The French Roast Coffee Explained in Simple Terms

Like many other, you’d probably be wondering if the French roast actually originated from France?

Or, how does it tastes like compared to other types of coffee roast?

On this page, you’ll find out why the French roast is among the most popular type of roast among the hardcore coffee lovers, and that’s for a very good reason.

Quick Summary : The French roast refers to a coffee bean that’s dark in color and very rich in flavor, as a result of being roasted in very high temperatures.

1. It Didn't Originate From France

French Roast Beans are Dark and Rich in Flavor

The word French can be misleading, making many think that it originated from France. Let’s take a step back in time. 

In the 19th century, most nations in Europe preferred their coffee to be dark. The Italians have their Italian roasts (also known as Espresso roast) which is slightly lighter than French roast. The Austrians have their Viennese roast, which is lighter than the Italian roast.

It was the French that took all the glory. Their roast was the darkest among all, and hence came the name French Roast.

The French roast actually refers to the roast characteristic. The French roast coffee beans are very dark in color and rich in flavor.

2. It's also Known as the Turkish Roast

Bags of Dark French Roast Beans
Photo by Marco Verch

Typically, if you order a dark roast at any Western coffee shops, you’ll get a French roast.

Occasionally, the French roast is also referred to as Turkish roast. So if you see this phrase on the menu at a foreign coffee shop, you can presume you’ll get something you’re familiar with. 

If you’re shopping around for bags of coffee, you might notice the seemingly redundant phrase dark French roast. This is actually a slightly different version of French roast that is darker and has a more oily appearance to the beans. 

When you brew it, you’ll notice a strong, burnt flavor. If your tastes are more exotic, you might wish to try this rather than the more generic French roast.

3. Any Beans Can be French Roasted

Arabica vs Robusta Coffee Beans

Since French roast is a type of roasting process, essentially any type of coffee beans can go through this process. It all depends on the roaster.

Whether it’s Arabica (the world’s most popular type of beans), Robusta, blended or single origin, it’s the French roast process that brings out their darkest and richest flavor.

4. The Roasting Temperature is Insanely High

Light Medium Dark Coffee Bean Roasting Chart
Photo by Clive Coffee

Have you ever wondered how French roast beans get so dark in the first place? 

The answer is fairly straightforward. 

They’re roasted at extreme heat, with the beans’ internal temperature reaching a dramatic 440 F (227 C). As the coffee beans darken, more oil begins to consume the surface, giving the beans a shimmering appearance.

5. The Beans Break Apart While Roasting, Twice

French Roast Beans Cracked Twice
Photo by Sweet Maria's Coffee

You might not be thinking about this while you’re indulging in your mid-afternoon caffeine fix, but a lot goes into the roasting of coffee beans. 

This is especially true when you’re trying to get an extremely dark roast worthy of the most delicious French roast. The beans are roasted at high temperatures until they crack.

Two cracks happen in the process of roasting dark coffee beans such as the French roast, as opposed to most other roasts. 

The first crack happens when steam is released, at around 392 F (200 C). The second crack happens at around 440 F (227 C), when the cell walls break down and releasing the glimmering oil.

6. A Specialized Tool is Used to Measure the Beans' Color

Agtron Coffee Roast Analyzer

While the term French roast is often used colloquially to describe any coffee that is bold and rich, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (yes, it’s a real organization) has a bit more stringent criteria.

A tool known as the Agtron Coffee Roast Analyzer is a machine that utilizes light to scan coffee beans and establish an accurate measure for the darkness of the beans. 

The Agtron scale ranges from a soft brown, scoring 95, to an almost black shade, which scores 25. 

French roast scores around 35 to 30 on the Agtron analyzer.

7. There is A Even Darker Roast

Today, the French roast is certainly up there, but it’s not the darkest roast you can find. The French might have popularized the dark roast on an international level, but the Spaniards’ best-kept secret is their flat, crisp roast that you need to try to believe.

That title belongs to a nearly black, charcoal flavored roast called the Spanish roast

On the Agtron analyzer, the Spanish roast scores between 30 to 25, making them black in color.

8. The Beans are Very Versatile

French Press Coffee Maker

One of the best things about French roast beans are their versatility. 

Not only can they be used in a traditional auto-drip coffee machine to make a quick and easy coffee on the go, they can be used in espresso for a special occasion. 

The more experimental coffee fan might enjoy trying them out in a French press, which will result in a stronger coffee compared to using a drip coffee machine.

9. Smoky Outside, Sweet Inside

Koffee Kult French Roast

Ask anyone why they’re addicted to French roast, and they’re likely to tell you that there’s just something unique about the flavor.

On the outside, it tastes smoky with a charred, burnt taste that’s reminiscent of coffee you might drink around a campfire. However, it’s the sweet aftertaste underlying the smokiness that provides a pleasant surprise that will make for a very interesting and intensive coffee experience. 

Ryan Hamilton

About Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton is in the process of opening his own roastery after working in a cafe for the past 5 years. He graduated with a degree in English literature and decided to combine his passion for writing with the knowledge he had gained about the coffee industry.