What is French Roast Coffee – Simple Explanation

Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer is our senior editor and content writer, at CoffeeVibe. Apart from writing and reading, she’s fond of the coffee brewing process and enjoys tasting new coffe read more
Reviewed By
Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks is our tester, who puts products through their paces. He used to be a barista and is now a full-time coffee enthusiast. He’s always testing out new gadgets, read more
Last updated: September 02, 2023
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French roast coffee. Strong, roasted coffee that isn’t really everyone’s favorite taste. You really need to understand French roast before you can start to like the taste. For some, it is just a bitter, strong cup of coffee. While for others, this is a quality cup of coffee that you can enjoy and not find just anywhere.

But, what is French roast coffee? Why are there people that really love the roast coffee, while others are saying that this is the most untasteful coffee they ever tasted? The moment that you know more about the French roast coffee, you will understand the strange taste, and might even start to enjoy the coffee much more.

The origins

French roast isn’t French coffee, it 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. The name is believed to reflect the tastes and traditions of coffee roasters in Europe in the 19th century, where dark roasted coffee was all the rage. Italian roast, or espresso roast, was nearly as dark as French, and Vienna roast – a staple of the Viennese cafes and pastry shops known for their great coffee – was slightly lighter than Italian roast. But the French proudly took the honors as the darkest roast of all.

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. French roast coffee can be made from Central American, African, or Indonesian beans. Essentially, beans grown anywhere in the world can be used to make French roast.

Is French roast the darkest?

What is French Roast Coffee - Simple Explanation

Yes, the French roast is the darkest roast that you can get. It is a chocolate kind of color and is normally used to make espressos. It has a smokey rich flavor.

There are other roasts that are known to be similar to the French roast, because of the dark roasting color. We are talking about roasts like Italian roast and Espresso roast. However, experts are saying that the French roast is, in fact, darker than any other roast. Making this the strongest coffee on the market.

How strong is it?

As mentioned before, the French roast is the darkest roast that you can get at the moment. It has a color like dark chocolate and has a strong roasting smell. The darker the roast, the stronger the coffee starts to get. It will have a more roasting taste than a coffee taste, with the coffee beans roasted to an almost black color like the French roast.

The French roast, just like many of the other darker roasts are used for the espresso drinks. The drinks where the stronger coffee beans are needed. The taste is really strong and bitter. Not everyone can enjoy the French roast. It is also so strong, that you can’t really drink a normal cup of coffee with the French roast.

Are there any downsides to French roasted coffee?

There are a couple of downsides to French roasted coffee. And, we don’t talk about the fact that not many people can enjoy the taste of the French roasted coffee, or also known espresso coffee.  However, if you know the different solutions, it will not be a problem for most people.

  • French roast beans can lose freshness faster than lighter roasts. The culprit: the oils on French roast beans can start to turn rancid more rapidly than beans with the oils still locked inside – and yes, that tastes as bad as it sounds.

The solution: Buy only the amount of whole bean coffee you can use in about a week. And you can also protect yourself from this by using a top-notch coffee container. If you are still unsatisfied, you may be interested in checking out our review of the best light roast coffee beans that stay fresh for a long time.

  • Many French roast coffees are made from blends, which often use inferior beans because many coffee roasters use the darkness of the roast to mask the poor-quality coffee flavor.

The solution: Buy from a quality roaster that uses the best coffee beans they can find, and which they know will be enhanced by the roasting process.

What is French Roast Coffee - Simple Explanation

  • Blends made from those inferior beans often exploit growers, and the low price can make for practices that aren’t environmentally sustainable.
  • Some coffee drinkers find that dark roast coffee can taste bitter. The roasting process carbonizes some of the fibers in the coffee beans, which lead to that seared-over-charcoal flavor that enhances the bitterness for many people.

The solution: Grind your French roast a little more coarsely, which will extract some of the sweeter flavors. You can also use a French press, which will highlight the oils and sweeter components due to the requirement of using coarsely ground coffee.

  • It is also known that the more the coffee beans are roasted, the less caffeine it will have. For some, this is a benefit, but for those that are looking for a caffeine boost in the morning, a French roast might not be the answer.
  • If you are roasting your own beans, there is a fine line between getting the French roast, and burned coffee beans. And, you need to be careful not to over roasting your coffee beans, otherwise, you are ruining the beans and you won’t be able to use it to make coffee.

How to roast your coffee, French?

It is important to know that not everyone can just roast coffee beans at home, and have the perfect French roast. Even if this is possible, it will take a lot of practice and a lot of burned coffee beans before you are getting it right.  It is also essential that you are going to purchase high-quality coffee beans. The higher the quality beans, the better the French roast will taste.

Home roasters looking to try their hands at French roast will be looking for the “second crack,” signifying that the coffee beans’ internal structure is beginning to collapse. This corresponds to an internal temperature of at least 240 C (464 F). If you’re roasting French at home, you should also look for the tell-tale sheen of oil on the beans, giving them a glossy look (and making them a pain to clean out of your grinder, but that’s another story.)
What is French Roast Coffee - Simple Explanation


Many people think that French roast coffee beans mean that the coffee comes from France. However, this isn’t the case. This is the color and the process of roasting the coffee beans. French roasted coffee is the darkest roast that you can find. It is having the color of dark chocolate and taste really bitter. This is the coffee beans that are being used to make a different type of espresso drinks. The French roast is a way to bitter for drinking a full cup of coffee. Normally it is being served very strong, in a much smaller cup, because of the bitterness of the roast.

This isn’t a coffee roast that anyone will enjoy, especially because of the bitter, roasting flavor. You can make your own French roast, by roasting coffee beans to the perfect roasting color. But, you should be careful not to burn the beans, because then your coffee beans are ruined. And, you need to make sure that you are purchasing high-quality coffee beans. This is ensuring the tastier coffee.

French roast coffee. Some love this, others really don’t like the taste. It is interesting to know how the French roast is being made and why this coffee is so strong and bitter. If you never have tasted the French roast before, we recommend you to try it. However, if you don’t like strong, bitter coffee, then you probably won’t like the coffee. The fresher the roast, the better the taste will be.

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