10 Best Dark Roast Coffee: Unleash Your Coffee's Dark Side!

May 24, 2023 • Scott Buffon

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Glory Days - Dark Roast Coffee
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$18 at Nostalgia Roastery
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Espresso Blend - Spirit Animal
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$23 at Spirit Animal
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Clout Coffee Single Malt Whisky
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Coffee lovers have been roasting up dark roast coffee beans throughout coffee’s multi-cultural history, but what makes the best dark roast coffee beans?

Dark roast coffee beans are common, especially when drinking instant coffee or at a chain coffee shop. Named after the color of the bean, dark roast coffee beans sometimes have an oily sheen coating the bean not present in lighter roasts. Dark roasts taste strong and bitter but benefit from chocolate and molasses notes.

Mass-produced roasts use dark-roasted coffee because it’s easy to get a more consistent roast. As roasting technologies advance, lighter roasts of beans have become easier to produce. But the dark roast will always be the classic. 

Read below to understand what happens to coffee during a dark roast, and why the roast is still incredibly popular today. 

Our Picks In Detail

Espresso Blend - Spirit Animal

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4.9 out of 5 • Buy it for $23 at Spirit Animal • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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4.9 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Spirit Animal • Price last checked May 24, 2023

Espresso Blend - Spirit AnimalEspresso Blend - Spirit Animal

Features

Spirit Animal Coffee offers bold, rich flavors of ethically sourced, high-quality beans. Spirit Animal Coffee has a limited selection, but the quality of its dark roast is incredible. This dark roast has tasting notes of citrus, honey, sweet fruit, floral, and peach. It gave us the most delicious cup of espresso!

Pros

  • Bold and rich flavor
  • High-quality beans
  • Ethical sourcing

Cons

  • Limited availability
  • Higher price point

Glory Days - Dark Roast Coffee

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4.9 out of 5 • Buy it for $18 at Nostalgia Roastery • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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4.9 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Nostalgia Roastery • Price last checked May 24, 2023

Glory Days - Dark Roast CoffeeGlory Days - Dark Roast Coffee

Features

With a smooth and well-balanced coffee, Nostalgia’s dark roast beans are packed with flavor. Its award-winning and ethically sourced beans aren’t one you should miss. This coffee is a nod to the past but a bold step into the future. It is uniquely savory and sweet. It is rich in complexity and roasted to highlight notes of toffee, fudge brownie and caramel. Produced 100% by women in Zongólica, Veracruz.

Pros

  • Smooth and well-balanced taste
  • Wide range of flavors and roasts
  • Environmentally conscious practices
  • Empowering women

Cons

  • Offer limited variety
  • Not available on Amazon

Lantern Robusta - Art De Vivre Dark Roast

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4.7 out of 5 • Buy it for $20 at Art De Vivre • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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4.7 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Art De Vivre • Price last checked May 24, 2023

Lantern Robusta - Art De Vivre Dark RoastLantern Robusta - Art De Vivre Dark Roast

Features

Art de Vivre offers unique and exotic flavor profiles with organic and fair trade options. Vivre’s expert roasters carefully select the correct beans to ensure its flavors are a hit. Best for those of you who favor notes of dark chocolate nuts, and a more intense coffee. For a 17.7 oz bag, the price is fair and the quality is high!

Pros

  • Unique and exotic flavor profiles
  • Organic and fair trade options
  • Small-batch roasts

Cons

  • Limited availability in certain regions

Clout Coffee Single Malt Whisky

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4.7 out of 5 • Buy it for $28 at Clout Coffee • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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4.7 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Clout Coffee • Price last checked May 24, 2023

Clout Coffee Single Malt WhiskyClout Coffee Single Malt Whisky

Features

Focusing on small-batch roasting gives more control to Clout Coffee’s roasting process. The coffee leaves a smooth and well-balanced taste on your tongue with attention to detail in sourcing and roasting.

While it possesses the enticing aroma and smoothness reminiscent of whisky, it surpasses traditional whisky with its superior qualities. This coffee is a delightful and invigorating choice to lift your spirits. Crafted by combining single origin Colombian Arabica beans with freshly emptied whisky barrels, it delivers a rich and full-bodied taste. The infusion of earthy and vanilla flavors creates a remarkably smooth whisky-like finish that will leave you craving for another cup. Don't miss out on the opportunity to savor this extraordinary blend - get your hands on Clout's Whisky Barrel-Aged Coffee today.

Pros

  • Smooth and well-balanced taste
  • Offers both single-origin and blends

Cons

  • Limited information on sourcing practices
  • Packaging could be more appealing

Cooper's Cask Coffee - Colombian Dark Roast Coffee

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4.6 out of 5 • Buy it for $18 at Cooper's Cask Coffee • Price last checked Dec 01, 2023

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4.6 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Cooper's Cask Coffee • Price last checked Dec 01, 2023

Cooper's Cask Coffee - Colombian Dark Roast CoffeeCooper's Cask Coffee - Colombian Dark Roast Coffee

Features

Sourced from a single-origin farm, Coopers delivers robust flavors to its dark java. Despite its wide selection of blends, the coffee is priced affordably. Grown from volcanic soil rich in minerals and nutrients, single origin Columbian coffee beans are known throughout the world for their quality. This signature roasting process helps bring out a unique and celebrated, yet mild flavor that includes hints of rustic sweetness, cocoa, and dark fruit notes. Fully Washed & Roasted in the U.S.A.

Pros

  • Strong and robust flavors
  • Diverse selection of blends
  • Affordable prices

Cons

  • Inconsistent packaging quality
  • May lack flavor complexity.

Grande Domain Vienna - 100% Kona Dark Coffee

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5 out of 5 • Buy it for $42 at Koa • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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5 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Koa • Price last checked May 24, 2023

Grande Domain Vienna - 100% Kona Dark CoffeeGrande Domain Vienna - 100% Kona Dark Coffee

Features

Koa Coffee provides premium quality Hawaiian coffee grown on the tropical islands. With rich and complex flavors, it still manages to feature less caffeine than other coffees. Their Grande Domaine Kona has gained notoriety by being selected as a Kona Coffee Cupping contest winner for outstanding quality and balance. A decadent blend of their most flavorful Kona coffee beans and Peaberry Kona, the most rare Kona Coffee of all.

This is the best of the best; sun-drenched Kona coffee, harvested by hand and roasted to a perfect Vienna roast, which is a little darker than medium. For connoisseurs, that’s a perfect second-crack so you taste both the roast and the exquisite flavor that only comes from the Mauna Loa region of the Kona Coffee belt. This coffee will spoil you for any other. Pre-ground, so there’s no need to grind; just open the bag and brew. You’ll love the consistency, knowing they'll grind your Kona coffee exactly the same every single time.

Pros

  • Premium quality Hawaiian coffee
  • Rich and complex flavors
  • Directly sourced from their farm

Cons

  • Higher price point
  • Beans sourced from a single location

Single Origin - Columbian Supremo "Euro-Italian" - Specialty Coffee

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4.5 out of 5 • Buy it for $16 at Out Of The Grey • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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4.5 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Out Of The Grey • Price last checked May 24, 2023

Single Origin - Columbian Supremo "Euro-Italian" - Specialty CoffeeSingle Origin - Columbian Supremo "Euro-Italian" - Specialty Coffee

Features

Out of the Grey has a cup of coffee for every drinker. Their specialty coffee features unique flavor profiles that excel as dark roasts.

Experience the smoky richness of our coffee, infused with delightful flavors of cherry, blueberry, chocolate, and caramel. This exceptional blend offers a lively and effervescent acidity, accompanied by a lightly syrupy mouthfeel. It is an ideal option for coffee enthusiasts who experience digestive issues or simply prefer low acidic coffees with a higher concentration of antioxidants. Indulge in this unique and satisfying choice that combines flavorful nuances with a gentle, soothing effect on your palate.

Pros

  • Specialty coffee with unique flavor profiles
  • Supports social and environmental causes

Cons

  • Relatively higher price range
  • Limited information on sourcing and roasting methods

French Roast Coffee - Hawaiian Coffee

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4.6 out of 5 • Buy it for $12 at Hawaiian Coffee • Price last checked Jun 29, 2023

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4.6 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Hawaiian Coffee • Price last checked Jun 29, 2023

French Roast Coffee - Hawaiian CoffeeFrench Roast Coffee - Hawaiian Coffee

Features

With authentic on-the-island coffee flavors, Hawaiian Coffee knows how to make a dark roast to keep you riding the wave all day. Their flavors taste smooth and well-balanced from the first sip to the last. 

Introducing Lion French Roast Coffee, a product hailing from the volcanic landscapes of Hawaii. This coffee is renowned for its intense and full-bodied flavor profile. With a delicious dark roast coffee finish, it delivers a robust and satisfying experience. Prepare yourself for a bold, snappy, and aggressive classic French Roast that exudes attitude and character. This coffee is perfect for those seeking a cup with a little extra punch and flair. Embrace the boldness of Lion French Roast and elevate your coffee-drinking experience to new heights.

Pros

  • Authentic Hawaiian coffee flavors
  • Smooth and well-balanced taste

Cons

  • Higher price point
  • Limited availability outside of Hawaii

Smokehouse Dark Roast - Altruistic Joe

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4.6 out of 5 • Buy it for $21 at Altruistic Joe • Price last checked Jun 01, 2023

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4.6 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Altruistic Joe • Price last checked Jun 01, 2023

Smokehouse Dark Roast - Altruistic JoeSmokehouse Dark Roast - Altruistic Joe

Features

Altruistic Joe offers smooth blends packed with flavor while supporting charitable causes. They are a veteran-owned business dedicated to sourcing the best coffee in the world. Their commitment lies in providing freshly roasted coffee, ensuring exceptional quality with every cup. Moreover, they proudly donate 20% of all net proceeds to support charitable causes.

Indulge in our meticulously crafted "dark" roast coffee, a perfect addition to your coffee repertoire. Discover the rich flavors of cocoa, dark cherry, and a subtle hint of smoke, all masterfully blended to create a delightful sensory experience. This versatile coffee pairs exceptionally well with milk and sugar, offering a harmonious balance, or enjoy it straight black to fully appreciate its unique qualities. Rest assured, this dark roast is never bitter, always delivering a smooth and full-bodied taste that lingers. If you have a fondness for dark roasts, this coffee is sure to please your palate and become a favorite in your collection.

Pros

  • Smooth and flavorful blends
  • Affordable pricing
  • Charity Focused

Cons

  • Limited variety of blends and origins
  • Packaging could be more visually appealing

Costa Rican Dark Roast Coffee - Reserve

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4.4 out of 5 • Buy it for $19 at Volcanica • Price last checked May 24, 2023

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4.4 out of 5 • No price available, check stock on Volcanica • Price last checked May 24, 2023

 Costa Rican Dark Roast Coffee - Reserve Costa Rican Dark Roast Coffee - Reserve

Features

Experience the excellence of Costa Rican Dark Roast Coffee - Reserve, sourced from the prestigious coffee-growing region of Tarrazu. Renowned as one of the finest coffees globally, Costa Rican Coffee captivates with its light, clean flavor profile and captivating aroma. Expertly roasted to a full roast color, the natural oils shimmer on the surface, showcasing the peak expression of this exceptional blend. Notably, this coffee is rated as low acid, offering a smoother and more gentle experience on the palate. Delight in the distinct qualities of Costa Rican Dark Roast Coffee - Reserve, where quality and flavor converge in every sip.

Pros

  • Exotic and rare coffee origins
  • High-quality beans
  • Offers a wide range of roast profiles
  • Rain Forest Alliance Certified

Cons

  • Website can be difficult to navigate
  • Limited availability in physical stores

The Roasting Process

Many people don’t understand how much work goes into each bag of packaged coffee, or how their roast impacts the coffee they’re buying. Roasting profiles vary from a light to a dark roast. Dark roasts impart different flavors and smells into your cup with slightly less caffeine. The best way to think about the light-to-dark roast is on a linear spectrum. Lighter roasts have received less heat or time in the roaster, whereas darker roasts have more heat.

As the coffee roasts, the moisture inside the bean gets hot and bursts out. Roasters call this burst from within the bean a “crack” and expect every bean to crack at least twice during the roast. These cracks are hallmarks of the roasting process, as the second crack means the beans have reached a darker roast. 

If you keep roasting past the second crack, your beans will begin to look glossy as the remaining oils inside the bean are pulled to the surface. These oily beans are considered versions of darker roasts like French, Italian, and Vienna roasts.

Light roasts have slightly more caffeine and more healthy antioxidants than darker roasts because the roasting process extracts caffeine and antioxidants through the evaporating moisture. 

But for consumers, the smell and taste of the beans will be the main distinguishing feature between roasts. 

Coffee beans falling from a roasting machine

Flavor and Aroma

The flavor and aroma differences between dark and other types of roasts can be confusing, so we’re going to help you know what to expect before you buy. 

The dark roast is the classic roast, because people have been roasting it over open flames for centuries. Dark roasted beans will give your coffee a strong aroma and smooth flavors that may resemble chocolate or molasses. In addition to an unmistakable bitter taste, darker roasts can be thicker to the point of heavy cream. 

Unless you like your coffee black, with a dark roast you’re likely going to be adding some milk and sugar to your cup. Because of that strong coffee flavor, dark roasts have become popular at franchise coffee shops because the coffee flavor can withstand the fancier sugar and milk coffee drinks.

Medium and lighter roasts taste less bitter and more acidic. But make no mistake, if you like your coffee strong or black then dark roasts are the right roast for you. Consumers should also know that where the bean was grown impacts the flavor of the coffee as well.

Which coffee drinks pairs best with dark roast coffee beans?

Dark roast coffee beans are known for their bold and robust flavors. They tend to have a rich, intense profile with notes of chocolate, caramel, and even smokiness. Here are three coffee drinks that pair well with dark roast coffee beans:

  • Espresso: Dark roast coffee beans are commonly used in espresso due to their strong flavors. The concentrated shot of espresso complements the boldness of the dark roast, creating a robust and satisfying drink.
  • Café Mocha: The combination of dark chocolate and dark roast coffee is a match made in heaven. The deep flavors of the dark roast coffee beans blend harmoniously with the chocolate, resulting in a decadent and indulgent café mocha.
  • Cappuccino: The creamy and velvety texture of a cappuccino can balance out the intensity of dark roast coffee beans. The frothed milk adds a touch of sweetness and smoothness to the bold flavors, creating a well-rounded and satisfying beverage.
  • Vietnamese coffee: The strong flavors of the dark roast cut through the sweetness of the condensed milk, creating a well-balanced and indulgent combination.

Remember, coffee preferences can vary, so feel free to experiment and adjust the ratios of coffee to milk or chocolate according to your taste preferences.

Brewing Dark Roast Coffee

If you’re going to be spending extra effort to buy the best dark roast coffee beans, you better brew it right.

Many people know the water-to-coffee ratio is important, but that’s not all. Because your dark roast was roasted to give you a strong coffee flavor, a little bit of brew goes a long way. 

To avoid an obsidian-black cup of coffee, grind your coffee coarse and brew it for a shorter time. I recommend using Chemex or pour-overs to ensure the water doesn’t soak in the beans too long. Play your cards right and you’ll be able to taste the chocolate and molasses flavors that can sometimes be overpowered by the strong coffee flavor.

Detail shot of coffee beans

Conclusion

Dark roast coffee is a common yet classic in American coffee culture. From chains to specialty shops, you’ll never be too far from a black cup of joe. Be sure to consider the farm location when picking out the beans to get you through your day.

But with our list of brands, you’ll undoubtedly find the best dark roast coffee for your palate. Happy sipping!

Author

Scott's tasted his first cup of coffee in college. The sludgy cup came from the gas station closest to his apartment when he needed to stay awake during an all-night study session. Thankfully, this cup was not his last. He and his wife now enjoy a cup or two of home-brewed coffee with breakfast every morning and enjoy exploring new coffee shops and eateries. As a former journalist, he works as a communication manager for a local, art-focused nonprofit in Arizona most days and freelances the rest. As a writer at heart, Scott appreciates the union of his craft and love of coffee at Roast Love.

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