What is French Roast Coffee?

Dark roasts, light roasts, medium roasts, oh my!
These are things we can understand, right? Then why do those punk roasters have to go and throw extra categories in there, like French roast?

When I hear French roast, I think, “Okay, a darker roast…” and that’s it. But that can’t be it, right? There has to be more!

With that thought gnawing in my brain, I embarked on a mission to answer: What is French roast coffee?

French Roast Coffee Explained

french roast coffee beans

Simply put, “French roast” describes the color of the coffee beans after they have been roasted. These beans are on the darker end of the scale, and are usually the color of dark chocolate.

It does not mean the coffee was grown or roasted in France (although yes, that is technically where the roasting style originated in the 1800s). Many different kinds of beans can be roasted to the French roast level, and they do not need to originate from any specific region to qualify.

How Roasted is French Roasted?

So we’ve established that French roasted beans are pretty dark. But how dark is that compared to other coffees?

While guessing at colors and comparing coffee beans to chocolate bars are the layman’s ways of figuring it out, there is an official way to determine this as well.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America uses a tool called the Agtron Gourmet Scale to categorize coffee roasts on a scale of 25 (darkest) to 95 (lightest).

French roasts tend to fall somewhere between 28 and 35. So as a general rule, French roasted coffee is some of the darkest coffee out there.

French Roast Coffee Taste

While there is a lot of variety between French roast coffees, there are some similarities in the tastes as well. The temperature is high enough with a typical French roast that it brings the oils to the surface of the bean, giving an actual roasted, almost smoky flavor to the coffee itself.

French roasts can also feature lighter elements, too, like berry or citrus aromas, in spite of the dark roasting process.

French Roast vs Dark Roasts

In the subcategory of different dark roasts, you start to get very subtle differences from one roast to another.

For example, while some people place French roast as the darkest you can get, it has some stiff competition when measured up against, say, an Italian roast.

Italian roast coffees (which again refers to the roast type and does not indicate where the coffee was grown), are super dark, and tend to be even oilier than French roasts!

Really, the best way to learn about different roast types is through experience. Get some different kinds of beans, observe their unique qualities, and take notes! 

NOTE: If coffee production interests you and you’re looking for information on coffee bean types, growing regions, roast levels, brewing options, etc., check out this article!

Some Extra Facts on French Roast Coffee

If you’re wondering how to make French roast coffee, you can rest at ease – French roast coffee can be made like any other coffee! Just expect a good, full body of flavor with each brew.

This is heavyweight stuff. It has that earthy, roasted, smoky flavor, although, interestingly, often the darker the roast the lighter the caffeine

Note: Learn more about caffeine in coffee here.

As far as French roast coffee brands go, there are tons of them out there, and they’re not hard to find! For example, here’s a great option from Koffee Kult that showcases French roasted coffee beans from Colombia and Brazil, and another kick-ass roast from Kicking Horse. 

So, What is French Roast Coffee Then?

The next time you’re confronted with French roast coffee, you can confidently decide if you want some very darkly roasted coffee.

No fleeting thoughts about if this is a European thing or not. You can drink that French roast with confidence.

Please comment below, and consider sharing so others can clarify their understanding of French roast coffee, too!

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