What Is French Vanilla Coffee?

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Have you ever had a French vanilla coffee? Did you know that if you order French vanilla from Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Tim Hortons you’ll receive a completely different drink every time?

The coffee will have a different flavor, aroma, and in most cases a different color as well.

French vanilla is coffee made by mixing a syrup or extract powder with coffee to sweeten its flavor. In some cases, French Vanilla is the name of a certain coffee roast that has a vanilla aftertaste. Tim Hortons French Vanilla is a sweet, pale drink with a light fluffy foam.

I did a little bit of digging to find out more about my new favorite coffee. It was strange that every store made it completely differently.

Also, I needed to know what makes French vanilla distinct from the coffee I’ve been drinking my whole life.

In most cases, it started with the coffee beans, except for Tim Hortons. They have a completely different approach to French vanilla coffee altogether.

French Vanilla Coffee Vs. Vanilla Cappuccino

French vanilla coffee is not the same thing on both sides of the border.

In the US, French vanilla is medium-roast coffee with notes of vanilla extract. The flavoring is usually added during the roasting process to enhance the taste of the beans. Americans are used to adding cream or sugar, even sweetener to their French vanilla.

The Canadian coffee giants Tim Hortons on the other hand don’t add anything to their drinks since their French vanilla is more of a cappuccino. It has a pale appearance, a strong sweet flavor, and an aroma similar to a freshly baked pie.

Going forward, to avoid any confusion, when I say French vanilla, I’m talking about the coffee beans, and when your read French vanilla cappuccino, I’m referring to the drink from Tim Hortons.

How Do They Compare to Regular Coffee?

Obviously, normal coffee, French vanilla, and French vanilla cappuccino fall under the same coffee umbrella, but they vary in taste, appearance, and volumes of caffeine.


Regular black coffee often has a strong, deep, bitter taste that can be altered by any number of ingredients. The impact brewing techniques and overall quality of the java have on the flavor is a different topic altogether. No need to talk about the aroma of black coffee, is famous around the world.

A sip of French vanilla from most coffee shops is brighter and fruitier than regular coffee. It still offers a rich coffee flavor but with a vanillic aftertaste. That’s because it’s brewed from a lighter roast. It has a similar, yet sweeter aroma than black coffee.

French Vanilla cappuccino is very milky and sweet. A real delight for anyone with a sweet tooth but probably not the best option for people who enjoy the real taste of a cup of Joe. Here coffee is a distant background to the vanilla and milk. Its scent is delightful, comparable to a baking batch of cookies.


French vanilla

Normal coffee and French vanilla have a similar appearance when black but can be altered to resemble any other coffee drink. French vanilla cappuccino often resembles coffee with cream but has an attractive creamy foam on top.


The amount of caffeine in a normal coffee can range from 95-200mg per 8oz serving. Although some instant coffee caffeine volumes can go as low as 55mg in the same portion.

French vanilla coffee would have roughly 150mg of caffeine, although that would depend on where you got your drink from and how it was prepared.

The cappuccino version of French vanilla only has 60mg of caffeine in the same-sized serving.

Can You Make French Vanilla at Home?

Sometimes homemade food and drinks are simply better than anything you can get from a store. I’ll share a couple of ways you can make French vanilla at home to help you decide which one you like more.

Dunkin Donuts

If you enjoy French vanilla from Dunkin Donuts you can make it at home with a regular coffee maker. They offer a 12oz French vanilla ground coffee bag available at their stores but the best deal is currently on Amazon.

It’s as simple as that, although many people have said discovered a way of enhancing the vanilla flavored with French vanilla creamer.

Tim Hortons

Tim’s on the other hand offers their French vanilla cappuccino blend in a powered form in stores and on Amazon.

It’s available in a 16-ounce tin container or a convenient pre-portioned pack. The assortment pack is half French vanilla and half hot chocolate.

Either way, you just mix Tim’s French vanilla cappuccino mix with hot water and you have the drink made at home.

variety pack


Their coffee is essentially a latte made with steamed whole or non-fat milk with vanilla extract. The simplest way to replicate their drink at home would be to make a latte and add a small portion of vanilla extract at a time until you reach the ideal flavor.


To get this drink from Starbucks ask for a shot of vanilla syrup in your coffee. It will automatically infuse your cup of joe with a delightful vanilla aftertaste.


Both Tim Hortons and Dunkin Donuts have made their version of this coffee available in capsule form on Amazon.

I personally haven’t tried this coffee from a pod before but I’m curious how it tastes. All the reviews online seem to be really positive.


Where Did French Vanilla Get Its Name?

This might come as a surprise, but French vanilla has nothing to do with the French. It’s just a marketing term used to make the drink sound a little fancier.

The name for the coffee is a term originally used for an ice cream flavor. It’s a recipe for mixing vanilla with egg whites and cream to make ice cream sweeter and fluffier. The name just caught on to coffee.

The Verdict

The coffee version of French vanilla is sublime. I enjoy it regardless if it’s from Seattle’s Best, Dunkin Donuts, or made at home. It must just vibe with my taste buds. I don’t go overboard with the vanilla sweetener, but I do like a splash once in awhile. Blame it on my sweet tooth.

Speaking of a sweet tooth, if you’re craving a delightful coffee dessert but want to avoid caffeine I suggest stopping by a Tim Hortons and trying out their version of the drink. It’s a completely unique drink when compared to other flavored coffees like a mocha for example.

Related Questions

Can I Put Vanilla Extract in My Coffee?

Yes, you can add vanilla extract to your coffee, instead of sugar, sweetener, or cream. Although don’t overdo it. A couple of drops of the extract will give your coffee a hint of vanilla aftertaste. It can open a new flavor profile for your cup of joe. Too much extract will make your coffee sour and undrinkable.

What is A French Vanilla Coffee-Mate?

It’s an artificial sweeter used instead of milk or cream. Coffee-mate will turn your cup of black java into a sweater and smoother drink. It will also make the coffee a lot lighter in appearance.

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