What’s the Difference Between French and Italian Roast?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 13 June 2020

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What's the Difference Between French and Italian Roast?

Even though French and Italian roast coffees sound worldly and unique, the name actually has nothing to do with the type of beans used or where they come from. French and Italian describe how the coffee was actually roasted, particularly the way these countries like their coffee best.

So, what’s the difference between French and Italian roast? Both Italian and French roasts are considered “dark” roasts. The major difference is that the Italian roast is roasted just a little bit longer. This gives Italian roast a much stronger flavor, a darker appearance, and a greater amount of oil on the surface of the coffee beans.

When you think about different types of coffee, the first thing you think about is the wide variety of tastes. So, let’s first go over the difference in flavoring between Italian and French roasts.

Is Italian coffee stronger than French roast?

Both Italian and French roasts are what we call “dark” roasts. The longer coffee beans are roasted, the greater their internal temperature gets and the more roasted they become. As they spend more time roasting, they become much darker and release some extra oil as well.

This also really impacts the flavor of the coffee. Rather than simply tasting the coffee beans, the taste associated with dark roasts comes from the actual roasting itself. It’s also important to note that a large amount of coffee’s natural caffeine content is lost as roasting continues.

The Real Difference in Flavor

French Roast is on the upper end when it comes to dark roasts, but it’s not the strongest when it comes to flavoring. Even though it sometimes tastes burnt, it also has a mild, slightly sweet flavoring underneath.

Italian roast is actually one of the strongest roasts in the world! Since it’s roasted just a tad longer than other dark roasts, it produces a much stronger flavor, sometimes even tasting as if it’s burnt or bitter.

In fact, Italian roast is sometimes even referred to as “Dark French.”

Even though you might not be able to pick out the difference between the two roasts, there certainly is a difference. Italian roast is much stronger than the French roast.

Is Italian roast the same as espresso?

Espresso actually describes how the coffee beverage was made, not the roast level! So, you can use Italian roast to make espresso, but you can really use any type of bean roasted at any type of roast level.

Since espresso is made to be strong in flavor and rather intense, both Italian and French roasts are great for making espresso. The only difference between espresso and regular coffee is that espresso beans are much more finely ground and create a beverage that’s thick and syrupy.

Beverages You Can Make With Dark Roast Coffees (Espresso)

Dark roasts are used to make espresso. That means that you might already be consuming dark roasts without even knowing it every time you go to Starbucks and order your favorite drink. Here are some beverages that likely include dark roasts like French and Italian roasts.

  • Americano. The Americano has an espresso to water ratio of 1:2. It tastes similar to regular coffee but will give you much more of an energy boost because of the added espresso.
  • Caffe macchiato. The caffe macchiato is essentially a shot of espresso with a little added cream or milk. This takes the edge off of the drink and gives it a little bit of a sweeter flavor.
  • Cappuccino. The cappuccino is an Italian drink that mixes espresso with some milk or cream. It’s similar to the caffe macchiato but has a lot more milk or cream added in.
  • Caffe mocha. The caffe mocha is a unique combination of milk/cream, espresso, and some chocolate flavoring (either milk or dark chocolate).

Next time you go to the store to buy your favorite pre-made coffee drinks, find out what roast they use! There’s a pretty good chance that they’re using an Italian or French roast.

Why is it called French roast coffee?

It’s a little confusing, actually! Even though it might sound like these coffees were named for where the beans come from or the particular type of bean used, the country name simply describes the roast preferences of the area.

This all dates back to the 19th century, where people began to recognize just how different coffee tasted in different European countries. That’s exactly why Spanish and Italian roasts exist as well. Nowadays, “French roast” is just a term used to describe the roast level of the coffee.

How are French and Italian roast coffees actually made?

The roasting process of coffee beans is what actually gives coffee a majority of its flavor. As we already touched on, both Italian and French roasts are considered dark roasts, which means they spend a lot longer roasting.

What's the Difference Between French and Italian Roast?

But, what does that mean for you if you’re trying to roast your own coffee at home? Let’s go over the best way to roast your own coffee at home and how you can get it to a French or Italian roast with ease.

Making French or Italian Roast at Home

If you’re planning to roast your own coffee, you’re going to need a stove-top popcorn maker. Wet your stove to a low or medium heat setting and allow it to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. During this time, check the instructions to the popcorn maker to see how much popcorn to add.

Instead of adding the popcorn, you’ll be pouring in your coffee beans. The most important thing you can do when roasting coffee beans on the stove is to always keep them moving by flipping the handle. This will allow for a more even roast and better flavor.

Make sure you’re listening carefully. About five minutes in, you’ll hear a “cracking” sound, which means your beans are at a light roast. Another five minutes later, you’ll hear a second “cracking” sound, which means you’re more at a medium to dark roast.

Around the second crack is when you should remove the beans from the heat if you’re looking for a French roast. For an Italian roast, allow the beans to roast a little bit longer (even a few seconds longer is fine).

Play around with the timing and your method until you figure out the perfect combination.

Are there differences in nutritional value?

The longer you cook or roast something, the fewer nutrients remain. As you roast coffee for longer, the chlorogenic acid begins to seep out. Chlorogenic acid is considered an antioxidant, which means it repairs your body and protects you from diseases like cancer.

Additionally, roasting also significantly impacts the amount of caffeine that remains in the coffee. So, that means French roast is a bit better of an option when it comes to getting an energy boost first thing in the morning.


French and Italian roasts have tastes that are somewhat indistinguishable if you aren’t a coffee connoisseur. Yet, most people don’t realize that the actual name of the coffee describes the level of roasting. Here are the major differences between Italian and French roasts.

  • Italian roast is much stronger and has a more bitter flavoring than a French roast.
  • Italian roast is roasted a little bit longer to achieve a stronger flavor and darker roast.
  • French roast has a little more caffeine and chlorogenic acid (antioxidants).
  • Both Italian and French roasts are considered some of the darkest roasts out there.


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