What is French Roast Coffee? (& Why People Snub It)

Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by brewthatcoffee

There is nothing like the smell and taste of a good cup of coffee to get you through the day. There are many coffee roast types, one called French Roast, which many people snub. Let’s find out all about French roast coffee and its significance. 

What is French Roast Coffee? (& Why People Snub It)

French roast coffee refers to coffee beans roasted longer than other dark roasts. The coffee is thin-bodied, darker, richer, slightly bitter, and contains less caffeine than typical dark coffee roasts. It has a smoky aroma and a charcoal-like yet sweet flavor profile. 

Read on to understand French roast coffee, how it differs from other roasts, where it gets its name, and why it is often rebuffed. 

What Is French Roast Coffee? 

French roast is a coffee type characterized according to the length of its roasting time. It falls in the dark roast category and is called double roast coffee.  

Why It’s Called French Roast 

French roast coffee got its name from its high and long roasting time. It was prevalent in the European region, including France, through the 1800s and early 19th century. Nations from that time loved dark coffee, and from all the dark roasts of the time, the French had the darkest roast. 

A common misconception is that French Roast coffee originates from France – meaning the beans are grown there. That is an understandable assumption but far from the truth. The French simply received fame for having the darkest roast, and the name stuck. 

The misleading name is primarily characterized by dark roast coffee bean roasting time. 

What It Tastes Like: Is It Bitter? 

The taste of French roast is distinct. It is bitter with a pungent profile. The stronger the roast of the coffee, the more bitter it will taste. The coffee also has a charcoal-like ashy flavor from the burnt fibers during roasting. 

French roast has a sweetness similar to dark chocolate or caramelized sugar despite the bitterness. The appeal of French roast often comes because of this flavor combination. 

French roast beans are roasted on high heat – above 440 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10-12 minutes. The longer roasting process darkens the coffee beans and smokes the natural, unique flavors away. 

Is French Roast Stronger? 

French roast is a strong coffee in color, scent, and taste. It is dark, intense, smoky, and tastes bold and bitter. The more the beans are roasted, the stronger the coffee becomes.  

When the Europeans were roasting their coffee beans, the name French roast was developed because the people during that time preferred dark, strong coffee. 

Is French Roast Higher In Caffeine? 

Another common misconception about French or dark roasts is that their caffeine content is higher. That is far from facts. The caffeine content doesn’t change during the roasting process, and light roast coffees have the same amount, if not slightly more. 

The dark-roasted French coffee has a bold and richer flavor profile, thus creating the impression that it contains more caffeine. But the significance is in the taste, color, and smell, not the caffeine content. 

Difference Between French Roast & Other Roasts 

French roast coffee beans reach a temperature above 440-450 degrees with two cracks compared to other roasts that reach one crack around 400-425 degrees. The oils of the French roast beans also reach the surface providing an oily sheen. 

Dark roasts taste relatively similar, while French roasts will be smoky, charcoal-like, and intense. French roast coffee is also thin-bodied, while regular dark roasts are full-bodied. The longer roasting time reduces acidity, making French roasts less acidic than others. 

There are the most popular dark roast coffee types: 

  • French roast 
  • Italian roast 
  • Viennese roast 
  • Continental roast 
  • American roast 

French Roast Vs. Italian Roast 

The Italian roast is the only dark roast close to the French roast. It is one of the strongest, with its beans gaining two cracks. Italian roast is roasted for longer than French and is much stronger, darker, and intensely bitter. 

French roast will have more acidity than Italian because Italian has a longer roasting time, albeit French has less acidity than other dark roasts. The oils of the coffee beans seep out and evaporate from Italian roasts, unlike French roast beans, which are left with an oily surface. 

Why Some People Look Down On French Roast 

While dark roast coffee is loved by many, some specifically snub the French roast type. It is generally modern coffee drinkers that have this view, and here are why: 

  • They believe it is too burnt.  
  • It masks the original, natural, and unique flavors of the coffee. 
  • More milk, creamers, and sweeteners are required to tone down the bitterness. 
  • They find the taste is flat and one-dimensional. 
  • French roast coffee beans go stale faster because the oils move to the surface of the beans. 

Getting French Roast At Starbucks 

French roast has been one of Starbucks’ most popular coffee choices for years. There is word that they have discontinued it in their stores since the fall of 2022 in hopes of streamlining product options. 

The company could barely keep up with the demand for the drink as a different facility was used for roasting the French beans. Starbucks French roast coffee is available in some grocery stores and online stores. 

French Roast Coffee FAQs 

French roast coffee is considered good quality in terms of roasting level.

But different companies will have different quality French roasts – from good to bad – depending on their ethics and the process they follow. 

French roast and Turkish coffee are not the same. French roast refers to the roasting level of the beans.

Turkish coffee is a preparation style that uses finely ground coffee and brings the drink to the frothy stage through boiling. 


French roast coffee is a delicious, dark, rich, smokey coffee with a hint of sweetness and a strong profile. It is often looked down on as burnt, flat coffee, but for those who love highly dark roasts, it provides an intense, enjoyable taste. 

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