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What Is French Roast Coffee?

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Everyone has a personal favorite when it comes to coffee. Some people prefer a bolder flavor, others something a little lighter on the palate, and the roast is what distinguishes one flavor from another.

Now, when we refer to the roast of a coffee bean, we’re talking about its color and, literally how much it’s been roasted to bring about that color and subsequently, the flavor it now has.

Here’s the deal: coffee beans are roasted for a reason. They’re picked when they’re green and stored like that too.

A green coffee bean is spongy as it contains moisture. It smells a little like grass, so it has none of the unique features of a roasted coffee bean.

Now, the reason coffee beans are roasted is to bring about a change in the bean, on a chemical level, to pull out the moisture, and to access the delicious flavors and aromas inside this tasty little gem.

Roasting coffee beans is to produce the result we all know and love. Once coffee beans have reached their “zenith” in the roasting process, they are cooled very rapidly to prevent them from continuing to roast, and potentially move into the next roast category or even burn.

At this point, they’re hard and aromatic, ready for the coffee grinder and a cup of hot water to make someone’s morning – or noon, or night – Joe.

French Roast Coffee – An Overview

As far as roasts go, there are many types: Vienna, American, etc. Here though, we’re talking about French roast. So, what does the name mean?

Well, a French roast describes the color of the bean and as its beginnings hail from France, the bean was roasted to a certain color, and therefore, certain flavor profile, that was in keeping with the traditions and taste preferences of the French roasters, roasting the beans.

You might be wondering about the beans, and where they come from. Like, do they come from France? This is a good question, and the answer is no.

French roast coffee doesn’t mean that the beans themselves come from France. It means that they are roasted to a color that is well-known in France (one that began there). It’s a regional style; French roast.

Okay, the next thing you need to know about French roast coffee, is that, like other coffees, its roast can be measured on a scale. This scale is called the ‘Agtron Gourmet Scale’ and runs from 25 to 95 with 25 being the darkest roast and 95 the lightest.

French roast coffee is somewhere in the region of 28 to 35 on the Agtron Gourmet Scale, making it some of the darkest coffee we have.

How is French Roast Coffee Roasted?

How is French roast, well, roasted? It’s done by literally roasting the beans until they darken a lot. Not only that, their internal temperature has to reach 464°F (240°C). At this point, the coffee beans will have an oily sheen to them.

Here’s the crazy part about a French roast. The roast comes at a point in the process called the “second crack”. Yes, the beans literally make a cracking sound when they’re roasted.

The first one, is the release of steam and the second one happens when cell walls within the beans break down and the oils inside the cells are released to move to the surface of the beans.
Most coffee beans will only have a single crack. Amazing, right?

What Does French Roast Coffee Taste Like?

So, here’s the scoop. French roasted coffee has an intense flavor profile. After all, it is roasted almost to the point of burning, (not quite though! Thankfully) and so its deep flavor will be a ‘mouthful’, to say the least.

And check this out, while its dark roast gives it a definite smoky flavor, it also has sweet notes intermingling with that smokiness.

It’s also less acidic than lighter roasts and its strong flavor makes it full-bodied.

Light, Medium, and Dark Roasts Compared

Now, how does it compare to other roasts? You may or may not know by this point, that there are light, medium, and dark roasts. This is great because it means there’s something for everyone!

Light Roasts

Lighter roasts are not roasted as long as medium or dark roasts and as such, they won’t experience a second crack. This means that there’s less chance of the oils in the cells inside the beans being released, so light roasts aren’t oily.

In fact, because they aren’t roasted for as long, they still keep a lot of their ‘natural’ flavor profile, and as a result, they taste a little more herbal or fruity and tend to be higher in acidity.

And another thing; they aren’t roasted long enough for the caffeine molecules inside the beans, to be burned off, so they have pretty high caffeine content. Surprising.

Medium Roasts

Medium roasts are similar to light roasts in that they don’t release oils to the surface of the beans. However, they strike a great flavor balance as they aren’t too acidic, but there is still a little natural flavor and content retained in the roasting process.

Dark Roasts

Now, dark roasts, like a French roast, are roasted the longest (out of all three types of roast), and this means that of course, their flavor will be bolder.

As we talked about earlier, they have an oily sheen to them and are almost a tad bitter. For some people, this is a very good thing and for others, not so much.

How Much Caffeine Does French Roast Coffee Have?

The beauty of coffee roasts is that there are so many now, you can find one that is perfectly matched to your palate.

Interestingly, while the caffeine content of a bean is determined largely by its roast, it’s also down to brewing time. The longer a coffee brews the higher the level of caffeine in that cup of coffee. But brew time and caffeine are entire articles in and of themselves!

What’s important to note is that bean color is NOT an indicator of caffeine content.

There are many variables to consider when it comes to determining caffeine content but here’s an idea of where French roast coffee stands: an 8 oz cup of brewed coffee gives us about 95 mg of caffeine.

A single espresso? About 63 mg, and decaf yields approximately 3 mg of caffeine per cup.
The fact is, the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content, and the darker the roast the lower.

Again, this is purely down to the more time beans spend roasting the more time caffeine molecules have to burn off, thus lowering the caffeine content.

If you’re going to be making yourself a good, bold cup of coffee, just know that typically, coffee connoisseurs tend to favor a drip-brewing method as it allows time for the beans/grounds to steep. What you’re left with is a very intense, smoky cup of coffee.

Coffee is, like all things in the world of food and drink, a very personal subjective choice and the bottom line is this: you can choose any coffee you like. What’s better than that? Having a little background info before making your selection – who knows? You could become a coffee connoisseur yourself!

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