Certain coffee beans, roasts, and grinds lend themselves best to specific brewing methods. Today we’re looking at one of my favorite brewing methods, the French Press; to determine the best coffee for French Press and more specifically, which are the best coffee beans for French Press?
- Costa Rican Tarazzu Amapola beans
- Medium Grind
- 1-2 Minutes Steeping
Steep vs. Drip vs. Pressure
In my humble opinion, the French Press is one of the purest methods of brewing. By “purest”, I mean that the hot water has an opportunity to steep the coffee grounds, thus slowly and gently drawing the oils out of the coffee beans. These oils are where all the bioflavonoids, antioxidants, caffeine, and flavor reside.
Other brewing methods are variations of using pressure to extract the oils, or allowing water to drip through the grounds, or multiple passes of the same water through the grounds.
I figure if Asians have been steeping tea for millennia to extract tea oil, there’s probably a good reason for it and my testing proves that steeping is one of the best ways to extract coffee oils as well.
Best Coffee For French Press
What kind of coffee do you like best? If you like burnt and bitter industrial coffee, then any bean, roast, or brewing method will suffice.
On the other hand, if you like coffee that actually tastes like real coffee; coffee where you can taste the bean instead of the roaster; coffee where you can taste prominent unique flavors like Chocolate, Citrus, Nut, etc.
Today we’re going to talk about smooth coffee, i.e. non-bitter, non-burnt; coffee with at least 3 prominent flavors.
French Press Basics
The French Press is raw. What I mean is that there’s no “funny business” going on. No pressure, no filter, no fancy-dancy high tech. The beans sit (steep) in hot water and then the grounds are filtered out. That’s it. Period. End of story.
What you end up with is pure unchanged coffee. In my opinion, if the beans are bitter, this process will accentuate that bitter taste. On the other hand, if your beans are naturally sweet and super smooth (non-bitter), then the French Press will accentuate those attributes as well.
In my opinion, nearly all French Press coffee that I’ve had has been more bitter than it should have been. That’s because the person brewing the coffee has the wrong grind or steeped the grounds too much.
Best Coffee Beans For French Press
I like smooth coffee; super smooth coffee. I hate bitter and I hate burnt. Generally speaking coffee beans from Africa and Asia tend to be bold and bitter. Beans from South America tend to be acidic. But, beans from Central America tend to be smooth (non-bitter).
Costa Rican beans are unique in that they are not just smooth, but they also have fairly prominent flavors. After spending years scouring Costa Rica, I came across the Tarazzu region. The coffee there is smooth as silk and has wonderful flavors. Further search, brought me to the Amapola co-op plantations, which had not only naturally sweet beans that were extremely smooth (non-bitter), but these beans also had several complex flavors, leaving the palate wanting more.
Each year Alisha, my wife and business partner, do a taste test of a variety of coffee beans from around the world and from around Costa Rica. And each year we pick Costa Rican, Tarazzu, Amapola coffee beans. Then we purchase about a ton of beans to last the year.
Grinding The Beans
Most people don’t realize that brewing techniques are at least half of the equation for making a great cup of coffee. As I write this blog post, I’m doing, yet again, another grinding test for my French Press. Each grind will use the same bean, same roast, same, French Press and steep each for 2 minutes, with half the time stirring. Here are the results and tasting notes.
- Medium/Fine Grind – Stronger, slight bitter, with only a hint of flavor
- Medium Grind – Slightly smoother, one dull but primary flavor
- Course Grind – Definitely Smoother with multiple complex flavors
Another important question to ask yourself is how strong you want your coffee. Again, the nature of the beans, roast, and grind will make a difference. Therefore you need to experiment. Typically, 2 or 3 tries and you’ll come close to your optimum cup of heaven. For my tastes and my 18oz mug, I use ¼-1/3 Cup of course grounds.
As far as grinders go, always buy a burr grinder. That’s a type of grind, not a brand. Burr grinders produce very consistently sized grounds. See my “Brewing Equipment” page under the “Shopping” tab. Burr grinders are typically about $30-50.
Steeping The Grounds
The goal here is to steep the ground only to the point of pulling out the oils. To little steeping and you leave behind too much flavor; too much steeping and you end up pulling out chemical compounds out of the grounds that are best left inside.
This is precisely why Cowboy Coffee and Percolated coffee tastes so nasty.
My recommendation is to experiment steeping between 1-3 minutes. It will depend on how fine or course you grind and your own person tastes.
Fresh Roasted Coffee
Coffee beans should never be burnt. The darker the bean, the less oils in the beans, thus the less taste and the less caffeine. Our dark roast coffee, here at Lake City Coffee is roasted to a dark brown, but never black. That way you can still taste the coffee bean and not the roaster.
Here’s a very important point. All roasted coffee, even mine, starts going stale and thus bitter in 30 days. Unfortunately, no amount of space-age packaging can change that fact. Therefore, never buy coffee that doesn’t have the roast date clearly marked on the package. Secondly, never buy coffee that was roasted more than a week ago. That should give you a good three weeks to use the beans before they go bad.
- Always buy fresh roasted (<7 days) whole coffee beans that are not burnt.
- Since the French Press has a tendency to make full bodied, but bitter coffee, you’d be wise to purchase smooth Costa Rican whole bean coffee.
- Course ground right before brewing
- Steep for 1-2 minutes
If you have any questions, just pop over to the “Contact” page.