What's the Best Coffee for French Press?

On the face of it, the French press coffee maker is one of the simplest brewing methods there is: Grind coffee, add hot water, wait a few minutes, and then press the plunger. What could be simpler?

There's one really important step you're missing: if you pick the wrong beans, you end up with a chewy cup of bitter-tasting mud instead of the rich, sophisticated brew you're longing for.

What coffee beans brew up the best French press coffee? Let's review the way the French press works to understand how to choose the best coffee beans for a French press.

TOP PICK: Sleepy Monk French Roast Sumatran

Roasted to a deep black with a sheen of oil, these Sumatran beans produce a full-bodied up in any brewing method, but what they do in French press brewing is little short of magical. With a smoky tang reminiscent of the sear from a charcoal fire, the earthy, mushroomy Sumatran scent is rich and delicious.

Getting the Most Out Of Your French Press

Because the French press uses a stainless steel mesh filter to screen out the grounds, more of the delicious oils and solids from the coffee bean end up in your cup. Some coffee drinkers like the "chewy" texture produced by a French press, while others object to it. There are ways to minimize the mud, but essentially, steeping coffee grounds in water and then pressing them down with a mesh filter is going to leave a little bit of silt in your cup.

pouring hot coffee from a pot to a cup

The traditional solution to this is to use coarse ground coffee. In addition to reducing the number of tiny particles that the mesh filter can't capture, a coarse grind tends to make French press coffee sweeter and less bitter, as we discuss in our coffee grind size article.

When shopping for the right beans, most French press coffee lovers prefer a medium roast or a dark roast. The French press brew method reduces the perceived bitterness that some people object to with dark roasts. Mostly, though, it's for the simple reason that a smoky, dark brew just suits the character of the press pot.

The usual keys to getting great coffee with any brew method, of course, work for the French press:

  • Stay away from pre-ground coffee - it loses its freshness too quickly. 
  • Buy whole bean coffee and grind it immediately before brewing.
  • Use a good coffee grinder (refer to our article on burr grinders for recommendations).
  • Purchase from reliable coffee roasters that roast their beans fresh
PRO TIP: The French press can take a slightly higher coffee-to-water ratio, with more coffee than the SCAA's "golden ratio" of 55 grams per liter. Our article on using a French press includes a strength calculator suggests starting with 27g of coffee for 350 ml of water - about 3/4 of the water you'd expect to use for that much coffee in, say, a drip coffee maker.

So with all that in mind, here are our five choices for the best beans to use in your French press:

Five Beans for Great Coffee with a French Press

IMAGEPRODUCTFEATURES
hg-table__imageSleepy Monk French Roast Sumatran
  • Wet-hull processing used in Sumatra lends earthy, mushroomy flavor to beans
  • Very dark French roast brings out the natural oils and a deep smoky aroma
  • Small-batch roasting helps ensure freshness
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hg-table__imagePeet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend
  • All-time best-seller from one of the leaders in dark roast coffee
  • Rich and complex, full-bodied
  • Roasted to order, same-day shipping ensures freshness
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hg-table__imageEthiopian Yirgacheffe (Volcanica)
  • Floral, fruity aromas really blossom in the French press
  • Medium-roast beans for a sweeter cup
  • Ripe strawberry, pineapple guava over layers of cedar, lavender, and chocolate
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hg-table__imageStone Street Colombian Supremo
  • Single-origin Arabica beans also a favorite for cold brew coffee
  • Smooth, sweet, well-balanced, and bold
  • Notes of fruit, chocolate, and caramel
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hg-table__imageCelebes Kalossi "Blackbird" Dark Roast (Joe's Coffee House)
  • From the Masalle region of Sulawesi at altitudes from 900-1300 meters
  • Equatorial location and elevation ideal for growing great coffee
  • Combines bold, well-balanced acidity with hints of herb and licorice
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What pairing could be more natural than a French press and a French roast? Traditionally the darkest beans around, French roast coffee has an appealingly clean, astringent mouthfeel but, surprisingly, less acid and caffeine than lighter roasts.

We love Sumatran coffee for a French roast because the wet-hull processing used for Sumatran beans gives them an earthy, mushroomy flavor that makes it a natural for an ultra-dark brew. Sleepy Monk's Sumatran French Roast, sourced from the Aceh region at the northernmost tip of Sumatra, combines a dark, toasty aroma with a velvety mouthfeel and great bite. Pair this one with crispy bacon for an unbelievably delicious breakfast.


If French roast is too smoky for you, there's a whole world of dark roast coffee to choose from. One of the most reliable is Major Dickason's Blend from Peet's Coffee. Founded by Alfred Peet in Berkeley, California in the 1960s, Peet's has always focused on dark roasts. Peet's online orders are roasted and shipped the same day, so you know your coffee beans will be as fresh as possible when they arrive.

Their Major Dickason's blend, named after an early supporter of the original shop, brews up a rich, satisfying cup of coffee that's a great everyday choice. It's delicious in pour over or drip coffee makers, as well as in a Moka pot, but it's a superb way to experience the magic of the French press. This is a blend crafted for a rich flavor profile, with spicy, complex notes and a full body. 


ethiopian coffee in the mountains

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and it still produces some of the finest, and truly unique, coffees in the world. Ethiopian coffee tends to have fruity flavors, with blueberry prominent in some of their best beans.

Volcanica's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is distinct in that the bulk of each crop is harvested from wild coffee trees, resulting in a coffee with floral and fruit tones from the Arabica beans grown in the area for generations.

Volcanica's tasting notes for this coffee list ripe strawberry, dark chocolate, lavender-like floral notes and aromatic cedar in the cup. This is a medium-roast coffee, which contrasts with the typical dark roast normally associated with the French press.


Stone Street Colombian Supremo

The Stone Street Colombian Supremo is a great roast of a favorite single-origin Arabica coffee from one of the world's most respected growing regions, and the beans grown here are considered some of the best in the world. While this is one of our recommendations for cold brew, it's also well suited to the French press.

These high-quality dark roast Colombian Supremo beans yield a smooth, sweet, well-balanced, and bold coffee flavor. When combined with the deep and rich results made possible by the French press brew method, this Colombian is characterized by notes of fruit, chocolate, and caramel.


The Indonesian island of Sulawesi was called Celebes for hundreds of years, ever since the Dutch first brought coffee trees to the region at the end of the 17th century. Its equatorial location makes it a natural source for great coffee, and the Kalossi name, one of the island's better-known cities, has long been associated with great coffee.

Joe's Coffee House names their dark roast "Blackbird," after the Sulawesi drong, a rainforest bird with feathers with the color and sheen of a deep-roasted black coffee bean. Grown in the Masalle region at altitudes from 900-1300 meters, Blackbird combines bold, well-balanced acidity with hints of herb and licorice. Pair this one with your favorite breakfast muffin spread with bitter orange marmalade.


The Verdict

Our choice: Sleepy Monk French Roast Sumatran.

It's not just coincidence that French Roast is our pick for the type of coffee that works best with a French press. One glance at these ebony beans with an oily sheen and you know the rich flavors from those oils will fill your mouth. And Sumatran beans have an umami character that makes them especially delicious, whether you take yours black or with a little cream and sugar.

Now that you've read our recommendations on beans that will really show the French press off to best advantage, why not take a look at the details in our article on how to use a French press? As with so many other aspects of the passion for coffee, it's a simple thing, but one that can reward a lifetime of practice. Enjoy!

Have you tried any of these coffees? Do you have a special bean you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.