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Best Dark Roast Coffee Beans (Best Tasting French, Italian, and more)

If you’ve ever had a bad dark roast coffee, you know how disappointing it can be. It tastes burnt, bitter, and one-note. In contrast, a good dark roast is rich and full-bodied, with bold flavors of chocolate, toasted nuts, and maybe a hint of red fruit.

Keep reading for 6 examples of the latter, each of which is unique and delicious in its own way.

Top Pick
“Kicking

Kicking Horse Coffee

You get two dark roasts in one: Grizzly Claw and Kick Ass.
It’s certified Organic, Fair trade, Kosher, and Shade Grown.
A richly flavored coffee great for espresso, French Press, and cold brew.

How to Choose the Best Dark Roast Coffee

Sure, there are a few important things to consider when buying the best tasting coffee beans. But, when buying dark roasted coffee beans, in particular, a few special considerations are necessary! 

This buyer’s guide will walk you through it.

IMAGE Product Details
Best Overall Best Overall 416XtyfuIUL Kicking Horse Kick Ass and Grizzly Claw Dark Roast Pack
  • Grizzly Claw Tasting Notes: Dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, roasted hazelnuts, brown sugar
  • Kick Ass Tasting Notes: Chocolate malt, molasses, licorice
amazon-logo SEE ON AMAZON
Best Organic Best Organic Lifeboost_DarkRoastBean Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffee
  • Origin(s): Nicaragua
  • Grind: Whole or Ground
  • Tasting Notes: Earth, wood, dark chocolate
CLICK TO CHECK PRICE
Strongest Coffee Strongest Coffee 41CNL+7OvlL Death Wish Coffee
  • Origin(s): India and Peru
  • Grind: Whole
  • Tasting Notes: Chocolate, cherry
amazon-logo See on Amazon
Best Single Origin Best Single Origin SUMATRA-MANDHELING-RESERVE Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling Reserve
  • Origin(s): Indonesia
  • Grind: Whole, Drip, Espresso, French Press
  • Tasting Notes: Brown sugar, dried fruit, wine
Click to check price
Budget Pick Budget Pick 517sWNIGAxL Cafe Don Pablo Signature Blend
  • Origin(s): Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil
  • Grind: Whole
  • Tasting Notes: Cocoa, sweet, smooth
amazon-logo SEE ON AMAZON
Best Blend Best Blend peets-coffee-e1606799858437 Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason s Blend
  • Grind: Whole, Drip, Percolator, Espresso, Commercial Brewer
  • Tasting Notes: Chocolate, smoky
CLICK TO CHECK PRICE

It’s About the Roasting.

In a dark roasted coffee, the character of this type of coffee comes from the roasting process. It’s about the way the roaster uses heat and airflow to coax flavor from the beans. So the growing region of the coffee — meaning they’re from a single coffee region or country like Costa Rica, Sumatra, or others — has less influence on the taste of your brew. In comparison, with light roast coffee brands, the dominant flavor is of the coffee bean itself.

That said, growing conditions dictate the quality of the coffee. So you should still opt for coffees from regions known for high elevation, rich soil, and a favorable climate for Arabica coffee beans. 

Opt For Whole Bean Coffee When You Can.

To experience your coffee at its best, you should buy whole bean coffee and grind it right before brewing. Ideally, you should be using a good-quality burr grinder. As soon as you grind coffee beans, they begin to lose flavor. And we want more of that flavor to end up in your cup!

However, if you don’t have a burr grinder at home, a dark roast coffee is one of the best options for buying ground coffee. Because its flavors are so bold, they’ll persist much longer than the subtle notes of a light roast. 

If you buy pre-ground coffee, buy from a brand that grinds to order, and make sure you get the correct grind for your brewer: fine for espresso, medium for drip, coarse for French press. Then store your ground beans in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Here’s a list of the best ground coffees to help you.

Sweet Flavors Make The Best Dark Roast Coffee.

Of course, you should buy the coffee that tastes best to you. But as a general rule, coffee beans with more natural sweetness lend themselves best to a dark roast. The longer roasting process and increased caramelization enhance the sweet flavors. Just ask expert coffee roaster Kyle Ramage (1):

When you’re getting into those roastier things, you need a lot of sweetness to make it even palatable. If we roast a not-super-sweet coffee pretty dark, it’s just flat. It becomes one-dimensional.

To avoid drinking one-dimensional coffee, look for beans from origins known for sweeter flavor profiles (2). Central and South America are known for chocolate and nut flavors. Indonesia features bold and earthy notes. And the best Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans and Hawaiian Kona beans are prized for their smooth caramel and fruit flavors (3).

Best dark roast coffee infographic

The 6 Best Dark Roast Coffees in 2020

There is a surprising diversity of flavors among the best dark roast coffees, from classic chocolate to dried fruit and black licorice. So there’s sure to be one for you. Here are our 6 favorites.

1. Kicking Horse Dark Roast Pack – Best Overall

“Kicking

Specifications

  • Grizzly Claw:

    Tasting Notes: Dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, roasted hazelnuts, brown sugar

  • Kick Ass:

    Tasting Notes: Chocolate malt, molasses, licorice

Based in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, this premium coffee roaster offers two dark roasts, and they’re both so good that we couldn’t choose a favorite! So we suggest coffee fans try both.

Both are certified Shade-Grown, Kosher, Organic and Fair Trade, but each has a unique flavor profile all its own.

The Grizzly Claw is a blend of Central and South American beans featuring the classic dark roast flavors of dark chocolate, cacao nibs, brown sugar, and toasted hazelnuts. It’s rich and soothing, with a heavy mouthfeel, low acidity, and virtually no bitterness. 

This is the coffee I drink every day at home. I love it in a Moka pot coffee maker, but it’s also one of the best coffees for French Press.

The Kick Ass blend is a bit more complex and unusual. It demonstrates how creative a skilled roaster can be with a dark roast. Beans from South America and Sumatra are blended for a sweet and smoky brew, with flavors of chocolate malt, licorice, and molasses. I think it’s some of the best coffee for cold brew.

2. Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffee – Best Organic

Specifications

  • Origin(s): Nicaragua

  • Grind: Whole Bean or Ground
  • Tasting Notes: Earth, wood, dark chocolate

Our pick for the best organic coffee in this round-up is Lifeboost Coffee’s dark roast. LIfeboost was founded to produce the healthiest coffee, and they take this mission very seriously. They use only the highest quality organic Arabica beans, grown high in the mountains of Nicaragua. Each batch of coffee is certified-free from mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides, and hundreds of other potentially harmful contaminants.

According to the founder of Mayorga Organics, a coffee distributor, this quality is vital for a dark roast:

You need something quality that’s going to hold up to that dark roast, or else you’re just tasting roast.

And, hear, hear, Lifeboost’s specialty grade beans deliver an exceptionally smooth and clean tasting coffee! It’s consistently one of the best low acid coffees on the market. The dark roast is very bold, with an intense chocolatey flavor backed by earth and smoke undertones.

3. Death Wish Coffee – Strongest Coffee

“Death

Specifications

  • Origin(s): India and Peru

  • Grind: Whole Bean
  • Tasting Notes: Chocolate, cherry

Advertised as the world’s strongest coffee, Death Wish has roughly DOUBLE the caffeine of a regular brew. If you really need a jumpstart in the morning, this is for you!

It achieves this caffeination feat by using a certified organic blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, the latter of which contains more caffeine.

Although Robusta beans are generally considered inferior in flavor, this blend retains most of the Arabica beans’ character. It’s a sweet and smooth cup with flavors of dark chocolate balanced by bright cherries.

Not sure how that extra caffeine will sit with you? Death Wish offers a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee. So you can give it a try risk-free.

4. Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling Reserve – Best Single Origin

Specifications

  • Origin(s): Indonesia

  • Grind: Whole Bean, Drip, Espresso, French Press
  • Tasting Notes: Brown sugar, dried fruit, wine

Volcanica Coffee sources coffee from volcanic growing regions. With their high elevation and mineral-rich soils, these regions produce some of the world’s finest coffees. Of course, this includes our pick for the best dark roast coffee from a single origin. 

This Sumatra Mandheling is RARE COFFEE from Indonesia known for being low in acid, heavy body, and an exotic flavor that will transport you to the tropical island. Coffee lovers know these as some of the best coffee beans for pour over method, and they’re also delicious as a cold brew.

Sumatran coffees are typically known for an earthy intensity, but this one is sweeter than average, making it an excellent foundation for a dark roast. The aroma is spicy, with cocoa and cinnamon notes, and the flavor offers brown sugar, dried fruit, and a syrupy finish. 

5. Cafe Don Pablo Signature Blend – Budget Pick

“Cafe

Specifications

  • Origin(s): Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil

  • Grind: Whole Bean
  • Tasting Notes: Cocoa, sweet, smooth

Cafe Don Pablo is the result of a love story between an American man and a Colombian woman. Her family connections to some of the Americas’ best-growing regions have allowed the business to thrive, build close relationships with farmers, and source top quality beans.

The best-selling Cafe Don Pablo coffee signature blend is a medium-dark roast combining beans from Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru. 

The three origins provide a complex layering of flavors that makes this brew more than the sum of its parts and certainly more than you’d expect from its low price. Expect a sweet, medium-bodied specialty coffee with low acidity and a dry, cocoa finish.

6. Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason s Blend – Best Blend

Specifications

  • Origin(s): n/a

  • Grind: Whole Bean, Drip, Percolator, Espresso, Commercial Brewer
  • Tasting Notes: Chocolate, smoky

Today Peet’s offers a wide array of products, including one of the best coffee subscription services. Yet, their original specialties were dark roast coffees and masterful blends. So it’s no surprise that the dark roasted Major Dickason s blend is an all-time best seller

Like any good dark roast, it’s rich and smooth, but there’s also a surprising complexity that demonstrates their blending skill. You’ll taste multiple layers of flavor in this full-bodied brew, with delicate smoky notes building on a chocolate base. 

It’s a great choice for an espresso or cappuccino.

The Verdict

If you love the full body and bold flavor of a well-crafted dark roasted coffee, you’ll enjoy any of these brands.

Start with our overall favorite, Kicking Horse Coffee. The Grizzly Claw beans make for a crowd-pleasing brew, while the Kick Ass offers more complex flavors in your cup of coffee. Either way, your morning is off to a great start!

“Kicking

FAQs

No, dark roast coffee isn’t stronger. By weight, all coffee has the same caffeine content, but because dark roasted coffee beans are less dense, they have less caffeine by volume. With their bold flavors, dark roasts can also make the best decaf coffee.

When checking coffee for strength, consider the type of beans used. Robusta-type beans make stronger coffee.

Both French and Italian roasts are very dark, but the French roast is slightly lighter. A French roast will have a dark brown color and oily sheen, while an Italian roast will be very oily and nearly black (4).

No, dark roasted coffee isn’t healthier than other roasts levels. Scientific studies have shown that certain antioxidants are higher in dark roasts (5), while others are higher in light roasts (6). So the moral of the story is to drink the coffee you enjoy.

Yes, there are dark roast instant coffees. These days, more coffee brands are offering premium instant coffees with various roast levels and flavor profiles. For some suggestions, we’ve reviewed some great tasting brands.

References
  1. Soque, N. (2020, October 9). Views from the Industry: Dark Roast. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/10/views-from-the-industry-dark-roast/
  2. Saladino, E. (2019, March 24). The Differences Between Light and Dark Roast Coffee Are Complex, Chemical, and Surprisingly Easy to Understand. Retrieved from https://vinepair.com/articles/best-dark-roast-coffee-light/
  3. Meister, E. (2018, August 9). What Do Coffees from the Major Growing Regions Taste Like? Retrieved from https://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/06/coffee-flavor-profiles-major-growing-regions-guatemala-kenya-brazil-ethiopia.html
  4. Storr, T. (2020, January 9). Light, Cinnamon, City: What Do Coffee Roast Names Really Mean? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/01/light-cinnamon-city-what-do-coffee-roast-names-really-mean/
  5. Kotyczka C, Boettler U, Lang R, Stiebitz H, Bytof G, Lantz I, Hofmann T, Marko D, Somoza V. (2011, October). Dark roast coffee is more effective than light roast coffee in reducing body weight, and in restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione concentrations in healthy volunteers. Mol Nutr Food Res. 55(10):1582-6. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100248 Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21809439/
  6. MacMillan, A. (2017, June 21). Light Roast vs. Dark Roast Coffee: Which Packs More Health Perks? Retrieved from https://www.health.com/nutrition/light-dark-roast-coffee-which-is-healthier
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