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.
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.
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 preferred 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.
- Brazil – 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.
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 Volcanica coffee roasters. The peaberry is a coffee bean that grows as a single in the fruit, as opposed to the regular beans that grow in a pair inside the coffee cherry. This natural mutation gives the peaberry a better taste, and these coffees are prized by coffee connoisseurs.
This Brazilian peaberry coffee is from the Santana estate, and roasted and packed by Volcanica. This is a smooth coffee, but intense, with nutty flavor, and raspberry notes, which balances perfectly the richness.
A medium roast is the perfect roasting level for a these beans. This is one of the nicest Brazilian roasts that you will find on the market and will perfectly complement your French pot.
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.
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.
The next coffee I feel would be best for the French press is the Colombian medium roast from Amazon Fresh. Colombian coffees known as being full-bodied with a smooth finish. 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 roast would be a bit too much.
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe – Fresh Roast
I had to include an Ethiopian coffee in my selection! Ethiopian coffees are the real deal. Ethiopia is the birthplace of 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.
I know what you are thinking, “a medium light for French press?” But let’s break the mold a little bit, and forget the “dark roast” preconception. Let’s get bold and taste some terroir in our French press. It would take you a few tries to get accustomed with the lighter roast, but you will eventually fall in love with it.
If you can’t stand the idea, the same company sells some dark roasted Yirgacheffe, which is great. The dark roast would cover some of the earthy tones and will produce delicious, rich coffee, with caramel tones. Volcanica also has a great Yirgacheffe medium roast.
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 for 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.