Dark roasts, light roasts, medium roasts, oh! These are things we can understand, right? Then why do those punk roasters have to go and throw extra categories in there, like French roast? When I hear the French roast, I think, "Okay, a darker roast ..." and that's it. But that can't be, can it? There must be more!
With that thought gnawing at my brain, I embarked on a mission to answer: What is French roasted coffee?
French Roast Coffee Explained
Simply put, French roast describes the color of the coffee beans after they have been roasted. These beans are at the darker end of the scale and are usually dark chocolate in color. It does not mean that coffee was cultivated or roasted in France.
The name is believed to reflect the tastes and traditions of coffee coffees in nineteenth-century Europe, where dark roasted coffee was in vogue. The Italian roast or espresso was almost as dark as the French roast and then roast in Vienna, a base of Viennese cafes and pastries known for their great coffee, was a little lighter than the Italian roast. But the French proudly took the honors as the darkest roast of all.
Many different types of beans can be fried at the level of French toast and do not have to come from any specific region to qualify. French roasted coffee can be made from beans from Central America, Africa, or Indonesia. In essence, grains grown anywhere in the world can be used to make French roast.
How Roasted Is French Roasted?
So I determined that French fried beans are pretty dark. But how dark is that compared to other coffees? While guessing the colors and comparing coffee beans to chocolate bars are the ways for laymen to figure it out, there is an official way to determine this as well.
French roasts tend to fall somewhere between 28 and 35. So, as a general rule, French roasted coffee is one of the darkest coffees out there.
Homemade roasters who want to try their hand at French roasting will look for the "second crack", which means that the internal structure of the coffee beans is starting to collapse. This corresponds to an internal temperature of at least 240 C (464 F). If you fry French at home, you should also look for the oil shine on the beans, giving them a shiny appearance (and making them a pain to clean from your grinder, but that's another story).
How Does It Taste?
Although there is a lot of variety between French roasted coffees, there are also some similarities in taste. The temperature is high enough, with a typical French roast, that it brings the oils to the surface of the beans, giving a roasted and smoky aroma to the coffee itself.
French roasts may also have lighter elements, such as berries or citrus flavors, despite the dark roasting process. And French coffees in Indonesia, especially in Sumatra, often have an earthy aroma, umami similar to mushrooms, which nicely triggers the level of dark brown frying.