What Does French Roast Mean Why Is It Called French Roast

What Does French Roast Mean? Why Is It Called French Roast?

Last updated on November 5th, 2023 at 16:17

I’m getting a lot of questions lately on our online coffee community about a certain roast with many asking “What does French roast mean?” and “Why is it called French roast?”

These two questions form the whole basis of this post as I dig down and start to answer some of the questions that I have received about French roast coffee.

Keep reading for the details!

What Does French Roast Mean?

The term French roast coffee is in reference to a specific roasting level of a dark roast coffee. Dark roast itself is a roast category with 4 different types of roast, which are, in order from the lightest of the dark roasts to the darkest:

  • Full city roast.
  • Vienna roast.
  • French roast.
  • Italian roast.

Unfortunately, there are many other websites that inaccurately claim that the darkest roast is a French roast, the darkest is an Italian roast coffee, which is roasted at a slightly higher temperature and is almost burnt with the beans black in color.

Due to the high roasting level and roasted to the second crack and beyond, dark roasts are frequently referred to as being a double roast coffee. These roasts are less acidic and slightly lower in caffeine than lighter roast coffee beans.

The flavor is something that serious coffee lovers enjoy due to the very strong, dark, and deep traditional coffee flavor coming through.

Making a roast this dark requires a specific and exact coffee roasting process and has to be undertaken by professional coffee roasters, preferably a master roaster.

What Does French Roast Mean
Starbucks French Roast

Read: Starbucks French roast history

Why Is It Called A French Roast?

A French roast, like other types of coffee beans in the dark roast category, gets its name from the place where it was first discovered.

  • A French roast comes from France.
  • A Vienna roast comes from Vienna.
  • An Italian Roast comes from Italy.

The tradition of deeply roasting coffee became popular in the 19th century in France and spread through Europe and made its way to the US. Due to its origins in France, the name for this particular way of roasting, the name French roast was used.

You don’t need a special coffee bean or single origin; in fact, it is advised that you don’t use great beans as this roasting level removes all of the specific flavors from the origin. Normal or average beans are best.

As you head out to Eastern Europe and to Turkey, half in Europe and half in Asia, the name changes to a Turkish roast, depending on the roaster. This is not to be confused with Turkish coffee.

Turkish coffee is a particular method of brewing coffee with an Ibrik and some spices. For that matter, a French press coffee should not be confused with a French roast for the same reason.

What Does French Roast Coffee Taste Like?

Coffee lovers and avid coffee drinkers will notice the difference that French roast beans have when compared to light roast coffee varieties and medium roast coffees. They have a much darker caramel-like bittersweet taste with notes and tones that are smoky and deep.

When you compare the taste to lighter roast coffees like a medium roast or a light roast coffees roasted to a French roast or above will lose the original flavor of the coffee beans. This is why roasters rarely use specialty grade beans for dark roasted coffee.

The coffee bean roast level has a large factor and huge role in how your cup of coffee will taste. Specialty grade single origin coffee is best enjoyed as a light or medium roast.

What Does A French Roast Taste Like
What Does A French Roast Taste Like

Read: Is French roast coffee strong?

French Roast Caffeine Content

Coffee aficionados and coffee geeks know the common mistake that many people make is assuming the classic and classy coffee flavor that is strong is associated with having a greater amount of caffeine.

The caffeine level goes down as you go up in the coffee roast profile, meaning there is less caffeine in a French roast than a light roast or a medium roast.

The roasting process, unfortunately, destroys the caffeine molecules. This is only a general rule of thumb, as there are many different coffee beans and various processes involved in coffee, including the type of coffee bean, as a Robusta has approximately 2.2x more caffeine than an Arabica bean.

The roast is only one variable out of many; wash processing is another. Don’t automatically assume that a French roast has less caffeine just because it is a French roast.

As I said, there are many variables that affect how much caffeine is in your coffee. Even the brewing method will vary how much caffeine gets in your cup.

How Is French Roast Coffee Roasted?

The roast master will take French roast coffee beans and their internal temperature to 240C (464F).

As coffee roasts go up the roasting scale and get roasted at a higher temperature they get darker and more coffee oils make their way from inside the coffee beans to the exterior. French roast coffee beans are a dark mahogany brown and shiny with oil on their surface.

They are roasted to just beyond the second crack, roasted to such an intensity that the roasting process creates a crack sound twice.

The crack is from the water pressure building up in the beans and releasing steam. The coffee cell walls break down and release the oils which then cover the surface of the beans. Most other roasts the beans are roasted to only the first crack.

At Latte Love Brew, we encourage you to get in on the home roasting revolution and roast your own beans to ensure you always have freshly roasted beans.

What’s Darker Than French Roast Coffee?

There is only one roast of coffee that is darker than a French roast and that is an Italian roast.

An Italian roast coffee beans are almost charred, burnt and produces a very dark tasting cup of coffee that is very ash like.

There is no set rule or governing body that oversees the naming of coffee roasts, which is very unfortunate. You may see some coffee labelled as “Dark French” or “Spanish Roast Coffee” these are the same as an Italian roast.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Does French Roast Mean

French roast beans don’t contain any more caffeine than other dark roasts but in terms of flavor they make an intense brew that is deeper than a full city roast and a Vienna roast but not as intense as an Italian roast. It has a pungent taste and strong aroma that lingers.

What Is In A French Roast?

A French roast coffee beans, that is all that is a French roast, nothing more than roasted coffee beans that have been taken to a high temperature of 240C (464F).

The roasting at an elevated temperature and beyond the second crack of the coffee beans. At this temperature and duration, the oils start to make their way to the exterior of the beans and create a shiny surface on the dark brown beans.  

Read: What is French roast coffee?

French roast is the second-darkest roast behind an Italian roast. It is considered as a double roast coffee and is characterized by the sweet smoky flavor, light body and low acidity.

A French roast has slightly less caffeine than a medium roast and has a stronger, more dominant and deep traditional coffee taste.

As a rule of thumb, during the coffee roasting process, the higher the roast level and darker the roast, the more the beans take on a darker, deeper, stronger flavor and become lighter in caffeine content.

When you measure the caffeine of various coffee roasts, you will find that the lighter a coffee roast is, the greater the caffeine content. The coffee roast with the most caffeine is the rare white roast, which is lighter than a blond roast, roasted at a lower temperature and for half as long as a blonde roast.

At Starbucks, their Blonde roast is the one that has the most caffeine.

While some websites will claim that the healthiest roast of coffee is a dark roast, this is not correct. As much as I’d love to say it is a dark roast, since I am prone to good dark roast, it is simply factually incorrect. The healthiest roasts are light roasted coffee beans.

The lighter the roast, the more antioxidants that a coffee beans has Chlorogenic acid, a very powerful antioxidant, is present in lighter roasts than dark roasts. The single roast with the most antioxidants is the rare white roast. A white roast is not to be mistaken with a blonde roast as these are two distinctive coffee roasts.

The common misconception is that a dark roast has the most caffeine than other roasts. The misunderstanding comes from assuming that the strong coffee taste equals a strong dose of caffeine.

That is not the case; the lighter roasts, particularly white coffee (not a blonde roast) have the greatest amount of caffeine.

What Is The Meaning Of French Roast?

The term “French roast” has its origins in New Orleans, USA, during the French colonial period. It was a particular roast of coffee that was imported from France and enjoyed by the French people, hence the name, “French roast”.

It’s the name is given to the third darkest of the four dark roasted coffees with only an Italian roast being darker.

Final Thoughts – What Does French Roast Mean?

If you have read this far, you know exactly what does French roast mean and what it is and how the coffee should taste.

If you have any questions about French roast or any questions about this article, ask us in our online coffee community on Facebook/Meta.

Share with us your own thoughts about this deep dark coffee roast and tell us the drinks you like to brew with a French roast.

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or Derek@LatteLoveBrew.com, mentioning your name and location

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