French Roast Coffee – What to Know About French Roast

Coffee can be complicated. There are a lot of different roasts and styles. It can be easy to get confused about which roast is which.

French roast coffee is a popular dark roast coffee with a bold taste and an interesting story. This style of coffee has been around for more than 200 years. Let’s take a look at what makes it a popular choice for coffee lovers.

What is French Roast Coffee?

French roast is used to describe the color of the coffee beans after they have been roasted. That means any beans can be used to make French roast coffee. It is a dark roast and the beans are usually the color of dark chocolate.

While the beans do not need to come from France to be French roasted, the style did originate in France during the 1800s. The style of coffee in Europe during the 19th century seemed to be mostly dark roasts.

French roast is darker than Vienna roast and Italian roast coffees. Some websites will say it is the darkest roast out there, but that prize belongs to Spanish roast coffee. The color of Spanish roast beans is nearly black. The flavor is flat with charcoal undertones.

What does this coffee taste like?

aeropress coffee

If you love the idea of a smoky-sweet flavor in your cup of coffee, then a French roast coffee might be your coffee of choice. It is considered a double-roasted coffee, making this a very dark roasted coffee.

This dark brew is often described as having a charred, burnt, or smoky flavor to it. Dark roasts overpower the flavor of the coffee beans and make it difficult to taste the original flavor of the beans.

Dark roasts are less acidic than lighter roasts, so a French roast is great if you are looking for a less acidic coffee. The French roast coffee has a thin body and is described as having a more watery mouthfeel than some other coffee drinks. This coffee has a bold and intense flavor that makes it a popular choice for coffee drinkers.

Others can find the French roast to be a bit on the bitter side. If you grind the beans up more coarsely, this will help extract some of those sweeter flavors. Using a french press will help bring out the sweet flavor of the beans that might otherwise be overpowered by the charcoal flavor.

How did French Roast get its name?

As you can guess, the French roast got its name from France. The name does not mean the beans were grown or roasted in France, instead, the term is used to describe the roasting style of the beans.

This roasting practice started in France in the 1800s and it was popular across Europe during the 19th century. It is still a popular choice for coffee drinkers today.

Something to note: Some people use the term “French roast” to describe any dark roast. More on that later.

How are French Roast Beans roasted?

using a pour over to pour coffee

Now that we know that a French roast has a bold smoky-sweet taste, our next questions might be, “how are the beans roasted?” and “Can I make my own French roast coffee beans at home?”

I am glad you asked, and yes, you can roast your own beans at home. Earlier I mentioned that French roast is considered to be double-roasted coffee. This is because they crack twice during the roasting process while beans only crack once in most roasts.

The internal temperature of the coffee beans is brought up to 464 F (240 C) during the roasting process. More coffee oils start to shimmer on the surface of the coffee beans as the roast gets darker. The intensity of the cooking process causes the beans to make two cracking noises, one from the release of steam and one when the cell walls of the beans break down and the oils are released.

This is the process that gives us the perfect French roast – with beans that are dark brown and shimmering with oil. If you are roasting your beans at home, look for the “second crack” that signifies the release of the oils from inside the coffee beans. The beans should start to get a glossy look to them when the oils make it to the surface.

French roast beans lose freshness faster than lighter roasts. Once the oil is outside of the coffee bean it will start to turn rancid quicker than beans that still have the oils trapped inside. To avoid this, buy only what you need for the next week or two and use an air-tight container to store the beans.

The oils from the French roast beans may make it a bit of a challenge to clean your grinder, so that may be something to keep in mind.

French Roast vs Dark Roast Coffee

French roast coffee is some of the darkest coffee out there. Some people use the terms “French roast” and “dark roast” interchangeably, but there are many other dark roast coffees out there to choose from.

Each coffee will have a subtle difference and there are many to try if you want to test your palate and try the different flavors of coffee. Vienna, Italian, and Spanish coffee roasts are just a few of the other flavor options available.

Coffee FAQ

pouring a cup of coffee from french press

Still have questions about French Roast coffee? Don’t worry, there’s more!

What is special about French roast?

There are a few reasons why the French roast coffee is a special blend. It is known for its bold, smoky-caramel flavor. It is one of the darkest coffee roasts meaning it is naturally lower in acidity than light coffee roasts. This style of coffee has been a popular choice for coffee drinkers around the world for more than 200 years and is still going strong.

Is French Roast the strongest coffee?

Speaking strictly in terms of caffeine, a French roast is not any stronger than the other dark roasts. There is less caffeine per bean in dark roasts when compared to a light roast bean. That being said, the amount of caffeine in a cup of dark roast is going to be about the same as a cup of light roast coffee. This fact surprised me, but it makes sense when you look at the math. Dark roast beans weigh less than light roast beans, so more beans are needed to brew the same amount (by weight) of coffee.

Is French Roast stronger than espresso?

The amount of caffeine between all the roasts comes out to be about the same. However, when a 1.5-ounce shot of espresso is compared to a standard cup of coffee, the cup of coffee actually has more caffeine. According to the USDA, a standard cup of coffee will have about 128 mg per cup while the shot of espresso has 90 to 100 mg.

There are ways to get a cup of coffee more caffeinated if that is what you want. Adding more coffee beans and less water to the brew will increase it. 

French Roast vs Espresso Roast

Espresso roast coffee beans are slightly darker than French roast, but not as dark as Spanish roasts. There is no espresso bean (in case that is not clear). Generally speaking, espresso roasted coffee beans are a little more dark than the coffee beans that is used in an average coffee maker.

It is most commonly made into espresso shots to be added to coffee drinks with milk since the sugars in the milk help balance out any bitter taste of the coffee and compliment the smoky-sweet undertones. If sweet is not your thing, you can skip the milk and get an Americano Coffee. Simply put, an Americano is a watered-down espresso shot.

The two coffee roasts are similar in color and have a bold flavor. The French roast is more smoky and intense in flavor while the espresso roast is sweeter with a stronger caramel taste. French roast beans can be used to make espresso, but many believe it tastes best when made in a French Press since this process draws out the oils in the coffee bean and adds to the flavor.

A quick note about sustainability

French roast coffees can be made from blends of inferior beans because some coffee roasters use the darkness of the roast to hide the poor quality. Blends like the French Press often exploit growers. The lower price tag for French Press can be nice for the wallet, but in the field, it can lead to practices that are not environmentally sustainable in the long term.

There is a lot that we could say about the ethics behind the coffee industry, but the main takeaway is to support ethical companies when you can. Buying from quality roasters that use the best practices can make for a better-tasting cup of coffee and a better future for our planet.

When we buy fair trade French Roast coffee, we vote with our dollars. We can choose to support companies that promote an equitable relationship between coffee farmers and coffee roasters. It may seem like a small change, but the small changes add up to make a difference.

And there you have it! I hope this helps you in knowing all there is to know about French Roast Coffee. Between how French Roast got it’s name to to what a cup of French Roast tastes like, there’s so much to know and learn about.

Now you can feel a bit more confident when picking out a bag of French Roast coffee at the store or brewing a great French Roast coffee at home.

Other Coffee Posts

Looking for more coffee fun? Check out one of these posts:

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

Leave a Comment