Strong vs Rich vs Bold Coffee: What’s the difference?

As coffee lovers, we are constantly subjected to marketing ploys where large coffee commodity companies have excelled in utilizing words such as “rich”, “strong”, “bold”, and “full-bodied” to describe coffee and influence our thinking for years. The terms are alluring, but what do they actually mean? Truthfully it varies widely depending on which coffee specialist you are talking to. For our specialty coffees, these terms will always refer to a coffee’s character which describes the personality of the coffee based on acidity, body, and flavor. As your coffee curators, we want to clarify what these terms mean for our MistoBox coffees and how they differ, so we can match you with the perfect specialty coffee.

Bold Coffee

At Mistobox, we use the word “bold” to describe a coffee with an intense flavor. Bold coffees are often affiliated with dark roasts which tend to exhibit an intensity of roasty, carbony, and smoky flavors.

The term “bold” is also used by most coffee professionals to describe a coffee that has a higher strength due to a lower coffee-to-water brewing ratio (more grounds, less water). Because we do not have control over how strong you decide to brew your coffee, we use it to describe inherent flavors.

Browse bold coffee

roasting rich, strong and bold coffee

Strong Coffee

Strength refers exclusively to the brewing process. Strong coffee is made by using a lower coffee-to-water ratio (more grounds, less water) and refers to the concentration of the beverage rather than the roast level. Espresso by definition, is a strong drink since it’s brewed as a very concentrated form of coffee. The opposite of strong coffee is weak coffee, which would be brewed with not enough coffee grounds in relation to the amount of water used.

brewing coffee and strong brewed coffee to perfection

Rich Coffee

Richness is characterized by a coffee that is “full” in flavor, body, or acidity. People often only think to use “rich” to describe a bold or intense flavor characteristic associated with darker roasts, but in reality, a light roast with high acidity and or body can also be rich. For example, the Sermon Espresso from Verve Coffee Roasters is a light roast coffee with a rich and fruity profile and juicy acidity. Verve’s Buena Vista Dark Roast showcases richness with its roasty flavors and syrupy body. Both coffees can be described as “rich” despite tasting completely different.

Find more rich profile coffees.

Full-Bodied Coffee

Another term often associated with bold, strong, or rich coffee is full-bodied. When we refer to the body of a coffee, we are strictly talking about the weight or viscosity of that coffee. How does it coat your mouth? Whole milk is a full-bodied beverage, and by comparison, skim milk is thin or light-bodied. Since the term rich essentially means “full” we could also say that a full-bodied coffee has a rich body.

Browse full-bodied coffees.

beautiful latte art

To Summarize:

  • Bold = intense smokey or roasty flavor
  • Strong = higher brew strength 
  • Rich = satisfying fullness of flavor, body, or acidity
  • Full-bodied = thick or full texture
Taste characteristics of coffee

Learn more about coffee and taste with our series check out our specialty coffee article, guide to coffee cupping or learning what influences coffee flavors?

We wrote an ebook? Check out the MistoBox Specialty Coffee Tasting Guide: A How-To Guide to Refine Your Coffee Tasting and Brewing Skills on Amazon.