What Is French Roast Coffee? A Comprehensive Guide

6 Mins read

Welcome, coffee lovers! Today, we’re diving into the world of French roast coffee, a favorite among many of us for its bold, smoky flavor and rich, dark color. It is not a type of coffee bean, but rather a style of roasting. It’s known for its intense flavor profile and is often the go-to choice for those who love a robust cup of joe (like myself).

This particular type has gained popularity due to its unique characteristics. It’s darker than others, which gives it a distinct, bold flavor. It is often used in espresso due to its low acidity and heavy body. But what exactly is this coffee, and what sets it apart from others? Let’s find out.

We’ll explore everything you need to know about it. So, grab your favorite mug, sit back, and join us on this caffeinated journey.

The Basics

The Basics of coffee roast

There are several levels of roast, ranging from light to dark. These include light, medium, medium-dark, and dark roast. Each level has its own unique flavor profile and characteristics. French roast falls under the dark category, known for its bold flavor and low acidity.

Like other dark roasts, it has a rich, full body and a pronounced flavor. The beans are roasted until they crack twice, resulting in a dark brown color and a shiny surface from the coffee oils. Now, let’s delve deeper into what sets it apart.

What Sets It Apart?

coffee beans preparation

French roast coffee is unique in many ways. It’s darker than the others which gives it a distinct, bold flavor. The beans are roasted until they’re very dark brown, almost black, and they have a shiny, oily surface. This results in a coffee with low acidity, a heavy body, and a robust flavor.

Its characteristics have a significant impact on the brewing process. Because they’re so dark and oily, they can clog up some coffee makers. However, they’re perfect for methods like the French press or espresso machines, which can handle their intensity.

One of its most appealing aspects is its smoky, caramelized flavor. This is a result of the long roasting process, which allows the sugars in the beans to caramelize and the oils to rise to the surface. This gives it its signature bold, smoky taste.

The Roasting Process

The Roasting coffee Process 

The roasting process for French roast coffee is what makes it unique. The beans are roasted at a high temperature for a longer period of time, usually until they start to crack for the second time. This is known as the “second crack”.

The roasting temperature is typically between 464-482°F (240-250°C). The beans are roasted until they’re very dark brown, almost black, and they have a shiny, oily surface. The process is carefully monitored to ensure the beans don’t burn.

The desired outcome is a coffee with a bold, robust flavor, low acidity, and a heavy body.

Flavor Profile

Common flavor notes associated with French roast coffee include dark chocolate, caramel, and smoky notes. Some people also detect hints of spice or even a slight sweetness. Despite its intense flavor, it has a smooth finish, which makes it a favorite among many coffee lovers.



Brewing is an art in itself. The dark, oily beans require a bit of care to ensure the best flavor extraction. The grind size should be medium to coarse, and the water temperature should be between 195-205°F (90-96°C).

There are several brewing methods that work well with it. The French press, as the name suggests, is an excellent choice. The immersion brewing method allows the water and coffee to interact for a longer period, which brings out the bold flavors of the French roast. Espresso machines and drip coffee makers are also good options.

When brewing French roast coffee, it’s important to remember that it has a robust flavor. Therefore, it’s best to start with a 1:15 coffee-to-water ratio and adjust according to taste. This will ensure a balanced cup that highlights its unique flavor profile.

Pairing with Food

This particular kind pairs well with a variety of foods. Its robustness can stand up to strong flavors, making it a great accompaniment to breakfast items like bacon and eggs, or pastries like croissants and danishes.

Its rich, dark flavors complement sweet desserts. Think dark chocolate cake, caramel flan, or a rich, creamy tiramisu. The coffee’s boldness enhances the flavors of these desserts, creating a delightful gastronomic experience.

When it comes to savory dishes, it pairs well with hearty, rich foods. Think grilled meats, stews, or even spicy dishes. Its robust flavor can stand up to these strong flavors, adding a unique dimension to the meal.

Buying and Storing

Buying and Storing coffee

When buying this particular coffee, look for beans that are very dark brown, almost black, with a shiny, oily surface. The beans should have a strong, smoky aroma. It’s best to buy whole beans and grind them yourself, as this will ensure the freshest, most smoky aroma of coffee.

Storing it properly is crucial to maintaining its freshness and flavor. The beans should be stored in an airtight container, away from light, heat, and moisture. It’s best to store them at room temperature. Avoid storing them in the fridge or freezer, as this can cause the beans to absorb odors and moisture.

Remember, coffee is a perishable product. Once the beans are roasted, they begin to lose their flavor. Therefore, it’s best to buy small amounts of coffee and use it within a few weeks. This will ensure that you’re always brewing the freshest, most flavorful cup.

French Roast vs. Other Levels

Comparing French roast to other levels can help highlight its unique characteristics. Light roasts, for example, are lighter in color and have a more acidic, fruity flavor. They’re roasted at a lower temperature and for a shorter period of time, which allows the natural flavors of the coffee to shine through.

Medium roasts, on the other hand, are roasted at a higher temperature and for a longer period of time. They have a more balanced flavor, with a mix of the coffee’s natural flavors and the flavors developed during roasting. They’re darker in color than light, but not as dark as French roast.

French roast is darker and has a more robust, smoky flavor than both light and medium. It’s roasted at a high temperature and for a long period of time, which allows the sugars in the beans to caramelize and the oils to rise to the surface. This results in a coffee with a bold, smoky flavor and a heavy body.

Caffeine Content

Caffeine Content 

There’s a common myth that dark roast, like French roast, has more caffeine than light roast coffee. However, this isn’t exactly true. The caffeine content is determined by the type of bean, not the roast level.

During the process, the beans lose water and expand in size. This means that a scoop of dark roast has fewer beans than a scoop of light roast, due to the size difference. Therefore, if you measure your coffee by scoops, the light roast will have more caffeine because there are more beans.

However, if you measure your coffee by weight, the caffeine content is almost the same between light and dark roasts. So, while French roast has a bold flavor, its caffeine content is similar to that of other roast levels.

Specialty Variations

In addition to traditional French roast coffee, there are also specialty variations that offer a unique twist on the classic. These include flavored French roast, which is infused with flavors like vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut. These flavors can add an extra layer of complexity to the coffee’s flavor profile.

There are also organic options for those who prefer organic products. These are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and they’re often shade-grown, which is better for the environment.


Can I adjust the roast level of my coffee beans at home to achieve French roast?

The process requires specialized equipment and expertise, so it’s best to purchase French roast coffee from reputable roasters.

Are there decaffeinated French roast coffee options available?

Yes, you can find decaffeinated alternatives for those who prefer to enjoy the flavors without the caffeine.

Can I blend it with other coffee beans?

Yes, blending it  with other beans can create unique flavor profiles and balance the intensity.

Are there organic and fair-trade options for it?

Yes, many coffee brands offer them for those who prioritize sustainability and ethical sourcing.

Can it be enjoyed without adding any sweeteners or milk?

Absolutely, adding milk or sweeteners is a matter of personal preference.


French roast coffee is a unique and flavorful type of coffee that offers a bold, smoky flavor and a heavy body. Its dark, oily beans are the result of a long roasting process, which allows the sugars in the beans to caramelize and the oils to rise to the surface.

From the basics of roasting to the unique features of French roast, we’ve covered everything you need to know about this popular type of coffee. Whether you’re a seasoned coffee connoisseur or a casual drinker, we hope this guide has given you a deeper appreciation for this specific type.

So, the next time you’re in the mood for a robust, flavorful cup of coffee, why not give French roast a try? Its unique flavor profile is sure to captivate your taste buds and offer an experience like no other.

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