What is French Roast Coffee?

French Roast Coffee Beans In Mug-Coffeo Couch

Are you new to the coffee world in modern days? Understanding the roasts seem impossible. Light, medium, medium dark, and Dark roasts are things we can understand. Between “house roast” and high-caffeine “blonde roasts,” the difference between traditional and specialty roasts tends to fade.

While there are four major types of roasts, within those types, some are important to know. French roast is one of those, which is quite famous in coffee shops.

Let’s find out what a French roast is and what differentiates it from other roasts.

French Roast Coffee Explained

A French roast is a type of dark roast that describes the color of the coffee beans. It doesn’t mean that the coffee was grown in France (though that is where in the 1800s, the roasting style originated). These beans are the darkest ones possible without burning, reaching a bitter, smoky, caramel taste with low acidity and lots of oil.

The name reflected coffee roasters’ tastes and traditions in Europe in the 19th century when dark-roasted coffee was becoming famous. It takes a skilled roaster to make a fine French Roast that doesn’t have a burnt flavor while successfully adding a smoky taste.

Italian or espresso roasts were about as dark as French roasts. But the French roasters proudly took the privilege as the darkest roast. Here’s a detailed article about the differences between French roast and Italian roast.

How Roasted Is French Roasted?

French Roast Coffee Beans

We see that French roasted beans are the darkest beans, but compared to other beans, how dark is that? Figuring them out while assuming colors and comparing them to chocolate are the layman’s methods. There is an official way to determine the coffee beans’ color.

[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 fall between 28 and 35. So, French-roasted beans are some of the darkest beans out there.

How Does It Taste?

French Roast Coffee Bens And A Cup Of Coffee

There are a lot of varieties of French roast, and there are some similarities in the taste as well.

In a typical French roast, the temperature is high enough to bring the oils to the bean’s surface, giving the coffee a bitter, smoky flavor. Despite the dark roasting process, they can also feature softer elements, like citrus or fruity aromas.

For Indonesian coffee, particularly those hailing from Sumatra, undergoing a French roast often imparts an earthy flavor that harmonizes beautifully with the deep roasting level.

French Roast vs. Dark Roast

French roast is a type of dark roast that is darker than regular dark roast blends. You get very slight differences from one to another in the category of different dark roasts. For example, some people place French roast as the darkest. But it has stiff competition with Italian roast.

[Italian roast beans (which refers to the roast type) are super dark and even oilier than French roasts!]

Only some people love the ultra-dark, smoky taste of French roast coffee. 

If you’re not used to dark roasts, we suggest trying a medium-dark first to get used to the taste profile. French roast tastes bitter and burnt. Even some experienced coffee lovers avoid this. For a broader understanding of the different types of coffee roasts, take a look at our detailed exploration in “4 Main Types of Coffee Roasts”.

French Roast vs. Espresso

The thing about espresso is the process of grinding and brewing that makes it espresso. Most espresso blends have Robusta beans, dark and bitter beans, so Robusta beans are usually put in espresso blends. Dark roasts, including French, can make decent espresso, but many coffee shops are quite selective about their espresso blends.

How to Brew French Roast Coffee

Choosing the right brewing method is as important as choosing a high-quality French roast coffee. Correctly brewing French roast will mean distinguishing a strong, smoky flavor and mud in a cup.

Here are the best brewing methods:

  • French Press
  • Cold Brew
  • Pour-over
  • Drip-Brew (tends to burn the most)

French roast beans are traditionally used for drip-brewed coffee. They also make a nice espresso and perform well when brewed in a ‘French press.’

Should You Avoid French Roast Coffee?

There are some specific things to look out for, and solutions to the problems they represent:

  • French roast beans lose freshness more quickly than lighter roasts. The oils on them start to turn rancid more quickly.
  • Solution: Buy less whole-bean coffee you can use in almost a week. You can also protect them by using an air-tight coffee container.
  • Many French roast coffees are produced from blends, often using low-grade beans because many roasters use the darkness of the roast to hide the poor quality.
  • Solution: Buy from an authentic roaster that uses the best coffee beans, which they know will be improved by the roasting.
  • Some people find that dark roast coffee can taste bitter. The process of roasting carbonizes the bean fibers and enhances the bitterness.
  • Solution: Grind your beans a little more coarsely, extracting some of the sweeter tastes. You can also use a French press, highlighting the oils and sweeter elements according to the requirement.

If you like smokey, intense dark coffee, there‚Äôs no reason to be afraid of the French roast. If you carefully pick quality beans and brew them, it can provide you with a delicious and rich cup of coffee. For those interested in a more hands-on approach, you might enjoy learning how to roast your own beans at home. Check out our guide, “How to Roast Your Coffee Beans at Home: 4 Different Methods”, for detailed insights and techniques.

The best way to learn about different types of roasts is through experience. Get different types of roasted beans, observe their special qualities, and take notes!