What coffee should you use for french press (plunger)?

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The french press is one of our favourite brewing methods.

There is a certain old-time feel to it and we find the taste to be more robust than other methods, especially drip coffee.

So when people ask us how they should select their coffee for french press, we offer them these tips below – take a look, and enjoy a sweet cup o’ joe.

Varieties

In terms of specific varieties and regions, you don’t need to worry about this too much for plunger coffee. It’s a pretty forgiving brew method that will work well with most types of coffee beans.

But, it’s still worth using high-quality beans and finding a single origin or blend that works best for you.

Arabica coffee is by far the most popular coffee bean variety. If you drink coffee, you’ve almost certainly had a cup of coffee that contains arabica beans, since they make up almost 60% of the world’s coffee production.

Arabica beans are considered to be of higher quality than the other main variety, Robusta. This is due to their low level of bitterness, smooth body and complex flavour.

If you walk into your local specialty coffee shop, chances are that almost all of the beans there will be sub-varieties of Arabica.

Robusta coffee beans are the second most popular and tend to be used for instant coffee and cheaper coffee blends. This is because they are a less expensive variety and tends to be lower in terms of quality.

Robusta beans also appear in many blends since their strong aroma and slightly more bitter flavour balances other less favourable notes.

We recommend starting off with a blend of Arabica beans. It’s worth trying a few different types to see which one you like best.

Region

As with specific varieties, you don’t need to worry too much about the region your beans are from for plunger coffee. However, it can be fun to experiment with different beans and decide which you like best.

Coffee beans grown in South America generally produce a brew with a smooth, rich flavour but low acidity.

If you prefer a more acidic cup of coffee, try an African bean or blend with a medium-dark roast. This will produce a brew with a fruity flavour and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

For the fullest flavour and the most body, choose Indonesian beans with a dark roast. The resulting brew will have lots of bold, complex flavours but may be more bitter.

RELATED: How to make french press coffee

Roast

So long you’re buying fresh, high quality coffee, the roast is the most important thing to pay attention to when selecting beans for french press.

You’re usually going to best with an espresso roast, as opposed to beans that have been roasted for filter.

As a rule of thumb, we would recommend using a medium to dark roast for your plunger. This is because the long brew time can often result in an overly bitter cup if you use a light roast.

Medium-dark roasted beans are also typically more robust than lighter roasts, which can also help balance out some of the bitterness that can result from this brewing method.

A dark roasted bean will also have more body and mouthfeel, which is desirable in a french press.

If in doubt, have a chat with your local roaster who will be able to point you in the right direction.

Grind size

More than anything else on this list, an incorrect grind size has the greatest ability to ruin a good cup of plunger coffee.

It’s not a good idea to use fine grinds with a plunger, as these can pass through the filter and into your cup.

To avoid this, you need to use a medium coarse grind. This grind size is somewhere between the size of sand and that of sea salt.

The best way to achieve the correct and consistent grind size is by using a burr coffee grinder. If you don’t have one of these, then go for pre-ground coffee that’s been ground for drip coffee makers (or ask your local roaster or coffee shop to grind your beans for plunger).

You can experiment with different grind sizes if you want to change the flavour of the final drink, but we recommend starting with medium-coarse grounds and experimenting from there.

French Press brewing tips

Now that you’ve got your hands on some fresh and delicious coffee beans, it’s time to brew.

Keep the below pointers in mind to take your plunger game to the next level:

  1. Preheat your plunger. Add some boiling water to the base and swirl it around before discarding. This step will help by keeping your coffee hot for longer.
  2. Use good quality water. The water you use for brewing coffee can have an adverse impact on your brew. At the very least, it shouldn’t have any noticable aromas or flavours when you drink it. But ideally you should gain a better understanding of the chemical make-up of your water.
  3. Pay attention to your coffee to water ratio. The rule of thumb is a 1:15 ratio – one gram of coffee for every 15 grams of water.
  4. Bloom your coffee. Pre wet your coffee grounds with a small amount of hot water and leave for 30 seconds before adding the rest. The purpose of blooming is to provide your ground coffee with some time to make space for the hot water. Further, blooming prevents the sour taste of carbon dioxide from infusing into your coffee.
  5. Don’t use boiling water. The optimal temperature for brewing coffee is around 96 degrees Celsius. So, don’t pour it straight out of a freshly boiled kettle. Either take it off the boil early, or wait for it to cool for a bit after boiling.
  6. Keep track of your brew time. The standard brewing time is 4 minutes but you can go up to 8 minutes depending on your flavour preferences.
  7. Serve Immediately. Once you have plunged the coffee, either pour it immediately into cups or into a serving vessel, such as a caraffe. This is to prevent the ocffee from continuing to extract.