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If you find yourself traveling through the French Quarter these days, it’s hard to find a coffee that is genuinely French anymore. Aside from the decaf soy latte made from organic beans imported from Cuba, served by a coffee bar employee who has at least four pronouns under his nametag, you would be surprised. But the history behind what is considered French coffee is quite impressive and is part of NOLA’s tradition of cultural appreciation.

French coffee anyone?

French coffee Robusta beans

When we think of French coffee, it’s easy to conjure images of Johnny Depp and Tom Waits feverishly chain-smoking and sipping espresso at a corner café somewhere in Paris. If you’ve ever been to France, you might also be confused about what is actually considered French coffee. This distinction is often marked by the type of roast that is recommended n France. This is what most people know as French Roast and is among the darkest roasts of them all.

In fact, it’s so dark, that the coffee is nearly burnt and is made from Robusta beans. Locals will order a simple Café and it’s served in a typical demitasse cup. This is the tiny cup that looks as if you shrunk a coffee mug down so Tom Cruise will feel comfortable holding it with two hands. But seriously, this is a single shot of French Roast espresso that will pack a punch and is commonly served with a cup of soda water to help cleanse your palate.

The service staff in France will automatically make their espresso from a traditional espresso machine unless you request another brewing method. If the café that you go to has alternative brewing methods, you might get lucky with ordering coffee made from the French Press. But this is far from being considered a Café espresso and would be more or less called Cafētire Piston and is literally French Press coffee.

You can request French roast coffee for this and will be a lot closer to an Americano that is much flatter tasting than a shot of espresso that’s thinned down with water. But everyone has their preference when it comes to differences in coffee brewing and how espresso flavors are extracted.

What is French coffee in New Orleans?

As far back as the early 1800s, you might not think that pour-over coffee was a thing just yet. The best French Market coffee was brewed by Rose Nicaud, a freed slave woman– that knew a thing or two about brewing French coffee. She used a coffee pot which allowed a French Strainer to be inserted over the upper chamber. After this, she added a heaping spoonful of coffee grounds per cup into the strainer and poured a bit of hot water over this.

Rose Nicaud, a freed slave woman

She then let this steep in the hot tater for 10 minutes. After this, she then raised the filter and would pour hot water half a cup at a time allowing it to filter. Until the coffee pot was full, she would then serve this French coffee to her French Market customers. It’s the closest thing we know to what modern-day pour-over coffee is today. Of course, it’s one more great story that often gets forgotten in the history books of how French coffee in New Orleans became such a hit.

Is the French Press good for making French coffee?

Aside from adding chicory into regular coffee in New Orleans, another tradition is using a variety of brewing methods. The French Press method is another classic way to make coffee that produces an excellent French Roast coffee. Here are a few tried and true press coffee makers. You also need to keep in mind that French roast is much darker and will require lower water temperatures to prevent dark roasts from tasting so bitter when they are brewed.

This will require the water to be no more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so the extraction doesn’t release bitter caffeols. What is released in the extraction is the full-bodied flavor of French roast that isn’t being ruined by the flavors that most people hate about poorly dark roasted coffee anyway. This is especially the point when most home brewers forget that different coffee roasts all require a delicate touch when brewing their coffee.

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