French Roast

Written by Sarah Provost
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French roast coffee is fast becoming America's favorite brew. When specialty coffee chains such as Peet's and Starbuck's first arrived on the scene, French roasts were novelties. Now even supermarket brands such as Maxwell House and Folger's are presenting vacuum cans of pre-ground coffee that is darker than their usual roast and calling it French roast. Don't be deceived.

True French roasts require subtlety in the roaster, to bring the beans to such a dark brown as to appear almost black, but not so far that the flavor is charred or burned and the beans dry out. When buying whole beans, look for a shiny, almost oily appearance. The longer the bean is roasted, the more this oily substance comes to the surface and the more flavor the bean will have.

Many people refer to the distinctive flavor of French roast as "strong." Strictly speaking, the strength of coffee refers to the proportions of water to beans. A mild roast brewed with less water would be stronger than a dark roast brewed with more water. Actually, the darker roasts have less acidity and slightly less caffeine than the lighter roasts. They just taste like they have more of everything!

Brewing French Roast Coffees

French roast coffees can certainly be brewed in a standard automatic drip machine. However, the dictum not to let the coffee stay on the heating element for more than ten minutes is especially important when brewing French roast, which can quickly turn bitter. If you make more than you can drink right away, pour the rest into a thermos container. Better yet, buy a small French press and make it one cup at a time. Coffee doesn't get much better than that.

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