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Italian Roast vs. French Roast

We've found that we generally prefer medium roasted coffees because we're able to taste a more diverse palette of flavors in a specific coffee blend. However, we know that there are die-hard devotees of dark roasted coffee and we were recently asked what the difference was between French Roast and Italian Roast.

They're both roasted quite darkly, so that they have an oily sheen to them after the roasting process is complete. With a French Roast, the temperature of the roast is high enough that these oils are brought to the surface and will impart a roasted flavor to the produced coffee or espresso. Aromas can vary from berry to citrus. Italian Roast is much darker and oilier than a French Roast and often preferred in Italy.

If a coffee is described as being a French or Italian roast, it isn't because they were grown or roasted in these countries, just that the roaster utilized this generalized roast level for that blend of beans. You can read more about roasting in our article It Starts with Great Coffee.

What is your preferred roast or blend and why? We'd love to hear about some of your favorites!

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22 thoughts on “Italian Roast vs. French Roast”

  • AndrewBoldman

    I really liked this post. Can I copy it to my site? Thank you in advance.

    Reply
  • Coffeemaker...

    [...]Listed below are links from authority websites that have been used as a reference to this post [...]...

    Reply
  • [...] Italian Roast vs. French Roast | Seattle Coffee Gear Blog What's the difference between an Italian Roast and a French Roast coffee? We've found that we generally prefer medium roasted coffees because we're able to taste a more diverse palette of flavors in a specific coffee blend [...]

    Reply
  • JC

    I am a coffee expert. In the field for over a decade. I love talking coffee and the interesting history of coffee. So here is a quiz... While both Italian Roast and French Roast are both roasted to a rich full dark level, why is French Roast a more smokey flavor? Lovin this blog..
    J

    Reply
    • Kat

      Here's a handy table that we posted out of Kenneth Davids' guide that gives more info on the differences between these darker roasts...which may account for the flavor differences. Could be that you're running across Dark French roasts that are roasted longer than traditional Italian?

      http://blog.seattlecoffeegear.com/2009/07/18/coffee-roasts-shades-names-and-flavors/

      - Kat

      Reply
  • Jimmy Aloha

    How about French Roast vs Vienna Roast ....?
    French Roast are burnt coffee beans that are oily and even though they taste stronger, are , in fact,
    less caffeinated than Vienna roast.
    Vienna roast has a more mocha taste to it , is stronger and NOT burnt. It is also considered a 'light roast' and is harder to find these days because people think they want the darker, erroneously considered 'stronger' dark roast.
    Do a smell test please. Find a bag of Vienna beans and a bag of French roast beans.
    Close your eyes and smell them.
    I will rest my case on what happens next.

    Reply
    • Kat

      We do have a whole blog article on different roast shades, names and flavors. We don't carry either of these roasts as a matter of coarse so won't be doing this testing, but if you happen to, please feel free to share your experiences here! :)

      The other article is located at: http://blog.seattlecoffeegear.com/2009/07/18/coffee-roasts-shades-names-and-flavors/ - if you wanted to read more.

      - Kat

      Reply
  • Wes Blue

    Coffee was coffee before I went to Haiti in 1980. I don't know how they made it, but it was outrageously strong -- like espresso... only much stronger! It took a couple of mornings, but I fell in love with it. Wonderful way to start the day! Ever since then the only coffee I drink is French Roast. It's nowhere near as strong (and thick) the Haiti brew, but it's as close as I can get here. I've tried Italian Roast, but it tastes bitter and burnt to me.

    Reply
  • lana

    is french roast ok for lipids such as ldl.

    Reply
    • Kat

      All coffee is going to have some fat content in it; dark roasts just bring more of that oil to the surface during the roasting process and so you then lose some during the prep process. I don't know if there are any studies that say any specific bean/roast is better for you, cholesterol-wise.

      - Kat

      Reply
  • Ruth

    Just purchased a saeco exprelia super automatic from you guys and was trying to figure out what whole bean coffee to buy. I do know to stay away from the oily beans. can you make a recommendation? Thanks

    Reply
    • Kat

      Hi Ruth -

      Any bean that is described as a 'medium roast' will work well with your Saeco. Nearly all of the beans we sell work with Saecos -- just make sure they don't reference dark roast and you'll be fine. Locally, you might be able to find illy medium roast options, but really any beans without a shiny exterior should be fine.

      - Kat

      Reply
      • Lisa Binns

        Im confused. Why wouldnt you want to use a shiny oily bean in your espesso maxhine? I have a saeco as well
        I was googling the differences between espresso, italian and french roasts and I came across this. I love strong, bold drip coffees and I love my espesso too. I was looking to change up my usual espresso made with espresso roast beans..... Input or advise is appreciated

        Reply
        • Brendan

          Oily beans in a superautomatic espresso machine can cause damage to the internal grinder, which can not be cleaned. If you have a model that has a bypass doser, you can grind your oily beans with an external grinder and brew through the bypass doser. :) Hope that helps!

          Reply
  • Ruth

    Thanks Kat. As always you guys are great!!!!!!

    Ruth

    Reply
  • Ruth

    Hi Kat,
    We got our Exprelia today (so excited) and I set up everything but have one more question. Since we really don't drink coffee after 4pm, instead of letting the machine go to stand by mode can I manually turn it off (in back) or should I let it stay in stand by mode till the morning? I could not find any info on this in the instructions. Thanks Again, Ruth

    Reply
    • Kat

      Ruth -

      Yes, you can definitely turn the machine off completely; this way it will not be drawing any power, either. We generally turn our floor model off completely at the end of each day.

      Let us know if you need anything else - enjoy your new Exprelia!

      - Kat

      Reply
  • Joe

    I love your Website , Is it so informative . It will be a good idea if you talk about health benefits of coffee too.
    Thanks.
    Joe

    Reply
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