Coffee Facts

French Roast vs Espresso Roast – Our Comparison Guide

Ever wondered if you can use a French Roast for Espresso? Learn all about the differences and similarities these two roasts have.

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If you’ve ever been confused between the different roast levels coffee can come in, don’t worry. You are not alone. There are so many different ways to roast coffee beans and not every roaster agrees on what level their roast might be.

French roast and espresso roast are often used interchangeably which begs the question, are they the same? The answer is….yes and no. We’ll break down the how and why in our review and comparison of French roast to Espresso roast.

French Roast vs Espresso Roast

What Are Roast Levels?

You’re probably familiar with the idea of light roasts, dark roasts, and medium roasts. There are general guidelines given for roast levels based on the darkness of the beans and at what point they were roasted too.

The darker the bean, the longer it’s been roasted and the more flavor, sugar, and oils have been pulled out from the green cherry you started with. Anything that’s considered French or Espresso Roast are a dark roast.

Dark roasts cook for a longer period of time than a light or medium roast. The high temperatures pull the starches, sugar and fats to the surface of the bean to caramelize into an oily look.

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For people interested in specialized coffee, dark roasts are generally only used for espresso, while medium and light roasts are used for pour overs for a light bodied flavorful cup of coffee.

Dark roasts, which are richer, bolder and have a more burnt taste of coffee, are more mainstream within big coffee corporations such as Starbucks. Roasts like French Roast are the standard for average American drip coffee.

Which Is Darker: French Roast vs Espresso Roast?

In most roast level charts, French Roast is the start of the dark roast category. A French Roast will have a little bit of oil on the surface, sometimes looking more like spots of oil than a coat or sheen of oil.

The Specialty Coffee Association approved the Agtron Gourmet Scale for rating roast levels based on the beans darkness. The ranks are from 0-100, with 0 being black. French roasts rate anywhere between 28-35.

Espresso roast is generally considered between French Roast and Italian Roast, which is the darkest you can go before your beans burn completely.

What’s the Difference?

So if they are both dark roasts and the level of roast-ness is subjective to each individual roaster, then what is the actual difference between Espresso and French Roast?

Great question. Espresso is a form of brewing coffee that uses a very, very small ratio of water to grinds – usually, 2 parts water to 1 part grinds. The water is sent through the grinds at high pressure and it takes mere seconds for the water to pass fully through the grinds.

Because of how quick espresso is to brew, roasters will often select specific beans to make an espresso roast out of based on the cherries flavor profile. Roasters consider the fact that most espresso is paired with milk or creamer of choice. They will test out beans specifically for espresso brewing and aim for a classic yet unique espresso taste with their roasting style.

This means that a roaster may choose to label a batch of beans as an Espresso Roast even if they are on the lighter spectrum of a dark roast coffee and could be considered a French Roast. This is because the beans were specifically picked for brewing espresso for maximum enjoyment.

Of course, any roast can be used for espresso and might be enjoyable based on your desired tastes. But not any roast can be considered a French Roast, only specific levels of dark roasted beans. In essence, labeling a roast as an Espresso Roast is a marketing tool to help consumers find the best beans for espresso.

Is Espresso Roast Stronger Than French Roast?

When it comes to the level of caffeine, the roast really doesn’t determine which is stronger, but rather the type of brewing method used.

For an average cup of coffee brewed in a drip pot, pour over or percolator, caffeine levels will range from 95-200 milligrams of caffeine. While a single espresso shot will have between 47-75 milligrams of caffeine.

Which Is Right for You?

When shopping around and trying new roasters or coffee brands, keep in mind the method of brewing that you will be using. If you are brewing with a standard drip coffee pot, try out a French Roast and compare it to the Espresso to see which you like the flavor profile of better.

If you’re brewing espresso, we recommend sticking to coffee roasts made for espresso, but you can of course try any type of coffee you like in espresso form. It’s always fun to experience something new in a traditional way.

Shopping French and Espresso Roast

If you are sold on the idea of dark roasts and want to compare French and espresso, we suggest checking out of list of the Best French Roasts and our Best Espresso Roasts.

This is a great place to start for finding some of the best roasters available on the market and also getting a breakdown of why we like them so much.


Whether you try a French Roast in espresso form or an Espresso Roast brewed in a French Press, we hope that you are sipping coffee you enjoy and that best matches your coffee preference.

Happy Caffeinating!

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