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The myths and true facts about dark roast coffee

Updated on June 22, 2012

I was always puzzled by some opinion about dark roasted coffee that a lot of people share and find it true. Coming from an alien living in United States it was, and still is, hard to explain why are Americans are so in love with this coffee. Or are they?

So, I decided to research the dark roasted coffee subject, having some knowledge about this wonderful drink, knowledge that comes from too much love of coffee. The information bellow are the result of contacts with roasters and reading what the experts have to say.


Dark, medium or light, does it really make a difference?

It does. It make a difference in the taste of the coffee and the amount of caffeine. Some say it makes a difference in our health but more studies need to be done here. Overall though, the color of the coffee we drink is more a matter of choice.

Most people in the US drink coffee dark in color. In my grocery stores, for example, maybe over 50 percent of coffee is dark roast. Medium is maybe another 40 percent fallowed by the light roast. Are these stores carrying so much dark roasted because is the trend or the trend has emerged because that’s all they have in the stores?

When I recently visited a local roaster coffee shop I was pleasantly surprised to find that their coffee is a good medium roast and that’s what they use even for their espresso. But they have a dark roast as well. I tasted and I realized that it was way better then the one you get from the grocery stores, gas stations or Starbucks.

The conclusion is clear: dark roast can be a good coffee.


How do they make it so dark?

There are three degrees of roasting recognized by the coffee industry worldwide: light, medium and dark. In between, there is a wide spectrum of nuances and fanciful names.

Dark coffee is a coffee in which the beans have been roasted to a higher temperature and for a longer time. This coffee is bitter-sweet, pungent or tangy. The initial flavor of the green beans is gone, oils are coming out and the sugar caramelizes. O good coffee dark roasted is bitter-sweet, a bad dark roast tastes mainly bitter and carbonized.

Roasting is the most important factor in the process of coffee making. It gives the coffee its flavour and characteristics. To reach the right flavour for each style, the person in charge with the roasting the green beans, called roaster, has a very big job. He has to manage the temperature, regulating it sometimes in accordance with the weather, especially when using an air roasting machine, to pay attention to the time the beans are roasted, while listening for cracks in the beans and watching how the color transforms during roasting and even smelling the roasted beans.

It is a very fine line between a good dark roast and a bad one. If a roaster is less experienced or lets the beans on the roasting machine without supervision, the beans can burn resulting in a bitter cup. But this kind of mistake is not the only thing that makes dark roasted coffee taste so bad sometimes. Another contributor is the blend of beans that some companies are using. And you may suspect that they want to hide a low quality bean behind a very dark roast.

How to tell a good coffee dark roasted from a bad one

The best way to distinguish the degrees of coffee roast is by color and by taste. In the picture below, Sweet Maria has put together a coffee color guide for its customers.


1. green coffee
2 - 4. roasting coffee - yellow stage
5-6. brown stage
7-9. first crack
10-12. city & full city roast
13. Vienna-light french
14. French roast
15. burned
16. “Imminent fire!”

Number 13 and 14 is the dark roast. The 15 and 16 is bad dark roast. Sometimes full city can be a dark roast as well.

When you cannot see the color of the beans then you have to go with the description on the bag. The bag may say anything from “Dark Roast” to other names or descriptions like “ Vienna”, “French” or “Italian”. The dark roast it may be also called names like “Double”, “Heavy” or “Espresso”.

The question is: can you trust these descriptions?

It is said that the trend of dark roasted coffee in United States was started by “Peet’s Coffee and Tea”, a coffee shop opened for the first time in April 1966 in Barkley, California. Since, Americans were hooked in their dark java. Then along came Starbucks with its even darker roast. But not everybody likes Starbucks coffee.

three out of these four coffee bags are dark roast and one is medium
three out of these four coffee bags are dark roast and one is medium

The myth about dark roast

Some people say that the darker the coffee the stronger (meaning more caffeine) it is. This opinion is nothing but wrong. As a matter of fact, the darker the coffee, the less the caffeine it has. The caffeine concentration is given by the coffee to water ratio. The more grounds, the stronger the coffee, the more caffeine.

In the roasting process, lots of the chemical components of the beans are either lost, either altered.

One thing is true

It is also said that the dark roasted coffee is easier on stomach, in other words, it generates less acid. And this is a true fact. when the beans are roasted at high temperature the chaff that covers them detaches and burns out. It is said that the chaff is responsible for increasing the gastric acid.

What can you do with a dark roasted coffee? My answer: a latte.

I wish I can tell you which is the best of dark roasted:, but I can not. I have not found any recent good reviews about this style of roast. But you can trust coffees that come from Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Paradise Roasters and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Also, Caribou Coffee came up with some good dark roast blends.
Good luck!


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    • profile image

      Keshawn 3 years ago

      It's always a pleasure to hear from someone with exepitrse.

    • cameciob profile image

      cameciob 5 years ago

      Peighton, I do the same with some brands of dark roasted coffee. Though, sugar is said it enchances the aroma. Try a light roast and/or flavoured coffee.

    • profile image

      Peighton 5 years ago

      I hardly ever drink coffee but when I do I find that I need to put cream and 3 sugars in it wh is this?

    • cameciob profile image

      cameciob 6 years ago

      rjsadowski, I sometimes drink a dark roast myself. I like to buy little quantities from local coffee shops and try them. At one time I even had a long list of coffees pinned on one of the cabinets door.

      I have never been to Germany or Austria or Hungary but I totally believe that they make a good coffee. I had coffee in paris and Barcelona and I like it. But I mostly like medium and light roasts.

      Thanks for stopping.

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 6 years ago

      Good hub and excellent pictures of coffee beans. I tend to prefer the darker roasted coffee beans but not French roast or darker. In France I generally drank tea instesd of coffee. I love the coffee in Germany and Austria and it was even quite good in Hungary but very strong. If you haven't guessed by now, I drink it black.