While the average coffee drinker is perfectly fine consuming an average cup of coffee made in a conventional automatic drip coffee machine, true java aficionados will eventually discover and take a liking for the French press style of coffee-making.
Instead of having your brew drip into a pot through a paper filter, the French press method involves steeping the grounds in hot water for about 3-4 minutes. Many proponents of this brew style claim that it offers enhanced flavor potency due to the fact that the grounds are submerged in the water as opposed to the passive drip fill system that a typical coffee machine uses.
If you’ve recently enjoyed a strong and full-flavored cup of French press and are wondering how you could make this delicious hot beverage for yourself at home, you might be surprised to learn that it isn’t just the brewing process that creates the taste. To make the real deal, you’ll need to use the best ground coffee beans for French press coffee-making.
Technically, you can use any kind of coffee bean for brewing French press, but most people prefer a medium to dark-roasted bean. Generally, the darker the bean, the more oils there will be in the coffee, which ultimately means more flavor. Keep in mind that each kind of coffee bean will have varying brewing methods that can be used to achieve the desired taste.
Coffee drinkers who opt for light-colored beans are not after a bold taste, so the brew time would be shortened. With a French press, the goal is to achieve a strong, full-bodied brew. You'll usually find more information about the specific bean's roasting method on the package. With that in mind, let's talk about the best beans to use for a French press brew:
What are the Best Whole Coffee Beans for French Press?
There are four main species of coffee beans: Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta. Of course, most coffee drinkers know that the majority of beans sold are Arabica, and coffee sellers often use the term “100% Arabica” as if it means the beans are of a higher quality. While the other three bean species can be equally tasty in their own ways, when you’re trying to make the best whole bean coffee French press, it’s best to choose a medium-dark Arabica blend.
Features to Look for in the Best Coffee for French Press
Low Acidity. Many rich coffee beans produce a very acidic brew. While all coffee is acidic to a degree, properly grown organic coffee beans will often be less acidic than those that are commercially mass-produced with the use of synthetic chemicals. Perhaps more relevant is the fact that the darker beans are less acidic due to their maturity – similar to fruit becoming less acidic as it ripens further. Finding coffee beans that produce a low-acid brew will ensure that you can enjoy multiple cups on a daily basis without frequently experiencing acid reflux and other upset stomach symptoms.
As a bonus tip, if you’re using beans that are slightly more acidic, you can reduce their acidity by roasting them for an extended period of time at higher-than-normal roasting temperatures. Grinding the beans coarsely and keep larger grounds is another way to reduce acidity by limiting the exposed surface volume of the bean fragments. Fortunately, by choosing a darker coffee bean you’ll naturally be getting lower levels of chlorogenic acid in your brew.
Dark-Colored. A typical French press coffee bean should have a medium-dark roast. It’s uncommon to see someone using a light-colored bean for making French press, but you can hypothetically use any kind of bean in a French press. When lighter beans are used, the drink is referred to as “light roast French press.”
Single-Origin. Many coffee bean companies will source their products through the wholesale markets from multiple farms and vendors. As a result, they can’t reliably track and vouch for the quality standards of every farmer, transporter, and other entity within the supply chain. For this reason, some coffee enthusiasts opt for brands that sell coffee beans grown and sourced from a single point of origin. While this is an optional luxury, it certainly does feel nice to know exactly where your coffee beans were grown. In terms of geographic origin, the most popular kinds of beans used in French press making come from Latin American and African countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Kenya, Malawi, and Ethiopia.
Roasted in Small Batches. Beans that are roasted in huge batches within very large commercial roasters can sometimes be unevenly roasted. For a more precise and consistent French press flavor, look for brands that promise small-batch roasting.
Choose a brand that makes high-quality coffee beans – The key to making the perfect cup of French press coffee starts with the quality of the coffee beans. To produce a consistent cup of coffee in your French press, you must make sure you use the very best coffee beans for brewing. For maximum flavor, the coffee beans should be as fresh as possible. Whether you’re an avid coffee drinker or have just started drinking coffee, you should be able to tell whether beans are fresh based on the strength of the aroma that they emit.
Popular Products that Get the Best French Press Coffee Reviews
While there are probably hundreds of companies that sell pre ground coffee for French press, there are a few that really stand out from the rest. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Cameroon Peaberry, Tanzania AA, Colombian Supremo, and Sumatran Arabica are some of the different varieties and product types that are popular with French press enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for the best store-bought coffee for French press, it’s best to stick to the general rules of thumb outlined above within the “Features to Look For” section of this guide. Recommending a specific brand or product for you to look for at your local grocery store might lead you on a wild goose hunt because there are so many brands to choose from and they aren’t always available in every store location. Instead, follow the simple principles of looking for a medium-dark roast from a quality single-origin source. Popular brands that are known for selling French press roasts include Mystic Monk, Ceremony Coffee, Dallmayr, Lifeboost, and Huckleberry Roasters.
Bonus Tips for Making Good French Press Coffee
When brewed and steeped for the proper amount of time and at the right temperature, all French press tastes good to a coffee lover. However, the one downside that many people don’t enjoy is the ground sediment that collects at the bottom of the cup and can sometimes make its way into your sips. Here are a few tips to help you make a smooth and enjoyable cup of French press instead of a cup of silty mud:
- Avoid pre-ground coffee beans – Pre-ground beans lose their freshness within hours of the package being opened, whereas whole beans keep all of that flavor locked in. If you’re going to take the time to invest in making proper French press for a premium brew, using pre-ground beans would almost defeat the purpose.
- Keep the grounds coarse – The finer the grounds are, the more likely that some of them will wind up in your cup of coffee. It might seem like leaving the coffee in larger chunks would keep some of the flavor trapped inside the bean – and it may – but a large ground size means less silt and that’s good when you want to avoid a muddy cup of French press.
- Use a Second Fine Strainer – When you combine the larger and coarse ground sizes with a second fine strainer, you can get a cup of French press that doesn’t have any silt in it at all. Be prepared to wait for a while for the coffee to drip through the strainer, but your patience will be rewarded with a cup of coffee that is completely free of micro-grounds.
- Let the Silt Settle – Finally, if you choose to grind the beans finely and don’t mind having a bit of silt at the bottom of your cup, you can still render the sediment a non-factor by letting it settle for a while. As a related tip: when you turn the cup to take a sip, tilt the handle slowly and the silt should stay off your palate.
Don’t Forget to Choose a Good French Press!
Now that you know what kind of beans and roasts to opt for when making French press, remember to spend some time shopping for a French press that will help you make the best brew possible. For a personal brewer, you might want to opt for a small 3-cup French press, while someone with a like-minded partner would want a larger press that makes 8 to 12 cups. Luckily, a French press is a relatively simple apparatus that will usually cost no more than $10 to $100 at the most, so you could easily buy several and give them each a try to see which one brews the best cup of coffee to your liking.