What is French Roast Coffee – How French is it Really??

Let’s Talk About Coffee

French roast coffee, to be specific. It’s made with beans grown somewhere very far from France. Roasted, washed, processed, and transported without ever actually touching French soil. How is this possible? What is French roast coffee?

Dont Like Coffee??? Check out this post on How to Start Liking Coffee!

Coffee is just coffee, and in a sense all coffee is the same. But that is a gross oversimplification, like saying that all wine is the same because it comes from the same plant. Coffee, like these other agriculture products, changes depending on where and how it is grown, and what is done to it after it is harvested.

In the case of French roast coffee, the beans are roasted to a level that creates a trademark taste and appearance. In recent decades French roast coffee has gained popularity in western areas of the world, easily found at most coffee shops and grocery stores.

Today we’re making it simple and breaking down one of the most popular kinds out there: French roast coffee. You may be wondering, “What makes it different?”, “Is it actually French?” and “What does it taste like?By the end of this, you will feel less intimidated, and have a thorough knowledge of French roast coffee and everything that makes it special. Pour yourself a cup, real or imaginary, and let’s get to it!

What is French Roast Coffee?

When a coffee is described as being a “French roast” it is referring only and explicitly to the amount of time the beans spent in the roaster. A French roast coffee, from any brand, can be made from coffee beans that come from all over the world.

So, while coffee from different geographical regions can have different flavors, all French roasted coffees share a similar look and mouthfeel due to being roasted to the same depth and intensity. 

Take a look at some French roast beans, and the similarities will pop out at you. All the beans have a dark glossy color, and a pronounced crack in them. This is a result of the beans being exposed to heat for long enough that much of the moisture in the bean is gone, and as the bean shrinks, it cracks and the oils are expressed.

How Dark is French Roast Coffee?

On a spectrum of coffee going from light to dark, French roast is a medium-dark roast. This makes it a well-rounded roast, suited for brewing and making espresso, because it creates a developed flavor with low acidity.

The Difference Between French Roast and Other Coffee 

French roast stands out from other roasts because of its versatility and complementary flavor profile. As mentioned, it can be used to brew coffee or make espresso. This is because it is roasted to a point where the acidity (what makes it tastes tangy or sour) is low and the depth of flavor increases.

Compare it to the flavor of chocolate; darker chocolate has a more intense flavor and can be felt in more areas of the palate. It is the same for darker roasts; to the untrained it just tastes more coffeelike.

If it sounds a little pretentious, don’t worry. You may be sitting there trying to taste all the flavors and layers, but it just tastes like, well, coffee. That is normal, that is expected. It is enough to know that when you buy French roast coffee, you are getting something that was made to taste smooth and full bodied, where most of the flavor comes from the roasting process and not the beans themselves.

What Does French Roast Coffee Taste Like?

Drinking coffee is a drawn out experience of very strong flavors, which is why many people rely heavily on cream and syrups to alter the base flavor profile. Changing the flavor of coffee is always up to personal preference, but having a clear picture of the natural flavor of the coffee may help you in deciding how to doctor it up, or if it even needs to be changed all that much. 

Even though the beans of French roast coffees may originate from many different places in the world, the roasting process creates a replicable flavor profile and mouthfeel, due to the chemical reactions that take place.

It is not unlike the toasting of bread, where the nutty flavors become more pronounced, and the raw, unfinished flavors are replaced with a smoother, fuller taste. What you are tasting is the sugars caramelizing and the oils from the coffee bean coming out, without the acidity of lighter roasts.

Is French Roast Coffee Bad for You?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: French roast sometimes gets a bad rap for being overly common; perhaps what bad office coffee is made of. This can lead to people associating it with weak or bitter coffee. Coffee, French roasted or otherwise, can fall prey to various pitfalls that result in a bad cup of joe.

Most of those pitfalls come from bad brewing practices, beans that are too old, or were ground too long before brewing. All of those factors have a hand in changing coffee for the worse if proper grinding and brewing technique is not followed. 

If you have French roast now, and can’t get a good cup out of it, consider how long it’s been sitting in the cupboard, the water quality and ratio, and even the brewing process as the possible culprit instead of the roast.

Pairing with French Roast Coffee

To go above and beyond when creating a delicious cup of French roast coffee, consider pairing it with a food item that can best enhance the top flavor qualities.

Certain foods, when paired with coffee, work to bring out the best flavors of each, creating an experience that is more than the sum of its parts. Just as you can pair wine and dinner foods, coffee has its own set of foods that complement its natural flavors.

Now that we have discovered that French roast coffee focuses on beans roasted to a uniform dark color with low acidity and a full body, we can focus on what foods balance and enhance those qualities. An easy rule of thumb is to choose the types of foods that are used in the flavor description for the coffee. 

Common words to describe French roast include: 

  • chocolatey 
  • nutty 
  • decadent
  • full-bodied 
  • intense
  • syrupy or creamy

Foods that fit this description will pair beautifully, so think chocolate croissants or cake, quiches with strong cheeses or roasted vegetables, or creamy curries. Strong coffee can handle foods with similarly strong flavor profiles, so don’t be afraid to be adventurous!


Coming back full circle, French roast coffee is one of the world’s most popular roasts, because the beans are roasted to a dark and shiny color that creates a smooth, well-rounded flavor. Chances are, your local coffee shop uses French roast beans for a majority of the drinks on the menu, because the brew is almost universally appealing.

French roast has a prominent, but not overwhelming flavor, meaning it can be enjoyed on its own, or with cream and syrup. The dark roast irons out any inconsistencies in the beans themselves, and creates a predictable and pleasant roast flavor.

Hopefully, now you have an answer to the question: what is French roast coffee? We’ve gone over what it is (a depth of roast), how it’s different than other coffee (time spent in the roaster), what it tastes like (strong, smooth), and what to eat with it (chocolate and cheese).

However, reading about the ins and outs of coffee means very little without experiencing it yourself. So get out there and try a few different French roasts, taking the time to look at the beans and sort through all the flavors upon that first sip. Give it time, and one day it will click, and you will hear yourself commenting on the depth, body, and flavor of the coffee!

Happy sipping!

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