What is Dark Roast Coffee?

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Dark roast coffee is one of the most preferred types of coffee. In a 2017 survey in the United States, 833 Americans out of 1,983 respondents (42%) preferred dark roast coffees over medium and light roasts, and that is a 3% jump from the 2016 survey. 

So, for those who want to know more about dark roast coffee, it is the darkest and shiniest coffee bean producing a full-flavored, heavy, bitter or smoky, and less acidic coffee. 

Other terms used to call this type of roast coffees are Italian roast, French roast, Espresso, European roast, New Orleans, Continental Roast, Full City, and Vienna roast. To have a Dark Roast, the coffee beans must be roasted until the second crack with a temperature of about 240 to 250 degree Celsius.

And since you are here to learn more about what dark roast coffees are, let's start with the obvious:

what is a dark roast coffee

Is Dark Roast Coffee Stronger?

One of the most common beliefs about a dark roast coffee is that it is stronger than the medium and light roasts.

And now you ask, is it really stronger?

Surprisingly, the answer is NO, because the strength of your coffee doesn't depend on the type of roast. Instead, the strength of coffee depends on the ratio of water and the amount of ground coffee used.

For example, an espresso tastes stronger than an eight-ounce brewed coffee, and it's not because espresso uses a dark roast coffees but because of the ratio of ground coffee to water that is 1:1 to 1:3, while an eight ounce brewed coffee normally has a ground coffee to water ratio of 1:14 to 1:16.

Aside from the water and coffee grounds ratio, the different flavor profiles of coffee beans can trick non-coffee experts. A coffee with the hint of chocolate or earthy flavors often confuses our taste buds making us think a dark roasted coffee tastes stronger.

Again, a dark roast coffee doesn't taste stronger than the medium or light roast, the common belief isn't true.

If you prefer to drink a stronger coffee, then you either add coffee grounds or lessen the water.

We will go deeper on the strength of dark roast coffee later, so keep reading.

what is a dark roast coffee

Dark Roast Coffee: Health Benefits

After learning that a dark roast coffee is not stronger than the light and the medium roasts, let's find out if there's any health benefit from drinking it.

Based on studies...

Dark Roast Coffee is More Effective in Weight Loss Than the Light Roast

The research study had 30 participants and they were given a dark roast and a light roast. It lasted 4 weeks, and they drink 500 ml of coffee on a daily basis.

green coffee beans

And yes, the study showed that those who drank the dark roast coffee had significant body weight reduction.

So, what's in the dark roast that makes it more effective for weight loss?

Well, the dark roast is rich in N-methylpyridinium ions, and that is responsible for the weight loss.

The N-methylpyridinium only forms during the roasting process, it's a degradation product of trigonelline. And since the dark roast took the longest time to get roasted, there's no wonder a lot of N-methylpyridinium formed.

And that explains why a dark roast is more effective on weight loss.

The next time you're out for some coffee, and you became health conscious, then try drinking the dark roast!

Dark Roast Coffee is More Effective in Restoring Red Blood Cell Vitamin E and Glutathione Concentrations

Vitamin E and Glutathione are both antioxidants, it means they help our body fight free radicals.

And based on the same research study mentioned above, the dark roast is also more effective in restoring these antioxidants, than the light roast.

The research study shows an increase in tocopherol and glutathione concentrations of the participants, at the end of the 4-week study.

Dark Roast Coffee is more Stomach - Friendly

In relation to the weight loss benefit, N-methylpyridinium is also stomach-friendly.

Another research study showed that it can actually help your stomach produce lesser Gastric Acid.

Woman holding a coffee cup in front of the stomach

The Gastric Acid secretion activates when you drink regular coffee, thus some people complain of having an irritable stomach when drinking coffee.

Based on these findings, experts think that the dark roast might contain twice the nutrients of the light roast.

However, this opinion is not yet backed up by a research study.

Also, scientists find coffee a complex subject because there are lots of variety of it, with different origins, flavor, and type of roast.

Dark Roast Coffee has Lower Acidity

How do we really define acidity in coffee, is it just with the taste buds or is it something we feel?

Actually, there are three ways to define acidity: taste, pH scale, and effect on the stomach.


First, when we talk about the acidity in terms of its taste, it's about the brightness and the sparkling flavors.

As I mentioned earlier, the flavors of a dark roast are usually overshadowed by the roasting process.

Sometimes, coffee drinkers can only taste the smoky and bitterness of the dark roast, because the roasting process masked some of its origin flavors.

Which is why in terms of taste, light roast has higher acidity, since they taste tangier and brighter compared to the dark roast.

Again, this doesn't make the dark roast stronger, if any it's bolder and heavier.

pH Scale

Second, the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is basic.

The pH level 7 means neutral, and each time the scale goes down by 1, it means the subject is 10 times more acidic.

There was an experiment comparing the pH level of a dark and light roast. This experiment used an Ethiopian blend and a brew water with a pH level of 8.12.

The Light Roast was roasted for 9 minutes in a drop temp of 203 degrees Celsius until the middle of the first crack.

While the Dark Roast Coffee was roasted for 16 minutes in a drop temp of 223 degree Celsius until the middle of the second crack.

And the result...

The Light roast has a 4.89 pH level, while the Dark roast has a 5.96 pH level.

This experiment showed a 1.07 pH level difference, which means the light roast is more than 10 times more acidic than the dark one.

The difference between the pH level of these two types of roast has a significant effect on the taste of each cup.

The coffee produced using the light roast has a light body and very bright taste, similar to a diluted lemon juice.

In contrast, the coffee made from the dark roast is rounder and heavier.

However, the pH scale result may vary depending on the type of coffee beans, but it shows that the longer roasting process can decrease coffee's acidity.

Effect on Stomach

And lastly, the effect of coffee on your stomach, which is already answered above, dark roast coffee is stomach-friendly.

Some people feel that drinking coffee causes an upset stomach, and they relate it with acidity. Well, different people, different cases, and it also depends on the type of coffee we drink.

Just a reminder, this health benefits section only serves as a general guide on what you can possibly get from a dark roast coffee. But if you feel stomach upset whenever you drink coffee, its best to see a doctor first.

what is a dark roast coffee

Are Dark Roasts Really Stronger?

If you still don't agree that a dark roast isn't stronger than a light roast, let's see other possibilities.

Since acidity is already addressed in our topic above, I hope it's clear that a dark roast has less acidity, too.

So, the dark roast may not be stronger in terms of taste and acidity, but how about in terms of caffeine content? flavor? aroma?

Caffeine Content

When talking about caffeine, there is a very minimal difference between the dark and light roast.

You can't measure caffeine by just comparing the color of the coffee beans. Don't be intimidated by the dark and shiny appearance of dark roast. Same with the rules on taste, if you want a coffee with more caffeine content, add more coffee grounds.

The caffeine content only has minimal changes during the roasting process. However, the species of coffee beans have a great impact on its caffeine content: Arabica or Robusta.

A Robusta contains more caffeine than an Arabica bean, so if you plan to compare coffee beans make sure they're of the same species. A Robusta actually has a caffeine content of around 232 to 800 milligrams or 2% of its weight.

While an Arabica only has 84 to 580 milligrams or 1% of its weight. Again, a dark roast isn't stronger in terms of caffeine content.


The roasting process doesn't dictate the flavor of the bean, it either emphasizes or overshadows its flavor.

Here's how the coffee experts differentiate the flavor profiles:

Woman smelling dark roast coffee aroma
  • Sour
  • Winey
  • Acidic
  • Mellow
  • Bland
  • Sharp
  • Harsh
  • Pungent

Though roasting isn't usually done at home, it is still better to understand that not all types of the best coffee beans will taste great with the dark roast.

If you want to get a nice cup of dark roast coffee, here are some coffee beans great for dark roasts that you can check out on Amazon:

Coffee Bean Dark Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Coffee Bean Direct Sumatra Mandheling
Coffee Bean Direct Colombian Supremo
Coffee Bean Direct Guatemalan
Coffee Bean Direct Dark Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Direct Sumatra Mandheling, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Direct Colombian Supremo, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Direct Guatemalan, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Dark Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Coffee Bean Direct Dark Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Direct Sumatra Mandheling
Coffee Bean Direct Sumatra Mandheling, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Direct Colombian Supremo
Coffee Bean Direct Colombian Supremo, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
Coffee Bean Direct Guatemalan
Coffee Bean Direct Guatemalan, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag

Last update on 2023-09-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The dark roast complements the flavor profiles of these coffee beans, making it rich, flavorful, and full-bodied. But those coffee beans with the hint of citrus, floral, or berry will definitely suit a light roast.

Just to be clear, the caramelly and chocolatey flavors found in a dark roast doesn't make it stronger, too. 


In relation to the flavor, the roasting process also affects the aroma of a coffee.

So, will the dark roast give a stronger aroma than the light or medium roast? the answer is no.

To help you understand the complexity of coffee's flavor profile better, here are the aroma descriptors used by coffee experts:

dark roast coffee aroma
  • Flowery
  • Fruity
  • Herby
  • Nutty
  • Caramelly
  • Chocolatey
  • Resinous
  • Spicy
  • Carbony

With the varying roasts, some aroma remains, and some even get stronger.

In lighter roasts, the flowery, fruity, and herby aromas were highlighted.

While the dark roast showcases more of the caramelly, chocolatey, and spicy aromas of the coffee.

But then again it doesn't mean that the spicy aroma is stronger than the flowery one, you just can't compare two very different aromas.

If you want to know more on how to determine the tastes and aromas of coffee, check our our article on coffee cupping.


The Dark Roast also called French Roast or Vienna Roast is the darkest among all roasts and has very noticeable coffee oil.

It's roasted until the second crack, and it produces heavy, smoky, and less acidic coffees.

This article also clarified a lot of false beliefs about the dark and light roasts.

The Dark Roast Coffee is not stronger than the Light Roast, in terms of taste, acidity, caffeine content, flavor, and aroma.

And in comparison, dark roast is better in terms of weight loss, vitamin E, glutathione, and reduction of gastric acid in our stomach.

Hopefully, this article enlightened you about coffee complexities, particularly on the dark roast.

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