The French press is a relatively cheap and easy method of brewing excellent coffee at home. However, just there are common mistakes made with the French press that can take away from the superior coffee it is capable of brewing, there are also ways in which to make the drinking experience even better than with a good coffee maker. One such way is the choice of the best coffee for the french press.
In this article, we explore the different types of coffee to find out which can help you get the best out of your French press…
French Press: First, the Basics
The French press (also known by other names including the cafeteria, coffee press, or press pot) is a manual way of making fresh coffee that’s best served immediately after brewing. It is comprised of a cylindrical brewing vessel (or carafe) with a pouring spout and a plunger which has a circular filter at one end.
To make coffee using the French press method, you place coarse ground coffee into the brewing vessel, add just off the boiling water, and let the two combine and brew for a few minutes. The coffee grounds are then filtered out by depressing the plunger, leaving the brewed coffee to be poured out and enjoyed.
While it’s a simple coffee brewing method, there are several variables that can affect the flavor and strength of the coffee produced by the French press.
Key French Press Coffee Variables
- Brew time
- Amount of coffee to water
- Grind size
- Type of coffee beans used
This article focuses on the last of these variables.
With the French press, you can use either whole beans that you grind yourself or pre-ground coffee. Whole beans are the best choice as they will be fresher and offer more flavor. However, you can also make great French press coffee with pre-ground, as long as it’s fresh and ground to the correct consistency. The bag should indicate whether the coffee inside is suitable for a French press.
If not, just go for a coarser grind. If you buy your beans direct from a café or roaster, you can ask them to grind them for you – be sure to mention you want to use them to brew using a French press.
For more information on selecting the best french press grinders, check this guide out.
Types of Best Coffee for French Press
Essentially, the darker the roast; the more bitter the bean. This means that the roasting process largely overwhelms the coffee, leaving little of the delicate flavor inherent in the bean. That doesn’t render the coffee undrinkable (despite what some coffee connoisseurs might say); it’s just worth bearing in mind when choosing a dark roast coffee for your French press. This type of roast is commonly used for espresso when the aim is to produce a strong, robust brew. If you like your coffee with lots of milk and sugar, a dark roast will ensure you can still taste the coffee (think Starbucks). In short, a dark roasted bean produces a strong cup of java.
- For the whole bean, try Cafe Altura’s Whole Bean Organic Coffee Sumatran Dark Roast (around $12 per lb).
- If you prefer to buy pre-ground, try Kicking Horse Coffee’s Kick-Ass Ground Coffee which is a blend of Indonesian and South American beans (around $10 for 10oz) – the name alone suggests this isn’t going to produce a subtle brew! The Kicking Horse blend is also available as a whole bean (around $15 per lb).
Medium roasts can be light/medium all the way through to dark/medium. As you might guess, these roasts fall between the extremes, retaining the flavors inherent in the beans to varying degrees. The tasting notes you’ll find in medium roasts range from chocolate and nuts to fruits and flowers. These roasts are great for a French press, especially those at the dark/medium end of the spectrum.
- For a light/medium roast, try Homestead Coffee Roaster’s Colombian Coffee Whole Bean Organic Coffee (around $16 for 12oz), or Eco Vibe Coffee’s Rainforest Blend Light Medium Roasted Gourmet Coffee Beans (around $15 for 12oz).
- For a regular medium roast, try Two Volcanoes Coffee’s Gourmet Guatemala Whole Bean Medium Roast Single-Origin (around $20 per lb), or for pre-ground, The Coffee Fool’s French Press Fool’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (around $13 for 12oz).
- For a medium/dark roast, try Ethical Bean Coffee’s Sweet Espresso Medium Dark Roast (around $10 for 12oz), or Marley Coffee’s Organic Lively Up! (around $7 for 8oz), which is also available as a whole bean (around $7.50 for 8oz).
Light roasts have higher acidity and caffeine levels. The flavors you’ll taste are those inherent in the coffee beans – the roasting process just brings them to the fore. In terms of tasting notes, you might find anything from citrus fruits and flowers to earth and moss. Lights roasts are best enjoyed black and unsweetened as the bright, vibrant flavors can easily get swamped if you add lots of milk/sugar to your coffee. These types of coffee can be an acquired taste, especially for anyone whose palette is used to espresso-based coffees and harsh instants.
- Try Stone Street Coffee Company’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Single Origin Whole Bean Coffee (around $15 per lb) which has fruity and floral notes.
- For a low-acid light roast, try trücup’s Low Acid Coffee’s Born to Be Mild Light Roast French Press Grind (around $14 per lb).
Note: For additional “low acid” brands, check out this guide I did previously here.
It would be remiss not to include a quick word about decaf, as plenty of coffee lovers want or need this option. Decafs come in a range of roasts and can make a decent French press cup, especially from the whole bean. If possible, look for coffees decaffeinated without chemicals.
- For a dark roast, try Jeremiah’s Pick Coffee Organic Water Processed Decaf (around $8 for 10oz).
- For a medium/dark roast, try Jo Coffee’s No Fun Jo Decaf Whole Bean (around $12 for 12oz).
- For a medium roast, try Verena Street Coffee’s Sunday Drive Decaf (around $23 for 2lb).
- A further option is trücup’s Fake it to the Limit Decaf French Press Grind (around $14 per lb).
- If you need a low acid option, try Mommee Coffee’s Decaf Organic Coffee (around $16 for 12oz), which, as you might guess from the name, has been specially designed for women at all stages of motherhood.
Our Favorite Coffee Brands for French Press
Koffee Kult Dark Roast
One reviewer said the hint of cinnamon in this coffee goes perfectly with desserts, which made me an instant believer. Here are the cupping notes on Koffee Kult’s website for the Dark Roast blend:
- Heavy body
- Bright with a long finish
Cinnamon aside, the coffee brigade also agreed that this roast is perfect for a French press brewing system because the beans are oily but not bitter delivering that depth of flavor without the bitter aftertaste.
Many people commented on how this roast delivers a strong, flavorful coffee without the bitterness which usually accompanies a strong brew made from 100% Arabica beans.
If you like a strong cup of coffee with a clean aftertaste, this coffee may be a good choice for you.
Kaffeine Koffee Organic Roasted Whole Bean Specialty Gourmet Coffee
If you enjoy a robust cup of coffee, this is the coffee you should try. Online reviews love the fact that you get a full-bodied experience, without the burnt or acidic aftertaste.
Kaffeine Koffee claims their air-roasting process is the reason why their brew can be so flavorful without the bitterness crash that many experiences after pressing dark roast beans. They air-roast small batches of quality coffee beans using state-of-the-art technology that evenly roasts and strips away, they claim, 80% of the acidity in coffee.
Fans say they love the nutty taste and using a French press makes it a more flavorful experience compared to other brewing methods. Kaffeine Koffee offers a money-back guarantee, so it’s worth trying since you have nothing to lose. If they stand behind their brew, maybe you should too.
Kicking Horse Kick Ass Coffee
If you want a bold coffee that can blend in smoothly in lattes and mochas, this coffee is ideal. Reviewers love the sweet and smoky taste of this brew with many commenting how using a French press creates a more flavorful experience.
Kicking Horse as a company prides itself on roasting organic, fair trade coffees 3,000 feet above sea level in Colorado. Their marketing team works hard to create an image and feel for this “kick-ass” brand but for customers; it’s all about taste and value.
Aside from the sweet and smoky flavor that many like, they also appreciate a good deal. The phrase, “can’t beat the value for the price” came up frequently. For those that love saving money almost as much as a good cup of Joe, this bean is for you.
Café Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic Whole Bean Light Roast
Here’s a shout-out to light roast lovers out there. Yes, it’s true that French press coffee brings out the flavor of the bean which is why most turn to darker roasts to get the maximum flavor.
Café Don Pablo offers one variety of organic whole bean coffee that is harvested by using the cherries, or fruit of the coffee bean, as compost to avoid using chemicals. Their website describes the coffee as smooth milk chocolate with notes of honey, caramel, and cocoa.
The coffee enthusiasts online love the smooth, full-bodied chocolate taste of the bean. After researching so many dark roast brews, it’s funny how most reviewers marvel at the fact that they can achieve coffee nirvana with a light roast bean.
The truth is: any coarsely ground coffee can be used in a French press; it’s just that most turn to dark roasts because the bean has the oil that adds to the flavor and aroma when brewed.
This coffee is perfect for those who like a sweeter brew and prefer a light roast.
Hawaiian Gold Kona Coffee
The Kona coffee bean grows on the west coast of Hawaii and is known to be a rich, medium-bodied, and slightly acidic coffee.
Hawaiian Gold Kona Coffee is 10% Kona beans and 90% Arabica beans creating a gourmet blend that is full-bodied, smooth, with most reviewers describing its finish as bright.
The coffee brigade loves the fact that this coffee doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste, and many use a French press to bring out the richness of the Kona and Arabica bean combination. If you like your coffee rich and deep, this gourmet blend will work for you.
Final Brew – The Top 5 Compared
By now, you should have an idea of what kind of coffee will work for you in your French press (more on french press brewers here). If you haven’t done so already, check out reviews to learn more about the beans you’re interested in pressing. Until then, here’s the cheat sheet again with some additional information. Good luck!
|Koffee Kult Dark Roast||Kaffeine Koffee Organic Roast||Kicking Horse Kick Ass Coffee||Café Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic||Hawaiian Gold Kona Coffee|
|Price||$12.34/lb. (.77/oz.)||$14.24/lb. (.89/oz.)||$12.85/lb. (.81/oz.)||$7.12/lb.
|Origin||Columbia, Guatemala & Sumatra||Brazil||Indonesian & South American blend||Honduran coffee from the Marcala Region||Hawaiian Kona and Arabica bean gourmet blend|
|Taste in 3 Words||Strong, smooth, clean||Nutty, strong, bold||Sweet, smoky, chocolate||Sweet, smooth, balanced||Rich, deep, bright|
|Bean %||100% Arabica||100% Arabica||100% Arabica||100% Arabica||10% Kona, 90% Arabica|
|Experience||25+ years||50+ years||20 years||25+ years||25+ years|
So, Which Should You Choose?
Of course, this is a trick question as everyone has different tastes! The nice thing about the French press is that you can experiment and try out different beans until you find the ones you love.
If you’re a complete French press novice, it’s a good idea to start with medium or medium/dark roasts first. True dark roasts can pack quite a punch, while light roasts can take some getting used to, taste-wise.
Whichever beans you choose, make sure you use a coarser grind for your French press (to avoid getting fine coffee grounds in the brewed coffee) and store the opened beans correctly to keep them fresh. Ideally, only buy what you’re going to use over two weeks or so and buy more.
Final Tips on Brewing the Ultimate French Press Coffee
Once you’ve chosen your coffee, here are a few tips to help you get the best out of those beans and enjoy the best possible French press brew:
- Remember the phrase ‘grind as you go’ – to ensure optimal freshness and flavor only grind the number of beans you need for immediate use (check out the best grinders here)
- If you do plan to grind your own beans, invest in a good quality conical burr grinder – it’ll last a long time if properly cared for and will offer up optimally ground beans every time
- Consider the coffee/water ratio – 0.2oz of coffee to 4.2 fl oz (per cup) is a good starting point from which to adjust to your particular taste
- Don’t splash boiling water straight onto the coffee grounds – boil the kettle then let the water cool until it reaches about 203F (or 95C)
- Measure your brewing time – French press coffee is at its best when brewed for between four and seven minutes
- Only brew what you plan to drink – while there are French press makers on the market that promise to keep the coffee hot for long periods, to enjoy your beverage at its best only make as much as you plan to consume immediately after brewing
If you find a coffee you love and brew it correctly, this last tip should be a no-brainer as you’ll find the simple French press can produce an excellent morning pick-me-up or any time coffee fix that’s hard to beat.
Gordon is seriously addicted to coffee. He also likes to write. Match made in heaven? Yes. After years of boring casual coffee drinkers to death with bean origin stories, he took to writing publicly here at 2Caffeinated.