The best dark roast coffee beans are full of flavour and full-bodied, think of it as a good red wine. It’s heavier and more satisfying but can have a slightly bitter taste to it. There is no doubt, the roasting process influences the aroma and flavour or the coffee. So much so, that exactly the same coffee bean can taste completely differently if roasted to a different level.
Our Top Picks for Best Dark Roast Coffee
Choosing the Best Dark Roast Coffee
Dark roast coffee is very dark, almost black in colour. When roasted these beans will reach the highest internal temperature of all the roasting levels, giving it its distinct flavour. For this reason, it can give you a more smokey, bitter and even burnt aroma. A dark roast is closest to burning the beans if you think about it.
A dark roast will generally have lower acidity than a light or medium roast, but the caffeine content will be similar. Some light roasts might even have higher caffeine content than some dark roasts. However, the amount of coffee you use will make a bigger difference in terms of caffeine content than the roast level.
You’ll notice that dark roasts come in a few varieties these include Italian roast, espresso roast, French roast and Spanish roast. Traditionally the Spanish roast would the darkest option and Italian the lightest of the dark roasts. But these days the terms are sort of used interchangeably. So the flavour notes should give you a better indication of what the roast will taste like. Other dark roasts also include Continental, New Orleans and Viennese.
For more notes on choosing dark roast coffee, see info below the list of coffees here.
9 Of The Best Dark Roast Coffees
- Speciality: Certified Organic, Fairtrade
- Aroma: Cocoa, Cinnamon, Smooth, Heavy Body, Bright with a long finish
Located in Florida Koffee Kult has been making and crafting some of the best coffees around. They’re a family-owned business but have one of the largest roasting facilities in South Florida. This roast is strong, yet smooth with balanced acidity.
For this pack, they use a blend of Arabica beans from Brazil, Columbia and Sumatra that makes up a dark and smooth roast. Their coffee beans are small-batch dark roasted, packaged and shipped straight away, making it an incredible fresh coffee. Even though this roast is dark in colour you won’t see oil on the beans.
- Speciality: Certified Organic, Fairtrade
- Aroma: Smoky, sweet vanilla and dark chocolate
The folks in Kicking Horse doesn’t just deliver a gnarly snow resort, they make good coffee too. This is a remarkable blend of beans – almost as good as their snow-covered hills, it’s bold, it’s daring and it does kick ass so too speak. It comes in both a whole bean and ground option here.
Roasted in the Canadian Rocky Mountains the coffee beans originate from Indonesia and South America. This is a deep dark and delicious coffee, with a smooth finish and low acidity.
An added bonus is that the coffee is certified organic, this means it’s the best coffee with the best intentions where they safeguard the environment for the future.
- Speciality: Fairtrade
- Aroma: Roasty and balanced, with a hint of chocolate.
Made from 100% Arabica beans, sourced exclusively from Latin America. It’s a bold blend of premium beans that creates a perfectly balanced cup of coffee. If you appreciate something that’s both smooth and strong, then this coffee could be for you.
Seatle’s Best Coffee started roasting coffee in a peanut roaster back in the 70s, but they have come a long way since then. They’ve perfected their signature roasting process and can now be found in stores across the country.
- Speciality: Organic, Fairtrade, Kosher
- Aroma: Rich, dark chocolate, cacao nibs, brown sugar and roasted hazelnuts.
Another great coffee by Kicking Horse, we love that their beans are certified organic. Their coffee is grown in by socially and environmentally responsible farmers and roasted in the rocky mountains.
Unlike their Kick-Ass coffee, the beans for Grizzly Claw is sourced from Central and South America. This coffee is a strong spirited rich dark roast with hints of hazelnut and cacao. Grizzly Claw is available in both whole bean and ground – see below – and is perfect for drip machines, pour-over or cold brew coffee making.
- Speciality: 100% Kona
- Aroma: Rich, dark, smooth and silky
A 100% Kona Coffee from Hawaii’s famous Kona district. Peaberry beans make a wonderful roast that is full-bodied and intense with a bit of a bite. It truly is the Champagne of Kona as it’s a unique bean with a great taste. Demand for this coffee is high so can sometimes be out of stock.
Unlike most coffee beans the Peaberry bean does not have a flat side, it’s one small oval-shaped bean, so is a rare occurrence. They are so rare that only 3-5 bags out of 100 Kona Coffee bags will be Peaberry.
You won’t find any bitterness in this coffee, it’s a nice and smooth dark roast full of flavour.
Related reading: Best Kona Coffee
- Speciality: Organic
- Aroma: Full-bodied and chocolate
The Wandering Bear Extra Strong Coarse Ground Coffee is perfect for making cold brew coffee and for use in a French Press. You can also use it for a drip machine or a percolator if you have those.
Roasted in Brooklyn NY in small batches, this coffee smells wonderfully robust. If you’re not too keen on a nice strong and full-bodied coffee then you should look elsewhere. But if you are then you’re in luck as this packet will deliver just that.
- Speciality: Organic
- Aroma: Full body, rich coffee flavor with chocolate notes
Stone Street Coffee is an artisanal roaster from Brooklyn, NY who has been roasting since 2009. We love that they take pride in ethical sourcing as coffee can be a terrible industry when it comes to exploiting farmers.
This dark roast is made to create a smooth, less acidic coffee and is roasted in small batches. Your brew will be equally tasty black or with milk, pair it with a bit of dark chocolate and you’re in for a treat. Find both ground and whole bean bags on Amazon, see below.
- Speciality: Fairtrade, Organic
- Aroma: Smooth, subtle, never bitter cherry and chocolate
With this coffee, DEATH WISH blends Arabica and Robusta beans before slow roasting them to produce a coffee with double the strength when compared to your average cup. The extra punch isn’t produced by added caffeine, but rather the unique roasting process.
This unique blend of beans gives you a high caffeine coffee without the acidity or bitterness. It’s roasted in small batches to ensure consistency. If you have a caffeine sensitivity then drink this coffee in moderation, if not, you might be tempted to have cup after cup. It’s a caffeine addict’s dream. It’s also available in ground and whole bean, see below.
- Speciality: Kosher
- Aroma: Rich, complex, and full-bodied
This blend was inspired by a loyal customer of Peet’s coffee, sergeant Key Dickason. After countless samples of coffee combinations, they arrived at their all-time best-seller with this coffee. It’s rich and complex, combining the best origin coffees in the worlds premier growing regions.
A smooth coffee and trusted classic blend without bitterness.
Dark Roast Bean Origin
When choosing a dark roast coffee, the bean country of origin becomes less important as the smokiness will overpower the subtle nuances of the bean in its original state. In the past dark roasts were used to mask the flavours of low-quality beans.
Think of it in a similar way as very well done or burnt meat on a BBQ. The more done or burnt it becomes the less important the quality of the steak. You’ll just end up tasting the smokey flavours of the char rather than the soft, tenderness of the meat.
Today these dark roasts aren’t used to mask terrible beans necessarily, it a perfected process to get the best aroma out of the oil within the beans, so the tables have turned. The roaster’s skill level has become more important with a dark roast as it will influence the aroma in a significant way.
There are a lot of chemical reactions that take place during the roasting process. Small changes in the humidity, airflow, temperature and roasting time can make a big difference. And controlling these can be a challenge for all roast levels.
Robusta vs Arabica Beans for Dark Roasts
Arabica beans are very common for most roast levels. But for a dark roast, Robusta beans can also play a role. Arabica beans are usually seen as a higher quality bean but you’ll get an earthy tone from a Robusta bean. That gives it a different depth of flavour – so it’s worth considering or at least a try.
Dark Roast Flavours
When it comes to dark roasts you’ll normally find flavour notes such as chocolate, caramel, smokiness, red fruits such as cherry, toasted marshmallow and roasted nuts or even pine.
These flavours will be subtle, and as with wine tasting takes a trained tongue to identify. But with practice, you’ll learn to know what you like in a roast and what you don’t.
Avoiding a Bitter Brew
Dark roasted beans are generally less dense so you can pull more flavour out of them, which can lead to over-extraction and bitterness. If you’re making coffee with a dark roast bean, paying attention to the contact time between the water and the coffee is super important.
Brewing processes such as a Moka pot or an espresso machine work well with a dark roast. It can also work really well in a French press if you stick to a coarse grind.
Coarser grinds will generally help curb over-extraction. This is true for both the French press and espresso machines, but for espresso, you’ll have to play around with a fine to fine-medium grind rather than coarse. You can also reduce the brewing time for gadgets that allow it.
The Shelf Life of Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Roasted coffee is prone to going stale once a bag has been opened. Buying freshly roasted beans are definitely important if you’d like to enjoy all the flavours a pack has to offer.
Unfortunately, the darker the roast the quicker the flavour will deteriorate. Once you open a bag of extra dark roasted coffee, the aromas and oils will decay more quickly. This is because for a very dark roast the beans are roasted to the point where the cell walls of the beans can rupture.
So if you’re someone who enjoys a very dark roast, we’d recommend that you drink your coffee once a pack has been opened, don’t let it sit around as you’ll be very disappointed.