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What Is French Roast Coffee, Anyway?

The bottom line: French roast coffee is one of the darkest roasts available, with beans roasted at higher temperatures to produce a characteristically bold, rich flavor.

You walk into a coffee shop or your local grocery store and find a million different – but appealing – blends. From dark and light roasts to French varieties and everything in between, you’ve realized you have no idea which type of coffee you prefer – or why. 

At Philly Fair Trade Roasters, we know how essential it is for your morning cup of coffee to be just right (and ethical, with fair trade certified coffee), and we want to help you find the perfect blend. 

Here’s everything to know about french roast so your next trip to the store, or ordering coffee online, can be fully informed.

Coffee-Roasting Basics

First, let’s start with the basics. 

The length and heat involved in the coffee-roasting process are a key source of flavor profile: heat and time affects bean color, roast flavor, and even caffeine level. 

Lighter roasts tend to have the highest level of caffeine and acidity because they’ve been through the shortest roasting process, although this generally produces less-recognizable roasting flavors. 

A light “cinnamon” roast might only get up to around 384 degrees Fahrenheit, while the darkest roasts might reach closer to 500 degrees. 

Roasters also pay attention to two temperature thresholds known colloquially as "cracks", at which coffee beans experience changes in makeup, texture, and flavor. The first takes place around 395F, with the second at 435F. These "cracks" are caused by gasses released during the roast process, and they truly are audible to well-attuned roasters.

Coffee roasts, then, broadly break down into three categories:

  • Light
  • Medium
  • Dark

Darker roasts, like a French roast, often have a complex, charcoal-like flavor from more time in the roaster and a higher heat.

Philly Fair Trade's US Roaster Corp small-batch roaster

French Roast Coffee 101

Now that you understand how coffee-roasting works, let’s get back to the question at hand: what is French roast coffee? 

French roast coffee is a type of dark roast blend typically roasted above 400 degrees Fahrenheit offering a charred flavor, dark-brown color, and other rich characteristics. 

The non-acidic roast, often called double-roast coffee, originated in Europe and remains popular among coffee drinkers who love bold, strong brews. 

What’s the Difference Between French Roast and Dark Roast Coffee?

French roast is technically a type of dark roast, though it is one of the darkest roasts available. French roast is generally darker than most average dark roasts out there, and if you compare these beans side-by-side, you’ll see how French roast beans may have a midnight-black color, while typical dark roast beans are more rich, chocolate brown. 

Because of this extra depth of roasting, French roasts provide unique qualities that you won’t find with many other coffees. For example, French roast lets you enjoy extremely low acidity levels, low caffeine, and a robust rich flavor. People who suffer from acid reflux and other gastric issues often prefer French roasts because of the low acidity. 

What Do French Roasts Taste Like?

Let’s talk flavor. French roast coffee carries most of its flavor profile from the roasting process rather than the coffee beans themselves. As a result, you’ll notice rich, smoky hues with underlying robust, dark, and even sweet charcoal flavors. Chocolate is another undertone you’ll hear roasters discuss in relation to French roasts.

The roast may mask the flavor of the beans, so if you enjoy bitter, toasty flavors, you’ll surely love French roasts. 

Are Dark Roasts More Caffeinated?

Contrary to popular belief, darker roasts are the least caffeinated coffee blends!

The roasting process slowly removes caffeine from the beans, so the longer the roast, the less caffeinated the blend. Other than decaf coffees, French roasts are some of the least caffeinated forms of coffee you can find.

Is French Roast Coffee Strong or Bitter?

French roast coffee tastes both strong and bitter, though it will not “feel” strong due to the low caffeine levels. With a French roast, you can enjoy well-rounded flavors without the caffeine jitters.

Where Does the Name “French Roast” Come From?

French roast coffee gets its name from a French roasting method that became popular back in the 19th century. While the name implies that the method comes from France, the technique was embraced broadly across Europe two hundred years ago.

Reasons You May Love French Roast Coffee

French roast coffee offers a host of characteristics to love. Here are a few reasons some discerning coffee drinkers opt for this dark-roasted blend over other varieties:

  • Low acidity levels: Coffee is typically highly acidic, which can cause gastric distress, especially if you have acid reflux issues or gastritis. French roast coffee is one of few blends with low acidity levels due to the long roasting process, so you can enjoy your morning cup without an upset stomach. 
  • Low caffeine levels: Caffeine isn’t for everyone. If you suffer from jitters, headaches, or other side effects when you have too much caffeine, French roast coffee blends may be right for you. 
  • Strong flavor profiles: Those who love bold, rich, dark-flavored cups of coffee often enjoy French roasts. 
  • Minimal coffee “bean” flavor: If the sometimes fruity and acidic flavor of coffee beans sometimes lets you down, French roasts tend to accentuate “roasted” flavors of charcoal and due to the residual effects of this long roasting process.

Shop Bold-Flavored French Roast Coffee From Philly Fair Trade

French roasts are dark, rich, low-caffeine, and low-acidic blends, perfect for anyone who loves the robust flavor of coffee but not the side effects. 

Our Philly French Roast offers smooth caramel notes with bold flavors you won’t find at just any Pennsylvania coffee roaster. 

Order our Philly French Roast online today, or find Philly Fair Trade coffee blends at a retailer near you.

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