Whether you’re brand new to the world of coffee or you’ve been sipping the stuff for ages, you should know the way your coffee beans are roasted determines how your coffee will taste. The roasting process influences flavor so much that if you roasted the same kind of whole bean coffee to a different degree, each batch would taste completely different.
Roast preference is highly subjective, and while some people enjoy the brightness and acidity of lighter roasts, others prefer to have the bolder kick of flavor from a dark roast dancing on their taste buds.
Are you interested in learning more about dark roast coffee, how it’s changed over the years, and which is the best dark roast coffee bean on the market? We’ll address all that and more below — read on!
At A Glance: Best Dark Roast Coffee
Read Up on Roast Levels
Every aspect of coffee production is essential, from growing origin to harvesting style to processing method. Even the grind size and brewing method matter! For now, though, we’re focusing exclusively on the roasting process and how it affects the flavor of your morning cup.
Before being roasted, the green coffee bean is tasteless and has a grassy aroma. When put into the roaster, it begins absorbing heat, and the bean’s color changes. As the coffee bean gets darker, more flavors and aromas show up. Ultimately, the final product’s taste depends on how long and to what degree the bean is roasted.
Light Roast Coffee Beans
Unsurprisingly, these coffee beans are light brown. Their internal temperature reaches between 356 and 401 degrees during the roasting process, and they are removed from the heat once the first crack occurs.
In terms of flavor, light roast coffee has a toasted grain taste, pronounced acidity, and no oil present on the beans’ surface. Because light roasts tend to unlock more exotic flavors, these beans have become a pretty popular type of coffee for java lovers.
When sipping single-origin coffee, it’s best to choose lighter roasts since they allow you to experience every exotic flavor present in the beans. Take Guatemalan coffee, for example. This stuff has an apple-like acidity and milk chocolatey notes. On the other hand, coffee from Panama is exceptionally floral with a pronounced citrus tang, while Ethiopian joe tends to be fruity with rich hints of blueberry and strawberry.
Inconsistency is, unfortunately, the price you pay for light roast coffee’s flavor. Beans roasted to this degree vary across bags, and the flavors aren’t always well-rounded and stable.
Medium Roast Coffee Beans
Though medium roast coffee beans are darker than light roasts, they don’t sport the blackish-brown color a high-quality dark roast does. This joe has no oil on its surface, and it’s roasted until just before the second crack. Expect a medium roast to reach an internal temperature between 410 and 418 degrees Fahrenheit.
This coffee has more body than a light roast but lacks its grainy taste, resulting in a brew with crisp acidity and a more balanced flavor and aroma. If you’re sipping a medium-roasted single-origin joe, you’ll find it retains the signature flavor of its origin while being more stable than a light roast.
Medium roasts’ intense acids are smoothed by the sweet hints of caramel, honey, and molasses usually present in these beans. There’s also a pleasant bittersweetness, making it a worthy choice for pour-over brewing.
Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Dark roast coffee beans (a.k.a., the star of this article) are almost black, and the sheen of oil is easily visible on their surfaces. When roasted to the second crack or beyond, their internal temperature is between 465 and 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately, most of dark-roasted coffee’s distinct flavors fade away during the roasting process, which means there’s less flavor diversity. That’s why this joe’s flavors are often characterized as bitter, smoky, or even burnt.
This type of java has low acidity, mild bitterness, rich hints of chocolate, a nutty aroma, and a heavy body. Compared to lighter beans, dark roasts are well-rounded and consistent, making them preferable for making espresso drinks. Espresso extraction works so well with darker beans because the coffee’s natural sugar has been caramelized, enhancing the brew’s flavor.
Darkest Roast Coffee Beans
Sometimes, the coffee is roasted even longer, resulting in heavily oiled black coffee beans. You’ll find these joes labeled French, Italian, or Vienna roasts.
By this point in the roasting process, the beans have lost all their acidity and distinguishable flavors of origin, but they have gained a ton of bitterness, profound woodiness, and notes of ash and carbon.
Most of the beans used for these extra dark roasts are low-grade and low-cost. With specialty coffee emphasizing flavors of origin, this roast doesn’t hold a place in the hearts of most coffee experts since the long roasting session burns out all its flavors.
Quick Summary: Best Dark Roast Coffee
Our Top ChoiceLifeboost Dark Roast Coffee
|Check On Lifeboost→|
|JOE COFFEE BIG CITY ROAST||Check Price →|
|CAFFE VITA ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST||Check Price →|
|Airship Night Moves||Check Price →|
|Common Voice Terra||Check Price →|
|REVELATOR COFFEE COMPANY 9 TO 5 HOUSE BLEND||Check Price →|
|PORTLAND COFFEE ROASTERS FRENCH ROAST||Check Price →|
|GREATER GOODS COFFEE CO. RISE AND SHINE||Check Price →|
|CAFE DON PABLO SIGNATURE BLEND DARK ROAST||Check on Amazon →|
|OLDE BROOKLYN COFFEE ITALIAN DARK ROAST COFFEE BEANS||Check on Amazon →|
When Should You Go to the Dark Side?
The perception of roast levels has changed significantly in recent years. In the past, the general consensus declared dark roast the way to go. But now, with specialty coffee being a world phenomenon and java connoisseurs more willing to explore beans with different flavors and origins, lighter joe is more popular.
So, what sparked the change? Bean quality is on the rise, so specialty coffee roasters don’t need to hide the subpar taste of low-quality beans with an especially dark roast. While darker roasts are more consistent, they offer less variety, and that’s a turn-off to more adventurous java drinkers.
Dark roasts are preferred for espresso-making, as espresso balances flavors and rounds out the acidity. The bold dark roast flavors taste better with milk, too, since it smoothes any bitterness while keeping its full body intact. For that reason, dark roast beans tend to be the joe of choice for cold brew coffee, too, since most people enjoy the chilly beverage with a splash of milk or creamer.
Roasty Rankings: Our Picks for Best Dark Roast Coffee
Now, for the moment of truth: the best coffee beans in the dark roast category!
Lifeboost Coffee Dark Roast
Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffee
Your cup of Lifeboost Premium Espresso dark roast Coffee comes from coffee beans that have been individually hand-selected as the premium bean(s) of a harvest. Your coffee beans are lovingly cultivated by local farmers, after being grown slowly to full maturity in mountain shade.
On the hunt for delicious, high-quality coffee that’s healthy, too? Lifeboost Coffee’s dark roast joe will quickly put your search to an end. We’ve reviewed many of the various roasts this company offers, and we’ve yet to encounter one we didn’t enjoy.
The green coffee beans used for Lifeboost’s brew (which are 100 percent arabica, by the way) are grown in the mountains of Nicaragua. And because the company goes the extra mile to test its beans for unwanted impurities, you can rest assured that its dark roast is one of the healthiest coffees money can buy.
The cup of coffee you brew with these beans will be clean, as Lifeboost Coffee refrains from using any pesticides or chemicals during the growing process and tests the joe for heavy metals, acrylamides, and other types of toxins. This dark roast coffee is not only healthier than other options on the market; it’s excellent for those with sensitive digestion, too! It’s got a pH level of 7, which means it’s neutral as far as acidity is concerned, making it easier to enjoy.
Joe Coffee Big City Roast
Joe Coffee Big City Roast
Full-bodied and rich, this roasty cup offers up plenty of honeycomb sweetness with all that deep, dark chocolate.
When it comes to dark roasts, it doesn’t get too much darker than a French roast. This type of coffee is known for its signature intensity, and its almost charred flavor isn’t for everyone. Its bold flavor is strong enough to stand on its own, but it also pairs well with a bit of milk or a splash of your favorite creamer.
Joe Coffee’s French roast is packed with flavors of burnt sugar, baking chocolate, and toasted almond. Countless dark coffee enthusiasts will appreciate them any time they pull out the drip machine, French press, or other brewers of choice.
And here’s a fun fact to share with the other java addicts in your life: Joe Coffee was the first café in New York City to pour latte art. We don’t know about you, but we respect that kind of initiative.
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
Big-bodied and sweet, this dark-roasted blend features plenty of roastiness with a chocolaty body and caramel sweetness to bring it all together.
The next bag of beans in this buying guide is full-bodied, roasty, and sweet. We don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much everything we want from a good dark roast coffee blend. Meet Caffe Vita’s Organic French roast. She’s a smoky little number strong enough to kick your day into high gear.
These dark-roasted coffee beans hail from Central and South America, Indonesia, and Africa and are roasted to dark brown perfection before making it to your doorstep. Thanks to their notes of sweet cocoa, delicious maple syrup, and nutmeg, this java just might become your new favorite coffee — so good!
Airship Night Moves
Airship Night Moves
A rich body and dense, roasty sweetness are complimented by notes of cocoa and a hint of zesty orange aromatics.
Though Airship Coffee’s Night Moves beans are “meant for night movers and shakers,” we’re pretty sure this dark roast blend is just as enjoyable any time of day. Airship’s offering has a rich body and dense sweetness marked with molasses, dark chocolate, and black cherry flavors, just as you’d expect from any batch of dark-roasted beans.
Though these beans come from the Calera Specialty Coffee Farm in El Salvador, they’re roasted at the Airship headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Airship’s roastery was launched in 2010, and later, in 2018, a coffee bar was established. Should you find yourself in the Natural State, stop by Airship Coffee for a cup of joe. Until then, click the link to order a bag of the company’s beans to brew at home.
Common Voice Terra
Common Voice Terra
Terra’s deep, dark chocolaty sweetness and kiss of roastiness pair beautifully with your milk of choice – its gentle orange acidity makes it just as delicious black.
As its name implies, Common Voice Coffee products are intended to celebrate everything we have in common with others. So, it’s only fitting that you pull out a bag of the company’s beans — specifically the Terra blend — the next time you entertain a diverse group.
Common Voice’s Terra blend features beans from South America. From there, they make their way to be roasted in Nashville, Tennessee, before heading to your house to be enjoyed first thing in the morning, during a midday slump, or as an after-dinner pick-me-up. As you sip, savor the earthy flavor and notes of toffee and dark chocolate; it’s a sweet treat whether enjoyed black or with milk.
Revelator Coffee Company 9 to 5 House Blend
Revelator Coffee Company 9 to 5 House Blend
With background notes of black cherry and caramel, this roasty buddy is the perfect companion to get you through your 9 to 5.
When Dolly Parton mentioned stumbling into the kitchen to pour a cup of ambition in the timeless “9 to 5,” she was probably talking about serving herself Revelator Coffee’s 9 to 5 dark roast blend. That’s probably (definitely) not true, as Revelator didn’t get its start until about three decades after the song came out, but we’re willing to bet a cup of this stuff can do a darn good job perking you up as you yawn and stretch and try to come to life.
These are the darkest beans the Alabama roaster offers, making them the perfect coffee for the most devoted dark roast connoisseurs. Enjoy this smooth brew’s sweetness, littered with hints of brown sugar and ripe fruit; it’ll give you just the kick you need to make it through the workday.
Portland Coffee Roasters French Roast
Portland Coffee Roasters French Roast
Roasted dark yet still super sweet, this French roast features a dark chocolaty body and a caramel sweetness that’ll stand out when drinking black, or pair beautifully with your milk of choice.
Though many coffee fans steer clear of French roasts because they tend to have a bitter flavor that’s not exactly for everyone, you probably won’t run into that issue with this offering from Portland Coffee Roasters. While the organic beans are still quite dark, they’re still sweet, thanks to vanilla and chocolate notes.
The flavors of this smoky, full-bodied brew have made these beans one of the company’s bestsellers for years; Portland Coffee Roasters customers have been loved these African coffee beans for nearly two decades.
Greater Goods Coffee Co. Rise and Shine
Greater Goods Coffee Co. Rise and Shine
Dark and bold and super sweet, with noticeable notes of dark chocolate. This is the kind of cup that starts off a very good day.
When the alarm clock starts blaring at six a.m., it’s hard enough to rise, let alone shine. Trust us: we get it. And so does Texas-based roaster Greater Goods Coffee Co. That’s why they created the Rise and Shine blend. The classic dark roast might not make rising any easier, but at the very least, it’ll give you something to look forward to when you get out of bed.
This full-bodied blend of Colombian and Nicaraguan beans is designed for sweet coffee lovers, and the delicious hints of molasses and chocolate are proof. Plus, every purchase of this joe supports Central Texas Food Bank, and supporting a good cause makes it even sweeter.
Cafe Don Pablo Signature Blend Dark Roast
If you prefer kicking off your day with cups of bold, rich flavored joe, scoop Cafe Don Pablo‘s Signature Blend beans into your drip machine. The blend of Colombian, Guatemalan, and Brazilian coffee beans produces a cocoa-toned brew with a smooth taste and a pretty full body. Its low acidity also means sensitive coffee lovers can enjoy this stuff without discomfort.
Those highly concerned with the type of beans they consume will be happy to know Cafe Don Pablo sources only high-quality arabica coffee. Once they’ve been small batch-roasted, you can use them to make pot after pot of dark deliciousness that’s good ’til the last drop.
Olde Brooklyn Coffee Italian Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Olde Brooklyn Coffee’s Italian roast is the kind of coffee you brew anytime, whether you’re seeking a beverage to accompany your breakfast or needing a caffeine jolt to push you over the midday slump.
This blend of coffees from Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala makes for a truly delicious-tasting cup, but that’s not even the best part! One of our favorite features of Olde Brooklyn’s Italian roast is that all the beans are roasted weekly, meaning you get the freshest coffee possible every time you place an order.
Kicking Horse Coffee, Kick Ass Dark Roast
Kicking Horse Coffee‘s Kick-Ass dark roast is so sweet, smoky, and audacious one could say it does exactly what its name says it does. These beans are powerful, but they don’t have the burnt coffee taste often associated with dark roasts. That means the coffee can be appreciated by a variety of java drinkers, even those who tend to favor lighter roasts. The Kick-Ass blend’s delicious flavor includes notes of chocolate malt, licorice, molasses, and an earthy finish that lingers in your mouth.
Kicking Horse gets these beans from coffee farmers in Indonesia and South America before roasting them in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Because they’re 100 percent arabica and shade-grown, dark roast lovers are in for a real treat. A Kick-Ass coffee purchase also comes with peace of mind, as this blend is Fair Trade.
Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend, Dark Roast
Want to experience a full-bodied brew with smoky, complex flavors? Take a sip of the Major Dickason’s blend and take in the rich taste that well-known java manufacturer Peet’s Coffee is known for. Since 1966, Peet’s has sourced only premium quality beans, and once they roast them in small batches, you get a bag full of joe packed with maximum freshness.
This maximum freshness — and the earthy and spicy flavor profile, of course — have made Major Dickason’s blend the company’s all-time bestseller. We’re sure the fact that these beans are grown and sourced responsibly doesn’t hurt sales, either. Brew this joe with the brewing process that suits you best, although we recommend using a classic French press or your favorite cold brew method.
Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roasted
Koffee Kult knows one of the keys to brewing a stellar cup of coffee is using the freshest beans possible. That’s why the company packs and ships your order within hours of the beans being small-batch roasted. Koffee Kult brings beans from Colombia, Guatemala, and Sumatra together to create a pretty darn enjoyable dark roast blend.
A cup of Koffee Kult dark roast has a strong taste and smooth finish, but its aroma is what really makes this java stand out from the crowd. The smell, which fills the whole room, pairs beautifully with the coffee’s hints of cinnamon. This stuff makes you feel like you’re drinking liquid dark chocolate, and its sweet, lingering finish makes it a great choice for espresso brewing.
Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast
Death Wish Coffee‘s claim to fame is producing a brew that contains twice as much caffeine as a regular cup of coffee, marketing itself as the “World’s Strongest Coffee.” Now, we haven’t tried every joe in the world, so we can’t confirm whether or not these beans are the strongest, but we can say this is a pretty high-powered coffee!
Death Wish doesn’t use additives to boost the caffeine level of its dark roast. Instead, the company uses a blend of arabica and robusta beans. Since robusta beans are naturally higher in caffeine, they can enhance your clarity and focus while providing an energy jolt. The slow roasting process that Death Wish uses in its New York headquarters also contributes to the brew’s strength. And since the beans are roasted in small batches, you can count on quality and consistency.
This low acid dark roast manages to be strong but not bitter, and it boasts subtle cherry and chocolate flavors. It’s also sustainably sourced, USDA-certified organic, and Fair Trade.
How to Choose Dark Roast Coffee Beans
You should keep the following things in mind when shopping for a dark roast coffee blend, but if we’re being honest, you should take advantage of these tips no matter what kind of beans you’re buying.
Know Your Flavor Preferences
While some prefer to sip something with earthy notes, others only pour floral-noted joe into their coffee cups in the morning. Before you decide on a dark bean to use in your drip or espresso machine, you should at least have a general idea of your taste preferences.
Consider Your Personal Needs
Coffee beans aren’t a one-size-fits-all product. There wouldn’t be nearly as many options on the market today if they were. So, when you’re looking for something new to store in the cabinet above your coffee bar, be sure to take inventory of your needs.
Some of these needs may be health-related. For example, if you know you’ve got a sensitive stomach and digestive system, you’ll probably need to peruse low-acid options. Other needs, however, may have more to do with convenience. If having something quick and easy is important to you, you might be more inclined to choose an instant dark roast or a box of coffee capsules to use in your single-serve machine.
Check Out the Roast Date
You’ll, of course, want to get the freshest joe possible. That’s why you should always check the roast date printed on your coffee’s label. Look for beans that have been roasted seven to 14 days from the date of purchase.
If freshness is a top priority for you (and it certainly should be!), steer clear of companies that exclude the roast date from their packaging. You never know how long those beans have been in that bag, and though they may taste fine, you may be missing out on all the robust flavor they once had.
Does Darker Mean Stronger?
If you’re referencing flavor when referencing brew strength, then yes, we suppose you could say dark roast is stronger. Some people prefer dark roast joe’s more robust taste over light roast beans’ bright and mellow flavors.
However, if you associate strength with caffeine content, it’s a different story. That poses the question:
Does dark roast coffee have more caffeine than lighter roasts?
A common myth surrounding dark roast coffee is that it boasts more caffeine than its lighter counterparts. Because it’s more bitter and perceived as stronger, it must contain more caffeine, right? Not necessarily. On the flip side, there’s the belief that caffeine is burned away during roasting. Therefore, lighter roasts are more likely to make you jittery. This isn’t exactly true either.
Caffeine content is determined by mass, not roast level. During the roasting process, the coffee bean loses mass. So, if you measure your coffee in scoops, the lighter roast will have more caffeine just because it’s denser.
Your preferred brewing method, the type of coffee bean you choose, and the amount of ground coffee used to make a cup also play a role in determining how caffeinated the resulting brew is.
Debunking Dark Roast: Frequently Asked Questions
How should you store dark roast coffee beans?
Keep your dark roast beans’ natural flavors fully intact until you get a chance to brew them by storing them in an opaque, airtight container in a cool space away from light and moisture.
You’ll want to store your coffee this way, whether in whole bean or pre-ground form. However, whether your beans have been ground or not determines how long you can keep them fresh. Ground joe should be used within one or two weeks, but whole beans can last for about a month if they’re stored correctly.
Is dark roast coffee more bitter?
Dark roast coffee beans are more bitter than lighter ones because of how chemical compounds break down during the roasting process. Time for a quick science lesson!
When exposed to heat, the coffee beans’ acid lactones (chemical compounds every bean possesses) turn into phenylindanes. These compounds are responsible for a darker roast’s harsher flavor. Lighter types of coffee aren’t roasted long enough to let go of their acid lactones (a.k.a., the source of a brew’s well-balanced flavor).
How do you brew dark roast coffee without bitterness?
Nothing ruins a dark roast coffee experience like getting tinges of bitterness in every sip rather than the intense, often chocolatey flavors the blackish-brown liquid usually boasts. But fear not: you don’t have to settle for a bitter brew. There are a few ways to preserve the rich flavor of your beloved beverage.
Over-extraction is the most common culprit for your joe’s bitter taste, so make sure you’re using the right grind size and coffee-to-water ratio for your brewing method. Adding a bit of salt to your coffee grounds before brewing can counteract the bitterness, too. We know, we know — that sounds strange. But don’t worry. Just a pinch of the stuff isn’t enough to make your drink salty and gross.
If you’re still not impressed with your java after revising your coffee brewing technique or trying the salt trick, consider trying something lighter or pick a different dark roast coffee brand.
What are the health benefits of dark roast coffee?
Dark roast coffee isn’t just good; it’s good for you, too! It’s got riboflavin, a vitamin that’s helpful for healthy cell growth, and vitamin B5, which helps your body create energy. Dark roast coffee also possesses colorectal cancer-fighting antioxidants, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and boosts your liver health.
Are dark roast coffees low acid?
The roasting level may not change much about your coffee’s caffeine content, but it does play a role in determining your joe’s acidity. It’s not a huge role, honestly, but still, we felt like it was worth mentioning. Dark roast coffees are said to be less acidic than their lighter counterparts because they keep hydrochloric acid from building up in the stomach, making them easier for sensitive coffee lovers to drink.
What’s the best brewing method for dark roast coffee?
Though you can use dark roast coffee with any brewing method as long as the beans are ground correctly, some of the most common means of producing dark joe are by drip coffee maker, French press, or espresso machine.
We especially love the way dark roast coffee flavors come out in cold brew. The notes of nuts and chocolate in these types of beans make for a cup filled with a rich, smooth flavor that mixes well with a splash of milk or stands alone if you prefer it black.
Does dark roast pass the test?
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer regarding your coffee’s roast level, as the choice depends entirely on your preferences. Do you like the bright fruity and floral notes of light and medium roasts? Or do you prefer the solid, not-for-the-fainthearted intensity of dark roasts?
Either way, happy caffeinating!