Exploring the Depths: Unraveling the Mystery of Top Dark Roast Coffees
In the vast world of coffee, there has long been a debate surrounding the light/dark polarization. But perhaps it's time to challenge the rigidity of this argument and embrace the complications that come with exploring the middle ground. Today, we'll delve into the realm of dark roast coffees and uncover some hidden gems that might just surprise you. From the allure of origin to the art of blending, we'll explore the depths of this rich and robust beverage. So grab your mug and join us as we embark on a journey to discover the top dark roast coffees of the year.
The Top 10 Dark Roast Coffees
1. Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffee – Best Overall
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Our favorite dark roast coffee is not only delicious but also healthy and sustainable. The Lifeboost Dark Roast is made from Nicaraguan beans grown at high altitudes without the use of pesticides or chemicals. This shade-grown and bird-friendly coffee offers a smooth and full-bodied flavor profile. It also boasts a low acidity level, which makes it gentle on the stomach.
While Lifeboost Coffee may be on the pricier end, it offers excellent value for the quality and quantity you receive. Plus, you can currently save 50% on your first bag of this exceptional dark roast coffee!
In summary, we believe Lifeboost Coffee is the best dark roast coffee brand available this year. It consistently delivers a satisfying and flavorful experience.
2. Volcanica Dark Roast Sumatra Mandheling – Best Ground Coffee
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When it comes to dark roast coffees, Volcanica's Dark Roast Sumatra Mandheling Reserve stands out as an exceptional choice. Whether you prefer pre-ground or whole bean coffee, this renowned Indonesian variety offers a smooth and full-bodied experience. Additionally, it is organically grown and exhibits low acidity levels, with notes of brown sugar and dried fruit.
The balance and smoothness of these coffee beans make for an enjoyable drinking experience. Despite being pre-ground, the intensity of flavor remains intact, making it our top recommendation for ground coffee. Volcanica Coffee takes pride in cultivating their beans above 3,000 feet, and they offer the flexibility of whole bean or a variety of pre-ground sizes. Take advantage of the current 12% discount on these gourmet beans by using the code AFFECTION12!
Curious to learn more? Read our in-depth review of Volcanica Coffee, featuring their sought-after Sumatra Mandheling beans!
3. Don Pablo Whole Bean Dark-Roast Coffee – Best Decaf
Dark roast coffees generally have lower caffeine content and reduced acidity levels compared to their lighter counterparts. If you have health concerns that steer you away from regular coffee, a decaffeinated dark roast is a great alternative.
Our top pick for the best dark roast decaf coffee is Don Pablo's Whole Bean Coffee Medium-Dark Roast. This decaf coffee offers a robust and flavorful experience due to its water-based processing method. It provides a great value for its price and avoids the common issue of poor taste found in many other decaf options.
It is worth mentioning that while it is labeled as a dark roast, it falls more into the medium-dark range. Nevertheless, if you are seeking a stomach-friendly coffee without compromising on taste, this is an excellent choice.
4. Mayorga Organics Cafe Cubano Whole Bean Coffee
If you're looking for an affordable yet satisfying option, Mayorga Organics Cafe Cubano Dark Roast might just be what you need. Pound for pound, it offers tremendous value compared to other brands on the market. The richness of flavor that these whole beans deliver is outstanding. For the best results, grind them finely, and you'll be rewarded with a delightful espumita when whipped with sugar. We always recommend purchasing whole beans to maintain maximum freshness and control over the grind size.
It's important to note that when consumed on its own, the flavor may differ slightly from other dark roasts. However, the unique experience it offers, particularly for fans of Cuban coffee, is highly satisfying.
5. AmazonFresh Whole Bean Dark Roast Coffee
We are constantly intrigued by Amazon's range of coffee products. AmazonFresh's Go For the Bold whole bean coffee is no exception. Amazon, known for revolutionizing product distribution, has also created a line of K-cups that impressed us. Thus, exploring their whole bean coffee was an easy decision.
With 100% Arabica beans, this dark roast offers a rich and satisfying taste. When roasted dark, it boasts some of the lowest acidity levels you can find. Furthermore, Amazon's purchasing power allows them to offer competitive prices to consumers seeking quality coffee on a budget. Additionally, the whole beans ensure optimal freshness and allow you to adjust the grind size to your preference.
It is important to note that this coffee has a slightly burnt taste, which could make it perfect for a cappuccino but less suitable for cold brew. Additionally, Amazon's quick distribution may not be as helpful if you find yourself in need of coffee urgently.
6. Community Coffee Signature Blend Dark-Roast
Although we don't love Community Coffee's Signature Blend Dark Roast as much as some others on this list, it still has its merits.
Firstly, this 100% Arabica bean coffee is naturally low in acidity, making it a stomach-friendly option. Additionally, it offers excellent value for money. You get a substantial amount of decent coffee at a reasonable price.
However, keep in mind that this coffee may not be as bold, complex, or full-bodied as other dark roasts. It is pre-ground, which means it will lose freshness and limits your brewing options compared to whole beans.
7. Death Wish Dark Roast Coffee
Contrary to popular belief, Death Wish Ground Coffee is not the strongest coffee in the world, especially in terms of caffeine content. Caffeine is largely destroyed during the roasting process, meaning that light roasts often have higher caffeine levels.
However, when focusing on the flavor profile, this dark roast holds its own. It offers a robust taste that satisfies in more ways than one.
Please note that Death Wish Coffee is relatively expensive. While it may deliver slightly more flavor, you can find other options with similar profiles at a lower price. Ultimately, what you would be paying for is the ability to claim that you purchased the world's strongest coffee, even though it isn't.
8. Koffee Kult Coffee Beans
Gimmick coffees are prevalent in the market, and Koffee Kult plays on addictive qualities. Unfortunately, we find that most of these brews fall short where it counts, and this case is no exception.
However, we believe that this coffee has great potential for cold brew, as it mitigates some of the bitterness. If you enjoy your coffee prepared this way, then Koffee Kult is a suitable choice. However, in any other brewing method, you may be met with reduced flavor and a slightly burnt taste. Additionally, the plastic zipper on the bag can be challenging to use.
9. Olde Brooklyn Whole Bean Coffee
Olde Brooklyn Dark Roast is a budget-friendly option in the whole bean coffee market. It caters to those who are either unable to afford higher-end brands or lack awareness of better alternatives.
While the low price may be attractive, the coffee itself falls short in terms of quality. It has a burnt taste and a mediocre flavor profile. When considering the pros and cons, the weight of the quality issue significantly outweighs any other factors.
10. Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend Ground Coffee
Peet's Coffee has cultivated a loyal customer base, leaving us somewhat apprehensive about placing their Major Dickason's Blend dark roast at the bottom of our ranking.
However, we stand by this decision due to the subpar quality of the coffee compared to other dark roasts. It doesn't quite match up in terms of flavor when consumed as a standalone drink. If you're looking for a more sophisticated experience, you would need to invest in a higher-priced option. Additionally, this coffee tends to go stale relatively quickly, possibly due to inefficient warehousing practices.
We acknowledge that Peet's Coffee is relatively affordable, making it a suitable choice for those who wish to avoid major-brand options.
A Comprehensive Guide to Dark Roast Coffee
Dark roast coffee has a rich tradition both in the United States and around the world. It is beloved for its intense flavors and bold character.
When considering dark roast coffee, the first step is to determine your own taste preferences. Do you prefer a super dark and intense coffee, are you looking for a bean that performs well in espresso, or do you want to discover caramel or chocolate flavors in your cup?
Once you have decided on your preferences, it is important to understand what exactly constitutes a dark roast coffee. Let's delve into what makes a dark roast dark, the different levels of roast available, and what you can expect from each one. Afterwards, we will explore some of the best options for dark roast coffee.
What Defines a Dark Roast Coffee?
A dark roast coffee refers to how the coffee beans have been roasted. Coffee roasters have the option to roast green coffee beans to various degrees, including light, medium, and dark roasts.
Light roast is the quickest roast, taking about 11 minutes in the roaster. This roast retains a good amount of acidity and the flavors specific to the origin of the beans. As the roast progresses, it moves into the medium roast category, which offers sweeter flavors and a bit less acidity. Medium roast coffee still showcases the flavors of origin, allowing you to detect the country the beans are from.
Dark roast coffee beans have been roasted for a longer duration, resulting in their oily appearance. The oil that covers the beans is a natural byproduct of the roasting process. The beans' cell structure breaks down as they are roasted, causing the oils inside the beans to emerge and coat them. As a result, dark roast coffee beans have a luxurious appearance, a heavy body, and low acidity. However, the flavors specific to the origin of the beans are lost in the process.
One of the most appealing aspects of coffee is the unique flavors specific to each origin. Whether it's the blueberry taste of Ethiopian coffee, the touch of orange in Colombian coffee, or the spicy notes in Indian coffee, these distinct flavors are highly valued. Therefore, you will find that specialty coffees are rarely dark roasted, as the roast tends to overpower these delicate and unique flavor notes.
Contrary to popular belief, the flavors associated with dark roast coffee actually come from the roasting process itself. The intense flavors and notes of chocolate and caramel are a result of the roast rather than the beans. In fact, a coffee that may not have much flavor initially can develop surprising flavors when roasted dark. While dark roast can enhance lower-quality coffees, it can mask the flavors of higher-quality beans, which is a shame.
Now, let's address a common question: is dark roast coffee stronger? Many people perceive darker roasts as having a stronger taste, but in terms of caffeine content, dark roast coffee actually contains less caffeine than lighter roasts. However, the overall caffeine content of your cup also depends on how you brew the dark roast coffee.
Dark roast coffee is suitable for various brewing methods, from drip machines to espresso machines. It also works well for cold brew preparations, as the process evens out the acidity and produces a pleasant drink. Even within the category of dark roast, there are further distinctions, with terms like French Roast and Italian Roast indicating the specific level of roast.
Please note that different coffee shops may have their own definitions for these dark roast levels, so it's best to try them out and discover what each label means to you.
The "Darker" Roasts
Vienna Roast: This is the lightest roast on our list. It is a medium dark roast in which the roasting process is stopped when the second crack is reached. The beans start to resemble dark chocolate in appearance, and you will detect smokiness in the aroma. The resulting coffee offers a full-bodied cup similar to a typical dark roast.
French Roast: French Roast coffee beans are roasted just a bit longer, resulting in a darker roast with a deep, dark color. These beans have more oil on the surface and produce a coffee with a heavy body. French Roast has a sweet, caramel flavor, but it should be noted that it tends to be smokier than other dark roast coffees.
Italian Roast: Taking the roast a step further, Italian Roast beans have a more intense color and even more oils on the surface. This roast level exhibits very low acidity and produces a balanced espresso without any sour notes. At this point, the flavors specific to the coffee beans' origin have been lost. Italian Roast is highly favored among those seeking a comforting espresso experience.
Continental: The Continental roast takes dark roasting to the extreme, resulting in a smoky and burnt taste. This roast is suitable for consumption with milk or plant-based milk alternatives.
Espresso: While espresso can be brewed with beans ranging from light to dark roast, darker roasts are preferred for achieving a balanced espresso. This is why you will often find bags of coffee labeled as espresso dark roast. Each coffee company determines the ideal roast level for their beans, so you will encounter a wide range of roast levels when it comes to espresso beans.
There are certain coffee-producing countries known for growing beans that excel in dark roasts. Let's explore why roasters specifically choose to dark roast coffee beans from Colombia, Sumatra, and Guatemala.
Colombia: As the third-largest coffee-producing country in the world, Colombia is renowned for its high-quality coffee. While lighter roasts boast distinct citrus or orange notes, dark roasts of Colombian coffee are known for their flavors of caramel, brown sugar, nuts, and dark chocolate. These characteristics make Colombian beans ideal for darker roasts.
Sumatra: Coffees from Sumatra possess deep, rich, and earthy flavors, making them perfect for dark roasts. These beans have a heavy body and low acidity, which stand out even more when subjected to the dark roasting process. Sumatra coffees can hold their own when used in creamy milk drinks, ensuring that the coffee flavor remains prominent alongside the dairy products.
Guatemala: Guatemalan coffee is versatile and roasts well at any level, from light to dark. However, at a dark roast, Guatemalan coffees develop flavors of caramel, fruits, and dark chocolate. These flavors are amplified in dark roasts, accompanied by a touch of smokiness that is highly regarded.
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Dark Roast Coffee
Choosing the best dark roast coffee can be a challenging task with so many options available. However, two standout choices are Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling and Koa Coffee's Peaberry Dark Roast.
Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling offers bold intensity and rich chocolate flavors. These whole beans are perfect for espresso-based drinks but can also be enjoyed black.
Koa Coffee's Peaberry Dark Roast is a truly special and rare coffee sourced from the limited supply of coffee produced in the Kona region of Hawaii. Peaberry coffee, accounting for less than 10% of all coffee production, boasts delightful notes of sweetness and nuttiness with a mellow acidity.
Tips and Tricks for Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Now that you have a better understanding of dark roast ground coffee, it's time to select the best beans for your preferences. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Coffees that are dark roasted offer bolder and richer flavors.
- To fully enjoy the flavor of your coffee, opt for beans that have been roasted within the last week.
- When choosing dark roast coffee beans, look for fresh beans with a consistent appearance.
- Avoid beans that appear burned or unevenly roasted.
To discover the perfect dark roast coffee for you, consider exploring different options and experimenting with various brewing methods. Remember that taste preferences are subjective, and you are entitled to enjoy and savor your coffee beans of choice.
For more recommendations, consider checking out our list of the best dark roast coffees.
The Difference Between Dark and Light Roast Coffee
Contrary to popular belief, the factors that determine a coffee bean's strength and taste go beyond its origin, environment, or processing method. The extent of roasting plays a significant role in the flavor profile of the beans. Let's explore the distinction between dark and light roasts.
Starting with a light roast, coffee beans are subjected to less heat compared to dark roast. This gentle roast allows the beans to retain more moisture, resulting in a denser texture. Denser beans offer a higher caffeine content, brighter (often referred to as "acidic," although not chemically acidic) and fruit-forward flavors. Light roast coffee is more complex and intricate. Although the body may be thinner, similar to strong black tea, it provides a robust coffee experience, especially for those seeking a caffeine boost.
In contrast, dark roast coffees offer familiar flavors most commonly associated with coffee. Think of the classic cup of coffee at a vintage diner or the drip coffee prepared at home. Dark roast beans are roasted longer, allowing their oils to develop and rise to the surface. Consequently, dark roast coffee has a thicker body. These coffees deliver strong, straightforward flavors and a fuller-bodied experience. It's important to recognize that light roast coffees have a more delicate body and nuanced flavors, while dark roast coffees deliver stronger tastes and a richer body.
To truly understand the characteristics of both light and dark roast coffee, it's best to brew a pot of each and compare the flavors side by side. There is no need to pick a side; you are free to indulge in both varieties and savor the unique qualities each has to offer.
For a visual representation of the different coffee beans, refer to the image below:
If you enjoy the flavors of roasted almonds, caramel, and graham crackers, then dark roast coffees are perfect for you. They provide the quintessential coffee taste. Additionally, dark roast coffees have a thicker body due to the oils developed during the roasting process. Take your time to brew both light and dark roast coffees and determine which flavor profile aligns best with your preferences. Remember, there are no strict rules when it comes to your personal coffee journey.
When is the Ideal Time to Choose Dark Roast?
The perception of roast levels has undergone a significant shift in recent years. In the past, it was widely agreed upon that dark roast coffee was the way to go. However, with the rise of specialty coffee as a global phenomenon and the willingness of coffee connoisseurs to explore beans with different flavors and origins, lighter roasts have gained popularity.
So, what sparked this change? The improvement in bean quality has played a significant role. Specialty coffee roasters no longer need to mask the subpar taste of low-quality beans with an extremely dark roast. While darker roasts may be more consistent, they offer less variety, which can be a turn-off for adventurous coffee drinkers.
Dark roasts are still preferred for making espresso. The strong flavors of dark roast coffee harmonize well with milk, as it smooths out any bitterness while preserving its full-bodied nature. This makes dark roast beans the ideal choice for cold brew coffee as well since most people enjoy it with a splash of milk or creamer.
Our Top Picks for the Best Dark Roast Coffee
Now, let's get to the moment of truth: the best coffee beans in the dark roast category!
Lifeboost Coffee Dark Roast
Your cup of Lifeboost Premium Espresso dark roast Coffee is made from coffee beans that have been individually hand-selected as the premium beans of a harvest. These coffee beans are lovingly cultivated by local farmers and grown slowly to full maturity in the shade of the mountains. If you're looking for delicious, high-quality coffee that's also healthy, Lifeboost Coffee's dark roast is the way to go.
Joe Coffee Big City Roast
If you're a fan of dark roasts, Joe Coffee's French roast is the quintessential choice. Known for its signature intensity, this coffee offers bold flavors of burnt sugar, baking chocolate, and toasted almond. While it can be enjoyed black, it also pairs well with milk or creamer. Fun fact: Joe Coffee was the first café in New York City to pour latte art!
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
For a dark roast that's sweet and packed with roastiness, try Caffe Vita's Organic French Roast. This blend features beans from Central and South America, Indonesia, and Africa, all roasted to a dark brown perfection. With notes of sweet cocoa, maple syrup, and nutmeg, this coffee is bound to become your new favorite. Plus, it's organic and perfect for sharing with a diverse group of coffee lovers.
Airship Night Moves
Airship Coffee's Night Moves blend is a rich and roasty dark roast with hints of cocoa and a touch of zesty orange aromatics. It's meant for those who are always on the move, but it's enjoyable any time of day. These beans are sourced from the Calera Specialty Coffee Farm in El Salvador and then roasted at Airship's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. If you find yourself in the Natural State, make sure to stop by Airship Coffee for a delicious cup of coffee!
Common Voice Terra
Common Voice Coffee's Terra blend is the perfect choice for those who appreciate deep, dark chocolaty sweetness with a touch of roastiness. This blend combines beans from South America, roasted in Nashville, Tennessee. Whether enjoyed black or with milk, it's a treat for your taste buds.
Revelator Coffee Company 9 to 5 House Blend
Revelator Coffee Company's 9 to 5 House Blend is the perfect companion to get you through your workday. With background notes of black cherry and caramel, this roasty blend is bold and rich. The beans are sourced from premium quality beans and small-batch roasted to ensure maximum freshness.
Portland Coffee Roasters French Roast
Portland Coffee Roasters' French Roast is roasted dark, yet still super sweet. With a dark chocolaty body and caramel sweetness, this coffee pairs well with milk or can be enjoyed black. The organic beans are roasted weekly to ensure freshness with every order.
Greater Goods Coffee Co. Rise and Shine
Greater Goods Coffee Co.'s Rise and Shine blend is dark, bold, and super sweet. With notes of dark chocolate, this coffee is the perfect start to a great day. It's a full-bodied blend of Colombian and Nicaraguan beans that are roasted to perfection.
Cafe Don Pablo Signature Blend Dark Roast
If you prefer bold, rich-flavored coffee to kick-start your day, Cafe Don Pablo's Signature Blend is the ideal choice. This blend combines Colombian, Guatemalan, and Brazilian coffee beans to produce a cocoa-toned brew with a smooth taste and a full body. The low acidity makes it suitable for those with sensitive stomachs.
Olde Brooklyn Coffee Italian Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Olde Brooklyn Coffee's Italian roast is perfect for any time of day, whether it's to accompany breakfast or provide a midday caffeine boost. This blend of coffees from Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala creates a deliciously rich and flavorful cup of coffee. The best part is that these beans are roasted weekly, ensuring maximum freshness with each order.
Kicking Horse Coffee, Kick Ass Dark Roast
Kicking Horse Coffee's Kick-Ass dark roast lives up to its name with its sweet, smoky, and audacious flavors. This blend combines beans from Indonesia and South America, offering a strong taste and smooth finish. The 100 percent Arabica and shade-grown beans make this coffee a treat for dark roast lovers. Plus, it's Fair Trade certified.
Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend, Dark Roast
For a full-bodied brew with complex flavors, Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend is a perfect choice. This blend is known for its rich taste and premium quality beans. Whether brewed with a French press or any other method, this dark roast will satisfy your coffee cravings.
Koffee Kult Coffee Beans Dark Roasted
Koffee Kult's dark roast blend is made from the freshest beans possible. These beans are roasted in small batches and sourced from Colombia, Guatemala, and Sumatra. With a strong taste, smooth finish, and delightful aroma, this coffee will make you feel like you're drinking liquid dark chocolate.
Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast
Death Wish Coffee is known for producing a brew with twice the caffeine content of a regular cup of coffee, earning it the title of the "World's Strongest Coffee." Made from a blend of Arabica and robusta beans, this dark roast delivers a high-powered caffeine kick. Despite its strength, it maintains a low acidity and offers subtle cherry and chocolate flavors. It's also sustainably sourced, USDA-certified organic, and Fair Trade.
How to Choose the Perfect Dark Roast Coffee Beans
When shopping for dark roast coffee beans, consider the following factors:
Know Your Flavor Preferences
Before deciding on a dark roast, it's important to have a general idea of your taste preferences. Some people prefer earthy flavors, while others enjoy floral or fruity notes in their coffee.
Consider Your Personal Needs
Coffee beans come in a variety of options tailored to different needs. If you have a sensitive stomach, look for low-acid options. If convenience is a priority, consider instant dark roast or coffee capsules for your single-serve machine.
Check the Roast Date
Always look for the roast date on the coffee's packaging to ensure freshness. Beans that have been roasted within seven to 14 days of purchase are the freshest. Avoid companies that don't include the roast date on their packaging, as you may end up with stale beans.
Does Dark Roast Coffee Contain More Caffeine?
When it comes to flavor, dark roast coffee is stronger and bolder than light roast coffee. However, in terms of caffeine content, it's a different story. Contrary to popular belief, dark roast coffee doesn't necessarily have more caffeine than lighter roasts.
Caffeine content is determined by mass, not roast level. During the roasting process, coffee beans lose mass. If you measure coffee in scoops, lighter roasts will have more caffeine because they are denser. Factors such as brewing method, type of coffee bean, and amount of ground coffee used also play a role in the caffeine content of the final brew.
In conclusion, diving into the world of dark roast coffees has been a journey full of surprises and complexities. From challenging the light/dark polarization to exploring the importance of origin, we have discovered that there is so much more to dark roasting than meets the eye. Through carefully comparing our favorite brands and uncovering the truth about what makes a great dark roast, we have finally reached our verdict: the best dark roasted coffee is one that truly captivates the senses and delivers a bold, robust flavor. So, if you're ready to embrace the darker side of coffee, armed with our buyer's guide and roasty rankings, you're sure to find the perfect dark roast that will awaken your taste buds and bring out your inner coffee connoisseur. Remember, darker doesn't always mean stronger, but it certainly means a captivating, deeply satisfying coffee experience.
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