French roast coffee is the kind of product that divides opinion within the coffee community. Although some have a preference for its flavour, others think it should be nowhere near a list of the best coffee beans.
But before we draw any conclusions we need to understand what French roast coffee is. Surprisingly, it doesn’t refer to coffee beans that come from France.
What Is French Roast Coffee?
During coffee production, green coffee beans are roasted at different temperatures to create the roasted beans we buy as the final product.
French roast refers to a colour of roast.
Different flavour profiles are created within the coffee beans depending on what temperature they were roasted at and for how long.
There are a wide variety of roasts but these are some of the more common types:
- Light Roast. These beans are light in colour and have a dry surface. Light roasts usually end their roasting process when they reach the first crack stage. The beans have little to no roasting flavour at all and a higher acidity level than longer roasted varieties.
- Medium Roast. Medium brown in colour and a dry surface. These beans are roasted beyond first crack stage. This reduces acidity levels and sugars within the beans start to caramelise. The origin of the bean remains present in the taste but there is a more noticeable roasted flavour.
- Dark Roast. Dark brown and sometimes close to black in colour. The beans have a shiny surface due to oils being released. Dark roast beans are roasted beyond the second crack stage and have much lower acidity levels. You can expect a prominent roasted flavour from these beans as well as bittersweet notes throughout every sip.
One of the issues with coffee roasting is that guidelines differ from brand to brand. A dark roast for one company may be considered a medium roast for another.
Nevertheless, a French roast is commonly understood to be one of the darkest roasts available on the market.
French roast beans are very dark in colour because they are roasted well beyond the second crack stage and have an oily surface.
What Does It Taste Like?
Light and medium roasts allow the origin of the coffee beans to be present in the flavour profile of the final product.
This is not really the case as you continue to move down the scale because the more subtle notes are overpowered by prominent roasted flavours in darker roasts.
French roast refers to the colour of the coffee beans. In this case, the colour is very dark brown and almost black. This is due to the fact that the beans have been roasted for so long. In fact, if they were roasted much further then they’d be completely burned.
What you end up with is a coffee bean that has a strong smokey flavour and an extremely prominent roasted taste.
- Darker-roasted coffee.
- Fuller body and robust, bold flavors.
- It takes an adventurous palate to appreciate this coffee’s blunt flavours.
Pros and Cons
Whether you consider the following points pros or cons will probably depend on the kind of coffee you enjoy. However, they’re worth thinking about before you part with your hard-earned cash.
During a longer roasting process, oils are released onto the surface of the coffee beans. This can lead to issues with freshness as French roast beans tend to spoil more quickly.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys French roast then it may be worth buying it in smaller batches. This way, you won’t have to keep throwing away rancid beans that you haven’t gotten around to brewing yet.
As coffee beans are taken beyond the second crack stage, they lose most of the subtle flavours you’ll find in lighter roasts. This is because they’re overpowered by strong roasted flavours.
Although this may be a delight for some, it can cause issues with quality. As French roast refers to the colour and roasting level of the beans, it means all kinds of coffee beans can be used in the process.
This leads some manufacturers to use lesser quality beans because the overpowering roasted flavours mask undesirable flavour profiles that would otherwise stand out.
The workaround for this issue would be to buy your coffee beans from reputable sources but it might not make much difference anyway.
Another issue with manufacturers being able to mask unpleasant flavours is that they can source lower-cost coffee beans unethically.
What this means is that coffee farmers are exploited and forced to produce coffee at an unfair price and with unsustainable practices.
The solution to this issue would be to make sure that you’re buying Fair Trade coffee.
Different people enjoy different things. So, although some may look forward to a French roast coffee, others will find the taste to be bitter and almost burnt in nature.
If you’re the latter then you’d probably be better off trying a medium or light roast.
Ultimately, French roast coffee is something that many people will enjoy trying at least once. As long as it’s ethically sourced then you’ll get a thumbs up from me.
Whatever roast you choose, enjoy. You’ve earned it!