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Best Dark Roast Coffee:
Rich, Bold Brews Over on the Dark Side

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Welcome to the Dark Side. If you’re looking for rich, oily, flavorful coffee beans bursting with toasty-smoky goodness (aka the best dark roast coffee) then you’re in the right place.

Dark roast coffees go by many names: Viennese roast, French roast, Italian roast… Do you sense a theme here? They’re also the oldest type of roasted coffee. Regardless of what you call them, you can expect a full-bodied, punch-in-the-face kind of brew.

Yes, there are coffee snobs who turn their noses up at darker roasts. But, we believe in drinking what you love. And, when the marriage between quality and balance is spot on, dark roast coffees are a thing of beauty and it’s still possible to taste the growing region and processing method. To help you steer clear of the overly burnt, ashy-flavored ones, we’ve picked out some of our favorite dark roast coffee beans. So dive in and enjoy the flavors over on the dark side.

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Quick Summary: Our Top Dark Roast Picks

Best for French Press: Volcanica, Costa Rica Tarrazú

Volcanica - Costa Rica Original Tarrazu

Roast: Dark

From: Tarrazú, Costa Rica

Flavor: Nuts, honey, chocolate & dried fruit

Luxury Pick: Koa Coffee, 100% Kona Peaberry

Hand holding a bag of Koa Coffee 100% Kona Peaberry (Medium Roast)

Roast: Dark

From: Hawaii

Flavor: Caramel & chocolate

Best for Espresso: Volcanica Espresso Roast

Volcanica - Espresso Blend Dark Roast Coffee

Roast: Dark

From: Blend

Flavor: Dark chocolate, caramel sweetness & nuts

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What Does Dark Roast Coffee Taste Like?

If you’re looking for bold flavors, dark roast coffees are your answer.

When dark roasting, the majority of the flavor comes from the roasting process and not from the coffee bean’s origin, varietal, or processing method. Although some of the natural flavors are still there, it’s the full-bodied bitterness that stands out.

Many would describe it as the classic coffee flavor due to its strength and because it was the common taste in early mass coffee production. But it’s all a matter of personal preference.

The best dark roast coffees have a smooth, chocolatey flavor with toasty-smoky goodness bursting through. Depending on where the coffee comes from, you might also get sweet, spicy, or nutty notes. So, the right choice for you depends on what flavors make your heart sing.

If you get a bad dark roast coffee, you will know about it pretty quickly. Before you even get to the burnt, ashy flavor you’ll be hit by the smell. So there’s none of those recommended here! We’ve also included a guide at the end to help you identify how to pick good options if none of our favorites are available where you are.

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9 Best Dark Roast Coffees

Volcanica Costa Rica Dark Roast – Best for French Press

Volcanica dark roast coffees - Sumatra Mandheling, Costa Rica Tarrazu, Guatemala Antigua

What to Expect:

Source: Tarrazú, Costa Rica

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Nuts and honey with complex chocolate and dried fruit notes

Important notes: This Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee is 100% pure Arabica Costa Rica Tarrazu gourmet coffee (not easy to find), grown at high altitudes in volcanic soil.

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This whole bean dark roast coffee offers a taste of one of the world’s finest coffee-producing countries in the world. The high altitudes and abundance of volcanic soil make Costa Rica the ideal environment for growing amazing quality Arabica coffee.

Tarrazú is an incredible Costa Rican growing region offering up a bold taste and unusually silky flavors. However, lots of coffees that are allegedly from here only contain around 5% Tarrazú beans. So, finding a coffee that is 100% Tarrrazú grown, like this one, is really special and the difference in quality shows.

Volcanica’s Dark Roasted Costa Rican coffee is also Rainforest Alliance Certified. This works as a kind of organic/ shade-grown combo so a tick for the envionment and for flavor.

It offers bright acidity paired with complex nutty, fruit notes and the rich sweetness of a good dark roast. Overall, it creates a delicious, complex cup of joe which, for me, tastes best when brewed in a French press.

Lifeboost Dark Roast – Stomach & Tooth Friendly

Lifeboost Dark Roast Coffees - Low acid so stomach and tooth friendly

What to Expect:

Source: Mt. Kilambé, Nicaragua

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Rich, silky chocolate and nuts

Important notes: All of Lifeboost’s coffee comes from a single family-run estate in Nicaragua where the coffee is shade-grown, organic, and GMO-free. Their goal is to create low acidity, stomach-friendly coffees

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Lifeboost’s website looks like an MLM for a health brand. But don’t let it put you off as their coffee beans are legitimately excellent.

All their coffee is grown at high altitudes on a family-run Nicaraguan coffee farm. Here, it is shade-grown beneath a canopy of guava trees using only organic farming practices. Being GMO-free and regularly tested, Lifeboost’s commitment to health is second to none.

The pH of Lifeboost coffee is between 6-7 (most coffee is between 4-6). This makes it much friendlier for those who have issues with acidic foods or get stomach irritations from drinking coffee.

The lower acidity also gives a rich, very smooth feel to the brewed coffee. That said, it’s more mellow than many of our other picks particularly as espresso (I prefer it in a French press). So if you like a full throttle punch of flavor, this isn’t for you.

Koa Peaberry Dark Roast 100% Kona Coffee – Luxury Pick

Koa Peaberry Dark Roast Whole Bean 100% Kona Coffee - Luxury Pick

What to Expect:

Source: Hawaii

Tasting notes: Full-bodied, big aroma with punchy caramel and chocolate notes

Important notes: Dubbed the “Champagne of Coffee”, peaberries are rare – only 5% of all Kona coffee are peaberries and, with demand rising, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to get hold of them

To be classified as Kona coffee, the coffee beans must come from the Kona district on the Big Island of Hawaii. Over time, they’ve built a superb reputation for quality and rarity.

With Kona Peaberry coffee, you’re getting the rarest of the rare:

Peaberry coffee is when one seed naturally forms in the cherry rather than two facing each other. It only happens in 5% of Kona trees and due to their uniqueness (and delicious flavors), they’re often considered the “Champagne of Coffee Beans”. The single seeds have more complexity and depth of flavor than regular beans.

So, if you’re looking for something special then this is The One. To really get the best out of these dark roasted coffee beans, they should be enjoyed as an espresso. This allows you to appreciate the full nuance of the Kona Peaberry.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a cheap option. However, considering the rarity and excellent flavor, we can’t complain too much. But maybe one to treat yourself with rather than for everyday drinking.

Tiny Footprint Nicaraguan Dark Roast – Budget Pick

Tiny Footprint Fair Trade Organic Nicaragua Segovia Dark Roast, Whole Bean Coffee, USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Carbon Negative

What to Expect:

Source: Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Smooth chocolate, apricot, fig, and spice

Important notes: Tiny Footprint is the world’s first carbon-negative coffee so every cup is a taste of a better future. Plus, it’s shade-grown and organic certified

If you’re looking for the most environmentally friendly coffee available, then Tiny Footprint has you covered:

They donate a portion of every sale to planting trees in the Mindo cloud forest of Ecuador. Doing so removes huge quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere – so much that they are carbon-negative. Plus, it provides habitats for other plants and animals. Not only this, but Tiny Footprint Nicaraguan dark roast is organic and shade-grown certified.

And, most importantly, it tastes great.

Grown in the Nueva Segovia region of Nicaragua, this affordable dark roast coffee has highlights of apricot and fig from the terroir of Nicaragua. Plus rich chocolate and a full body from the dark roasting process.

As well as the environmental pledges, Tiny Footprint also works to improve the living conditions of those in the regions that grow their coffee by improving education and medical care. So, as dark roast coffees go, this is one you can feel really good about drinking.

Volcanica Espresso Blend – Best Espresso Dark Roast Coffee

Espresso Dark Roast Coffee by Volcanica - Best Dark Roast Espresso Coffee Beans

What to Expect:

Source: Blend

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Dark chocolate, dense caramel sweetness, nuts with a spicy aroma

Important notes: All Volcanica coffee beans are grown in rich volcanic soil at elevations above 3,000ft resulting in complex, rich flavor profiles

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Next on our top dark roast coffee picks is Volcanica Coffee’s Espresso Roast blend. It’s the perfect option for espresso lovers looking for something dark, rich, and full-bodied. I like this blend for being unapologetically about the flavors of the roast, rather than the beans.

The chocolate, caramel, and nut flavor profile paired with the spicy aroma work brilliantly for all espresso drinks. Whether you are looking to enjoy your espresso alone or in a latte or cappuccino, you’re guaranteed a great time. The addition of milk (animal or plant-based), brings out the sweeter caramelized notes from the roast.

Volcanica does all the right things when it comes to growing their coffee too. So you can be confident your espresso beans have been grown whilst looking after the environment and the people who grow them.

Nguyen Coffee Supply, Saigon Blend

Two bags of Nguyen Coffee Supply - the Saigon and Hanoi blends sitting side-by-side

What to Expect:

Source: Da Lat, Vietnam

Processing Method: Natural

Tasting notes: Hazelnuts, cacao, and blackberries

Important notes: Woman-owned Vietnamese coffee brand. The beans are bought through Direct Trade and roasted in Brooklyn

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Nguyen Coffee Supply is an incredible Vietnamese coffee brand working hard to change the opinion on how great coffee from this corner of the world can be.

The flavor profile is quite different to the others on this list as it blends Arabica and Robusta beans. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vietnam, and drinking this coffee transports me back to the streets of bustling Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Just one whiff of the aromatic beans makes me want to hop on a plane!

If you want to try your hand at a new type of coffee maker, the Saigon blend works well with the traditional phin. The slight bitterness to the beans mean they hold up well to a touch of condensed milk for the true Vietnamese coffee experience. That said, it will also taste great in any drip coffee maker if you don’t want to buy new equipment.

Equator Coffees, Wolf it Down Espresso Blend

Equator Coffees Wolf it Down Espresso Blend

What to Expect:

Source: Peru, Sumatra, Ethiopia blend

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Almonds, chocolate, and roasted spices

Important notes: For every bag sold, $3 goes to Restaurants Care – an organization that provides financial support to restaurant employees facing an unforeseen hardship. The complex espresso blend combines organic and Fair Trade certified coffees

Equator Coffees use the proceeds from their coffees to engage in a range of charity projects. And their Wolf it Down Espresso Blend gets our vote for one of the best dark roast coffee picks partly because it’s delicious and partly because the cause is one close to our hearts:

For every bag of Wolf it Down Espresso bought, Equator Coffees donate $3 to Restaurants Care. This non-profit works with restaurant employees who have fallen on hard times. Since my wife and I spent the majority of our lives in the service industry, we know many people who would have benefited from such a program. So, to offer support whilst also drinking great coffee is a win-win. 

This espresso blend is a combination of Peruvian, Ethiopian, and Sumatran beans. The complex profile includes the classic chocolate, nuts, and spice that dark roast coffees are renowned for. It really is the perfect match for your espresso-drinking needs.

Death Wish – World’s Strongest Coffee

DEATH WISH COFFEE Whole Bean Dark Roast Coffees, The World's Strongest

What to Expect:

Source: Peru and India

Tasting notes: Intensely strong with dark chocolate and cherry flavor profile

Important notes: As the “World’s Strongest Coffee” it has double the strength of the average cup of coffee, but without bitterness. USDA certified organic and Fair Trade

For many of us, coffee is the elixir that drags us out of bed kicking and screaming into the day. If that sounds like you, Death Wish Coffee has been designed with you in mind – jolting your day to a start rather than gently guiding you.

Made from a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, Death Wish Coffee is an intense hit but I was surprised by the lack of bitterness. You can expect a combination of dark cherry and chocolate with the deeper, earthier notes of Robusta combined with the fruitier and more delicate aromas of the Arabica beans.

USDA Certified Organic and Fair Trade, Death Wish Coffee ensures its beans are grown the right way. For many caffeine fiends, this is the only option with double the strength of the average cup of coffee. You just need to love your flavors as big and bold as possible.

Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee

Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans

What to Expect:

Source: Colombia, Guatemala, Sumatra, Brazil

Processing Method: Washed

Tasting notes: Rich, powerful cocoa notes, with fruit and cinnamon flavors

Important notes: Koffee Kult roasts the top 2% of specialty coffee beans sourced from organic farms worldwide

Koffee Kult Dark Roast coffee beans are a bold, punch-in-the-face kind of coffee. From the aroma to the flavor, you can’t miss the rich roastiness.

The company has nailed its quirky branding and grown quickly as fan favorites. Koffee Kult was born out of the founder’s boredom of average-tasting coffee so he decided to turn his hand to roasting his own.

To ensure the greatest-tasting coffee, Koffee Kult sources 100% premium organic Arabica coffee beans hand-picked from the top 2% of specialty coffee farms.

The bold bitterness means these coffee beans are best suited to cold brew to mellow out some of the bigger flavors. I know a lot of people love them as espresso but it’s just a bit too much for me. That said, even with the big notes, you still get an incredibly clean, smooth-tasting coffee.

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So, What Exactly is Dark Roasted Coffee?

Coffee roasting is an essential part of the coffee bean’s journey from the farm to your cup. It’s the process that turns the vegetal-tasting green coffee beans into the delicious brown beans that go into our beloved cup of coffee.

There are several different levels of coffee roast, with dark roast coffees being at the ‘roastiest’ side of the scale.

To achieve a dark roast, the internal temperature of the coffee beans must exceed 462ºF (239ºC). And, even with the darkest of dark roasts, the process is stopped when the internal temperature reaches 474ºF (246ºC). If the roaster kept going, there is a genuine danger of the beans catching fire.

Quality roasters generally stop roasting as soon as they hit the 462ºF temperature to preserve as much beans’ natural flavor as possible. By the time you’re at the upper end of dark roast, you’re really only tasting the roast, not the coffee beans themselves.

This is why dark roast coffees sometimes get a bad name as roasters can hide lower quality or even stale beans in the hope that you don’t notice.

When creating dark roasted coffee beans, all the oils from inside the beans are released. This gives a sheen to the outside of the dark brown/ almost black coffee beans.

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Is Dark Roast Coffee Stronger?

There is a common myth that dark roast coffees have more caffeine than the other types of coffee roasts.

But, in truth, the difference in caffeine content between roasts is pretty negligible. 

Ultimately, the coffee roaster started with the same coffee bean with its own inherent level of caffeine. Subjecting it to heat for longer does not somehow make it stronger.

What can make a difference is your chosen brewing method and the weights of coffee beans you use.

As many dark roasted coffee beans are a little smaller than their light roast coffee counterparts, it is possible to use more beans to brew the same amount of coffee. So, a teeny bit more caffeine but not enough to make your day at work seem easier.

That said, if you mean “stronger” as in flavor-wise, then yes dark roasts definitely have the most pronounced, bold flavor.

Read Next: Why Caffeine Doesn’t Affect Me

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Do They Have Lower Acidity?

Acid is part of what makes coffee taste so good. But you can have too much of a good thing which can upset your stomach.

Whilst acid is found in all coffee, dark roast coffees *feel* like they’re less acidic as it’s not such a dominant flavor. But they don’t necessarily have a lower acidity level; it’s just less noticeable.

So if you don’t like the brighter or sour notes in coffee, you should stick to darker rather than lighter roast coffee.

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Best Brewing Methods for Dark Roast Coffees

To get the best from your dark roast coffee beans, there are four brewing methods that will deliver the best results:

French press, AeroPress, Moka pot, and Espresso.

During the roasting process, dark roast coffees fully release all their oils and caramelize the sugars. This is what produces the bold, rich flavored coffee. How you brew it comes down to your personal taste but I’d steer clear of pour over.

French Press

For us, the French press offers the most complexity from whole bean dark roast coffee. Although, many people aren’t a fan of the oily and slightly silty texture.

Steeping keeps all the stuff that makes the coffee delicious in the cup so you get the full flavor experience. It’s the best way to taste the terroir that your beans were grown in too. This is what makes Volcanica’s dark roast from Tarrazú, Costa Rica a phenomenal choice of coffee beans for French press.

I also enjoy using dark beans for cold brew which you can make in your French press too. This brings out the nutty, earthy flavors whilst also mellowing out some of the more bitter notes.

French press coffee maker on the scales, weighing the correct amount of water to coffee ratio


The AeroPress is an incredibly versatile coffee maker that can handle everything from light to dark roast. It’s why we love it so much (read our review, here.) That said, I’d recommend pressing a little lighter to extract the best flavors from darker beans.

Read next: AeroPress vs French Press

Moka Pot

Espresso and Moka pot will both yield a full-bodied, rich, and darkly flavored coffee. Although the nuance of the coffee beans’ provenance will be harder to discern from these methods compared to the French press.

For home brewing, the Moka pot (e.g. the Bialetti Moka Express or De’Longhi Alicia) is the cheaper and easier option. It brews a more syrupy, rich coffee with the full-frontal profile you’re looking for from dark roast coffees.

The Bialetti Moka Pot uses ground coffee, placed in the bottom section


Many coffee aficionados will tell you that espresso made from dark roast coffee beans is what coffee is supposed to taste like. After all, it’s called “espresso roast” for a reason. The slightly bitter, full-bodied cup of black liquid is the punchy hit needed in the morning or after a meal.

That said, there are many coffee snobs who will sneer at the lack of delicacy. But life is about doing what makes you happy so if dark roast espresso is your thing, drink on!

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Our Verdict

When done well, dark roasts can be a delicious, rich, and flavorful way to enjoy your coffee.

For us, the best dark roast coffee is Volcanica’s Tarrazú Dark Roast. The complexity of the growing region shines through and creates an incredible cup of coffee. But, no matter which of the best dark roast coffee beans you opt for, you are in for a treat.

So, why not try them all and expand your dark horizons!


Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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