Biofilm produced by Escherichia coli (E. coli) or Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) on quartz or polystyrene is removed from the culture medium and drained. Observed optical interference fringes indicate the presence of a layer of uniform thickness with refractive index different from air-dried biofilm. Fringe wavelengths indicate that layer optical thickness is or 1 to 2 orders of magnitude thinner than the biofilm as measured by confocal Raman microscopy or fluorescence imaging of the bacteria. Raman shows that films have an alginate-like carbohydrate composition. Fringe amplitudes indicate that the refractive index of the interfering layer is higher than dry alginate. Drying and rehydration nondestructively thins and restores the interfering layer. The strength of the 1451-nm near infrared water absorption varies in unison with thickness. Absorption and layer thickness are proportional for films with different bacteria, substrates, and growth conditions. Formation of the interfering layer is general, possibly depending more on the chemical nature of alginate-like materials than bacterial processes. Films grown during the exponential growth phase produce no observable interference fringes, indicating requirements for layer formation are not met, possibly reflecting bacterial activities at that stage. The interfering layer might provide a protective environment for bacteria when water is scarce.