What's French Vanilla Coffee? Learn How to Make One at Home

Updated on: August 11, 2023
Author: Alex DeCapri
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French Vanilla Coffee

You might be wondering: what in the world is French vanilla coffee?

It’s certainly popular at coffee chains all around the world, but what goes into making one?

In this article, we unravel the secrets of this tantalizing coffee. With its rich aroma, velvety texture, and a touch of sweetness, this beloved beverage is sure to capture your taste buds' attention.

Join us as we explore the essence of French vanilla coffee and reveal three easy methods to craft your own delectable masterpiece.

Get ready to elevate your coffee game and savor the joie de vivre in every sip!

What is a French Vanilla Coffee?

One would expect “French” vanilla coffee to have originated in France. But that’s only partly true.

Now, you might wonder, then why is "French" in the name? While there are no definitive historical reasons to show that this coffee drink originated in France, it's believed that the term "French" was added to denote sophistication and elegance, paying homage to a renowned French culinary tradition.

What culinary tradition? Ice cream.

French Vanilla coffee gets its name from the French vanilla ice cream. This type of ice cream is famous for containing egg yolks, which “plain vanilla” does not have (1).

What is French Vanilla Coffee

It tends to be creamier and has a more yellowish color than regular vanilla ice cream. Unsurprisingly, the French vanilla coffee taste boasts a rich and custard-like taste, just like the ice cream, often accompanied by notes of caramel and hazelnut.

This type of coffee can be enjoyed with whole beans that are infused with natural vanilla bean pods or extract or artificial vanilla flavorings (2), or you can buy it pre-ground.

You can find French vanilla roast coffee in all roast levels: light, medium, and dark.

Another way to achieve the French vanilla flavor is by adding vanilla extract after brewing your regular coffee.

French Vanilla Coffee Variations

While the classic French vanilla coffee is typically served hot with a touch of cream, there are several variations that can add a refreshing twist or enhance the sweetness of this beloved beverage.

French Vanilla Coffee Variations

Let's explore some popular variations of french vanilla coffees:

  • Iced French Vanilla Coffee: Simply pour the brewed coffee over ice and add a splash of vanilla syrup or extract. Optionally, you can sweeten it with sugar or a sweetener of your choice. Finish it off by adding a generous amount of cold milk or cream, and stir well. This creates a chilled version perfect for hot summer days.

  • French Vanilla Frappé: A frappé is a blended iced beverage that offers a smooth and frothy texture. To make a French vanilla frappé, you'll need brewed coffee, ice cubes, milk, vanilla syrup or extract, and sweetener if desired. Blend all the ingredients together until you achieve a creamy and slushy consistency. Pour it into a glass, optionally top it with whipped cream, and enjoy.

  • Sweetened French Vanilla Coffee: While this coffee already has a hint of sweetness, you can further enhance it by adding sweeteners or flavored syrups. Consider using classic vanilla syrup, caramel syrup, hazelnut syrup, or even chocolate syrup to add an extra dimension of flavor. Sweeten to your preference with sugar, honey, or artificial sweeteners. Finish it off with cream or milk to balance the sweetness and create a velvety texture.

  • French Vanilla Latte: A latte is a popular espresso-based drink made with steamed milk. To make a French vanilla latte, you'll need espresso or strong coffee, milk, vanilla syrup or extract, and sweetener if desired. Combine the steamed milk, coffee, vanilla, and sweetener in a cup, and optionally top it with foam or whipped cream. The result is a creamy and aromatic beverage with the comforting flavor of French vanilla.

How to Prepare French Vanilla Coffee at Home

There are different ways to make delicious French vanilla coffee at home. Let’s go over three of these methods!

  1. Using French Vanilla Coffee Beans
  2. Using French Vanilla Syrup
  3. Using a French Vanilla Coffee Creamer

1. Using French Vanilla Coffee Beans

French vanilla coffee beans are a popular choice for those seeking a rich and aromatic cup of coffee with a touch of smooth vanilla flavor. These beans are not inherently "vanilla-flavored" but rather undergo a special process to infuse them with the taste of vanilla.

The flavor infusion typically occurs just after the beans have been roasted. Natural vanilla extract or artificial flavoring oils (like vanillin) are then added and mixed into the beans, imparting their flavors.

The roast level for French vanilla coffee beans can vary, but they are often medium to dark roasted, allowing the beans to develop a balanced flavor profile. Expect notes of chocolate and nuts to pair amazingly well with the vanilla flavor.

French Vanilla Coffee Beans Recommendations

We highly recommend these medium roast vanilla infused beans by Volcanica! If you don’t have a grinder don’t worry! You can also purchase these pre-ground.

Preparation Instructions

  1. Grind the beans: Measure the desired amount of coffee beans and grind them to your preferred coarseness using a coffee grinder.

  2. Prepare the coffee maker: If your coffee maker has a water reservoir, fill it with fresh, cold water and place a filter in the designated area. If you are using a pour-over method, heat up some water and rinse the paper filter. I recommend 93°C (199.5°F) for your water temperature.

  3. Add the coffee: Add the ground coffee to the filter in the coffee maker, following the recommended coffee-to-water ratio for your desired strength. I like a 1:15 ratio for pour-over methods like the V60.

  4. Brew the coffee: Start the coffee maker and allow it to brew until all the water has passed through the coffee grounds. If using a pour-over method, shoot for 2-4 minutes for your total extraction time.

  5. Serve and enjoy: Once the brewing process is complete, pour the freshly brewed French vanilla coffee into a mug or cup. You can add sweeteners, cream, or milk according to your preference. Many like to add hazelnut syrups. Why not give it a shot for some extra sweetness?

2. Using French Vanilla Syrup

French vanilla syrup is a flavored syrup that is used to add a distinct vanilla taste to various beverages, including coffee and even some cocktails. It is typically sweet, creamy, and super aromatic. The exact ingredients of French vanilla syrup can vary between brands, but it generally contains sugar, water, vanilla extract or artificial flavors, and other additives like preservatives and stabilizers to enhance the shelf life.

French Vanilla Syrup Recommendations

This Monin French Vanilla coffee syrup is naturally sweetened with pure cane sugar and only contains natural flavors.

Preparation Instructions

  1. Brew the coffee: Prepare your favorite coffee using your preferred brewing method, whether it's a drip coffee maker, French press, or espresso machine.

  2. Add French vanilla syrup: Once the coffee is brewed and still hot, pour it into a mug. Add French vanilla syrup according to your desired taste. Start with 1-2 tablespoons and adjust as needed.

  3. Stir and customize: Stir the coffee vigorously to mix in the French vanilla flavored syrup. Optionally, add sugar, milk, or cream to further customize the taste and texture.

  4. Enjoy your creation: Sit back, relax, and savor your homemade French vanilla coffee. Feel free to garnish with whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or any other preferred toppings.

Pro Tip:

Try using sweetened condensed milk for an indulgent French vanilla coffee!

3. Using a French Vanilla Creamer

French Vanilla creamers are dairy or non-dairy products used to add a creamy and vanilla-flavored element to coffee or other beverages. They are typically used as a substitute for milk or cream. Creamers tend to be made from dairy milk, but many soy, almond, coconut, and oat milk alternatives exist as well.

French vanilla creamers are made with sugar or other alternative sweeteners, natural vanilla extra or artificial vanilla flavorings, stabilizers and emulsifiers, and other additives like preservatives and thickeners.

French Vanilla Creamer Recommendations

This Califia Farms French vanilla creamer is made with almond milk, giving a nutty twist to your coffee. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly than cow’s milk!

Preparation Instructions

  1. Brew the coffee: Prepare your desired amount of coffee using your preferred brewing method. Simply make some coffee like you’ve always made it.

  2. Pour the coffee: Once the coffee is ready, pour it into a mug or cup.

  3. Add the coffee creamer: Measure the desired amount of French vanilla coffee creamer and pour it into the coffee. Adjust the quantity based on your desired level of creaminess and sweetness. I recommend starting with a spoonful.

  4. Stir and taste: Stir the coffee well to incorporate the French vanilla creamer. Take a sip and adjust the flavor by adding more creamer if desired.

  5. Sit back and enjoy: Find a cozy spot, take a moment for yourself, and indulge in the delightful flavors of French vanilla coffee with its extra sweet and creamy taste.

French Vanilla Coffee from Big Chain Stores

Since specific recipes vary among each coffee shop, here is a brief overview of how some popular coffee chains typically make their French vanilla coffee and whether they offer their own branded beans, homemade French vanilla creamer, or homemade vanilla syrup.


Starbucks typically prepares French vanilla coffee by adding equal parts vanilla and hazelnut syrups to their brewed coffee. Starbucks also sells whole bean flavored coffee blends, but they do not have a specific French vanilla-flavored coffee bag. They do, however, sell a bag of regular vanilla coffee beans.


McDonald’s prepares their French vanilla coffee by brewing their regular coffee and adding French vanilla syrup. The cream is normally added to their French vanilla coffee, so make sure to order without cream if you’re looking to avoid dairy. The syrup also comes in a sugar-free option (3).

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons typically offers French vanilla coffee by combining their regular brewed coffee with French vanilla syrup. They have their own branded French vanilla coffee, which is available as ground coffee or in a Keurig K-cup for home brewing. Tim Hortons also offers French Vanilla Cappuccino and French Vanilla Latte instant mixes for convenience.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts prepares French Vanilla coffee by infusing their brewed coffee with French vanilla flavoring syrup. They have their own branded French Vanilla Swirl syrup, which is used to create the flavor. Dunkin' Donuts does offer French vanilla ground coffee as part of their retail coffee lineup, allowing customers to easily make this coffee at home. They also sell bottles of French vanilla iced coffee that drink a lot like cold brew coffee.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a French vanilla and a vanilla latte?

The difference between French vanilla and vanilla latte lies in their preparation. French vanilla refers to a coffee with added vanilla flavor, while a vanilla latte is an espresso-based drink made from regular coffee beans with steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and a layer of foam.

Is French vanilla just vanilla and hazelnut?

French vanilla is not typically a combination of vanilla and hazelnut. French vanilla refers to a vanilla-flavored coffee, while hazelnut is a separate flavor that can be added to coffee. French Vanilla differs from regular Vanilla in that it’s creamier because it contains egg yolk.

Does French vanilla coffee have milk?

French vanilla coffee does not inherently contain milk. It refers to coffee beans or brewed coffee infused with a vanilla flavor. However, when served as a drink, milk or cream is often added to create a creamy and balanced taste. A French vanilla latte, for example, will have milk in it.

Is French vanilla coffee strong?

The strength of French vanilla coffee depends on the specific coffee beans used and the brewing method. However, in terms of flavor, French vanilla coffee tends to have a smooth and mild profile with the pleasant addition of vanilla flavor, rather than being particularly strong or bold.

French Vanilla Coffee

Bottom Line

Alright, now you know everything about French vanilla coffee and how to make it at home.

Whether you use beans infused with flavor or prefer to add syrup or creamers to your normally brewed coffee, there is a way for everyone to enjoy this delicious and sweet coffee drink.

After all, who doesn’t love a decadent French vanilla flavor?

Happy brewing!

Alex DeCapri is a curious coffee writer and specialty coffee roaster. Currently, he is slowly making his way from the United States to Brazil in his camper van, visiting as many coffee farms as possible!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.

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