The noble French press has certainly stood the test of time and is still one of the most popular brewers on the market today. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find a kitchen without one, at least sitting dusty at the back of the cupboard. In recent years, though, they’ve gradually been reclaiming their rightful place front and center.
If you’ve found your way here, you must have already welcomed the return of the home brewer’s prodigal son. So what next? What is the best coffee for French press? One firm choice we would recommend for its complex and rewarding flavor profile is this Guatemalan from Volcanica Coffee. Alternatively, keep reading to discover the secrets to finding your new favorite.
The Best Coffee for French Press – Deeper Dive
There are no hard rules for choosing your beans here, and your best coffee for French press will always be a personal decision. You can’t go wrong with any of the coffees featured here, but don’t feel constrained by any particular roast type or origin.
To give you some suggestions and hopefully a clearer idea of what you might like to look for, we will have a closer think about what we like about our favorites and talk you through the process.
Volcanica Coffee – Guatemala Huehuetenango – Best Overall
At A Glance
Roast Profile: Medium Roast
Flavor Profile: Honeysuckle / Pistachio / Spices / Apricot / Molasses
From the Lxlama farm in Huehuetenango, this coffee from Volcanica is packed full of exotic flavors. We’d recommend using nice hot water for this one to really make sure you get all the floral notes out. Generally, the long contact immersion with the French press really lets the complexity develop.
Put in the effort to keep the temperature stable throughout brewing here (you could even try wrapping your pot in a clean tea towel to prevent heat loss). You will be rewarded with one of the most complex and intricate brews we’ve had this year.
This is not roasted so dark that the bitters obscure the delicate floral tones. The nutty notes here are somewhat fruitier than you might expect from a more earthy Brazilian or other Central American coffees.
Coffee Bros. – Kenya AA – Best Light Roast
This Kenyan is actually a blend of two varietals of coffee bean. The SL-28 and SL-34, both prized for their sweetness. The SL series of varieties from Kenya are a product of the Scott Laboratories, a national coffee agricultural research facility. They were developed by the British colonial government in the 1920s and named after the Scottish missionary Dr. Henry Scott.
They are related to the Bourbon variety. Like their distant cousin, these two varieties are highly sought after for their fruity sweetness they deliver in the cup. They are also popular with growers for their extremely high crop yields.
Although usually with a light roast and French press in general, we’d recommend slightly hotter water. This bean, however, benefits from cooler brewing (195 °F / 90 °C) so as not to lose the sweetness.
Blue Bottle – Bold – Best Dark Roast
From Blue Bottle in California, this Bold blend is a great candidate for the French press. If you wanted something consistent and dependable to make you happy year-round, we’d say this Blue Bottle blend is a wonderful choice to keep in stock.
These coffee beans almost beg to be enjoyed after a walk in the woods, or when you’re watching a movie on the sofa. It nearly tastes cozy. For a dark roasted coffee, it retains a high level of sweetness, particularly when prepared by immersion.
Blue Bottle has done a fantastic job of maintaining the quality as they scale up their business. They now produce their own drippers and have a great book on the art of the pour-over. This blend produced for the mass market is a real winner and keeps all the great points of their single-origin offerings. Meanwhile, it still brings the advantage of consistency and year-round availability you might get from a larger commercial roasting chain.
These coffee beans are at their best when brewed as a rich and full-bodied French press. The stone fruit and caramel turn to an almost plum nougat with deep sweetness. Another strong candidate for lower temperature brewing, this Peruvian blend also benefited from a slightly shorter brewing time. Make sure to keep the grind size consistent.
We found that the citrus acidity wasn’t really at the front in this coffee but that it was more of a marmalade tang which is a beautiful contrast to the sweet caramels.
Peruvian coffees have traditionally been viewed as a little flat and lacking a particularly nuanced flavor profile. Still, this blend from Intelligentsia is capitalizing on the increase in quality in recent years. The time they spend sourcing the fruitier and more acidic beans coming out of Peru is clearly paying off in the cup.
At A Glance
Roast Profile: Dark Roast
Origin: Colombia, Urcunina
Flavor Profile: Dark Chocolate / Roasted Nuts / Berries
From the Urcunina and Golondrina regions of Colombia, the coffee beans used in this roast are particularly dense. It allows them to stand up to longer, hotter roasting without losing any of their complexity.
Usually, Colombian coffees tend towards either the full, chocolatey, and nutty tones or the sweet, jam-like berry ones. For this reason, blends of multiple Colombian origins like this one can be superior to Colombian single-origins and, in many ways, offer a clearer image of the region as a whole.
The roasted nut and cocoa tones are balanced perfectly by sharp berries and sweet brown sugar in this cup. This one works particularly well with long-brew techniques to let the sweetness out. The bitters here are very pleasant up to a point and help to create a wonderfully balanced cup of coffee.
At A Glance
Roast Profile: Medium Roast
Flavor Profile: Sweet / Fruity / Hints of Spice
Peaberries are beans that form on their own in a coffee cherry, rather than in a pair as is usual. They lack the flat side that most coffee beans have and are completely spherical. Some people believe that this is a mark of quality or that the peaberry roasts more evenly.
Whether this is true or not, this coffee is known as the “Champagne of Kona” for a reason. Delightfully complex and nearly smoky when brewed in the French press, this is a great example of Hawaiian Kona coffee.
Related Read: Best Kona Coffee
We’d suggest a nice fine grind and a long brew time with this one. Aim for the full five minutes with a traditional approach. If you try the cupping-influenced method we discuss below, you can let it sit for around ten minutes.
Your time investment will definitely be worthwhile here with a brew that is well worth the wait. Think of all the time people have put into your beans at each stage of the process before they reach you, and reward it gratefully with a few extra minutes at your end.
At A Glance
Roast Profile: Medium Roast
Flavor Profile: Grapefruit / Caramel / Sugarcane / Cocoa
Grown on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro at the Nglia Estate, this micro-lot coffee is a brilliant ambassador for high-altitude African coffee. The cooler temperatures allow the cherries to ripen slower, capitalizing on the natural sweetness of the SL-28 varietal. It is then slowly dried on raised beds after washing the pulp.
Sugarcane and caramel sweetness result from these painstaking efforts here, and it is provided with a perfect foil in the cocoa and almost pithy grapefruit bitterness.
So as not to allow the bitters to become overwhelming and mask the sweetness in this coffee, it is best brewed for a shorter time. You could experiment with leaning towards a slightly coarser grind setting.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Coffee for French Press
The French press is a lot more approachable and forgiving than other brew methods, and this leaves it quite open to interpretation and experimentation. There is a classic style of coffee French press brings to mind. Much like the aesthetic of the pot itself, it evokes a smooth and elegant cup, yet with a dark and moody underbelly. At once, full-bodied and sweet.
But you needn’t stick to expectations of a certain form. Why not break the mold and try a fruity light roast, perhaps a zingy and vibrant African. There is no reason not to. The French press works well for any type of coffee, whatever your preference.
Should You Choose a Single-Origin or a Blend?
There’s no real right or wrong between single-origin and blends as far as the French press is concerned. It’s very much a matter of personal preference. It is worth considering your shopping habits and expectations here, though.
If you want a staple that will be the same every time you go to that bag on your shelf, irrespective of season, you will want a blend. These are made to a certain flavor profile by roasters, and the exact quantities and origins of the beans may vary to suit.
A single-origin will fit you better if you prefer a surprise and favor exotic character and wildly varying flavor nuances. This can be a great way to get to know what you like and what you don’t like and guide you when choosing blends.
Things to Consider When Brewing Your Coffee
Depending on your preference, there are different ways you can opt to brew in your French press. What path should you take to get the best out of your chosen beans? There are a number of tweaks at your disposal to capitalize on different qualities in your coffee. It’s a great fun method to play with, and unless you go really off-book, you are unlikely to get any undrinkable results.
For more in-depth information, read our guide to brewing coffee in a French Press.
Why French Press?
With so many options available to brew your coffee these days, should you even bother with a hundred-year-old method? We certainly think you should. They get a bit of a bad rap in specialty coffee circles, which is quite unnecessary when they are done right.
You can certainly get a good cup from a French press if you use good coffee and an adequate technique. In fact, because of its relative simplicity, it can be a great way to experiment with variables and learn more about extraction.
Plus, it’s a very affordable option, and a lot of people have one at home already.
It’s also very easy to scale your brews to serve more people at a time without having to alter your recipe. This makes it great for when you have company over. To accommodate everyone, we’d recommend this 17oz Bodum Kenya French press.
Grind size, as with all coffee extraction methods, is fundamental here. Too coarse, and you will get under-extracted, slightly sour coffee. Too fine, and you will over-extract your beans and get too many bitters. Because of the contact time between grinds and water in total immersion techniques like this, they can be prone to over-extraction.
With that being said, the traditional advice to only grind coarse can be a little extreme. It will vary somewhat according to your exact method of brewing in your French press. For the most part, as long as you stay on the coarser side of medium (think something chunkier than you would for your pour-over) you won’t get anything too full-bodied or over-extracted.
One of the reasons to only grind coarse is to avoid silt in your finished cup, which is a much bigger risk with a finer grind. On the other hand, if you are careful to avoid agitating the settled fines from the coffee bed, you should be ok. You could try the James Hoffmann method and see how much that affects the solids in your cup.
Another thing to consider with the grind is that cheaper grinders tend to produce more fines at coarser settings. So, conversely, the coarser you go sometimes, the more problems you will find you have with over (and uneven) extraction.
Let’s Have a Clean Fight
Cleanliness is another key to a good cup. Old grinds and oils will really spoil your brew in a French press, and you must make sure they are all gone before starting your next cup. It’s not like a wok you’re trying to season here; you want your new coffee to taste like new coffee, not old coffee. Particularly with darker roasts, there are a lot of oils, and care must be taken to remove them.
Usually, a good thorough wash is ok, and then maybe once a week you could take more serious measures to prevent build-up. Try to avoid chemical cleaners that are often chlorine-based. Natural citric acid will do just as well. Fill your press up with hot water and drop one teaspoon of baking powder in, then gently plunge the filter in and leave it all to soak before emptying and giving it a rinse out.
Much the same as other brew methods, the water temperature will affect the extraction of your coffee beans. A hotter temperature will extract faster and accentuate more acidic and floral flavors. Cooler temperatures will favor darker flavors as they will rein in the bitters that can overpower more subtle chocolatey notes.
Generally speaking, we like to use a water temperature of around 205 °F (96 °C) with a French press.
Another advantage of the French press is that it is very easy (and cheap) to get control of your water temperature. Unlike with an espresso machine, it is very simple to do with immersion brewing. Since it doesn’t require a delicate pour like a V60 or Chemex, you can literally just leave your regular kettle off the boil for half a minute before pouring the water straight over.
We would encourage you to buy a thermostatically controlled, goose-neck kettle if you want more precision, though. You will need one if you plan on trying other brew methods, plus they look amazing on your kitchen counter.
The traditionally recommended brew time is four or five minutes with a French press. This does depend on a few factors, though. Extraction rates drop off as the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pot. With some methods, you can brew for over ten minutes without over-extraction.
What Else Can You Use Your French Press For?
Besides producing a great cup of hot immersion brewed coffee, you can make a few different drinks with a French press. They are convenient for cold brew, eliminating the need for a separate filter. Remember to decant if you are planning on brewing a large batch of cold brew and saving some for later.
There are several suggestions online for producing espresso with your French press. Unfortunately, as espresso must be brewed under pressure, it is impossible to recreate this exactly in a French press. You can, however, create a rough approximation by brewing a concentrate with a short ratio (a lot of coffee to not so much water).
You can even have a go at pairing your “espresso” with some steamed milk frothed and foamed in your French press. It won’t be a bona fide macchiato, but it should hit the spot.
If you’re feeling really experimental, you can try using your French press to brew coffee infused with dry fruit to build some truly funky creations.
What Roast Profile Works Best for French Press?
As mentioned above, although tradition would suggest you brew with a darker roast when using a French press, there is no need to stick to these exclusively. The French press will work just as well with a light roast. It all depends on whether you would prefer a rich and smoky coffee or if you would rather opt for a bright and lively cup.
Does French Press Have a High Caffeine Content Compared to Other Brew Methods?
Generally speaking, immersion methods like French press have a slightly higher caffeine content than coffees extracted with other techniques. This is due to the longer contact time between the ground coffee and the water.
As with the extraction levels of other compounds and elements in coffee, though, extraction of caffeine is increased with a finer grind. With this in mind, it will depend somewhat on your exact process when brewing.
Related Read: How Much Caffeine In Coffee?
Is French Press As Simple as It Seems?
French press is a great option for those who may be relatively new to specialty coffee. While you have complete control of a lot of variables, it is generally quite a merciful method. A few seconds too long in the pot won’t really hurt it, and equally, you will get away with being slightly out with your grind size.
You don’t need much kit to get started and can quite quickly learn how to brew an enjoyable cup of coffee.
Is the French Press Actually French?
This is a topic of much debate. There certainly was an arguably very similar device patented in 1852 by French nationals Mayer and Delforge. This original was lacking in the internal, sealed plunger as we know it today. It wasn’t until 1929, with Italians Calimani and Moneta’s patenting of their coffee brewer, that we saw anything we would recognize as a French press.
So is it an Italian press? The plot thickens as Faliero Bondanini (Swiss) manufactured what would be most familiar to modern audiences in 1958 and called it the Chambord. This was certainly very popular in France, and it was at this point that it began to be commonly referred to as a French press.
This was then marketed in the UK as La Cafetière Classic. It was then bought out by Danish company Bodum, who tried to register the trademark French Press to no avail.
It would seem then that perhaps European press would be more accurate strictly.
What we like best about the French press is its ability to really allow the complexity of a coffee’s flavor profile to develop in harmony when brewed correctly. While you might not get the bright clarity achievable with a pour-over, you can be sure of a great cup of coffee.
Coffees like the Guatemalan from Volcanica are prime examples of beans that benefit from this brew method. We think that the French press is at its peak when used to brew coffees with a full body profile. All of the beans featured on our list have a fantastic sweetness. They produce truly great French press coffee when balanced correctly against the bitters and acidic notes.