Coffee Facts

The Best French Roast Coffee: Buying, Brewing, Brands, And More

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The French roast is a pretty hot topic in the coffee world. Some delight in the burnt undertones while others completely denounce it.

So, what’s going on with this roast? Whether you simply want to learn more about the taste or are itching to find out whether or not it’s worth the money, read on for the full scoop on French roast coffee!

At a Glance: Best French Roast Coffee

What Is French Roast?

French Roast

For starters, despite its name’s implications, French roast coffee doesn’t necessarily come from France. The name “French roast” was coined in the 19th century when coffee roasters were attempting to describe and name the roasting levels.

Though the descriptions they settled on included locations (think Italian roast coffee, Spanish roast coffee, American roast coffee, and, of course, French roast), that didn’t necessarily mean the beans came from or were even especially enjoyed in that area; the names were just indicators of how dark the coffee beans were roasted. 

French roast beans are extremely dark, but they’re not the darkest of the “regional roasts.” Both Italian and Spanish roast coffee beans are even darker!

Quick Summary: Best French Roast Coffee

Peet's Coffee, Organic French Roast - Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee - 18 Ounce Bag, USDA OrganicPEET’S COFFEE ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST
  • Dark Roast
  • Deep-Roasted Coffee
  • Coffee-Forward, Smoky, Bittersweet, Hints Of Caramel
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rc2-table__imageCAFFE VITA ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST
  • Chocolaty Body And Caramel Sweetness
  • Big-Bodied And Sweet
  • Roasty And Smoky
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French Roast Coffee Beans, Whole Bean, Fresh Roasted, 16-ounceVOLCANICA COFFEE FRENCH ROAST COFFEE
  • Complex, Rich And Superbly Aromatic
  • Kosher Certified
  • Remarkable Taste Whole Beans
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rc2-table__imagePORTLAND COFFEE ROASTERS FRENCH ROAST
  • Dark Chocolaty Body And A Caramel Sweetness
  • Roasted Dark Yet Still Super Sweet
  • Roasty And Smoky
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Amazon Brand - 100 Ct. Solimo Dark Roast Coffee Pods, French Roast, Compatible with Keurig 2.0 K-Cup BrewersSOLIMO FRENCH ROAST COFFEE PODS
  • 100 French Roast Coffee Pods
  • 100% Arabica Coffee
  • Compatible With 1.0 And 2.0 K-Cup Brewers
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Stumptown Coffee Roasters, French Roast - Organic Whole Bean Coffee - 12 Ounce Bag, Flavor Notes of Clove and Bittersweet ChocolateSTUMPTOWN FRENCH ROAST COFFEE
  • Organic Dark Roast Blend
  • Freshly Roasted Whole Beans
  • Tasting Notes Of Clove And Bittersweet Chocolate
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French Kick Ground Coffee, Dark Roast, 12 Oz, Bulletproof Keto Friendly 100% Arabica Coffee, Certified Clean Coffee, Rainforest Alliance, Sourced from Guatemala, Colombia & BrazilBULLETPROOF FRENCH KICK COFFEE
  • Keto Friendly
  • 100% Arabica Coffee
  • Certified Clean Coffee
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Starbucks Dark Roast Ground Coffee — Organic French Roast — 100% Arabica — 1 bag (10 oz.)STARBUCKS DARK FRENCH ROAST
  • 100% Arabica
  • With Robust, Bold Taste
  • Smoky And Singular
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Roasting Process

As you can imagine, the above roast labeling system wasn’t the most precise, but luckily, roasters have enlisted more specific strategies today. The Specialty Coffee Association of America uses a tool called the Agtron Gourmet Scale to rate the color profile of coffee beans from zero to 100. French roasts score between 28 and 35 on the scale. 

How do French roast beans get so dark? Let’s follow them through the roasting process:

  • Green: Beans stay green at the beginning of the roasting process as they are introduced to heat.
  • Yellow: The beans will then become yellowish and emit a grassy odor.
  • Steam: Next, steam will rise from the beans as water evaporates.
  • First Crack: A cracking sound is heard as the beans expand and sugars caramelize. During the first crack, beans darken. This includes most medium to some dark roast classifications.
  • Second Crack*: The second more violent crack signals the classification of even darker roasts. Most roasters only offer beans removed at the onset of this stage if they’re offered at all (e.g., Full City+, Vienna).
  • Burn.

*The consensus for the French roast is that the beans are removed from the roaster sometime near or at the end of the second crack.

For some roasters, the internal temperature for a French roast begins to push 464 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the highest end of the recommended roast temperatures. Beyond that, beans begin to burn and present a fire hazard.

The Taste

French roast coffee beans are removed from the heat anywhere between the middle and the end of the second crack. However, at the beginning of the second crack is typically when the heat begins to overpower the flavor of the coffee beans, so consequently, you likely won’t taste many origin-specific flavors in your French roast brew. 

So, your favorite medium roast Costa Rican coffee might have lovely plum, honey, and citrus notes, and your go-to Sumatran may be distinctly earthy and herbal. However, if both of them were French roasts, they would probably taste pretty similar.

But just because the unique flavors are gone doesn’t mean this joe is bland — it’s anything but! The taste varies depending on how soon the beans are removed from heat after the second crack, but generally, French roast coffee beans have a smoky, intense flavor and just a hint of sweetness. 

Roasty Rankings: The Finest French Roast Coffees Around

Now that you know how the delicious and savory French roast coffee is made start shopping around to try it out for yourself! Here are some of the most flavor-filled French roast options on the market today.

Peet’s Coffee Organic French Roast 

The smoky and sweet notes of dark chocolate and burnt sugar littering every cup of Peet’s Coffee Organic French Roast are delicious enough to reel coffee drinkers in after just a few sips, and the overall boldness and complexity of the Latin American Arabica beans from which it’s made are sure to keep them coming back for more. 

This French roast isn’t for people who like lighter, tamer coffee. These dark roast beans are best enjoyed by those who love intense, powerful joe. If that sounds like you, grab a bag of Peet’s French roast (whole beans, of course), a conical burr grinder, and your brewing method of choice, and enjoy!

Caffe Vita Organic French Roast

Cafe Vita French Roast
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
Our rating:

Big-bodied and sweet, this dark-roasted blend features plenty of roastiness with a chocolaty body and caramel sweetness to bring it all together.

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Big-bodied and sweet, this dark-roasted blend features plenty of roastiness, plus a chocolaty body and caramel sweetness to bring it all together.

So…since caffe means coffee and vita means life…does that mean Caffe Vita’s coffee can bring you to life on those hard, can-barely-keep-your-eyes-open mornings? We think so! And almost nothing puts some pep in your step like the first sip of a smoky, burnt French roast!

The Seattle-based brand’s organic French roast is a blend of Central and South American, Indonesian, and African coffees roasted to dark perfection, but not so much that they lose their chocolatey body and caramel sweetness. The notes of cocoa, maple syrup, and nutmeg are life-giving at all times, whether you’ve just woken up or simply want to savor a good cup of joe in the afternoon.

Volcanica Coffee French Roast Coffee

This French roast is the darkest roast Volcanica Coffee sells, and it’s a fan favorite because of its deep smoky flavor. And because it’s roasted with a slightly different method than Volcanica’s other dark roasts, all of the beans’ unique flavor notes are accented beautifully. 

Furthermore, this roast has a visible layer of oil on the beans. Though this may cause some hesitation to those new to the coffee bean scene, these oils consist of enzymes that create the delicious flavor and aroma that people love so much about coffee. The longer the coffee is roasted, the more the inner flavors and oils are coaxed out of the beans, creating that rich flavor that makes French roast a favorite for many.

As far as growing conditions are concerned, Volcanica Coffee grows all of its beans above 3,000 feet in elevation. This ensures that all of their beans are healthy, full of flavor, and have the lowest risk of deformity.

Portland Coffee Roasters French Roast

Portland Coffee Roasters
Portland Coffee Roasters French Roast
Our rating:

Roasted dark yet still super sweet, this French roast features a dark chocolaty body and a caramel sweetness that’ll stand out when drinking black, or pair beautifully with your milk of choice.

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Portland, Oregon, is without a doubt one of the United States’ coffee capitals. There’s probably a coffee shop on every corner, which means the city is heaven for people like us. But just because you don’t live in Portland doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the good coffee! Just order a bag of Portland Coffee Roasters French roast, and you’ll understand all the hype.

Just like any good French roast, these beans are nice and smoky, but thanks to notes of chocolate and caramel, your brew will be sweet, too; try it black or with a splash of milk or creamer. This coffee, which has been a fan favorite for two decades, is clean and delicious, and for best results, try brewing it with your trusty French press.

Solimo French Roast Coffee Pods

Need something efficient and simple to get you going before work in the morning? Solimo French Roast Coffee Pods have you covered. Compatible with both 1.0 and 2.0 Keurig K-cup brewing machines, these Solimo K-cups will deliver a delicious cup of smoky French roast at the push of a button.

However, you should note that this French roast isn’t as dark as some other roasts are. And because it comes from a pod, your resulting brew won’t be as fresh and flavorful as it would be if you used freshly ground whole beans. 

Stumptown French Roast Coffee

Another selection that comes straight out of Portland, Oregon (a.k.a., “Hipster Coffee Headquarters”) Stumptown French Roast Coffee is an organic dark roast blend that delivers deep flavor tones without the burnt aftertaste. Roasted with notes of clove and bittersweet chocolate, this French roast also has a spiciness that sticks in each sip.

After the beans are roasted, Stumptown packages each batch in their innovative bags to keep all of their coffee fresh for about three months if left unopened. Stumptown labels all of its bags with the date to signify the roasting date, as well as the “best by” date.

Stumptown has been perfecting their French roast coffee blend for the last 20 years, and throughout this time they’ve strived to create a consistent flavor. In addition, they’ve also established strong customer relationships, assuring that you can sip your coffee with peace of mind.

Bulletproof French Kick Coffee

Bulletproof’s darkly roasted French Kick Coffee delivers a kick of flavor in each batch. The flavors in this French roast are clean and bright, but it’s also a well-balanced brew with a full body and sweet chocolate and caramel undertones.

All of Bulletproof’s beans are hand-picked and harvested from Central America, meaning every batch is carefully sorted through as the overall quality of the java is examined. The coffee is then small-batch roasted under stringent conditions, which helps minimize toxins or impurities. This practice ensures every customer gets a savory, defect-free batch of French roast. 

Starbucks Coffee French Roast

Starbucks Coffee is one of the most well-recognized coffee brands globally, and coffee lovers everywhere love its products, including the French roast. Whether you need a large bag of beans to fuel you for the long haul or a pack of K-Cups for when you need to get your caffeine fix quickly, you’ll find a variation of the Starbucks French roast that will get the job done no matter how you brew. 

These beans have a layer of oil on them that gives them the explosive flavor you’re sure to love, and they produce a full-bodied brew with a nice sweetness, making it a great option for those who like rich and robust joe. 

How does a French roast compare to other roasts?

We already mentioned that the French roast level is on the darker side of the spectrum, but how exactly does it compare to other notably dark beans? Let’s find out!

Full City

Full City or Full City+ roasts are generally found next to French roasts on the lighter end of the roast level spectrum. If you’re looking for something that’s still very dark but doesn’t have the intense and smoky-sweet flavor a French roast does, Full City java is worth looking into. 

In terms of appearance, Full City beans aren’t as oily as French roast ones. While French roast coffee has an entirely oily surface, Full City coffee only sports a few visible oil spots. 

Espresso Roast

There is some disagreement on how the “espresso” roast compares to the French roast. Some roasters claim that it’s slightly lighter than a French roast. However, for the most part, they are essentially the same roast. Both have very dark brown, shiny surfaces with burnt undertones.

Spanish and Italian Roasts

While most people believe that the French or espresso roast the darkest one available, that isn’t necessarily true. Spanish and Italian roast beans are darker, identifiable by their nearly black color and slick, oily surfaces. In addition, the flavor of these two roasts is flat with hints of charcoal. The roasting process also tends to present a fire hazard to the roasters, so it’s not a very popular offering.

Things To Look Out For Before Buying

Though we adore a well-crafted French roast, it is easy for some large coffee roasters and sellers to overlook the quality of their coffee to make as much profit as possible. So before you buy, it’s best to consider the size of the coffee brand or roaster, as well as the company’s reputation for sourcing and filtering through the beans.

Here are a few things to look out for when deciding which French roast coffee is best for you: 

Freshness 

French roasts have very distinct, oily surfaces. As a result, they tend to spoil and turn stale or rancid much faster than lighter roasts. You can mitigate this issue by only purchasing the amount you’ll need for the week and using a good, air-tight container to store them until you’re ready to brew. 

However, some companies only offer larger-sized bags, and if that’s the case, you may want to consider purchasing your beans elsewhere so you can get a smaller batch that won’t spoil before you have a chance to use it. 

Lost Origin

While many people seek out specific bean origins for the unique flavors, this practice is almost pointless with French roasts. The darkness of the roast overpowers the tasting notes in the beans, even the more prominent ones. As a result, no matter where the beans are from, they’re going to taste almost the same: smoky.

Bean Quality

Because the darkness of the roast essentially erases any hints of the original flavor, many companies use lower-quality beans for their French roasts. The aim is to mask the poor-quality coffee flavor with the overpowering roasted flavor.

The result is pretty abhorrent coffee. You can somewhat avoid this issue by buying from brands you trust, especially those who take care to only roast healthy, flavorful beans that are closely observed during the roasting process.

Unsustainable or Unethical

If a roaster is using cheap, low-quality beans for its French roast, there’s a chance those beans may often be unethically sourced. That means farmers are exploited for profit and are often forced into cheap, environmentally unsustainable practices. 

To avoid this in French roasts and coffee in general, look for a Fair Trade label on the packaging or research the company to see how transparent they are about their sourcing and sustainability.

Bitterness

As with some other dark roasts, French roast beans tend to taste bitter. This is due to the carbonization of fibers within the beans. For some dark roasts, this makes for a nice smoky, charcoal-like flavor that people enjoy. But for French roasts, it often makes for an overpowering bitterness and burnt undertones.

For French roasts on the light side, using a coarser grind and a French press can help bring out the sweeter flavors that lie underneath. However, for French roasts on the darker end of the roast scale, this likely won’t do much to solve the bitterness problem.

You can also try adding salt to your grounds; this will help offset the bitterness and help keep the joe fresh (this is because the salt may remove some moisture). 

Clean-Up

Oilier beans, like French roasted ones, mean more frequent cleaning of grinders and machines. This may be a lesser concern for those of you using other brewing methods, but it’s especially an issue if you’re using these dark beans in an espresso machine, especially one with a built-in grinder. The oils tend to clog the machine, and if left uncleaned, your machine could end up damaged. 

Frequently Asked French Roast Questions 

Is French roast the same as Turkish coffee?

No, French roast and Turkish coffee are not the same. 

French roast refers to the category of roasts, while Turkish coffee references a brewing method. You can, however, use French roasted beans to make a cup of traditional Turkish joe so long as you grind the popular roast very finely.

There is, however, a Turkish roast that French roast coffee beans may be confused for, but still, they aren’t the same. Though French roast coffee beans are dark, Turkish roast joe is even darker — practically charred. 

How much caffeine does French roast coffee have?

Many people think that a batch of beans has a high caffeine level simply because it’s a darker roast. Actually, the opposite is true; light roast coffee is actually more caffeinated. 

The longer your beans are roasted, the less caffeine they will contain, which means the ultra-dark, smoky flavor of the French roast is a great choice for those looking to limit their caffeine intake. 

Is French roast coffee strong?

Contrary to popular belief, bitter coffee does not equal strong coffee. Strength has to do with the coffee-to-water ratio as the java brews, so any roast type has the potential to produce a strong cup based on this definition. 

In terms of flavor, however, French roast coffee is quite strong. Because the beans are roasted for an extended period of time, they’re left with a smoky and intense body of flavor that rivals any batch of beans that are roasted for a shorter period. 

Wrapping Up

In our opinion, coffee has much more to offer in the flavor department than the ashen, burnt profile most frequently presented by a French roast. But if you’re set on buying one, we recommend going for one that leans on the lighter side of the spectrum. 

If you’re simply interested in exploring darker roasts, this joe might be too intense of a place to start. Start with a Full City or Vienna roast from a reputable company and work your way up. 

Happy Caffeinating!

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