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Best French Roast Coffee 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

French roast coffee beans

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.


A Quick Comparison of our Favorites in 2020

ImageProductDetails
Best Overall
Winner
Volcanica Coffee Volcanica Coffee
  • Consistent French roast
  • Flavorful, smooth, and aromatic
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Second place
    Lion Coffee Lion Coffee
  • Bold, smooth, and dark
  • Reasonably-priced bulk bags
  • Choice of ground or whole beans
  • Third place
    San Francisco Bay San Francisco Bay
  • Aromatic with low acidity
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Low price
  • For Keurig Lovers
    Solimo Coffee Pods Solimo Coffee Pods
  • Compatible with Keurig 1.0 and 2.0
  • Satisfaction guarantee
  • Vacuum-sealed freshness
  • Best Ground Pick
    Peet’s Coffee Peet’s Coffee
  • Reasonable price
  • Aromatic and dark
  • Pre-ground
  • The 5 Best French Roast Coffee Beans

    1. Volcanica French Roast Coffee Beans – Best Overall

    Volcanica Coffee

    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.

    Pros
    • Consistent French roast
    • Flavorful, smooth, and aromatic
    • Grown at over 3,000 feet
    • 100% satisfaction guarantee
    • Whole bean
    Cons
    • Higher price

    2. Lion Coffee French Roast

    Lion Coffee French Roast

    The Lion Coffee French Roast is another good option. Sold in reasonably-priced 1.5-pound bags of ground or whole beans, this Hawaiian coffee is bold and dark, with hints of fruits and spices.

    The downside? The slightly burnt flavor lacks nuance, and the beans are fairly oily, which may be a problem depending on your preferred brewing method.

    Lion’s French Roast isn’t quite as flavorful as our top pick, but it offers great value and an impressive lack of bitterness.

    Pros
    • Bold, smooth, and dark
    • Reasonably-priced bulk bags
    • Choice of ground or whole beans
    Cons
    • Not very complex flavor
    • Oily beans

    3. San Francisco Bay French-Roast Coffee Cups

    San Francisco Bay OneCup

    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.

    Pros
    • Low price
    • Fair Trade and Kosher
    • Aromatic with low acidity
    • Grown in Central and South America
    • Money-back guarantee
    • Whole bean
    • Very dark roast
    Cons
    • Oily beans
    • Not very complex flavors
    • May be less fresh

    4. Solimo French Roast Coffee Pods – For Keurig Lovers

    Solimo

    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.

    Pros
    • Low cost
    • Compatible with Keurig 1.0 and 2.0
    • Dark and smooth
    • Satisfaction guarantee
    • Vacuum-sealed freshness
    Cons
    • Not the most exciting flavor
    • Some reports of defective pods

    5. Peet’s Coffee French Roast – Best Ground Pick

    Peets Coffee French Roast

    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.

    Pros
    • Reasonable price
    • Choice of individual portion packs or five grind levels
    • Aromatic and dark
    • Pre-ground
    Cons
    • Reports of stale beans
    • Somewhat burnt, less interesting flavor
    • Limited 60-day return policy with shipping and handling fees

    Buyer’s Guide

    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.

    What does French roast mean?

    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.

    Flavor

    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.

    Smart uses for old coffee beans

    Freshness

    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.

    Oil

    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:

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    Conclusion

    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, smooth Lion Coffee French Roast. 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!

    Kate MacDonnell

    Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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