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What is French Roast Coffee? – The basics

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Coffee can be dark, medium and light roasted. French roast is a very popular style of roasting and it is preferred by many coffee lovers. The color of the beans after roasting is the differentiating factor of the French Roast. French roast beans are color of dark chocolate.

And these type of beans is one of the darkest. When roasted this way coffee has a smoky sweetness and often can have a charred taste. Therefore, some of the coffee enthusiasts refer to it as a ‘burnt’ coffee.

Origin of French Roast

This type of roast is one of the many roasts named after the region where it is originally from. After the arrival of coffee in Europe each country started roasting it differently. Coffee was roasted to the desired taste of buyers, usually people living in the area, much like today.

By the end of the 19th century, many countries and regions had their one unique style of roasting. Most famous were French, Italian, Spanish and Viennese roast. Italian or espresso roast was nearly dark as French roast, and the Vienna roast was slightly lighter than Italian. But the French were proud to have the darkest roast of all.

Sometimes, the French roast is also called a Turkish roast, Espresso roast which is incorrect or simplistically a Dark roast.

What Does French Roast Coffee Taste Like?

There is a lot of variety between French roasts, but there are many similarities in the taste. French roast is considered to be double roasted coffee. This is a category of dark roasted coffee that has an intense flavor, smoky sweetness aroma, and a thin body. It is far less acidic than lighter roasts and often has a distinguishable charcoal-like note. The temperature is very high with a typical French roast which brings oils to the surface of the bean, giving it its unique roasted and smoky flavor.

Dark roasts like French roast almost completely overpower the flavor and aroma of the beans. That makes it almost impossible to taste much of the original flavor of the beans. But, there are some exceptions. French roasts can also have some flavors which are typical for light roasts like berry or citrus aromas. French roasts from Indonesia, especially from Sumatra, often have an earthy, mushroom-like flavor that goes great with bitterness and smokiness of dark roasts.

The best way to learn about different types of roasts is through experience. Try to taste coffee from different beans and observe their unique qualities.

How is French Roast Coffee Roasted?

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The roasting process is what produces the characteristic flavor by causing green beans to change its taste. This process transforms the chemical and physical properties of the beans.

Different people have different ideas about where exactly this roast falls within the stages of roasting.

Those stages are:

  • Green: Beans are green before the beginning of the roasting process
  • Yellow: Beans will become yellow in color releasing grassy odor.
  • Steam: Next, steam will rise from the beans as water evaporates
  • First Crack: Cracking sound is heard as the beans expand and the sugar caramelizes. Beans that are roasted up to this stage cover medium to some dark roasts.
  • Second Crack: The second crack signals the classification of an even darker roast. Most roasters only offer beans that are removed at the beginning of this stage like Vienna roast.
  • Burn

The consensus for the French roast is that beans are removed from the roaster near the end of the Second Crack stage.

During the roasting process, the internal temperature of the coffee beans reaches a temperature of 240 C (464 F). The more roast is darker the color of the beans darkens and more oils come to the surface. Thus, French coffee roast beans are dark brown and covered with oil.

During the most roasts, coffee beans only crack once. Unlike the French roast where beans make cracking noises two times. One crack comes from the release of steam and another crack is heard when the cell walls break down and release essential oils to the surface of the bean.

French Roast Coffee Caffeine Content

One of the most frequent questions about different types of coffee is the one about the caffeine content. For most coffee lovers it is important to know the amount of caffeine when deciding different things from roast to which brewing method to use.

If you want to limit your caffeine intake French roast may be the perfect choice for you. A lot of people are convinced that darker the roast higher level of caffeine. Exactly the opposite is true. The longer coffee beans are roasted, the less caffeine is saved. At the higher temperatures caffeine molecules are falling apart, thus making coffee beans less caffeine reach.

Also, if you taught of limiting your calorie intake, you don’t have to worry.  The amount of French roast coffee calories is the same as in other black coffees.

Quality of French Roast

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Because darkness of the roast erases the original flavor, many companies use lower quality beans for these roasts. They are masking the flavor of low quality coffee with a strong roasted flavor. Roasters tend to shift their focus from the quality of the beans to the quality of the roast itself. If you like French roast and that smoky and bitter flavor are what suits then you should get what you enjoy, and you shouldn’t bother too much with the original quality of the beans.

Some people who prefer the taste of the beans themselves and some subtle aromas consider French roast to be burnt, but there are many people who are in love with this taste and compare it to taste of grilled meat and dark toasted bread.

Darker Types of Roast

You may have seen the label dark French roast on some bags of coffee. This type of coffee is similar to standard French roast coffee but it’s a little bit darker and oilier looking. It has a stronger taste, and the charred flavor is more pronounced. If you are looking for something that is even darker than French roast maybe you should try Spanish roast coffee which is the darkest roast available.

Lighter than French Roast

Slightly lighter than French roast is espresso roast. It is the most popular for making espresso shots. A full roast is a category that is a little bit lighter than espresso. High roast, Vienna roast, and Continental roast all fall in this category.

How to Brew French Roast Coffee?

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There is no French roast coffee machine, but if you were wondering how can you prepare French roast coffee, here is the answer.

What is great about the French roast is that you can prepare it in different ways and it will still taste great. Traditionally, French roast beans are traditionally used for drip-brewed coffee, because with this method there is decreased chance of over-extraction which means that you can’t end up with a brew that has more unfavorable charred flavors than you desire.

A lot of people think that the most appropriate way to prepare it is with a French Press.  This method is used by people that prefer taking stronger coffee. However, many prepare it by using their automatic drip coffee makers and get pretty good results.

For those who are lucky to have espresso machine they can make espresso shots, cappuccinos and lattes and they will also taste great when using French roast coffee.

Best Beans for a French Roast

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There is a wide variety of coffee beans that you can use to make French roast since most of them take any roast well. And because French roast has the longest roasting time which means that all of the subtle aromas of coffee will be burnt, beans you use will have almost no effect on the final taste of the product.

However, it is easy to mess up things while preparing French roast and make beans that are unusable. A lot of coffee enthusiasts will choose beans that are not quite as expensive because even the cheap ones will give a product that tastes just fine.

Coffee beans that most roasters use are usually grown in Africa primarily in Ethiopia and Uganda. Coffee from Central America and Indonesia are also among favorites for French roast. Vietnamese Robusta is great since it has a high amount of caffeine, and will retain lots of it even after roasting.

Drawbacks of French roast

Even though French roast might be very popular, as almost everything else it comes with a few drawbacks. So before making it your everyday choice you should consider flaws that it has.

Unsustainable and Unethical Growing

Since roasters can use low-quality inexpensive beans for French roast, they often come from unethical sources. Farmers that are growing coffee are exploited for the profit of the big companies and therefore forced into environmentally unsustainable growing practices.

To avoid this in both coffee products and French roast, in particular, you should look for a Fair Trade label on the package or research company from which you buy to see what their sources are.


Many dark roasts have a tendency to taste bitter, and so does French roast. This happens because of the carbonization of fibers in the beans. This process can produce the smoky, charcoal flavor that people usually enjoy. However, French roasts can often have an overpowering bitterness and burnt taste.

This can be avoided by using a French press when preparing French roasts that are lighter. This can help out bring out sweeter flavors. But with the roasts that are darker, this won’t have much effect.

Beans go Stale Fast

Roasted coffee is prone to going stale, and since the French roast is well roasted it goes stale even faster. This happens because it is longer roasted on the higher temperatures which causes cell walls to break which causes oils from the beans to come to the surface where there is nothing covering them. So, they will start decaying as soon as you open the package with the beans.


How Soon After Roasting can I Drink Coffee?

Coffee needs a minimum of 12-24 hours to rest after it has been roasted. You can brew it before but the flavor won’t be completely developed. Also, don’t wait too long to drink it since it can go stale fast.

Is Turkish Coffee the Same as French Roast?

French roast is more focused on the roast level, while Turkish coffee is more of the preparation method. You can finely ground French roast beans and prepare it like Turkish coffee, cooking it with water and sugar.

Is French Coffee Roast Strong?

French roast has a pretty strong taste. It has a powerful flavor, very dark color and smoky taste. However, due to excess roasting, it has a lower level of caffeine than coffee beans that are lightly roasted.