Bold, smoky, and aromatic, French roast is the coffee of choice for people all over the world. But since practically every coffee roaster offers a French roast, how do you sort through them all and find the best one?
We’ve done all the work for you, researching and testing quite a few brands to find our five favorites. For our detailed reviews of the five best French roast coffee brands of 2020, we compared the price, flavor, freshness, roast quality, and return policy across the brands. We hope these reviews help you quickly and easily find your new favorite French roast coffee.
|Volcanica French Roast Coffee|
|Real Good Coffee Co. French Whole Bean||Dark||4.65/5|
|San Francisco Bay Coffee French Roast||Dark||4.50/5|
|Solimo French Roast Coffee Pods|
(For Keurig Lovers)
|Peet's Coffee French Roast Ground|
(Top Pre-Ground Pick)
Our top pick is the Volcanica French Roast, sold in a 16-ounce bag of whole beans. These dark roast beans, grown at over 3,000 feet, are flavorful and smooth, with smoky notes and a strong aroma. We found this coffee to have the most complex and interesting flavor of all the French roasts we tested.
Though it is more expensive, we found this coffee to be consistently well roasted, and because Volcanica keeps a tight Amazon inventory, it is generally very fresh. If you do happen to get a bad bag, the company offers a generous 100% satisfaction guarantee.
The French Dark Roast from Real Good Coffee Co. is another good option. Sold in reasonably priced two-pound bags of whole beans, this coffee is bold and dark, with hints of fruits and spices. The downside? The slightly burnt flavor lacks nuance, and the beans are very oily, which may be a problem depending on your preferred brewing method.
This French roast, made from beans grown in Central and South America, comes in a recyclable bag helpfully printed with the ideal coffee measurements for drip, French press, and pour-over brewing. The bag isn’t printed with a roast date, but Real Good Coffee Co. offers a money-back guarantee and very responsive customer service.
San Francisco Bay Coffee’s French Roast, made from Central and South American beans, is strongly aromatic and very darkly roasted. Though oily, these Fair Trade and Kosher whole beans, which are sold in two-pound bags, have a bold, smoky flavor and low acidity.
You can find this coffee through Amazon or through discount sellers like Costco. Depending where you buy it, it’s generally very well-priced, though there are reports of less fresh beans. Fortunately, San Francisco Bay Coffee offers a full money-back guarantee.
Are you looking for French roast coffee that will work with your Keurig? You may want to try the French Roast Solimo Dark Roast Coffee Pods, which are compatible with both 1.0 and 2.0 Keurig models and come in boxes of 100. These coffee pods, offered at a lower price than many other single-serve pods, have dark, smooth flavor that is tasty but not particularly complex.
Solimo’s French roast beans are grown in Latin America, Africa, and Indonesia. Because the pods are vacuum-sealed, freshness is essentially guaranteed. We did find relatively rare reports of defective pods, but don’t worry, this Amazon brand offers a satisfaction guarantee.
If you love the convenience of pre-ground coffee, you may prefer our last pick, Peet’s Coffee French Roast Dark Roast. You can buy this reasonably-priced coffee from Amazon in sets of 18 vacuum-sealed individual portion packs or by the pound directly through Peet’s, where you can choose among five grind levels.
This dark, highly aromatic coffee, made from Latin American beans, has a smoky, somewhat burnt flavor. We found it to lack the depth of flavor of some of our other picks, and there are reports of stale beans. Peet’s offers a 60-day return policy, though you’ll have to pay for shipping and handling.
Now that you’ve taken a look at our five favorite French roast coffees, you may be wondering how you can recognize a great French roast. Keep reading to find out what distinguishes French roast beans from other varieties.
First popularized in 19th-century Europe, French roast is one of the eight types of dark roasts. In fact, this beloved type of coffee is one of the darkest roasts available, with a color like dark chocolate.
French roast beans are roasted to the point of the “second crack.” Lighter beans are roasted to the first crack, which is when steam is released from inside the bean. The second crack happens when the cell walls break down and release oils onto the surface of the beans.
French roast refers only to the roast level, not to a specific variety of coffee beans. Therefore, bags of French roast coffee can be made from coffee beans grown all over the world.
Because French roast beans are darkly roasted, lighter origin flavors like fruits and herbs have been roasted out, leaving mostly the roasting flavors, smoke and hints of spice. French roasts typically have thin body, light mouthfeel, and a somewhat burnt, slightly sweet taste.
While they’re still green, coffee beans can be stored without losing flavor. Once they’ve been roasted, the beans interact with oxygen and go stale fairly quickly. To get the freshest beans and the best flavor, you may want to look for recently roasted beans — or at least ones with far away best-by dates.
You can maintain the freshness of your coffee beans after you receive them by storing them in opaque, airtight containers. Professionals don’t recommend storing your beans in the refrigerator or freezer, because temperature changes can cause your beans to condense, and you don’t want any liquid in your beans until you brew them.
You may also want to buy whole bean coffee, which maintains its flavor better over time than ground coffee. For the best-tasting cup of coffee, grind your beans just before you brew them.
Dark roast beans are typically more oily than their lighter counterparts. While not all dark roasts are oily, if your dark roast beans are especially dry, it may be a sign that they’re less fresh.
The problem with oily beans is that they can clog up some coffee brewing machinery, like espresso machines. You may want to check your brewer to see if it can handle the natural oils on most French roasts.
Other types of coffee we’ve reviewed:
To sum it up, our favorite French roast coffee brand was Volcanica’s high-altitude French Roast, offering smoky, complex flavors at a reasonable price. Our second choice is the bold, fruity French Dark Roast from Real Good Coffee Co. Are you shopping for a Keurig-compatible French roast? You may be interested in the French Roast Solimo Dark Roast Coffee Pods, which are compatible with both Keurig sizes and offer dark, smooth flavor. Do you prefer your coffee pre-ground? The French Roast Dark Roast from Peet’s Coffee, sold in a range of grind sizes, is a smoky and aromatic option.
If you’re a fan of French roast, you know how deliciously dark and flavorful these beans can be. We hope our guide to French roast beans, along with our detailed reviews of the five best French roast brands, save you valuable shopping time. Now it’s time to get out there and brew your next great French roast!
By Kate MacDonnell
Featured image credit: Engin Akyurt, Pexels
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