were developed at origin.

As with any medium-dark roast, there will be some bitterness in the cup. The roast process breaks down a coffee’s chlorogenic acids into chlorogenic acid lactones and phenylindanes. 

A 2007 study shows it is these phenylindanes that create the perception of bitterness. Therefore, the longer the coffee is roasted, the more harsh the bitterness tends to be.

That said, the flavour profile typically balances this with more body, less acidity, and notes of dark chocolate.

A Vienna roast is more suitable for pulling espresso, as adding milk can help soften its bitter overtones, which leads to a smooth drinking experience. Additionally, this makes a Vienna roast ideal for cold brew coffee offerings.

A close up image of a coffee roaster roasting coffee beans in an article on understanding how Vienna roast appeals to roasters.

How to roast Viennese coffee

Many in the specialty coffee industry maintain that darker roasts should only be used to mask defects. However, with the right approach, a Vienna roast can produce a pleasant, well-balanced cup with distinct and complex characteristics. 

The overarching aim should be a dark roast that does not wholly eradicate all inherent flavours in the bean. 

When creating a Vienna roast, the aim is a dark brown bean with light oil spots instead of a black surface that is fully coated in shiny oils. To develop a coffee to this point, the beans are dropped early into second crack: around 224°C (435°F).

According to coffee expert Scott Rao, coffees dropped at this point tend to have a heavy body, with nutty or spicy notes and a relatively high bitterness.

However, they don’t usually have the same carbonised, smokey flavours of darker roasts, such as “French” and “Italian”. Italian roasts are generally the darkest available on the market and are often taken into and beyond the second crack during the roast process.

Higher altitude coffees, such as those from Indonesia are likely best for those wanting to experiment with a Vienna roast. Denser beans often require a higher roasting temperature, and can accommodate a darker roast while being able to maintain some origin flavour.

Additionally, the density of the bean has an impact on the sugar developed during roasting. In essence, dense beans have a better flavour development, and roasters should consider experimenting with them in small batches to achieve maximum precision and consistency.

An image of a roaster pouring cold brew coffee into a glass, showing how vienna roast is suited for cold brew coffee in an article understanding the appeal of a vienna roast to roasters.

Why does a Vienna roast appeal to roasters?

Vienna roasts can be an effective way for smaller roasters to diversify their coffee catalogue and expand their reach to new customers. 

With a lower need for complexity in flavour, roasters and green coffee buyers can source more cost-effective beans. This is particularly beneficial as inflation continues to affect people around the world and alter their purchasing decisions. 

Additionally, as the price of arabic coffee increases, more consumers are looking for more affordable, high-quality specialty coffee options. As the lightest and mildest dark roast, a Vienna roast makes an aromatic and appealing coffee for many consumers. 

Every roaster will have their own ideas and styles for developing quality-focused roast profiles for the beans they source. 

While the world of specialty coffee tends to celebrate light to medium roasted beans, adding a Vienna roast to a roasters catalogue could be an effective way to diversify their product range.

Additionally, it can help bring in new customers who, while preferring darker roasted beans, will still appreciate the work put into bringing in traceable and sustainable coffees.

A close up of hands holding dark roasted coffee beans with a bleached white multilayer kraft paper coffee bag in an article on understanding how a vienna roast appeals to roasters.

As more consumers demand a wider range of fresh, high-quality specialty coffee, roasters must ensure their packaging options preserve and protect their product up to the final cup.

At MTPak Coffee, our line of coffee packaging is completely recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable. We offer specialty coffee roasters and coffee shops coffee packaging that is made from sustainable materials such as kraft and rice paper, as well as LDPE and PLA-lined bags.

Furthermore, we are able to customise and digitally print coffee packaging with a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging to micro-roasters, no matter what size or material.

Additionally, our customisable coffee bags can be paired with sustainable, BPA-free degassing valves to ensure your coffee remains fresh until it’s ready to be brewed.

For more information on sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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