French Vanilla vs Vanilla Coffee

The world of coffee offers several flavors, with vanilla among the most popular ingredients. Since there are different ways to make coffee, we're going to weigh in on French vanilla vs vanilla coffee. For this guide, you're going to learn their similarities and differences to know which brew is perfect for you.

French Vanilla vs Vanilla Coffee: General Overview

Despite being one of the world's labor-intensive agricultural products, vanilla is a sought-after flavoring agent in food, confectioneries, and beverages. It lets you brew a good cup of coffee without adding too much sugar.

Cup of coffee beans, brewed coffee and vanilla coffee latte

French Vanilla

French vanilla is a sweet vanilla flavor used for coffee, coming from beans, syrup, or creamer. This is why you would usually encounter French vanilla-flavored K-cups or coffee powders. Just add water, and you can enjoy a freshly brewed French vanilla cappuccino.

The names of vanilla bean varieties often come from where they're grown, like Mexico or Madagascar. However, this isn't the case for French vanilla. The name only refers to the classical French way of making an egg-custard base, similar to French vanilla coffee's rich and creamy flavor.

Vanilla Coffee

Vanilla coffee is a traditional, espresso-based beverage. Being the original taste, it provides a toned-down yet satisfying sweet flavor and potent aroma. It offers just the right amount of sweetness to make an ordinary coffee into a decadent delight.

Compared to French vanilla's tart-like taste and appearance, traditional vanilla coffee has a light sugary-floral component. Because of this, it's relatively easy to pair with other coffee beans or syrups.

French Vanilla vs Vanilla Coffee

Several people have an insatiable appetite for vanilla. This is why about 18,000 types of products contain vanilla flavor, including coffee. This flavoring agent's many uses still makes each product offer unique characteristics.

Similarities Between French Vanilla and Vanilla Coffee

As the names suggest, French vanilla and vanilla coffee both mainly use vanilla as their main ingredient. In effect, they share nutritional benefits.

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla is a spice that boasts one of the most exotic flavors in the world. Vanilla pods undergo maceration and percolation to produce the vanilla extract.

There are major regions where vanilla beans grow. Depending on where you source your beans, each can create a distinct vanilla taste.

  • Madagascan: If you're using vanilla beans labeled Madagascan, this popular variety tastes like bourbon and creamy custard with notes of dried fruits and raisins.
  • Tahitian: This type of vanilla is fruitier and more aromatic. It also tends to have floral undernotes.
  • Mexican: Mexican vanilla has the most complex flavor because it has notes of raisin, black pepper, cinnamon, and clove.Iced French vanilla coffee

Whether you choose French coffee or vanilla coffee, manufacturers and roasters would have to source their beans from any of these regions. After that, they can create specialty blends and roasts.


You can use either French vanilla or vanilla-flavored coffee beans, syrup, or creamer to achieve your desired taste. Vanilla's versatile flavor profile also enables you to experiment with different brews. 

For instance, you can use Lava Lei 100% Kona coffee as the base, then add French vanilla creamer or vanilla syrup for a unique blend.

Health Effects

Vanilla is generally good for health because it has fewer carbohydrates and calories than sugar. This is why you don't normally need to add sugar syrup when making French vanilla or vanilla coffee.

  • Vanilla-flavored beans typically have the same nutritional makeup as other types of coffee beans. However, adding vanilla or French vanilla syrups may increase each cup's sugar content and calories. For instance, vanilla-flavored coffees may already contain 2 calories.
  • Vanilla is a good sugar alternative to decrease blood glucose levels to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. The low sugar content can also aid in weight management.
  • Like other coffee varieties, French vanilla and vanilla coffee are rich in antioxidants. In effect, they can neutralize free radicals to slow down aging and rejuvenate the skin.
  • Vanilla-flavored coffee can help produce catecholamines. These are hormones from the adrenal glands that can stimulate the brain and improve mental alertness.
  • The soothing aroma of French vanilla and vanilla coffee can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels.

Differences Between French Vanilla and Vanilla Coffee

Despite differences in taste and appearance, the global vanilla market expects to hit $735 million by 2026. These differences can also help you decide which coffee to prepare.Cup of French vanilla coffee and vanilla coffee with paired dessert

Flavor Profile

French vanilla and plain vanilla coffee may taste the same at times. However, depending on which coffee brand you're using, the composition and ingredients may give various flavors.

  • French vanilla coffee usually contains artificial sugars, so it's sweeter than plain vanilla coffee. Depending on your source, it may taste a bit like condensed milk.
  • Some French vanilla varieties include hazelnut, providing a nutty or chocolatey taste.
  • Vanilla coffee may have a plainer flavor, particularly if you won't add syrup or creamer. Hence, it's the closest you can get to how vanilla bean actually tastes.
  • The subtly sweet taste of vanilla can complement other coffee varietals. For example, you can add vanilla syrup to dark roast Kona beans to make vanilla Kona coffee for a bittersweet taste.


Vanilla coffee and French vanilla almost have the same texture and colors. However, French vanilla resembles more like a cappuccino, whereas plain vanilla coffee has a lighter color.

Major Distinguishing Factor

While both have a rich vanilla flavor, the primary difference comes from the source of vanilla. French vanilla uses French vanilla syrup with a mix of hazelnut to provide a creamy, nutty flavor. On the other hand, vanilla coffee incorporates plain vanilla syrup or extract.

When to Use French Vanilla?

You can make French vanilla coffee if you prefer a creamy, custardy flavor profile. It's ideal for coffee lovers who enjoy sweet goods like brownies and coffee rolls, including creamers, syrups, and ice creams.

When to Use Vanilla Coffee?

It's better to brew vanilla coffee if you prefer a light yet sweet coffee. It also lets vanilla bean dominate the taste and aroma. This is an excellent option if you like straightforward yet tasty coffee.

The Verdict

French vanilla has a creamier and nutty taste, whereas vanilla coffee preserves more of the sweet vanilla essence. If you want to combine creaminess and sweetness, you can find these in the discreetly sweet Lava Lei Macadamia nut Kona coffee blends.