French Roast vs Dark Roast

As you search the market for strong-tasting Kona coffee beans, you may find yourself encountering French roast and dark roast coffee. We're giving an in-depth comparison of French roast vs dark roast, so you can have a more informed decision when buying coffee beans for your brews.

French Roast vs Dark Roast: General Overview

Dark roast is one of the three basic coffee roast levels. You may encounter the term French roast as you buy dark-roasted Kona beans. Let's start by defining each of them to give you a better understanding of what each coffee entails.

Coffee beans spilling out of a sack

French Roast

French roast is a variation of dark roast that has the darkest hue. Dark roasts have European names due to the popularity of this roast in Europe in the 19th century.

Despite the extended roasting process, a professional roast can make a good batch of French roast without a burnt taste. The beans should produce a bitter yet caramel-like taste with little to no acidity.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America's Color Classification System scale has a dark grading ranging from 25 (darkest) to 95 (lightest). The French roast typically scores around 28 to 35.

Dark Roast

A dark roast coffee has a robust, full-body flavor profile due to its oily composition. Much like Lava Lei's 100% Kona dark roast coffee, it brings a one-of-a-kind, intensely sweet yet woodsy taste.

The longer roasting time triggers caramelization. In effect, the beans tend to have a sweeter taste than light and medium roasts. This process provides a bolder flavor, which is why some Kona roast coffees may have buttery undernotes.

Variations of dark roast, especially French roast, have the least acidity. Acids get lost during the roasting process, which means only a few compounds can trigger stomach cells to produce acids.

​​French Roast vs Dark Roast

A report from the National Coffee Association shows how Americans rely on their favorite brew for comfort, energy, and normalcy, with 62% drinking coffee every day. Moreover, 60% of coffee served in America comes from premium beans, including French and dark roasts.

Similarities Between French Roast and Dark Roast

French and dark roasts undergo the same roasting process. In effect, they generally share the same compounds that provide health benefits.


You may hear the first crack within four to eight minutes. At 464 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit, the dark and French roasts both undergo the second crack. During this period, the beans would expand as the colors darken.

The cracking sound signifies that the bean's internal structure starts to collapse. Depending on the roaster, some of them may remove the French beans sometime near or at the end of the second crack. If you heat them longer, you may end up with a batch of burnt-tasting beans.

French roast may have an oilier and glossier look. The color also darkens as the roast gets darker, giving the French roast its dark chocolate-like hue.

Health Benefits

Coffee doesn't only taste great. A cup of dark roast and French roast coffee offer these health benefits.

Person enjoying a cup of French Press coffee
  • Antioxidants: Dark coffee, especially its darker variations, like French coffee, contain several antioxidants. This is why dark roast Kona coffee provides potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Cell growth and body function: These types of coffee roasts contain riboflavin or vitamin B2, which converts carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The body needs ATP to improve cell growth, maintain blood levels, and produce energy.
  • Appetite-suppressant: Caffeine stimulates thermogenesis, enabling the body to generate heat and energy. Dark roasted beans also have N-methylpyridinium ions, which can stimulate the body and regulate glucose levels. Thus, you can drink coffee to suppress your appetite to aid in weight loss.
  • Healthier liver: Coffee produces paraxanthine when it passes through the digestive tract. This chemical slows the growth of the scar tissue involved in fibrosis, preventing fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

Caffeine and Chlorogenic Acid

Studies show that roasting conditions influence the chlorogenic acid content in coffee beans. More intense roasting reduces chlorogenic acids, which is why French and dark roast coffees have minimal caffeine levels.

Dark and French roast beans contain less caffeine than light roasts and medium roasts because the long roasting process burns the caffeine. Arabica dark roast is among the healthiest choices if you want to limit caffeine and avoid restlessness.

Brewing Method

Finding the right brewing method can be challenging at first, particularly since it can affect how you would drink the coffee. The good thing about dark and French roasts is that you can brew them easily using various methods. 

However, it's important that you use the appropriate grind size depending on the method or machine.

  • Aeropress: This easy-to-use device lets you brew coffee within a matter of seconds. It forces water over the grounds and through the filter, then into your cup. This produces a clean and rich freshly brewed coffee.
  • French press: Using a French press gives you more control over how you want the coffee to taste. Whether you use dark or French roast, you have better control over the brewing time and water temperature.
  • Drip: About 41% of Americans use drip coffee makers for their drip coffee preparation. This is mainly due to the machine's convenience. Whether you use dark roast or French roast, all you have to do is put the beans into the filter, pour water, and let the coffee maker do the job.
  • Pour-over: Pour-over is ideal for freshly ground beans to create a light-bodied taste with subtle undernotes. You can also experiment with the coffee taste's intensity.

Differences Between French Roast and Dark Roast

While French and dark roast coffees share some similarities, they still have distinct differences that make them unique. Their differences in flavor, strength, sweetness, freshness, and appearance can give you a better idea of which one to use depending on your brewing needs.


Dark roast coffee can lose freshness faster than lighter roasts. They oxidize faster because the longer time of pressure during roasting pushes the oils to the surface of the beans. 

Since the French roast has a longer roasting process, it would release gas more rapidly. This is why it's ideal to stick to dark roast Kona beans to preserve flavor and freshness.

Cup of coffee with biscotti

More than that, it's best that you know where to buy coffee, so you'll only need to order in small batches then freshly grind the beans.

Flavor and Taste

French roast is a type of dark roasted coffee, so they generally have an intense smokey-sweet taste. However, dark coffee has a fuller body and intense flavor, which is also what makes Kona coffee different. 

Meanwhile, the French roast tends to have a thin-bodied consistency with a watery mouthfeel. Aside from that, these roasts have other contrasting taste elements.

  • Sweetness: French roast has a sweeter flavor, sometimes almost caramel-like, than dark roast coffee. Meanwhile, the dark roast has a more buttery finish and a fuller body.
  • Smoky: The smokiness and burnt-like flavor can determine the intensity when choosing the strongest coffee. Both may have a smokey flavor, although French roast has a sweeter balance between medium and dark roasts.
  • Fruity: Dark roast retains more fruity flavors since the French roast has a longer roasting time. This is why dark roast Kona coffee releases sweet fruity flavors first.
  • Bitter: The roasting also carbonizes fibers in the beans. This may create a charcoal flavor, which tastes bitter to some people. Substantial bitterness will take over when the origin flavors get lost during the roasting.


French and dark roast coffee originate from green-colored beans. The French roast will achieve a dark chocolate color during roasting. In contrast, dark roast beans may range from brown to black with copious levels of surface oil.

Major Distinguishing Factor

French roast is a type of dark roast, yet it's darker than regular dark roast blends because it has a longer roasting time. The temperature and duration let French roast produce a dark chocolate color and richer, maltier flavor profile than other dark-roasted beans.

When to Use French Roast?

Use French roast if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth. The sweetness of French roast is a delight for brewing mocha, Vietnamese iced coffee, affogato, ristretto, and Bombon. It's perfect for drinks like cappuccinos and macchiato, where you can add frothed coffee creamer and milk.

French roast coffee beans are also suitable if you want to lessen water to prevent making weak coffee.

When to Use Dark Roast?

Use dark roast if you want to retain more of the original flavors of the beans. This type of coffee is ideal for coffee lovers who enjoy a full-bodied beverage with rich undernotes. You can use dark roast to prepare Americano, long black, chai latte, and frappe.

Furthermore, you can make an espresso shot using a dark roast if you need to fix weak coffee.

The Verdict

While French and dark roasts are nearly indistinguishable due to the same roasting processes, they still differ in freshness, taste, and appearance. The above comparison can help you make a better choice. However, the dark roast has a more balanced flavor, giving Lava Lei Kona coffee its unmistakably rich taste.