If you love the bold flavor of dark roast coffee, you’re certainly not alone. As a coffee trainer for over 10 years, I love the complexity of a pour over but sometimes there’s nothing like a nutty dark roast to wake you up.
But what’s the best dark roast coffee you can buy today? Well. That depends on what you like.
Below, we’re going to discuss a shortlist of 11, including origins from around the world and different varieties of dark roast coffee. Yup. There’s many roasts within this single roast!
We’re going to go into each of those choices and tell you about the brand, what we love about the coffee, and why it’s on our list of best dark roast coffee.
But, If you want a quick peek at our absolute favorite dark roast coffee beans, here’s the list:
Alternative Dark Roast Coffee Beans at a Glance
- Mexican Oaxaca Dark Coffee [Runner Up]
- Lifeboost Coffee Roasted Dark [Best Low Acid]
- Koa Peaberry Coffee [Best Premium Choice]
- Volcanica Costa Rican Dark Coffee
- Lion French Roast Coffee [Best French Roast]
- Fresh Roasted Brazil Cerrado Dark Coffee [Most Traditional Dark Roasted]
- Vashon Coffee Dark Side of the Moon Blend [Best Desert Brew]
- Death Wish Coffee Beans
- Don Pablo Whole Bean Dark Roast Beans
- Kicking Horse Coffee Dark Roast
The 11 Best Dark Roast Coffee Brands 2022
1. Volcanica’s Sumatra Mandheling
Sumatra Mandheling is known for having rich flavor and a full body. It’s also got mild acidity, which makes for a pleasant cup.
This dark roast from Volcanica is perfect to make drip or espresso-based coffee drinks. Now you know why it’s on our list for best dark roast coffee.
It all starts with the aroma of cocoa. It has a pleasantly full body and is naturally sweet, with the lingering taste of brown sugar.
Then this whole bean coffee finishes with slightly earthy notes. It’s sweet, syrupy, and has a lot of depth. It’s an ideal dark roast coffee that works well for espresso and pairs well with milk to create flavorful lattes. You can also use it for cold brew.
Sumatra dark roast coffee beans tend to have low acid levels, so you don’t have to worry about this cup of Joe bothering your stomach.
And this Volcanica espresso dark roast is certified organic coffee. You can’t go wrong with this choice.
Related Read: Low Acid Coffee
2. Mexican Oaxaca Dark Coffee
Like many a dark roast coffee, this Mexican Oaxaca from Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC has deep smoky flavors that are comforting.
These dark roast coffee beans also have a full body, nutty flavors, and a finish with hints of maple syrup.
Perfectly paired with a French Press or brewed as espresso for a rich and nutty brew with low acidity.
Coffee grown in high-altitude regions, such as Oaxaca, develops more complex flavors. That’s because the coffee cherries ripen at a slower rate and give the bean time to develop interesting tastes.
This strong and flavorful whole bean coffee tastes great brewed in a French Press, and avoids any bitter taste or burnt taste.
That’s why you can enjoy it with or without milk. Of course, feel free to add the milk or non-dairy products of your choice.
3. Koa Peaberry Coffee
Peaberry coffee is a darling of the coffee industry. This kind of coffee gives you a two-in-one deal.
Within the coffee cherry, normally two seeds should develop. But in peaberry coffee, only one seed develops. Instead of being flat on one side and rounded on the other, this type of bean is small, roundish, and dense.
It’s also full of flavor, which is why this bean is prized. It has more flavor. And it’s rare.
Due to its small size, peaberry beans are often separated from regular coffee beans and roasted separately.
Koa Coffee’s Peaberry Dark Roast is 100% Kona coffee, from the Kona region of Hawaii. Kona coffee is known as being flavorful, sweet, and nutty.
All in all, this whole bean coffee has medium acidity and is perfect to relax on a peaceful afternoon.
4. Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffee
If you’re watching out for a sensitive stomach, you might have come across Lifeboost coffee. They specialize in low acidity coffees. This Arabica coffee has a pH of 6, which is quite a bit less acidic than coffees that have a pH of 4.8 or 5.
From Nicaragua, this coffee has a rich body with tastes of chocolate and a hint of orange peel. There’s no bitterness in this cup, which also makes it great for brewing tasty espressos.
In addition to the taste, this coffee helps out the environment by being certified USDA organic coffee as well as shade grown.
It’s also non-GMO, and Lifeboost pays fair prices to the coffee growers. You can get this as ground coffee or whole beans.
5. Volcanica Costa Rican Dark Roasted Coffee
Volcanic soil and high altitudes often come together in Latin America to produce some of the world’s best coffee. Volcanica Coffee Company sources these beans from a high-altitude region called Tarrazu in Costa Rica.
This region of Costa Rica has its own unique microclimate, and the coffee is grown in fertile volcanic soil. Those factors help create this dark roast, which is well balanced, bold and rich.
These 100% Arabica beans are roasted to get you that perfect balance between a dark roast and flavorful coffee. And this whole bean dark roast coffee avoids the bitter taste or burnt taste common in dark roasts.
Coffee lovers will be enchanted by the aroma of apples, the creamy mouthfeel, and the full body. This coffee also comes in a decaf version for your afternoon and evening coffee needs.
6. Lion French Roast Coffee
French Roast coffees are on the dark end of dark roasted coffee. Perhaps, though, you’ve been disappointed by French Roast coffees that taste burnt or bitter.
Rather than giving in to the taste of ashes, Lion French Roast keeps an ideal balance that retains sweetness while giving a smoky hint of bold flavor.
This dark roast blend from Lion combines ground coffee from Central and South America to get an intense brew. This is perfect for you if you’re looking for a very dark roast that has full body.
It avoids the roasting mistakes that some coffee roasters make when roasting this dark, and brings you an intense coffee to remember.
7. Fresh Roasted Brazil Cerrado Dark
If you love chocolate tastes in your coffee, this is the one for you. This medium-dark roast coffee from Cerrado, Brazil, has low acidity and the intense flavors of chocolate and nuts.
There are no burnt flavors in this smooth coffee. How do they avoid the bitterness?
It all starts with a good coffee, and this one is from the Minas Gerais state of Brazil, the largest coffee-producing state in a country with a long coffee-growing tradition.
In this area, weather, soil, and temperature all come together to make exceptional coffees.
8. Vashon Coffee Dark Side of the Moon Blend
This edition of Vashon Coffee’s Dark Side of the Moon goes extra sweet. If you need a coffee that matches the sweetness of your breakfast pastry, turn to this option.
It’s appropriately entitled Crème Brulée, and the pleasant caramel and toasted notes give it the name. It also has chocolate overtones, which makes it great for drinking with milk.
Try it brewed in a French Press with half and half added at the end, or brew a shot of espresso to make a flavorful latte.
9. Death Wish Coffee Beans
If you’re looking for a serious caffeine boost, you’ll find it in Death Wish Coffee.
Made from a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, some people consider this dark roast coffee brand to be the world’s strongest coffee.
Although it can be hard to find flavors in very dark roasted coffee beans, this one with Robusta beans has notes of cherry and chocolate, making it ideal for espresso-based drinks.
Whether or not it’s the world’s strongest coffee, it is USDA-certified organic coffee, Fair Trade, and has a unique money-back guarantee.
10. Don Pablo Whole Bean Dark Roast Beans
Cuban coffee is known for being dark and intense. Don Pablo delivers on that promise with the bold flavor of this dark roast coffee.
Roasted dark, it’s intensely smoky, has caramel tastes, and is ideal for drinking with milk, cream, or non-dairy creamers.
11. Kicking Horse Coffee Dark Roast
Sweet and smoky, this pre-ground coffee from Kicking Horse will give you an intense coffee experience.
This blend of coffees from Sumatra and South America is good for brewing in a French Press. It will give you a creamy mouthfeel even if you drink it black, and it pairs well with any milk products you fancy.
A Buyer’s Guide to The Darker Side of Coffee
Dark roast coffee has a long tradition in the United States and around the world. People love the intense flavors and the bold character of a dark roast coffee.
When coffee drinkers are in the market for dark roast coffee, the first step to choosing the right coffee is to understand what their own tastes are.
Do they want a super dark and intense coffee, are they looking for a bean that does well in espresso, or do they want to find caramel or chocolate flavors in their cup?
Once they decide what they want, they also need to understand what a dark roast coffee is.
Let’s talk about what makes a dark roast dark, what the different levels of roast are, and what you can expect of each one. Then we can go over the best dark roast coffee options.
What’s a Dark Roast Coffee?
The term dark roast coffee refers to how it was roasted. A coffee roaster can decide to roast green coffee beans to a light roast, or they can go further to a medium or dark roast.
A light roast is the quickest roast. Light roasts spend only around 11 minutes in the roaster. The green coffee bean quickly starts to change color and takes on the aromas and flavors we associate with coffee.
Light roast coffee beans conserve a good amount of acidity as well as the flavors of origin of the beans.
Once you pass the stage of light roast, you enter into the part of the roasting process that creates a medium roast. Medium roast coffees spend a few more minutes in the roaster and they tend to be sweeter.
They have a bit less acidity and are easier to brew. Medium roast coffee still retains the flavors of origin. That means you may be able to taste the coffee bean and detect which country it’s from.
Dark roast coffee beans have been roasted longer, and they are easy to recognize because of their oily appearance. That oil isn’t something that’s added to the beans.
As the beans are roasted, the cell structure breaks down and the oils inside the bean come out and coat them.
This gives dark roast coffee beans a luxurious look to them, and dark roasts have a heavy body and low acidity in the cup. The flavors of origin in these roasted coffee beans, though, are lost.
One of the most prized aspects of coffee is the flavors of origin. You can be thrilled by the blueberry taste of an Ethiopian coffee, the touch of orange in a Colombian coffee, or the spicy notes in an Indian coffee.
That’s why you won’t find many specialty coffees that are dark roasted, which would mostly cover up those unique notes.
Dark roast coffee flavors actually come from the roasting process. You might not realize that the intensity, as well as the flavor notes of chocolate and caramel, at times comes from the roast rather than the beans.
In fact, you can take a coffee that doesn’t taste like much at all, roast it dark, and be surprised by the flavors it develops.
Roasting dark is a great thing to do with lower-quality coffees, but it’s a shame when the roasting process covers over the flavors of a better-quality coffee.
Is dark roast coffee stronger?
Many people feel that the tastes seem stronger in darker roasts. Although in terms of caffeine content, it’s actually lower in dark roast coffee beans. Of course, the caffeine content also depends on how you brew dark roast coffee.
Darker roast coffee is good for brewing in a range of brewing methods, from a drip machine to espresso machines.
Dark roasts can also work well in cold brew, since the cold brew technique evens out the acidity and makes for a pleasant drink.
Even within the term “dark roast” you can get more specific. For instance, you might have seen terms such as French Roast or Italian.
Since dark roast coffee has been so popular for so long, a lot of terms have been invented that refer to the precise level of roast. Let’s look at some of those levels.
Note: each coffee shop has its own definition of these dark roast coffees, so you might have to try them to get a full understanding of what the label means.
The “Darker” Roasts
Vienna roast is the lightest roast on this list.
Just beyond medium dark, the roasting process is stopped when second crack is reached. The oils have started to seep out of the bean, and the coffee beans begin to look like dark chocolate.
You’ll smell the smokiness in the aroma, and you’ll get a full-bodied cup of coffee, like a typical dark roast.
Roasted just a bit longer, French Roast coffee beans are a darker roast that has a deep, dark color.
They have a bit more oil on the surface, and the brewed coffee has a heavy body. This roast level has a sweet, caramel flavor. Keep in mind that this level of dark roast coffees is quite a bit smokier than others.
While French Roast is dark, Italian goes a step further. The dark roasted beans have a more intense color, and you’ll see more oils on the surface.
With very low acidity, brewing dark roast beans makes for a balanced espresso with no sour notes.
Obviously, at this point of a dark roast, all flavors of origin are long gone. But the intense coffee taste can be very appealing, and this is a preferred roast for people looking for a comforting espresso.
Continental coffee roasts go beyond this and create a smoky, burnt coffee taste. This is only suitable for drinking with milk or plant-based milks.
The reality is that espresso can be brewed with any roast, from light to dark.
But an espresso roast exists because it is true that darker roasts make it easier to brew a balanced espresso. That’s why you’ll find bags marked as espresso dark roast.
Each coffee company will decide what level of roast is best for their beans, so you’ll find a lot of variety in roast levels with espresso beans.
And since this coffee is used for espresso machines, you’ll find that pre-ground coffee with this label is ground fine for an espresso machine.
Some coffee-producing countries grow excellent coffee that works well as dark roast beans.
Colombia is an important coffee-producing country, third in the world in terms of quantity and prized for good quality.
While a lighter roast has distinct citrus or orange notes, it’s a different story with dark roasts. Colombian coffee beans are known for having notes of caramel or brown sugar, nuts, and dark chocolate, so they’re great for darker roasts.
Coffees from Sumatra also do well in dark roasts because they have deep, rich, earthy flavors.
They have a heavy body and low acidity, and these characteristics stand out in a dark roast. That’s why they do well in creamy milk drinks, and the coffee flavor doesn’t get lost in the dairy products.
Guatemala produces coffee that roasts well at any level, from light to dark.
But at a dark roast, Guatemalan coffees are known for having notes of caramel, fruits, and dark chocolate. Dark roasts accentuate those flavors and add a bit of smoky taste that is prized.
The Final Verdict: Best Dark Roasted Coffee
What are the best dark roast coffees? With so many options, it’s hard to choose just one.
But we love Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling, with the bold intensity and chocolate flavors of these whole beans. It goes well with any espresso-based drinks but can also be enjoyed black.
If you’re looking for a truly special and rare coffee, take a look at Koa Coffee’s Peaberry Dark Roast.
It comes from a region that produces a limited supply of coffee, the Kona region of Hawaii. And peaberry coffee is rare, occurring in less than 10% of all coffee production. You may love the sweet and nutty notes with mellow acidity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why dark roast coffee is the best?
Dark roast lovers are drawn to the bold flavors. If you drink espresso-based beverages with milk, you may prefer a dark roast coffee.
Also, some coffee lovers consider that the best dark roast coffees are easier to brew and give you an intense, consistent cup of coffee every time.
Of course, your tastes in coffee are personal. Which roasted coffee beans you choose depends on what you expect from the coffee, how you brew it, and what you add to the brewed coffee.
A light roast coffee gives you brighter flavors that evoke the origin, but dark roasts will give you a comforting depth.
What is the highest quality coffee?
Where coffee is grown has a lot to do with quality. Coffee from high-altitude regions is often prized as being better.
The flavors are more complex, the acidity is higher, and the sweetness is more pronounced. Why?
Coffee is grown in the tropics because that region has the climate conditions that coffee trees need to thrive.
In the tropics, the temperature gets cooler as you ascend to higher altitudes. And at cooler temperatures, the coffee cherries take longer to ripen. During that long ripening time, sugars fully develop in the beans, which leads to better flavors.
Of course, a lot also depends on the farmer. When a farmer pays attention to quality throughout cultivation, harvesting, and processing, you’ll get superior flavors in the cup.
Volcanica coffee tops our list of best dark roast coffee brands because they carefully select the coffee beans they sell to maintain the highest quality standards.
What is the darkest roast of coffee?
To get the maximum dark roast coffee taste, the darkest roast of coffee you can opt for is an Italian Roast.
The coffee beans have been roasted past second crack, and the oils inside the beans have seeped out and coated the surface of the beans. With an Italian Roast coffee you can expect a strong, intense cup.
You might find notes of dark cocoa, caramel, nuts, or toasted marshmallow. If you want a morning cup that really makes an impact, try an Italian Roast