French Vanilla Coffee Explained

If you've ever ordered a French vanilla latte or picked up French vanilla coffee grounds at the grocery store, you may have wondered how it's made. With all the signature smoothness of a classic coffee and the added sweetness of French vanilla—it's no wonder that French vanilla coffee is a coffee house favorite. But is French vanilla coffee actually a type of coffee?

In general, French vanilla coffee is created by sweetening the flavor of coffee with extracts and flavor compounds immediately after the roasting process. French vanilla coffee can also refer to creamers or syrups added to a brew to enhance the flavor.

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If you're hoping to make your own cup of French vanilla at home, you may be wondering whether you should buy the roast or the creamer. Below we will give you a full breakdown of what French vanilla coffee is and how to differs from typical black coffee.

What Is French Vanilla?

The term "French vanilla" refers to the classic French method of preparing ice cream custards, which entails adding egg yolks to milk or pouring cream for a deeper and richer taste. This gives the ice cream a yellowish color, while regular ice cream is white and does not contain eggs.

The custard-style vanilla flavoring was also used in various goods containing vanilla, such as syrups, coffee creamers, and premixed coffee powders.

But what does custard have to do with coffee? Not as much as you might think, given the name.

What Is French Vanilla Coffee?

French vanilla coffee can refer to different things depending on where you live. One thing for sure though, is that it doesn't come from France, and it doesn't involve making custard.

In the United States, French vanilla coffee is typically a light- to medium-roast coffee with vanilla extract undertones. To improve the flavor of the beans, seasoning is quickly applied after the roasting process. The result is a freshly brewed coffee with a mild vanilla taste that can be taken black or with additives such as cream and sugar.

Some also refer to French vanilla coffee as any coffee with any type of vanilla flavoring. Americans are accustomed to enhancing their coffee drinks with cream, sugar, or other flavor enhancers. French vanilla creamer is a flavor that may be added to coffee using creamers, syrups, and extracts to give it a custardy and creamy flavor.

However, this is not the same as French vanilla coffee. In most cases, people are referring to coffee beans.

How Is French Vanilla Coffee Made?

French vanilla coffee is considered a flavored coffee bean. Flavored coffee beans are covered with flavor compounds to enhance the natural fragrance, taste, and warmth that coffee provides. Furthermore, these tastes help extend the shelf life of coffee by masking flavor changes caused by decaffeination, oxidation, or the aging processes.

The type of bean used to manufacture flavored coffee has a significant influence on the taste of the completed product. It is believed that coffee beans contain approximately 800 distinct chemicals that contribute to their taste. Coffee arabica (or arabica) beans are commonly used for flavored coffees due to their low levels of acidity and bitterness.

Flavoring oils are blends of natural and synthetic taste compounds are created by flavor chemists. Natural oils used in flavored coffees are extracted from a number of sources—this is the case for vanilla beans.

After the beans have been roasted, they must be immediately cooled before flavorings may be applied. Flavoring the beans while they are still at high temperatures will damage some of the taste components. In a mixer, about 3% of the weight of the beans in flavoring is added. The mixer spins for around 15 minutes, enabling the roasted beans to absorb the flavor.

How Does French Vanilla Compare to Regular Coffee?

Regular black coffee has a robust, deep, bitter flavor that is well known around the world. When it comes to appearance, regular coffee and French vanilla seem identical, and they can be adjusted to look like various coffee drinks.

Taste and aroma are where you will see the most differences between the two. French vanilla coffee is brighter and sweeter than normal coffee. It has a strong coffee flavor with a vanilla aftertaste. This is because it is brewed with a lighter roast with vanilla flavoring.

Is French Vanilla Coffee Strong?

Caffeine levels in a typical cup of coffee can range from 95 to 200mg per 8oz cup.

The caffeine content of a French vanilla coffee would really depend on the roast and how it was prepared. Typically, a cup of French vanilla coffee would contain around 150mg of caffeine. 

Does French Vanilla Coffee Contain Sugar?

On its own, French vanilla coffee does not contain sugar. The flavoring compounds that are added to the roast are sugar-free, so the sweet flavor comes from natural compounds within the coffee bean and flavoring oils.

If you are using a creamer or syrup to add French vanilla flavoring to your coffee after brewing, then you'll want to check the ingredient list on the bottle, as these typically do contain sugar.

What is the Best French Vanilla Coffee?

There are several French vanilla coffees available, and each person will have a personal favorite. You'll want to check out the roast and where the beans come from. Some of the most prevalent places are in Latin America, where sweeter and lighter tastes complement vanilla nicely.

Some of our favorite French vanilla coffees are:

When picking out a coffee, be sure to look at the quality of the bean and sustainable sourcing. You want the vanilla flavoring to enhance the experience, not mask impurities from poor quality beans.

French Vanilla Coffee Explained

Hopefully, this guide on French vanilla coffee gave you a better understanding of what it's all about. With so many different coffees out there, knowing what to try and how to make it can be confusing. While French vanilla coffee doesn't come from France and has nothing to do with ice cream, this type of flavor enhancement provides creamy sweet undertones loved by many.

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