French Vanilla Coffee: What Is It And How To Make It?

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french vanilla coffee

If you’ve ever walked into a McCafé you’ve almost definitely seen French Vanilla iced coffee on the menu. 

And, thanks to its popularity, it’s becoming a popular flavor in other coffee shops as well!

But, what is French vanilla coffee, and is there a way to make it at home?

Well, I’ve done the research and put together the definitive guide to French vanilla coffee. Let’s check it out!

What Is a French Vanilla Coffee?

coffee beans and vanilla coffee

Most of us are familiar with the flavor of French vanilla when talking about ice cream. This is actually where the flavor originated!

French vanilla ice cream was a (you guessed it) French preparation method of making vanilla ice cream. Because of the way manufacturers prepared the dessert, it had a unique flavor.

People loved it so much that they began to replicate that flavor in other desserts and even in drinks!

When it comes to French vanilla coffee, this can actually be one of two things. 

Firstly, French vanilla coffee can be a cup of coffee made with French vanilla flavored coffee beans. The vanilla flavor is infused into the beans during the roasting process

Secondly, French vanilla coffee can be a cup of coffee that’s been flavored with French vanilla syrup. This is usually sweeter and can be brewed coffee or a latte. 

Let’s take a closer look at French vanilla roast and French vanilla syrup coffee.

French Vanilla Roast

coffee beans and vanilla

French vanilla beans can be any type of roast, although most French vanilla coffees are medium or light roasted. 

Still, if you’ve got your eyes on a dark roast, don’t panic. There are still brands out there that you can choose from. 

To make French vanilla roast coffee, coffee producers add a few drops of vanilla and sometimes hazelnut flavoring to the beans

They do this during the roasting process. 

As the beans are toasted, tiny pores in the coffee beans allow the flavor to soak into the coffee. This infuses that signature French vanilla flavor into the beans!

French Vanilla Syrup

vanilla syrup

French vanilla syrup is a little bit different from French vanilla roasted coffee. This syrup is made separately from the roasting process.

To make French vanilla syrup, all you have to do is heat sugar and water over the stove until it caramelizes. 

Then, add a vanilla bean pod to the sauce. 

Continue cooking until the sauce becomes thick and then remove the vanilla bean pod. 

Just like that, you’ve got a French vanilla syrup! 

Now, while you can make French vanilla-flavored syrup, some coffee shops will simply mix hazelnut and vanilla syrup. 

The combination of these syrups tastes similar to that of French vanilla ice cream.

How to Make a French Vanilla Coffee

Okay, so you’re into the whole French vanilla coffee idea and you want to make it at home yourself!

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to make this coffee. 

To get started, you’ll need:

  • Vanilla-infused coffee beans
  • French vanilla syrup
  • A splash of French vanilla creamer or a regular coffee creamer

With your ingredients in hand, you’re ready to get to work!

If you have the whole French vanilla coffee beans, you will need to turn them into a ground coffee before you start brewing.

In case you use an espresso machine with a grinder built-in, it will be pretty easy since the machine will do it for you.

If you use some other brewing method, you can grind the coffee beans without a grinder. Try using some of the mechanical coffee grinding methods such as a blender.

However, you can also get a pre-ground French vanilla coffee if you want to skip the grinding process.

Once you have your ground French vanilla coffee, you can start brewing your coffee with your favorite brewing method. I personally love Chemex, but you can use any brew method. 

Once you’ve brewed your coffee, add about a teaspoon of French vanilla syrup. You can add some more if you like sweeter coffee.

Then, add a splash of French vanilla coffee creamer to top it off. You can make a homemade Frech vanilla creamer by mixing sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and regular milk.

Voilá! You’ve just made a tasty cup of French vanilla flavored coffee.


I know that I just threw a lot of information at you. 

So, if you’ve still got questions, I’m not surprised. 

Let’s take a look at the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions about French vanilla coffee.

What Does French Vanilla Coffee Taste Like?

French Vanilla Coffee is a rich coffee that’s generally creamy and has a slightly sweeter flavor than your classic vanilla coffee. This type of coffee is usually made out of either vanilla bean pods or hazelnut and vanilla syrup combined instead of classic vanilla syrup.

Does French Vanilla Have More Caffeine Than Coffee?

No. The average amount of caffeine in French vanilla coffee is either the same as or slightly less than that of a regular cup of coffee. That’s because French vanilla coffee is either a regular coffee or a latte with added syrup. If it’s a latte, it will have less caffeine because it has less coffee in it.

What’s the Difference Between a Vanilla Latte and French Vanilla Latte?

Most coffee shops prepare a vanilla latte by adding vanilla syrup to your standard latte. However, to make a French vanilla latte, they’ll usually add a shot of hazelnut syrup to the latte as well. This gives it that slightly more buttery, caramel flavor that we know and love!

Final Thoughts

French vanilla coffee is like an extra sweet twist on your classic vanilla coffee. 

While once upon a time French vanilla was just referring to the French way of preparing vanilla ice cream, today it’s become its own flavor!

If you already enjoy vanilla coffee, this might be the perfect way to step up your drink!

So, what do you think? Will you give French vanilla coffee a try?

If you’re still on the hunt for your next drink, check out our Spanish latte guide. It’s another unique twist on your classic coffee beverages.

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Jessica Fleming-Montoya
Jessica is a seasoned caffeine-addict who spent 3 years behind the bar. Her early coffee days took her from the commercial Starbucks scene in urban DC all the way to helping launch a craft coffee shop in California. Today she prefers sharing her years of coffee capers through media, although you’ll find she does it with a trusty cup of coffee by her side.