Whether you’re brand new to the world of coffee or have been sipping the stuff for ages, you should know that the way your coffee beans are roasted is a crucial factor for determining how your coffee will taste. In fact, the roasting process influences flavor so much that if you were to roast the same beans to a different degree, they’d taste completely different.
Roast preference is highly subjective, and while some people enjoy the brightness and acidity of lighter roasts, others prefer the more serious kick you’ll get from a dark roast.
Are you interested in learning more about dark roast coffee, how it’s changed over the years, and what the best dark roast coffee on the market is? We’ll answer all that and more — read on!
At A Glance: Best Dark Roast Coffee
Read Up on Roast Levels
With specialty coffee on the rise (it makes up 37 percent of American coffee sold), every aspect of coffee production is essential, from growing origin to harvesting style to processing. Even the grind size and brewing method matter! But for now, we’re focusing exclusively on the roasting process and how it affects the flavor of your morning cup.
Before they’re roasted, green coffee beans are tasteless and have a grassy aroma. But when they’re put into the roaster and begin absorbing heat, their color changes; the coffee gets darker, and more flavors and aromas start to show up.
The final product depends on how long and to what degree the coffee beans are roasted. Keep reading to find out more!
Unsurprisingly, light roasts are light brown. Their internal temperature reaches between 356 and 401 degrees Fahrenheit during the roasting process. Once the first crack occurs, these beans are removed from the heat.
In terms of flavor, light roast coffee has a light body, and there’s no oil present on the surface of the beans. It has a toasted grain taste and pronounced acidity, and because light roasts tend to unlock more exotic flavors, the popularity of these brews has risen significantly.
When drinking single-origin coffee, it’s best to choose lighter roasts since it allows you to experience all of its unique flavors. For example, coffee from Guatemala has an apple-like acidity and milk chocolate tasting notes, while coffee from Panama is exceptionally floral with a pronounced citrus tang. Ethiopian coffee, on the other hand, is fruity with rich blueberry and strawberry flavors.
The price you pay for a light roast’s flavors is, unfortunately, consistency. Coffee roasted this way can vary across bags, and the flavors aren’t as well-rounded and stable.
Medium roast coffee beans are darker than light roasts, but they aren’t the same blackish-brown color dark roast beans are. There’s no oil on their surfaces, and they’re roasted (reaching an internal temperature between 410 and 418 degrees Fahrenheit) until the end of the first crack and removed from the heat just before the second crack.
This coffee has more body but lacks the light roast’s grainy taste, resulting in a brew with a more balanced taste, aroma, and crisp acidity. If sipping a medium roast single-origin, you’ll find it still retains the origin’s signature flavor, but the contents of your cup will be a bit more stable than if it was lightly roasted.
The intense acids in medium roasts are smoothed down by sweetness that brings out the caramel, honey, and molasses notes usually present in these beans. There are also pleasant bittersweet notes, which make it great for a filter brew.
Dark roast coffee, a.k.a., the star of this article, is almost black, and the sheen of oil is easily visible on the surface of these beans. When these beans are roasted to the second crack or beyond, their internal temperature is somewhere between 465 and 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately, with dark roasted coffee, most of the distinct original flavors fade away during the roasting process, which means there’s less flavor diversity. That’s why dark roast flavors are often characterized as bitter, smoky, or burnt.
This type of coffee has low acidity, mild bitterness, rich chocolate notes, a nutty aroma, and a heavy body. Compared to light roasts, this is well-rounded and consistent, and that’s why it’s preferable for brewing shots of espresso. The espresso extraction process works so well with a darker bean because the coffee’s natural sugar has been caramelized, enhancing the brew’s flavor.
In some cases, the coffee is roasted even longer, resulting in black, heavily oiled beans. You’ll find these labeled as French, Italian, or Vienna roasts.
By this point in the roasting process, the beans have lost all of their flavors of origin. There’s no acidity, no significant distinguishable flavors, and a ton of bitterness, plus profound woodiness and notes of ash carbon.
Most of the coffee used for an extra dark roast is low-grade and low-cost. With specialty coffee interested in the flavors of the origin, this roast doesn’t really have a place in the hearts of most coffee experts since the roasting destroys all of the flavors.
Quick Summary: Best Dark Roast Coffee
|Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffee||Check On Lifeboost→|
|JOE COFFEE BIG CITY ROAST||Check Price →|
|CAFFE VITA ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST||Check Price →|
|CAFE DON PABLO SIGNATURE BLEND DARK ROAST||Check on Amazon →|
|MAYORGA ORGANICS CAFÉ CUBANO ROAST||Check on Amazon →|
|OLDE BROOKLYN COFFEE ITALIAN DARK ROAST COFFEE BEANS||Check on Amazon →|
|Kicking Horse Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Peet's Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Koffee Kult Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Death Wish Ground Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
Roasty Rankings: Our Picks for Best Dark Roast Coffee
What are the best dark roast coffees that we found? Let’s find out!
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.
Looking for delicious, high-quality coffee that’s healthy, too? Lifeboost’s dark roast joe will help you put your search for good beans to an end quickly; we’ve reviewed many of the various roasts this company offers, and we’ve yet to come across one we didn’t enjoy.
The green coffee beans used for Lifeboost brew — which are 100 percent arabica, by the way — are grown in the mountains of Nicaragua. Because Lifeboost goes the extra mile to test their coffee for unwanted impurities, you can rest assured that this dark roast is one of the healthiest coffees money can buy.
Your cup of coffee brewed with these beans will be clean, as Lifeboost refrains from using any pesticides or chemicals during the growing process and tests the beans for heavy metals, acrylamides, and other types of toxins. This stuff is also an excellent choice for those with sensitive digestive tracts; it’s got a pH level of 7, which means it’s neutral as far as acidity is concerned, and that makes 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-roasted coffee beans, it doesn’t get too much darker than a French roast. This type of coffee has a signature intensity, an almost charred flavor that isn’t for everyone. But those who enjoy it know it’s strong enough to stand on its own or pair well with a bit of milk or creamer.
This French roast from Joe Coffee is no exception. Its strong flavor is packed with burnt sugar, baking chocolate, and toasted almond baking notes that any dark coffee fan will appreciate any time they’re ready to start brewing their morning cup.
Fun fact: 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.
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 on our list is big-bodied, roasty, and sweet. That’s pretty much everything we want out of a good dark-roasted brew. Meet Caffe Vita’s Organic French roast. She’s a smoky little number who’s strong enough to kick your day into high gear.
The coffee for this dark roast blend comes from Central and South America, Indonesia, and Africa, and before it makes it to your doorstep, it’s roasted to dark brown perfection. Thanks to these beans’ notes of sweet cocoa, delicious maple syrup, and nutty nutmeg, this java just might become your new favorite coffee — so good!
Cafe Don Pablo Signature Blend Dark Roast
If you’re looking to kick your morning off with a cup overflowing with bold, rich flavor, scoop Cafe Don Pablo’s Signature Blend beans into your drip machine. The blend of coffee beans from Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil produce a cocoa-toned brew with a smooth taste and a pretty full body. Plus, with low acidity coffee lovers can drink this joe with no discomfort.
Coffee drinkers concerned with the type of beans used to produce their brew will be happy to know Cafe Don Pablo only sources high-quality arabica beans. Once they’re small batch-roasted to dark deliciousness, you can use them to make pot after pot of flavorful coffee that’s good ’til the last drop.
Mayorga Organics Café Cubano Roast
We at Roasty go crazy for the bold flavor of Cuban coffee, and we think you will, too, if you pick up a bag of Mayorga Café Cubano joe. These dark roast coffee beans boast hints of sweet vanilla and a slightly smoky flavor that is sure to delight the taste buds of most anyone.
These beans are sustainably sourced, as Mayorga only uses the freshest coffee from small farmers and co-ops in Latin America. Thanks to a slow, small-batch roasting technique, Mayorga’s Café Cubano coffee has a pretty distinct taste — the dark roast’s bold flavor is probably what makes it the brand’s signature blend.
Olde Brooklyn Coffee Italian Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Olde Brooklyn Coffee’s Italian roast is the kind of joe you bring out at any time of the day, whether you’re sipping it as a morning pick-me-up with your breakfast or enjoying a cup of the freshly brewed stuff to get you over your midday slump.
The blend of beans from Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala produces a delicious-tasting cup. The best part is that each bean blend is roasted weekly, so you’re getting the freshest coffee possible when you place an order.
Kicking Horse Coffee, Kick Ass Dark Roast
The Kick Ass dark roast from Kicking Horse Coffee is sweet, smoky, and audacious — one could even say it does exactly what its name says it does. Though these beans are strong and flavorful, it doesn’t have the burnt coffee taste that’s often associated with dark roasts, so it can even be appreciated by people who usually favor lighter roasts. The Kick Ass blend’s delicious flavor notes include chocolate malt, licorice, molasses, and an earthy finish that lingers in your mouth.
Kicking Horse sources these beans from coffee farmers in Indonesia and South America before roasting them in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and because they’re 100 percent arabica and shade-grown, dark roast lovers know they’re in for a real treat. You’ll have even more peace of mind sipping Kick Ass coffee knowing that the bag of beans you just bought is Fair Trade.
Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend, Dark Roast
Peet’s Coffee’s Major Dickason’s blend has a full body and smoky, complex flavors that show off the rich taste the popular coffee manufacturer is known for. The beans for this blend are also grown and sourced responsibly, properly caring for the communities from which they’ve come.
Since 1966, Peet’s Coffee 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. Make Major Dickason’s beans with the brewing process that suits you best, from a classic French press to your favorite cold brew method.
Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roasted
Koffee Kult packs and ships your order within hours of the beans being small-batch roasted, which means you’re getting the freshest beans in every bag. The organic coffee from Colombia, Guatemala, and Sumatra makes a perfect blend, and the resulting brew has a strong taste and a smooth finish.
The aroma of the Koffee Kult dark roast beans makes them stand out from the crowd, as it fills up the whole room. The smell, paired with the coffee’s hints of cinnamon, makes you feel as if you’re drinking liquid dark chocolate, and its sweet, lingering finish makes it a great choice for brewing espresso.
Death Wish Ground Coffee
Even though we’ve established that coffee roasting levels don’t play a role in how much caffeine is present in the brew, Death Wish Coffee has taken this myth and made it a reality. The brand says a cup of its dark roast brew contains twice as much caffeine as a cup of regular coffee, making Death Wish the “World’s Strongest Coffee.”
Death Wish doesn’t add anything to boost the caffeine content; they just use a blend of arabica and robusta beans. Since robusta coffee is naturally higher in caffeine, it helps enhance your clarity and focus while giving you a strong jolt of energy. The slow roasting process Death Wish uses in the brand’s New York headquarters naturally produces a brew that’s stronger than the average cup. And since the beans are roasted in small batches, you can count on quality and consistency.
When Should You Go To The Dark Side?
How roast levels are perceived has changed significantly in recent years. In the past, the consensus was that dark roast was the way to go. But now, with specialty coffee being a world phenomenon and coffee connoisseurs being more willing to explore beans with different flavors and origins, lighter joe is preferred.
This is because coffee bean quality is on the rise, so specialty coffee roasters have no need to hide the bad flavors of low-quality beans with an especially dark roast. And while darker roasts are more consistent, they offer less variety, which is a turn-off to some java drinkers.
Nowadays, dark roasts are preferred for espresso-making, as espresso balances flavors and rounds the acidity. The stronger taste of a dark roast tastes better with milk, too, since it mellows out any bitter flavors while keeping its full body intact.
How to Choose Dark Roast Coffee Beans
There are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing between dark roast coffee blends. If we’re being perfectly honest, you should take advantage of these tips no matter what kind of beans you’re buying.
Know Your Flavor Preferences
While some people prefer to sip on something with an earthy taste, 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, it’s helpful to have at least a general idea of how you want it to taste once it’s been brewed.
Consider Your Personal Needs
Coffee beans aren’t a one-size-fits-all product — if they were, there wouldn’t be nearly as many options of the stuff on the market today. So, when you’re looking for a new bag of beans to store in the cabinet above your coffee bar, be sure to consider your own personal needs.
Some of these may be health-related; for example, if you know you’ve got a sensitive stomach and digestive system, you’ll need to find a low acid coffee. Your other needs may have more to do with convenience, though, and if you’re looking for something quick and easy, you might be more inclined to choose dark roast instant coffee or coffee capsules to use in your single-serve machine.
Check Out the Roast Date
No matter which of the many types of coffee beans you choose, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the freshest joe possible. For that reason, you’ll want to 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, be wary of coffee 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 technically taste fine, you may be missing out on all the robust coffee flavors they once had.
Does Darker Mean Stronger?
A myth about its caffeine content surrounds dark roast coffee. Traditionally, people believed that because a darker roast tastes more bitter and is perceived as “stronger,” it must contain more caffeine.
Then there was an opposite tendency with the notion that the caffeine is lost during the roasting process, and therefore, the lighter roasts have higher jitter content. This is not exactly true either.
The fact is that the levels of caffeine are all about the mass rather than the roast. During the roasting, the coffee bean loses mass, and therefore, if you measure your coffee in scoops, the lighter roast will have more caffeine, simply because it’s denser.
Because of its more robust taste, some people prefer the dark roast over the bright and mellow light roast coffee. Luckily, the best dark roast coffee doesn’t mean low-quality beans trying to mask the bad taste, and many great dark roast coffees are available.
Debunking Dark Roast: Frequently Asked Questions
How should you store dark roast coffee beans?
To keep your dark roast beans’ natural flavors fully intact before you get a chance to brew them, keep them in an opaque and airtight container in a cool space that’s 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. Fresh roasted coffee that’s already been ground should be used within one or two weeks, but whole beans can last for about a month if they’re stored correctly.
Does dark roast coffee have more caffeine than lighter roasts?
For years, this question has divided the coffee industry. Some claim dark roast coffee is the most caffeinated choice, while others swear light roast joe gives you the biggest caffeine kick since less of the stimulant is lost during the roasting process.
But the truth is, the roast level doesn’t have anything to do with how caffeinated your brew is. Your cup’s caffeine content is a product of the brewing method, type of bean, and amount of ground coffee used to make it.
How do you brew dark roast coffee without bitterness?
Nothing ruins the dark roast coffee experience like tasting tinges of bitterness in every sip instead of the strong, usually chocolatey flavors the blackish-brown brew usually boasts. But never fear; bitterness isn’t inevitable. Here are a few ways to reduce the bitterness of your beloved beverage.
Over-extraction is the most common culprit for joe’s bitter taste, so be sure you’re using the right grind size, no matter which of the many coffee brewing methods you choose, and use the correct coffee-to-water ratio.
Some coffee drinkers even add a bit of salt to their coffee before brewing to counteract the bitterness. That sounds strange, we know, but no worries; using just a pinch of it won’t make your drink salty and gross.
If you’re still not impressed with your java after reviewing your coffee brewing technique or trying the salt trick, you may need to consider lighter coffee roasts or different dark roast coffee brands.
What are the health benefits of dark roast coffee?
Did you know dark roast coffee isn’t just good, but 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 has 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 it is a tiny factor here. 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.
With the rise of specialty coffee, the medium and light roasts have become increasingly popular since their acidity allows the exotic and delicate flavors to come out. Unlike dark roast coffee that doesn’t have such a varied flavor spectrum but, in contrast, it is more well-rounded and stable.
In the past, dark roast coffee was associated with low-quality coffee beans roasted longer to mask the bad taste. Today, dark roast coffee producers take advantage of the intense flavor dark roasting produces but manage to make sure the coffee’s delicate flavors are still present in your cup.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to 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!