Best Coffee for French Press Brewing

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When I am asked what is the best coffee for French press, or the best beans for manual drip, I usually hesitate. Recommending a coffee to someone can be a very difficult task. This is because everybody has different tastes and preferences. A type of coffee I like, might be completely wrong for you. Stick with me, and I'll show you how to find out what's best for you.

Personally, I like medium roast, African, single origin coffees, such as coffees from Ethiopia, Kenya or Rwanda that have a fruity and bright body. This is very different to most coffee drinkers. South American coffees, for example, are much more popular than African coffees. One of my favorite single origins is the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, check my review here.

On this page, I picked coffees that would work best in a French press and that would suit the palate of a coffee drinker who is partial to press pot coffee. You will note that I picked richer coffees, typical of South America and darker roasts in general; all qualities very popular among North American coffee lover.

Freshly Brewed French Press Coffee

Photo by Christy via Flickr.

I usually look for coffee that is of single origin and that is small batch roasted. This formula is perfect for getting some of the best beans for French press. The reason is that single origins will have their distinctive personality, and that will be found in the final cup. Again this is just what I prefer and is not a rule of thumb.

Remember the Basics of Selecting a Great Coffee

Choosing beans for French press is like choosing for any other brewing method, you need to follow some basic rules. Let's recap the basics of specialty coffee.

  • It is always a good idea to buy coffee in smaller quantities so that it doesn't go stale in your cupboard. Many roasters like to sell their coffee in big bags 2 to 5 pound. This is something to be aware of when you are buying your coffee. It's always better to buy in smaller quantities.
  • Make sure that coffee you buy is whole beans. If you buy ground coffee you may as well be buying cheap, badly roasted coffee. This is because most of the essential flavors in a coffee bean are released just minutes after the coffee has been ground. The product you will receive won't taste anything like the original coffee that was farmed.
  • This also means you need a decent coffee grinder. This will help with a consistent grind, which is critical for French press.

Tasting Notes for Major Coffee Origins

If you landed on this page is probably because you have at least some idea about how the local environment and growing conditions affect the taste of coffee. There is also the processing aspect, and although wet processing is considered safer, dry processing could be more rewarding in the end, with tasting notes that cannot be obtained with washed coffees.

Here are some guides on how the major coffee sources taste, but keep in mind, great single farm, or single lot coffees, are often totally different from the rest of the coffees. That's what makes them great. We focused this list on coffees with a medium and full body, which are the prefered coffee for a French press.

  • Indian Coffee - full bodied with low acidity and a creamy texture.
  • Sumatra - a full body with syrup and chocolate notes. Smooth and rich.
  • Sulawesi - low acidity with a heavy body and earthy notes.
  • Hawaii - medium body - chocolate and fruit notes.
  •  Brasil - heavy body with chocolate and caramel notes.
  • Costa Rica - full body with a clean finish and mild flavor.
  •  Ethiopia - a light to medium body with intense floral notes and a high acidity. 
  • Kenya - Kenyan coffee is bright with a medium to full body and a distinct acidity with wine notes.

Some More Notes on Origin Flavor

As you see, coffees from different countries and regions, typically have different tastes. African coffees are famous for being fruity, bright, acidic and flavorful. South American coffees, on the other hand, would often have darker, nutty, chocolatey, sweet and caramel notes.

For this reason, some people think that South American coffees generally suit the French press better than African coffees. Have some fun and experiment with different coffees in your French pot.

Brazil Peaberry – Best coffee for French press

For my first choice for the best French press coffee, I went with the single origin Brazil Peaberry from Rising Sun coffee roasters. The Peaberry is a very rare and delicious type of roast that only uses a small part of the bean and it is always worth giving it a try.

Brazilian coffees are very dark in nature and for this reason, they usually compliment the French pot very well. To balance the dark Brazilian notes, I went with a medium roast, sweet tasting coffee. A dark roasted Brazilian coffee prepared in a French press can often be too strong for the standard coffee drinker.

This coffee is rich but sweet which is a very effective combination for the French press. Rising Sun roast a little at a time instead of roasting in bulk which is a big plus as well. This is one of the nicest Brazilian roasts that you will find on the market and will perfectly complement your French pot.

Check our dedicated article if you want to know more about peaberry coffee.

Coffee Cupping

Image by Christy via Flickr

If you are someone who likes to try new things, you should definitely try a lighter roast, against the general trend. You will love it. I only included here medium roasts. If you have a sensitive stomach though, stick to darker roasted beans, they are less irritant for your stomach. If your stomach is fine, try transitioning to light roasts.

It takes a bit to get used to a light roast. You need a week or so to get used to the new taste, but it's totally worth the transition time. Lighter roasts carry more of the natural bean aroma and flavor. Some describe it as earthy. I love this flavor, and the African beans are the best when they are lightly roasted.

Take your time to discover how a coffee with caramel and sweet tones compares to a coffee bean with earthly qualities. Lighter roasts carry more of the bean's character into the cup.

Many people choose for their French press, a Brazilian coffee or an African one. These are totally different directions, and they show the versatility of the French press brewing method. 

If you go with a Brazilian coffee, look for a medium dark coffee, similar to a traditional espresso blend.

On the other hand, if you go with an African bean, you will get more acidity, but less body. This will taste a little closer to a drip coffee. If you blend the two, you will get the perfect combination. But you can still get a single origin like the White Eagle - Toraja Sulawesi which has both ample body, and a little acidity. 

And I like finer grinds for brewing my French pot coffee. Everybody is different and has different tastes. Take a look at my French press brewing tutorial if you want some great tips.

It will take some trial and error to find the perfect coffee and combination for your French pot. A good idea is to buy coffee bean samples to taste coffee from a region that you haven’t tried before, instead of buying a whole bag only to realize that you don’t like that sort of coffee! I wish you luck in your French press coffee tasting journey.

One more thing before I point you to some beans. As I suggested before, try blending your own. This is the one thing that can take your coffee to a new level. Blending has a bad connotation because you as a buyer, don't know what coffee is in the blend. However, when you blend, you have full control over what's going in the blend.

Colombia JO, Medium Roast – Jo Coffee

The next coffee I feel would be best for the French press is the Columbian roast from Jo Coffee. Colombia is also famous, like many of its South American neighbors, for a darker tasting coffee. Again, I chose a medium roasted Colombian coffee because the French pot naturally brings out fuller, more robust flavors in coffee and so a dark origin medium roast is perfect for the French press.

Jo Coffee roasts in small quantities and not in large batches.

A big plus as well is that their coffee is all organic. I don’t only buy organic coffee, but I am always happy when I see one.

Buying fair-trade is a great choice. It ensures sustainability for small farmers. You can be sure that the coffee, the land, and the workers were all treated properly throughout the coffee making process.

 

Here is a video that shows the basics of French press brewing. This is the technique proposed by the mainstream coffee culture.

If you want to break the mainstream advice, check my article on French press.

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe – Lavanta Coffee Roasters

I had to include an Ethiopian coffee in my selection! Ethiopian coffees are the real deal. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and is the staple for good coffee. The Yirgacheffe region in southern Ethiopia is famous for some of the finest coffee around and you can be sure you'll get the very best when you buy the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. In my opinion, Yirgacheffe is one of the best french press coffees.

I picked a dark roast, Ethiopian coffee is typically milder tasting. The dark roast would cover some of the earthy tones and will produce delicious, rich coffee, with caramel tones. Lavanta also directly trade with the coffee farmers so you can be assured of product quality as well as fair worker treatment. Check this coffee on Amazon.

Toraja Sulawesi Coffee, White Eagle

Toraja Sulawesi - "White Eagle" is a shade grown coffee by the Toraja trees, at higher altitudes. 

The production of the White Eagle is very small, partly due to the specific environmental conditions, (in the jungle), partly because the plants do not have a significant yield in the first place.

However, the coffee is very prized by coffee connoisseurs for its unique taste. A big body, like all other Indonesian coffees, syrupy, a little earthy, with clover notes and deep chocolate undertones.

All these are balanced by a medium-low acidity that makes a perfect cup when brewed in a French press.

Because this coffee is so unique, is harvested and kept separately from other beans, and the yearly production is between 300 and 600 bags. 

You can also take a look at Volcanica's Kenya AA which is a slightly more acidic, and has a little less body, if that's your taste. 

Or you can check our page about Volcanica Coffee, where we review the company and a few great beans of theirs. 

Instead of Conclusion

French press coffee lovers usually like it for the bold taste, ample body, and the strength. Because of this, many times they like to use darker roasts, that extract easier, and they give more body to your cup. Light roasted African coffees, with floral notes and more acidity work well in a French press, but the majority of French press enthusiasts will not appreciate it. They look for sweeter beans, with cocoa and caramel notes, in other words espresso beans. If this is you, (I have to confess that I am a sucker fe sweet chocolatey beans too), you might look into our article about the best coffee beans for espresso. I reviewed in that article a few of my favorite espresso beans.

If you are a little more adventurous, you might try to brew some lighter roasted African beans, such as Kenyan and Ethiopian. Do not go for the lightest roast, it does not work well in a French press. You can choose a medium-light roast, which will preserve the origin's delicate flavors, and allow a full extraction at normal brewing temperatures. 

People compare French press to AeroPress, and they are in many way similar, but are still different in many ways. For this reason, I recommend you take a look at our article about the best coffees for AeroPress

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee Beans

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffees are gathered from wild coffee trees. This wild coffee has a unique exotic flavor with a pleasant acidity.

This coffee is a medium roast, which is the perfect way to roast African beans for a French press.

Yirgacheffe is a complex coffee with distinctive floral notes that gives its distinctive taste. The floral notes are a result of partly the unique terroir of the growing region, and partly the processing method. 

This coffee is dry processed so the floral notes are somewhat muted, but in my opinion this is a good thing, because wet processed Ethiopian are a little too floral. 

This Yirgacheffe is sweet, with notes of strawberry and guava, with dark chocolate. 

The floral, lavender notes are supplemented by subtle cedar undertones.

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