If you’ve ever bought ice cream or been around coffee for a while, the words French Vanilla will ring a bell.
It’s everywhere. But what exactly is French Vanilla coffee?
French Vanilla coffee can be one of two things: coffee mixed with French Vanilla creamer or coffee made from vanilla-infused beans. French Vanilla coffee can be quite different depending on how you make it.
Let’s dive deeper into what French vanilla is and how you can make French vanilla coffee at home.
Table of Contents
What is French Vanilla Coffee?
French vanilla coffee can be broken down into two different categories:
- Vanilla-infused coffee beans
- Coffee with French Vanilla syrup or creamer
We still sometimes call vanilla-infused coffee beans “French vanilla,” but there is a difference between the two.
While the regular vanilla syrup is fine and tasty, French vanilla is a little nuttier and sweeter. French Vanilla coffee with a splash of milk tastes more like a vanilla latte than regular vanilla coffee with milk.
It’s a subtle difference, but these differences can affect how much you like your French Vanilla coffee.
French Vanilla Beans
Coffee beans can be infused with any number of additional flavors.
Beans aged in liquor barrels have become a popular example in recent years. Hazelnut is another example of a popular flavored coffee.
So infusing coffee beans with such a basic flavor as vanilla seems logical, right?
Well, a lot of people seem to think so. Every roaster eventually comes out with a vanilla-infused bean.
The thing to remember, though, is that not all of them are marketed as “French vanilla.” When we talk about vanilla-infused beans, we don’t often differentiate how the beans were infused.
French Vanilla Syrup
As I mentioned earlier, French vanilla syrup differs slightly from vanilla syrup.
French vanilla syrup isn’t just vanilla. It also has some hazelnut in the mix.
French vanilla in coffee is a mix of regular vanilla and hazelnut syrups to create a nutty and somewhat sweeter flavor than just regular vanilla.
When I was a barista, I would create mixes of French vanilla by adding a touch of hazelnut to our regular vanilla syrup. The result was a stronger and nuttier version.
But did you know that French Vanilla originally isn’t about coffee at all?
Rather, it’s a type of custard base for vanilla ice cream. Crazy, right?
What Is French Vanilla?
On its own, French vanilla isn’t a mix of vanilla and hazelnut. Technically, French vanilla was originally a vanilla custard.
These days, you can tell French vanilla ice cream apart from regular vanilla ice cream because it will have specks of vanilla beans. French vanilla ice cream will also have a stronger vanilla smell and flavor.
Think of French vanilla as a supercharged vanilla.
These days, French vanilla has become almost its own thing. It is sold as a scent in perfumes, candles, ice cream, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
And yes, that includes coffee.
What Does French Vanilla Coffee Taste Like?
The taste of French Vanilla coffee depends on which type of French vanilla we’re talking about. One is typically made with a French vanilla sweetener, while the other is brewed with beans that add a subtle vanilla aroma and flavor to the coffee.
French Vanilla Beans
Coffee beans infused with vanilla aren’t sweet. The dominant flavor is still coffee. After all, you can’t make coffee beans taste like vanilla beans.
Coffee made with vanilla-infused beans has a subtle vanilla flavor and a stronger vanilla aroma.
The aroma is the more prominent feature of infused beans. But once you brew up a cup and take a few sips, you’ll see only a slight vanilla flavor to the coffee.
French Vanilla Syrup
French vanilla syrup is much different. Use enough syrup, and you’ll eventually not taste any coffee.
French vanilla syrup is meant to be a sweetener for your coffee. Unlike vanilla-infused beans, it doesn’t have a subtle flavor.
That doesn’t mean it’s always a creamer, though. French Vanilla syrup doesn’t have to have any cream at all. It can be a simple syrup made with vanilla extract or beans.
The big takeaway is that French vanilla syrup is the sweeter option of the two.
Does French Vanilla Coffee Have Caffeine?
Yes, French vanilla coffee will still have caffeine.
It is, after all, still a coffee, no matter how you flavor or brew it.
However, there are decaf French vanilla coffees, which are quite popular, too. French vanilla decaf coffees will have a strong vanilla taste, which masks the flatness of the decaf beans.
Vanilla Vs French Vanilla Coffee
The main difference between vanilla coffee and French Vanilla coffee is that vanilla coffee uses plain vanilla syrup or extract, while French vanilla coffee contains French vanilla syrup.
French vanilla syrup contains a little hazelnut, so it is nuttier, richer, and sweeter than regular vanilla.
How To Make French Vanilla Coffee: A Simple Recipe
After years in the industry, I have perfected my French Vanilla Coffee recipe. And I’m willing to let you in on the secret in this article, as long as you promise not to tell anyone else.
Homemade French Vanilla Coffee
- vanilla-infused coffee beans
- French vanilla syrup
- French vanilla creamer or regular creamer
- Brew coffee how you usually would. This can be in a batch coffee brewer or a single-cup brewer like an AeroPress. I have been a huge fan of the French Press for creating smooth and rich flavored coffees.
- Add French Vanilla syrup to taste. Adding more syrup will give you a sweeter drink. But remember that if you used beans infused with vanilla, you might not need any syrup. That is, of course, if you don’t want a sweet drink.
- Top it off with extra creamer. Skip this step if you prefer black coffee. But if you like adding cream to your coffee, you can opt for a French Vanilla creamer. Or, you can simply use regular creamer to keep the sweetness down.
My Final Thoughts
French Vanilla coffee is one of the most popular flavored coffees. It’s a great mix of subtle flavor without sacrificing the actual coffee.
However, you have a lot of options when making French Vanilla coffee. You can add French Vanilla syrup, French Vanilla creamer, or vanilla extract to your coffee to create a French Vanilla coffee.
The reality is that French Vanilla coffee is any sort of coffee that has some aspect of vanilla. It can be anything from black coffee to a flavored latte or a blended drink.
In my opinion, a simple brewed coffee with French Vanilla creamer is the best way to experience French Vanilla coffee.