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When it comes to coffee roasts, everyone has a favorite. Some crave darker roasts with bolder flavors while others prefer something roasted slightly lighter; it’s what makes the world of coffee so interesting – no two coffees are the same.
One coffee roast that falls on the dark end of the roasting scale is the French roast. This dark roasted coffee is known for its smoky sweetness and can often have a slightly charred taste, sometimes referred to as being “burnt.”
If you’re unfamiliar with this roast and are on the hunt for information and answers to common questions, stick around.
In this post, you will learn everything there is to know about French roast coffee and how it compares to other darker coffee beans.
French Roast Coffee Explained
So what is a French roast coffee? In the 18th century, dark coffee roasts were all the rage in Europe, and different countries produced their own specific profiles.
For example, countries such as Italy and Spain had particularly dark roasts, and Vienna produced slightly lighter roasts.
But it was the French roast that gained popularity with the British. This style of coffee falls on the darker end of the roasting scale with an appearance akin to dark chocolate.
Today, the name French describes the color of the coffee bean once it has been through the roasting process rather than the actual origin of the coffee.
Coffee from any region can be roasted and called a French roast. So essentially, coffee beans grown anywhere in the world can be used to make French roast.
How Dark Are French Roast Coffees?
French roast coffee is some of the darkest-looking coffee you’ll find, and the coffee beans have a dark brown appearance and are slightly shimmering with oil.
How long is French roast coffee roasted? A French roast has a roasting time of approximately 12 minutes (around the second crack), with the internal temperature of the coffee reaching an immense 464 F (240 C).
This puts a French roast in between a Full City roast and an Italian or Spanish roast. The coffee beans are darker than Full City roast, with slightly more oil on the surface.
If done right, a French roast brings coffee to the height of its flavor. But as you continue the roasting process and move on to darker roasts, this is where the coffee reaches its extreme limit, and the beans are nearly black with very heavy oils.
French Roast Taste?
Many consider french roast to be a “double roasted coffee.” This level of dark roast coffee is known for its deep smokey, bitter-sweet flavor with a thin mouthfeel and often has charcoal-like notes.
At this roast level, it’s almost impossible to identify by taste the coffee’s origin or the coffee beans’ variety. However, coffees from regions such as Sumatra roasted to a French roast do tend to have an earthy, mulch-like flavor that is easily identifiable to the trained palate.
It’s also worth noting that dark french roasts tend to be far less acidic compared to a light roast. Just one thing to keep in mind if you want to drink coffee with less acidity.
French Roast vs. Dark Roasts
So we know that French Roasts are dark but what’s the difference between a French roast and a regular dark roast?
When you take a closer look at the dark roast spectrum, you can identify subtle differences that separate one roast from another.
Take the Italian roast (often termed the espresso or Spanish roast) as an example. From a quick glance, you may not notice any differences compared to the French roast; they are both extremely dark in appearance.
But if you take a minute and really look over the beans, you will notice that Italian roasts are often very oily, much more so than a French roast.
This is due to Italian roasts being roasted for slightly longer, which forces more of the oils locked deep inside the coffee beans to come to the surface.
So essentially, what I’m trying to say is that there isn’t one “true” dark roast there are many that fall into this subcategory. So trying to compare French roast to dark roast is like comparing Coca-Cola and Pepsi; they look and taste very similar, but there are subtle differences between them.
What I will say is that the French roast sits somewhere in the middle when it comes to the dark roast coffee range.
At the end of the scale, you have an Italian roast (very dark and oily), and at the upper end, you have Full City (just past a medium roast) and Full City+ and Vienna roast (slightly lighter than French).
Did You Know French Roast Beans Go Stale Faster
Darker coffee roasts such as French and Italian will lose their peak freshness a lot sooner than a medium or light roast.
When coffee is roasted dark, the cells inside the bean rupture due to the intense heat. This causes most, if not all, of the flavorful oils and compounds to race out of the cells and collects on the surface of the bean; that’s why dark roasts tend to have an oily sheen.
The problem is that once the compounds and oils have been forced out from the cells, they have no protection against the elements, and evaporation and oxidation begin.
As a result, the clock starts ticking as soon as the beans have been roasted. Being sealed in a vacuum bag will slow down the oxidation process, but the longer the coffee sits on the supermarket shelves, the more the beans will break down.
Coffee can sit on supermarket shelves for weeks, months, or even years before reaching your cup.
And as soon as you open that bag of French roast or any dark roasted coffee, those aromatic oils will start decaying immediately. So you don’t get the rich, vibrant aromas as you should.
Lighter roasts keep most of the aromatic oils locked inside the cells of the beans due to less time spent inside the roasting oven.
Light and medium roasts will still break down and deteriorate as soon as they’ve been roasted, but they will stay fresher for longer than dark roasts because the oils and compounds are safely locked inside the bean until they have been ground.
Is French Roast Coffee Healthy?
Will you choose the light side or the dark side? Which is healthier? If you want to maximize the health benefits, a new study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food says lighter roasted coffee is a healthier choice.
The Korean researchers took a closer look at several different coffee roasting levels and analyzed the caffeine content and levels of chlorogenic acid (a well-known antioxidant).
They also exposed samples of each roast type to human cell cultures to test their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The researchers discovered that lighter coffee roasts contained higher amounts of chlorogenic acid which protects human cells against damage and inflammation.
So if you want to reap the health benefits of coffee, it’s best to stick with a lighter roast. Don’t worry you will still get a good kick of caffeine, as the researchers noted that caffeine levels did not vary between roast samples.