How to Use a French Press (The Only French Press Guide You’ll Need to Read)

How to Use a French Press

Coffee is the only thing that makes my morning suck a little less. So when it comes to choosing the right coffee and brewing method, I take my sweet time. 

Although nothing beats a double espresso with a smidge of milk foam, to me, french press coffee is the next best thing. It’s simple to make, it’s eco-friendly, and most importantly, it tastes gobsmackingly good. 

French press coffee is the ideal brewing method for those who like their coffee black as midnight on a moonless night. 

If you have already bought your first french press and are not sure how to use it, you have come to the right place. In the guide below, I will provide you with step-by-step directions to achieve french press perfection. 

Prerequisites: What You Will Need to Make French Press Coffee

In terms of ease of use, the french press comes second to an electric drip machine. A french press needs no electricity and is portable enough to travel with you without adding to the dead weight of your luggage. 

You will need only 4 items to make french press coffee, which are- 

  • Hot water.
  • Ground coffee.
  • The french press machine, of course.
  • A spoon to stir.
  • A cup or coffee decanter.

Not to mention you will also need 3-4 minutes of your life to allow the coffee to steep.  

Step-by-step Guide: How to Use a French Press

If it’s your first foray into the world of freshly brewed coffee, start with a french press. Automatic coffee machines are no doubt easier to use but they can’t beat the consistency and rich flavors of manually brewed coffee. 

French press is essentially a full-immersion method that requires steeping coffee ground in hot water. After some trial and error, I was able to perfect the method. Let me walk you through the directions I follow to get consistently good coffee from my french press coffee maker-

Step 1: Adding the Coffee Grounds

Add about two spoonfuls of coffee per cup of water in the french press. So if you are making 2 cups of coffee, you will need 4 tablespoons of coffee. For more precise measurements, use a weighing scale. 

Step 2: Preheating the French Press

A lot of people skip this step but if you are serious about getting your coffee right, don’t skip it. You simply have to add some hot water in the french press, swirl it around and rinse it. 

French Press Heating

I use hot tap water for this purpose. Preheating prevents heat loss that inevitably occurs while pouring, stirring, and steeping the coffee. 

Step 3: Heat up Some Water

The temperature of the water can make or break your coffee – this is something that applies to every coffee brewing method to ever exist. 

If it’s bubbling hot, it will simply torch the coffee grounds and leave you with a rancid decoction. And if it’s not hot enough, it will lead to under extraction of flavors, resulting in an underwhelming brew. 

Water Heating

For french press coffee, you need coffee precisely heated to around 195°F-205°F

I understand that everyone doesn’t have a kitchen thermometer lying around. To eyeball, the temperature for french press coffee, take the water off the boil and immediately pour it onto the coffee grounds.

Step 4: Brewing

After pouring the hot water onto the coffee, give it a good stir, place the lid on. Make sure the plunger is pulled all the way up. You don’t want the plunger to touch the surface of the water yet. 

French Press Brewing

Let the coffee steep for 3-4 minutes or less, depending on how strong you want your brew to be. 

Step 5: Decant and Serve

When the steeping time is over, gently push the plunger all the way down. Immediately serve or transfer the coffee in a different carafe. Don’t let the coffee sit in the french press or it will continue to brew and ruin the coffee. 

French press coffee is best enjoyed black but hey! I’m not here to tell you how to take your coffee. If you like to add creamer and sugar, add them by all means. Darker roasts pair beautifully with milk and sugar, something to take note of if you prefer milk coffee. 

How to Use a French Press: Useful Tips

A French press doesn’t demand nearly as much precision as pour-over, Turkish coffee, Moka pot, or espresso. But there are a few rules you need to follow to get the finest results from your fresh press machine. 

French Press Serve

Let’s talk about the key parameters of french press brewing:

Grind for French Press

As a general rule of thumb, you should always go for coarse grind for french press. A coarse-medium, even grind will yield more consistent results and a deeper flavor profile. 

Coarse grind is the best for french press brewing method for two simple reasons:

  • French press is a full-immersion method. This means the extraction process would be longer than usual. A coarser grind would slow down the extraction to avoid over-extraction of the coffee grounds.
  • In immersion method, bigger water surface area means better, more uniform flavor extraction. A coarse grind expands the water surface area, leading to maximum flavor extraction which significantly improves the taste of the finished brew. 
  • A fine grind will easily pass through the mesh filter, which means a lot of sediment at the bottom of your cup. Coarsely grind coffee cannot easily permeate the mesh, leading to a clean, aromatic brew.  

Water Temperature for French Press

195°F- 205°F is the ideal temperature for full flavor extraction in the french press method. Using a good-quality kitchen thermometer is recommended. If you don’t have one, eyeballing the water temperature will work too. 

What I do is bring the water to a boil, take it off the burner, and pour it quickly into the preheated french press. The large pouring area of the french press will cause a bit of a heat loss during the pour. 

So unless you have a thermometer, pour the water straight off the boil and it will automatically bring the coffee slurry to ideal brewing temperature. However, some people like to take the water off the boil and let it rest for 30 seconds before pouring it in. 

Water Temperature

In fairness, there’s no hard and fast rule to this. You might have to play with the water temp for a while and chug down a few underwhelming cups of coffee before you can develop a process that works perfectly for you. 

Speaking of perfect water temperature, preheating the french press does make a great deal of difference. When you pour hot water into a french press, the cold surface of the glass causes a significant heat loss. 

To avoid that, rinse your french press with hot water before brewing. It takes only a few seconds and is totally worth it.

How Long to Brew French Press Coffee

For a heavy-bodied, rich brew, let the coffee steep for a good 4 minutes. If you prefer a lighter brew, steep it for 3 minutes. If you are using freshly ground coffee instead of store-bought grounds, I suggest doing a 30-sec preinfusion. 

It’s basically just adding a little bit of hot water onto the coffee beds before pouring the rest of the water. Add just enough water to wet all the grounds. Don’t stir. The hot water will bloom the coffee.

In other words, it means the coffee will release CO2 gas bubbles. Trapped CO2 in fresh coffee beans often leads to a loathsome acidic taste. Blooming will yield a smooth, non-acidic coffee. 

What Kind of Coffee Beans Are the Best for French Press?

Most people who drink french press coffee prefer dark or medium roast. That’s because french press coffee contains high amounts of flavorful coffee oils. 

Coffee machines that use a paper filter or reusable filter absorb most of these oils. The presence of coffee oils concocts a heavy-bodied brew. Dark roast is perfect for this kind of coffee. If you prefer a bright, fruity brew, you should opt a medium roast instead. 

For a pre-ground medium-dark roast, this one would be a stellar bang for the buck. This one too is a great affordable option for heavy coffee drinkers

The speciality blend is roasted and grind to perfection for french press coffee makers. If you would rather ground your own coffee beans, I would recommend these organically sourced dark roasted coffee beans

How to Clean a French Press for Better Tasting Coffee

The only thing I don’t adore about my french press is the cleaning part. Nonetheless, over the years, I have perfected the art of easily cleaning my french press.

First things first, don’t dump the coffee grounds down the sink drain, for heavens!

Follow the hacks mentioned below to quickly and effortlessly clean your french press:

French press cleaning
  • Take a mesh strainer. 
  • Fill the carafe about halfway with water, swirl it around and pour it into the strainer.
  • Now you can dump the grounds stuck directly into the trash. Thank me later for the mess-free sink.
  • Next up, rinse out the carafe with soapy water and wipe it clean with a dry cloth. 
  • Next, disassemble the filter setup made of three parts: mesh screen, spring, and cross. Rinse them off thoroughly under running tap water. Wipe them down with a dry cloth afterward. 
  • Re-assemble the filter pieces in the correct order, put them back in the carafe, and press down the plunger.

To get rid of the grime and odor trapped in the carafe, clean your french press with baking soda every few weeks. Make a paste with a spoon of baking soda and a little bit of water. 

Scrub the carafe with it and rinse it off with water. Do this every few weeks to keep your french press odor-free and sparkling. 

That’s about it. Your french press now is ready to brew another round of coffee. 

How Does a French Press Work?

The mechanism of a french is pretty simple and straightforward. It works sort of like a juice strainer, which, interestingly, was the main inspiration behind the design of the french press prototype. 

A French press makes a heavy-bodied, oily brew by immersing ground coffee in hot water. When you press down the plunger, the mesh filter separates the brewed coffee from the grounds. 

How Does a French Press Work

When the filter moves down, it forces the grounds to the bottom of the glass chamber. This keeps the decoction sediment-free and ready to be served. 

Some of the grounds can still make way into your cup, which is a trade-off I’m willing to make for fine-tasting coffee. If you want a cleaner cup, look for a french press that comes with a well-fitting filter. 

How to Choose the Right French Press

French press coffee makers aren’t nearly as tech-focused as automatic coffee makers. However, this doesn’t mean all french presses are created equal.

The material of the carafe and the quality of filters are the only things standing between crap coffee and heavenly brew. So choose your french press wisely.

Below I have attached a short guide to help you pick the best french press coffee maker money can buy-

Carafe Material

French press pots or carafes, whatever you call them, are usually made of three materials:

Borosilicate Glass

Borosilicate Glass French Press

It’s far the most common carafe material for french press coffee makers. It is a sturdy, heat-resistant tempered glass that doesn’t interfere with the brewing process. 

The transparent carafe lets you closely monitor the color of the brew and the position of the plunger. On the downside, glass can shatter if you or your kitten accidentally knocks it out. 

However, there are sturdier varieties of tempered glass french press carafes. They cost a bit more but their durability makes up for it. 

ProsCons
A transparent carafe lets you keep an eye on the position of the plunger.Can be shattered. 
Aesthetically pleasing.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is obviously impossible to break. Plus, it provides amazing heat insulation, preventing the coffee slurry from losing heat during the steeping process. 

The only negative is that stainless steel carafes are opaque. Therefore, you can’t keep an eye on the coffee while it’s brewing. As far as aesthetics is concerned, the glass ones are a clear winner for me. 

ProsCons
Great heat retention, will prevent temperature drop while steeping the coffee. Not transparent. 
Will not shatter into smithereens like glass.

Plastic

Plastic Steel French press

Dirt cheap, off-brand french press machines are often made of plastic. Its only advantage is its affordability. Hard plastic might not break easily but allowing a hot beverage to brew in is not safe. Not recommended at all. 

ProsCons
Less fragile than glass.Not transparent. 
AffordableNot safe for this particular purpose. 
Transparent.

Mesh Filter

Any decent fresh press system will come with double mesh filters – regular-sized and ultra-fine. The regular mesh will block the large coffee particles while the second filter will stop the fine grounds from sneaking into your cup. 

Make sure the filter perfectly fits the girth 9f the carafe. If it’s too big, you will have to push the plunger really hard to get it all the way down. Also, check if the french press you’re planning to buy comes with an extra set of filters. All quality french presses do. 

French Press Cup Size

French press coffee makers often come in four sizes- 

  • 3-cup
  • 4-cup
  • 8-cup
  • 12-cup

Each cup denotes a 4-ounce serving. How big or small your french press should depend on how many servings you need. If you would like to prepare a large batch in advance, consider investing in a quality thermos or electric cup warmer. 

The beauty of a french press is that you can adjust the brew quantity exactly to your liking without affecting the taste. That’s something you can’t do with a moka pot, just in case you were thinking of buying one. 

FAQs

French Press FAQs

Q. Brewing ratio for french press coffee?

french FAQ

A: Although you can always experiment, 1:15 coffee to water ratio is regarded to be the golden standard for french press coffee. This means you will need about 17 grams or two leveled tablespoons of coffee per 250 grams of water. 

If you’re grinding the beans yourself and don’t have a kitchen scale, take about 3 heaping tablespoons of coffee beans and grind them coarsely to get about 17 grams of coffee grounds. 

Q. How much coffee will my french press make? 

A: The standard french press cup sizes are 3-cup, 4-cup, 8-cup, and 12-cup. There are 6-cup varieties too, although they aren’t that common. 

You can easily adjust the volume of the coffee in a french press by re-calibrating the brew ratio. So if you wish to make a single-serving in a large french press, just use one cup of water. Easy!

Q. What’s the right grind size for a french press? 

A; Choose coarse to medium grind for french press. In a full-immersion brewing method such as french press, a coarse grind slows down the extraction to prevent over-extraction. 

Q. How does french press coffee compare to other brewing methods? 

A; French press is often compared to pour-overs, filter coffee, and Aeropress. All these brewing techniques have their individual perks. French press coffee is a bold, full-bodied brew due to the presence of tons of coffee oils and other flavor compounds. 

The other methods in question use a paper filter that absorbs some of these oils and compounds, leaving you with a crisper and lighter brew. 

In french press coffee, some of the more nuanced flavors of coffee beans can get lost due to the thickness of the brew. If you wish to make the subtle notes of the coffee beans shine, choose an infusion brewing method like pour-over. 

If portability is a big concern, go for an Aeropress. An automatic drip machine is convenient to use but the finished brew won’t taste as good as french press coffee. Period. 

Q. Why is french press coffee bad for you? 

A; The fine mesh filter of the french press can’t filter out cafestol and kahweol. These two are LDL cholesterol-boosting compounds extracted from coffee grounds during the brewing process. 

If you already have high cholesterol, coffee filtered using paper filters would be a safer alternative for you. That being said, drinking less than 5 cups of french press coffee won’t hurt if your cholesterol levels are normal. 

Q. How long does french press coffee need to sit? 

dual coffee FAQ

A: Ideally, you should let the coffee steep for 4 minutes in the carafe. This includes 30 seconds of blooming period (applicable for those using freshly ground coffee). You can steep it for 3 minutes as well if you’d rather prefer a medium-bodied brew. 

Q. Do you use ground coffee in a french press? 

A: You can use pre-ground coffee in a french press. Just make sure to choose the coarse-medium grind size, if your chosen brand gives you that option. 

Most store-bought coffees are generally ground way too fine for the french press. If you can, invest in a burr grinder and grind the beans yourself right before brewing. It makes a world of difference, trust me!

In Conclusion

I hope that, by now, you are well-versed in the art of making french press coffee. It’s one of the most forgiving coffee brewing methods there is, making it well-suited for beginners. 

The robust flavors of a french press coffee can be pretty addictive. And once you find the perfect brew ratio and brew time combination that works for you, there’s no looking back. 

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Luke

Hi! My name is Luke. I’m a huge espresso fan, a dad, and a caffeine junkie (which helps a lot in being a dad to an early bird ;) ). Welcome to my blog, I hope you will enjoy every single second of being here

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