Italian Roast vs. French Roast: How Do They Differ?

 Pouring Extra Dark Italian Roast out of a Chemex.

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, chances are you have encountered dark roast coffees, with Italian Roast and French Roast being the most popular options. While there are similarities between the two, these dark roasts have distinct characteristics that can significantly shape the drinking experience. Both Italian and French roasts are considered dark roasts because they have been roasted to at least 430 degrees Fahrenheit. However, subtle differences in the roasting process give each its unique flavor and characteristics. Let’s explore the nuances of French Roast vs. Italian Roast to help you make an informed choice and appreciate what goes into roasting your favorite cup. 

What is an Italian Roast Coffee?

Pile of Italian roast coffee beans.

Italian Roast coffee is the darkest of the dark. Roasted to at least 455 degrees Fahrenheit, the beans are known for their distinct bitterness and robust flavor. Due to the high roasting temperature, Italian Roast coffee beans are nearly black and have an oily texture. When brewed, the coffee has a very full body and rich mouth feel. The tasting notes vary by bean origin but may include flavors such as roasted cereal, smoke, and dark molasses. 

What is French Roast Coffee? 

Pile of French Roast coffee beans

French Roast coffee is the slightly lighter of the two. Roasted between 450 and 455 degrees Fahrenheit, the beans are a dark brown color with a light oil sheen. French Roast coffee is known for its rich, caramelized flavor profile that appeals to those who enjoy a dark roast without the bitterness associated with Italian Roast. While the tasting notes vary based on the beans' origin, French Roast coffee flavors can include chocolate, smoke, and roasted nuts. 

Key Differences Between French Roast vs. Italian Roast

Let's take a look at these two popular dark roasts and their differences. 

  • Roasting temperature - When it comes to roasting temperature, Italian Roast surpasses French Roast by only a few critical degrees. French Roast stays between 450 and 455 degrees Fahrenheit, and Italian Roast starts at 455. This slight difference is responsible for a significant difference in taste and texture. 
  • Tasting notes - Italian Roast is known for its pronounced bitterness which is achieved by the extra high roasting temperature. With its slightly lower roasting temperature, French Roast offers a more caramelized flavor with less bitterness. 
  • Texture - The texture of the brew is another differentiating factor. Italian Roast beans are nearly black with an oily texture that creates a fuller body and richer mouthfeel. In contrast, French Roast beans have a slightly lighter color and oil sheen that results in a robust but less intense texture. 

What brewing methods are preferred for Italian and French Roasts?

Your preference for brewing methods may also influence the choice between Italian and French Roast coffee. Italian Roast coffee is ideal for espresso lovers because the heavy body and intense flavor complement the creaminess of dairy-topped espresso beverages. On the other hand, French Roast coffee is ideal for many different brewing methods, including drip, French press, or Moka pot. 

Making an espresso drink.

When To Use Italian Roast vs. French Roast

The choice between French and Italian Roasts boils down to personal preference. Consider beginning with classic brewing methods and recipes, then experiment to discover what you like. As mentioned above, French Roast coffee is versatile. It can be brewed in many different ways and served black, with milk and sugar, or incorporated into a decadent treat like this coffee ice cream. Italian Roast coffee is traditionally used to make espresso drinks like cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos. For a fun twist on a seasonal favorite, consider using Italian Roast coffee to make this Pumpkin Caramel Latte

Browse San Francisco Bay’s Italian Roasts and French Roasts

Whether you want Italian Roast, French Roast, or both, we've got you covered. 

For the darkest of dark brews, enjoy our Extra Dark Italian coffee that is available as: 

Our French Roast coffee is one of our most popular offerings, and it is available in many options: 

If you want to sample all of our dark roast coffees, try our Dark Roast Collection Variety Pack of OneCUP™ Coffee Pods that includes Dark Italian Roast, French Roast, Espresso Roast, and Fog Chaser.