The Best Dark Roast Coffee Beans in 2020

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best dark roast coffee beans are, then we recommend the Kicking Horse Dark Roast as our top choice.

If you’re looking for a cup of coffee that really gets the day off to a strong start, we highly recommend exploring the world of dark roast coffee beans.

It’s really important to buy high quality beans though – and use the right brewing method – to get the most out of the experience.

Today we’re highlighting five of our all-time favorite dark roast coffee beans. We’ve also packed in plenty of advice about how to truly make those beans sing in your coffee cup.

(Want to learn more about home coffee brewing? Take a look through my guide for other brewing methods, buying guides and more.)

In this article, we’re going to review the following dark roast coffee beans:

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Why choose a dark roast coffee bean?

There’s a misconception that dark coffee offers a rather unrefined coffee experience. Either that or those drinks will have an overwhelmingly burned taste.

It’s true that dark roasts are more intense than their light and medium equivalents. You’re trading those delicate floral flavors for a powerful chocolate / nutty flavor though.

The quality of dark roasts has come on leaps and bounds in recent years too. Well-known brands such as Death Wish and Kicking Horse have really embraced the dark roast revolution.

It comes down to your personal preference, but if we’ve piqued your interest then read on!

Pros:

  • A full-bodied, rich drink that provides a truly intense flavor experience.
  • Well-suited for strong drinks where you’re not too concerned about tasting the subtler flavors of any given bean.
  • The highest quality dark roast beans can be surprisingly inexpensive.

Cons:

  • You’re losing the finer flavor notes of the green bean when you dark roast them.
  • To compensate a little, the dark roast process removes many of the less pleasant notes of a green bean.

dark roasted coffee beans in a cup

What’s the process behind the dark roast?

All coffee beans start off life as a green bean. The roasting process in all cases serves to extract the flavor and aroma notes out of that bean.

Once they’ve been heated at high temperature, they’re then cooled down once the preferred level of roasting has been achieved.

Dark beans are roasted at a higher temperature, and for longer than other roasts.

Although it sounds like a rather blunt process, it’s actually very important that the roaster takes great care here. Roast for too long and you’ll extract far too much bitterness.

Whatever the roasting level, the end result is the same. You get a crunchy bean that’s ready to be ground up in preparation for your morning cup.

As you explore the world of dark roast beans you’ll come across a handful of names for this type of roast.

Italian dark roasts, for example, are the strongest. These are the ones to go for if you want your coffee to pack a really meaty punch.

The next strongest after this is the French roast. Those looking for the gentlest take on the process will be interested in Vienna roasts.

What should you expect from the flavor profile?

Because of the very high temperature and roasting time used, the greater part of a dark bean’s flavor profile comes from the roasting process itself.

All those delicate floral notes that originated with the green bean are practically eliminated, and given the intensity of the roasting process. The sweetness of the bean also decreases as a result.

What you’ll end up with though is a very dark bean, with oil clearly present on the surface. They have low acidity and intense flavor.

Contrary to popular belief, however, a dark roast coffee bean does not contain more caffeine as a result of roasting. If anything, they have a slightly lower caffeine content.

Flavor notes to keep in mind:

  • Bitterness
  • Dark chocolate
  • Smokiness
  • Nuttiness

As the list above makes clear, you can expect a very heady brew from a dark roast coffee bean!

It’s a unique experience though, and one we’re very fond of at Viva Flavor.

Which drinks are dark roast coffee beans suitable for?

Dark roast beans are actually quite versatile, and suit a variety of different brewing methods.

Automatic drip machines, the French Press, percolators, moka pots and espresso machines are all very good options for this type of bean.

Chances are if you’re serious enough about your coffee that you’ll take it this strong, then you’ll have an appliance in your kitchen that’s well-suited to the job.

Milk drinks in particular work very well with dark roast coffee beans. That’s because the milk – or cream, if you prefer to use it – takes the edge off that intense, sometimes too bitter flavor of these beans.

A lot of people swear by dark roast beans for making cold brew coffee. The long steeping time works very nicely with the coarse grind setting you’ll be using.

Take a look at our cold brew coffee guide if you’d like to learn more about this process.

Dark Roast Coffee Bean Reviews

Let’s move on to some of the best options you have for making a killer cup of dark roast coffee!

Koffee Kult Dark Roasted Coffee Beans

One of the big advantages of Koffee Kult’s dark roast is the short time between roasting and shipping. The company claims to achieve this within hours of roasting, which means maximum freshness once it arrives at your home.

Although a very bold brew, it lacks some of the bitterness you might typically get from a bean of this kind. It makes for a very smooth cup of coffee, with little hints of cinnamon throughout.

These beans are grown in rain forest-friendly conditions too. It’s nice to know you’re minimizing your impact on the environment, even when it comes to the little things in life.

>> Check price on Amazon <<

Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee

Death Wish really wears its heart on its sleeve, and makes a bold claim to be the world’s strongest coffee. If you’re really ready for a shocking cup of coffee, this is a good starting point!

The combination of Arabica and Robusta beans goes some way towards eliminating the intense bitterness you might expect from a pure Arabica blend. With that in mind, Arabica purists might like to try one of the other dark roast beans we recommend.

Still, you can brew a super-smooth cup of coffee from these beans, and you’ll notice hints of cherry and chocolate throughout. It’s very tasty, and very strong.

>> Check price on Amazon <<

Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend

This is one of the most popular offerings from Peet’s Coffee , and provides an intense cup of coffee packed with a smokey, caramelized flavor.

Although coffee aficionados won’t struggle with the flavor profile, the average coffee drinker might find Peet’s blends just a little too intense for their palates.

This is perhaps one to progress to once you’ve developed a distinct taste for darker roast coffee in general.

>> Check price on Amazon <<

Kicking Horse Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee

Kicking Horse has become one of the biggest names when it comes to exquisitely delicious, dark roast coffee beans. They really are one of the best whole bean coffee suppliers we know of.


This particular brew has a rich, chocolate flavor with strong hints of roasted hazelnuts and brown sugar.

The company’s signature dark roast is grown in Indonesia, Central & South and is completely organic. Those of you who care about the ethics behind your cup of coffee will also be reassured to know that Kicking Horse coffee is produced to Fairtrade standards.

That means everyone in the supply chain benefits from taking part in making this killer coffee.

>> Check price on Amazon <<

Starbucks French Roast Whole Bean Coffee

However you may feel about Starbucks’ impact on the coffee industry, there’s no denying the quality of their whole bean French roast coffee.

It’s become harder over time to buy this stuff in the stores, but they’re readily available online if you want to enjoy your working-week Starbucks experience at the weekend too.

Although this coffee is available pre-ground, it’s definitely at its best if you take the whole bean option. Even Starbucks grinds its coffee fresh in-store!

>> Check price on Amazon <<

 

Conclusion

Taking everything into consideration, our overall recommendation for the best dark coffee bean goes to Kicking Horse.

It’s strong, but not too bitter. For our money it has the most pleasant flavor profile overall. Everyone’s tastes will be different, of course, but it’s the best all-rounder we’ve tried.

Click here to learn more about this killer bag of coffee beans!

Final Tips

Once you’ve chosen your preferred dark roast coffee bean, there are a few extra things you can do to really get the most out of your investment.

Here are some of our best tips for enjoy dark roast coffee:

Buy whole beans: Although there’s some very good pre-ground dark roast coffee on the market, we always recommend grinding whole beans yourself, using your own grinder. All coffee beans quickly lose freshness after grinding, and so the less time spent between grinding and brewing the better! This will ensure you get the best possible flavor out of your brew.

Buy freshly roasted beans: On a similar note, it’s important to buy beans that have been roasted as recently as possible. It’s much better to buy little and often here. Use them as soon as possible after you’ve got them home too.

Use a coarse grind setting: Using a coarser grind setting for dark roast coffee beans is important. It’ll maximize the surface area for water contact, which can be particularly relevant when it comes to drip coffee makers that flow quite quickly. Grinding the bean too fine can also lead to a very unpleasantly bitter taste. Not only that, you also run the risk of getting a mouthful of fine, bitter coffee grounds in your mouth!

Use filtered water if you can: It’s easy to forget that the water you use for your coffee is just as important as the bean itself. If you don’t have a plumbed-in water filtration system, consider buying one of those water filter jugs that you can keep topped up throughout the day.

Don’t let the brew stew: We really don’t recommend leaving dark roast coffee stewing on a hot plate – the taste will quickly become unpleasant. If you want to make a larger amount to keep you going, consider investing in a high quality thermal carafe. It’ll keep the coffee nicely warmed for longer, but without continuously brewing it in the process. You do get what you pay for with these things, however.

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