The French press is among the simplest brewing tools out there. Add coffee, pour hot water, wait several minutes, and press the plunger. You can easily make a flavorful cup quickly. However, there is an important step that many people often do wrong: choosing unsuitable beans. This eventually results in a bitter-tasting drink rather than a sophisticated and rich taste as expected. So, what kind of coffee should we use with a French press? Read on to find out the answer.
Are some coffee beans better for the French press than others?
When it comes to French press coffee, you can basically brew whatever you want. The method is very simple and versatile to apply for all types of coffee beans, grind sizes, and varieties.
In other words, it is totally up to use to choose the right type of coffee to brew with a French press.
But if you are a coffee connoisseur, some combinations can be better than others. The key lies in two important factors: roast level and grind size.
Choose the right coffee beans
The first and also important step in brewing with a French press is to select suitable coffee beans.
When shopping for coffee, many French press lovers often go for a medium to dark roast. In general, this brewing method can reduce the perceived bitterness that we often object to with dark roasted beans. But the simpler reason for this is the dark and smoky brew, which can better suit the character of a press pot.
Medium to dark roasted beans tend to have darker colours. These are the results of the longer roasting time, which brings out more oils and flavour substances on the surface. The levels of acidity are also lower. You can simply notice the oil on their surfaces.
Brewing medium or dark roasted coffee can create a bitter and smoky taste, sometimes with the nutty, chocolate, or floral flavours. If you love strong coffee, then this can be a perfect choice.
Of course, if you prefer a delicate flavour, then it is still nice to brew with lightly roasted beans. They are less bitter, but also deliver less aroma.
Use coarse and even grounds
Grind is one of the most important factors when it comes to brewing good coffee. In fact, this is a common mistake that many of us often make for the first few times.
Since the French press screens out the coffee grounds with a mesh filter, most of the tasty solids and oils from the beans would end up in your mug. Many people enjoy the chewy texture created by the tool, but a lot of drinkers might reject it. A tradition solution to this problem is to choose coarse and even grounds.
Coarse grounds can reduce the number of small particles that a mesh cannot capture. There will be no more sludge on the bottom of the cup. This results in a sweeter and less bitter taste in the drink.
Also, keep in mind that coarse coffee can extract slower. Since the water and ground will be sitting together in several minutes, this can allow more oils and flavour substances to come out.
The ideal grind size for French press coffee should be between 0.75 and 1 millimetres. It should feel like salt or rough hand in your hands. A simple tip to test whether the grounds are too coarse or too fine is to press down the filter. If you find it hard to press down, then the grounds can be too fine. If you can push down with minimal resistance, then the grounds can be too coarse.
Again, the decision on grind sizes mainly depends on personal preference. But in general, coarse grounds are the best way to go.
What happens when you use too coarse or too fine grounds?
The fundamental rule of thumb you need to know when using a French press is: coarser grounds result in weaker brews and finer grounds lead to a stronger brew.
When you grind the coffee beans too fine, over-extraction can happen. This means too many oils and flavours in the grounds can be extracted. As a result, the taste can be bitter.
For too coarse coffee beans, under-extraction can be a problem. The brewing process cannot extract important substances in the beans, which leads to a bland and weak taste.
For these reasons, you want to avoid either direction and go for coarse options. This can ensure the beans will extract at the point of perfect balance.
Fresh coffee is key
The freshness of coffee beans tends to decrease over time after the roasting process. Even worse, ground coffee can lose its freshness only in a couple of hours. Therefore, the key to making a good cup of French press coffee is to purchase fresh and pre-ground products. You would be surprised at how much better the drink will be.
There are three main factors that affect the freshness of coffee beans: oxidation, moisture, and CO2 depletion.
Through oxidation, flavour and aroma substances in the beans can interact with the air. As a result, they are released and reduced in amount. This process often starts and speeds up once you grind the coffee.
Oils in coffee are water soluble. Therefore, if you expose the beans to the air in a long period, it would affect the integrity and overall quality. That’s why you should always store coffee beans in a dry and cool place to avoid moisture.
The last factor is CO2 depletion. In general, coffee beans are very porous. Grinding them can speed up the release of CO2, which is responsible for transferring oils into your coffee during the brewing process.
To maximise coffee freshness, you should:
- Buy freshly roasted whole coffee beans, ideally roasted in the last 1 month
- Purchase small quantities regularly
- Only grind the needed amount if necessary
The bottom line
There is a variety of options when it comes to selecting good beans for a French press. However, it is important to consider your personal tastes before making the decision. A wrong choice could spoil the taste and waste your money.