How to Make the Best Coffee in a French Press?


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Some of the best tasting coffee you can make at home is created using a French press. It has a lot of perks in that there is very little cleanup associated with it, brewing is very easy, and it provides a strong coffee that you really can’t beat.

Not everyone loves French press though for whatever reason. Some don’t appreciate the flavor while others don’t like that the coffee grounds literally touch the coffee that ends up in your cup. Much more coffee sediment can get through and will end up in the cup than when using another method of brewing.

However, even with the extra sediment in the coffee, the brew you get at the end of a cup of coffee with an extremely full body. In addition, for those who care about waste and the environment, there are no paper filters with French press, so you aren’t tossing those out every time you brew coffee.

On top of that, because there is a porous metal filter used with a French press, you get more of the healthy oils from the coffee in your coffee cup every day. This is what creates the more flavorful coffee, which can be hard to replicate using a paper filter on other types of coffee makers.

What a French Press Actually Is

Although you may already have an idea of what the French press is, it’s best to give a short primer for anyone who is new to this method of brewing. Some people may have never heard of this method of brewing coffee and probably wonder exactly what this article is talking about.

The actual origins of the French press, which is called a cafetière in England, are a little bit shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that it has been around for 150 years in various different forms. However, the press pot that most of us would be familiar with today was patented in 1929 by Attilo Calimani, who was Italian.

The French press of today has a simple design and is made of a metal or glass carafe along with a mesh plunger assembly. The best thing about brewing in a French press is how simple it is. All you need to do is add in coarsely ground coffee to the carafe and fill it up with boiling hot water. You stir the coffee grounds around before putting in the mesh plunger and pushing it down gently and slowly. That’s the very basics, but we’ll get into the specifics a bit farther on in this article.

When a French press is used properly, it can make a truly fantastic cup of coffee. If you are someone who really enjoys a strong cup of joe, a French press might be the ideal coffee maker for your needs.

Things to Look At When Buying a Great French Press

While the French press is simple to use, there are variations on the basic design. This can make it more challenging to determine the most functional French presses from those that are just flashy and likely not to last very long. Because this can be a concern, we want to share some tips on what to look for when you are in the market for buying a French Press.

Material Used to Make the French Press 

In most cases, the French presses you find on the market are going to be manufactured using either durable borosilicate glass or stainless steel. There are going to be some exceptions available as well, such as the popular Le Creuset Stoneware Press. When it comes to the top-rated French presses, you’re going to be considering your options based on visual appeal and personal preference. As far as functionality goes with steel and glass, both are about the same. Ceramic is also up there in terms of being worthwhile. We’ll explain the pros and cons below.

Some of the best looking French presses are going to be glass, but you should be aware that these are not going to hold in heat as well as a stainless steel option will. However, that doesn’t mean that a glass press is a bad option. In nearly every case, you will be making coffee in 10 minutes or less so the small loss of heat isn’t something most people will ever notice.

Those who care more about the heat of their coffee may find that stainless steel is the best option possible. These presses are going to come with a double-wall design, which means the pot is well-insulated. This also means that the coffee will stay piping hot for longer than with a glass French press.

One of the other benefits of stainless steel over ceramic or glass is how durable the pot will be. While most glass French press pots are made of strengthened borosilicate glass, that doesn’t mean that a tumble onto the tile floors of your kitchen won’t cause it to shatter. This is also the same for ceramic. If you happen to drop the ceramic pot on the floor, you’ll likely find yourself needing a new French press.

Considering the French Press Filter 

It might seem like any French press filter is going to do the same job. They handle the same thing and probably all work the same way. This used to be true, but things have changed in recent years. You are likely to find a huge number of filters to choose from for your French press. The traditional filter is one that is a single fine mesh screen and there’s no problem with using it. The only real issue is going to arise if you choose to grind your coffee too fine. This sort of coffee will easily pass through the filter and end up in your cup. This can leave sludge in the bottom of your mug and make your coffee taste more bitter than normal.

Because of this issue, many of the top French press coffee manufacturers use a double mesh filter. This can help catch any of the coffee that might otherwise slip through a single filter. However, the reality of the situation is that the best way to prevent coffee sediment is by making sure you grind the coffee to the right size in the first place.

Choosing Between French Press Sizes 

The first thing to think about when choosing the right French press size is how much coffee you typically consume in the morning. Are you the kind of person who can drink a single cup and be good? Do you need two, three, or four cups to get yourself ready to go to work? You likely know how much coffee you need to get going every morning and for most people, it’s going to be more than a single cup.

You are going to find that most French press pots aren’t made for a single cup of coffee. They can range from brewing eight ounces all the way to 44 ounces. If you are an average coffee drinker, a 34-ounce press might be a good option. That means you will be making six to eight cups of coffee each time you brew. Even if you do not use it all every time, the remainder can be kept in the fridge to make iced coffee later in the day.

Those who do a lot of traveling might do better to use a travel mug French press that can slip into your luggage. One of the best options you will find is the Bodum Travel French Press.

The Entire Brewing Process with a French Press 

If you are new to French press coffee and want to try out your new press pot, you might want some help deciding how to get started. We’ll share the basics here, but we’ll also share a few tips for making the coffee even better for those of you who are long-time French press users.

Brewing using a French press is easy. In fact, it might be one of the least expensive and most forgiving options that you can go with when brewing coffee at home.

First, Boil the Water 

The first thing you want to do is take your gooseneck kettle and heat up hot water to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be done easily without the use of a thermometer by letting the water come to a boil and then letting it sit for about 30 seconds off the heat. While a gooseneck kettle is the best option for making this coffee, any kettle can do the job. Even a simple whistling tea kettle will make great French press without a problem.

Weigh and Grind Coffee Beans 

Step two is to weigh out your beans. We recommend weighing out about 56 grams of whole beans (which is the same as eight to 10 tablespoons) and then set your coffee grinder to a coarse setting. When the coffee has been ground, it should have the consistency of breadcrumbs, so try to hit that mark while you do your grinding.

Ratios for French Press Coffee

Size of French Press3-Cup4-Cup8-Cup
Amount of Coffee17 grams27 grams54 grams
Amount of Water275 mL430 mL860 mL

Heat Up Your French Press 

At this point, you should have a kettle that has completely boiled. Use the hot water to rinse out your French press before moving on. What this does is help maintain the right temperature of your French press while it goes through the brewing process. After you have pre-heated the press, pour out the rinse water before moving on.

Add the Coffee and the Water 

Right now, you want to have your timer ready and your hot water nearby and ready to go. The first thing you want to do is add in the coffee grounds to the French press before you slowly and gently pour in the hot water. Once you start to pour, that’s the time to start your timer. You want to stop pouring water when the French press is about halfway full.

Take Time to Stir Gently 

Pay attention to your time because once it hits one minute, it’s time to take on the next step in making great French press coffee. You can use a wooden spoon or another utensil to break through the crust of the coffee on top. Go ahead and stir the coffee well. What you are trying to do right now is to make sure all the coffee is submerged into the water.

Time to Add a Bit More Water 

While your timer keeps on going, it’s time to fill the French press up with water. This time let the water go all the way to the top. The next step you want to take is to put the plunger on top. However, don’t go crazy with things. It isn’t quite time to press down on it just yet.

Ready to Press Down the Plunger

 When your timer reads four minutes, it’s time to use the plunger to push down on the coffee mixture. Use one hand to hold onto the French press and the other to push down on the plunger. However, you want to press down quite slowly. Apply moderate but firm pressure as you push down on the plunger.

Time to Serve and Enjoy a Cup of Coffee

 At this point, you are done. You’ve made your first batch of French press coffee! If you are going to drink it right away, simply pour the coffee into a mug and go for it. If not, you will want to transfer it into a decanter so it doesn’t begin to over-extract. When the coffee sits with the grounds in it, the extraction process will continue, and it will eventually lead to coffee that is bitter and not as tasty.

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Special Tips for Brewing with a French Press 

Before you ever brew coffee in a French press, you should make sure that it is clean. The mesh filter will largely come unscrewed so you can discard all of the coffee grounds that might be present. If you forget and leave the old grounds in the mesh filter, the coffee you make is much more likely to have a bitter taste that detracts from the quality.

With any brewing method, including the French press, it’s recommended that you start the process with whole coffee beans that you grind immediately before the brewing process. If you are grinding the beans too early, the coffee can lose a lot of the compounds that create the exceptional aromas and flavors that you want.

Troubleshooting When Using a French Press 

Is your coffee tasting a little too weak for your tastes? This is most often the case if you grind your beans a little too coarsely. The next time you make coffee, try a grind that is a smidge finer. Remember that the grind should be like breadcrumbs. You should also be sure you steep the coffee for three to four minutes for the best results.

Are you having issues with coffee that tastes too bitter? Most of the time, this problem is the result of coffee that is ground too fine instead of too coarse. For the solution, grind the beans more coarsely next time. You should also be aware that if you use a dark roast, the coffee should be very fresh. You also may want to lower the temperature of brewing to about 195 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 205 degrees.

Is the coffee in your cup a bit too strong for your taste? If you notice the coffee is a bit too strong, try steeping the brew three minutes instead of four minutes. After the brewing process is complete, don’t leave the coffee to sit in the press. Instead, place it inside of a decanter if you aren’t going to drink it right away.

Are you noticing lots of sediment at the bottom of your cup? This problem can be caused by two different things. The first is that you may be grinding the coffee too fine, in which case you should up the coarseness, so grounds don’t make it through the plunger filter. It could also be the result of the filter not forming a tight seal against the carafe.

Best Coffee in a French Press

The Many Benefits of Brewing Using a French Press 

There are tons of people who believe the best coffee you can get comes from the French press brewing method. If you aren’t sure if it’s for you, it’s worth looking at the benefits of this type of coffee. It still may not be right for you and that’s okay, but at least you’ll have an idea of why it is so popular in the coffee world.

Steeping Happens with a French Press 

When you are using a French press, the coffee is kept within the water for what the coffee industry calls steeping. What does that matter? You are the only one who has control over how long the coffee and water are combined. So, a steeping time that is longer will create a bitter and stronger cup while a shorter steeping time is going to offer less bitterness and a weaker brew. That means you can customize your mug of coffee to taste exactly like you most enjoy it.

There’s No Need for a Paper Filter 

Most of the other coffee brewing methods available are going to use a paper filter, which is what the water is going to stream through to reach the ground coffee. The issue is that depending on the type of filter that you use and the grind size of the coffee, most of the time the ground coffee is going to interact very little with the brewed coffee while the water passes through it. That is not the case with French press techniques.

A Higher Level of Oils and Flavors 

Another issue with using a paper filter is that many of the oils and flavors are lost before they reach your cup. With a French press and the lack of this paper filter, along with the fact that the grounds are submerged fully in water, all of those oils and flavors remain in your cup so you can enjoy them when you drink a cup of coffee.

Less Contamination and Fewer Impurities 

When you use a coffee maker like an auto-drip machine, there are going to be lots of plastic components. The water has to go through all sorts of tubes and channels before it ever gets to the coffee and inevitably reaches the cup. The further that the water needs to travel and the more interaction it has with parts made of plastic, the higher the chance that you will find impurities and chemicals in your cup of coffee. On the other hand, using a French press lets you enjoy coffee the way it should be without impurities. This is something you will taste in every single sip.

Coffee Grounds Are Fully Saturated 

When you use a typical auto-drip coffee brewer, it’s not uncommon to find that the coffee never gets the chance to be fully saturated with water. This can often be the result of a poorly designed water sprinkler. However, when you use a French press, the biggest thing you can be assured of is that the grounds are very saturated, so this is something you never again have to worry about.

You May Never Drink Coffee Any Other Way 

After you first get a French press coffee maker and enjoy the coffee that it makes, you are going to notice how different it is immediately. You can taste every flavor in any coffee bean, something that is new and exciting. For many people, that is enough to make them switch to this brewing method for the long term and experiment with various beans and their aromas and flavors.

The Best Possible Water Temperature 

When you use a simple auto-drip coffee maker, they often heat the water up hot but very quickly. However, the temperature also drops so quickly that it might not reach your cup at the desired temperature. That means the only time when the right temperature is present is during the filtration process, if at all. A French press is one of the best options for keeping coffee at the proper brewing temperature, especially if you take time to preheat the carafe before you use it.

What Kind of Coffee is Best in a Press Pot 

Maybe you’ve already decided to get a French press and it’s on the way, but you aren’t sure what sort of coffee is best to use with it. The good news is that selecting coffee for the French press is as simple as can be. The thing you have to be aware of when making a great cup of coffee with a French press is the grind you choose. Even if you have the most amazing coffee, a grind that isn’t perfect can lead to coffee with sediment and sludge in the bottom of the cup.

You already know that there are tons of coffee bean options on the market, and it is true that some are better with a French press than others. However, the biggest thing that you need to keep in mind is that you should stay away from pre-ground coffee and instead choose a whole bean. This is something that is true for any coffee brewing technique, but it is especially important when using a French press.

The thing about pre-ground coffee that comes from a grocery store is that it tends to be ground very fine and is made to be used in an automatic drip coffee maker. With a French press, you need a coarser grind than you are likely to find on the supermarket shelves.

While you can use any coffee bean in a French press, a dark or a medium roast tends to be the best choice. Keep to your own personal preferences, but medium and dark roasted coffee has the most oils that offer flavor inside the bean. That means the coffee is usually going to make a better cup of joe. However, this is something that is subjective, so experimenting with various roasts can be a good way to find the right option for your French press that hits the spot each morning. 

Grind Matters More Than Coffee Type 

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so important that it deserves its own conversation. The grind of the coffee is so important when it comes to great coffee that you cannot ignore it. When using the coffee brewing method of a French press, grind your beans down to a coarse even grind like breadcrumbs for the best results possible.

When you have grounds that are coarser than they should be, pressing down on the plunger should take absolutely no effort at all. If they are too fine, the plunger is going to be very hard to press down. What you want is somewhere right in between those two things, which may take some time to get used to.

If you want to make grinding coffee to the right level easy and straightforward, a Burr grinder is the best tool you can have in your arsenal. Don’t worry about spending hundreds of dollars on the best of the best. Something middle of the line is under $100 and will do the job just as well for this type of coffee brewing.

Considerations on Coffee to Water Ratio 

Another thing you want to consider when using a French press is the ratio of hot water to coffee in the pot. This is one of the most crucial things to making the best tasting pot of coffee you will ever have. However, as this method involves steeping, time is also a critical part of the equation. You’ll want to experiment to find your happy place, but a general rule of thumb would say to use 10 parts water to one part coffee when measuring in grams.

Of course, as with anything else, personal preference matters. However, the 10 to one ratio tends to work well for most people. It also has the added benefit of being simple and easy to remember and work with.

How to Choose a Grinder for French Press Coffee 

At this point, you may have a French press in your shopping cart, and you know what kind of coffee you want to use with it. That means your next step is to choose a coffee grinder of good quality. One of the most common questions from French press users is what sort of grinder is the best one to use. We’ll do our best to answer that question so you can be on the road to some of the best coffee of your life.

While grind is flexible in some respects with French press as long as it’s coarse, that can be handled using any grinder. There’s no need to dip into your savings just to get a grinder to make your coffee. However, there are a few features that you should look for in a good grinder.

Consistency of Grind 

You may have heard this in the past, but it remains the truth. The consistency of the grind is a huge factor in a great-tasting cup of coffee. This is related to the surface area of the ground coffee. When you use a brewing method where little water touches the coffee, a fine grind is the best option. However, immersion brewing methods such as the French press need a coarser grind to make the best brew.

If you find the grind is too fine or the water contacts the grounds for too long, this over extracts the coffee and can make it too bitter to be enjoyable. If the water contacts the coffee grounds for too little time or the grind is a bit too coarse, you run the risk of having tasteless or weak coffee, which can be just as unwanted.

Settings for the Grind 

When you go with a cheap electric grinder, you might notice that it suffers from buildup of static. The type of mechanism and the materials used in the grinder have an impact on how much static the grinder has. The problem is that static can create huge issues when grinding coffee since the grounds will stick to the parts of the mill. If you are buying a grinder to use with a French press, a manual grinder may be the best option. If you choose to go with an electric model, make sure it has a design with features to fight static.

Durability and Design of the Grinder 

When you are in the process of buying a coffee grinder, the simpler the tool, the better in most cases. You don’t need to spend extra money on a bunch of features that you aren’t going to use. This means things like an LCD screen or a timer. Unless you need them, don’t bother getting a grinder that has them.

As you use your grinder from day to day, you are going to knock it around and drop it on occasion. That’s okay. Even grinding coffee takes a lot of effort and a good grinder is built to take it. For the best durability, you may want to look at hard plastics, metal, and glass grinders when it comes to the casing. However, ceramic grinding burrs are the best option for that component.

Why You Should Try a French Press Coffee Maker 

If you are tired of push-button automatic coffee brewers and want to take some control over the process of brewing coffee, a French press is an optimal place to start. When you use this brewing method, there is much more of an option to tweak the process. This can even make you gain more love for coffee as you take more of a responsibility for how your coffee turns out every day.

Many people find that the French press is their go-to option for fresh coffee, although they might stick with an automatic brewer for mornings when they want things to be as simple as possible. If you have never spent time using a French press, it’s something we recommend for everyone. It can be a great way to start a foray into more complicated coffee-making methods or it could be your go-to for years into the future to make your morning coffee.

Wrapping Up

Making coffee by French press is one of the easiest options you can choose, and it also happens to create a great cup of coffee that you will love. At this point, you can choose a French press that will meet your needs whether you plan to use it at home or while traveling the country. Our tips will help you make a great cup of coffee using the right grinder, the best coffee, and the other needed materials. You may be surprised by just how good coffee that is steeped in four minutes can truly be.

Bonus Questions:

1. Why is French press coffee better?

When you use a drip machine, the paper filter absorbs a lot of the oils in your coffee grounds. With a French press, that flavor remains in the coffee along with bits of grounds to give the coffee a better flavor.

2. Can you use regular coffee in a French press?

Any coffee can be used in a French press coffee machine. However, if you want the best flavor possible, you want to grind your own beans at a medium to coarse grind. This will give a bright and clean flavor in your cup.

3. What is the ratio of coffee to water in a French press?

No matter what type of brewing method you choose, you will want to use one or two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water. When it comes to the French press, we recommend two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water.

4. Is French press better than drip?

There are many different benefits of French press over drip coffee. For one thing, the French press keeps the natural oils from the grounds to offer a natural coffee flavor that drip coffee simply cannot provide.

5. Which is better: French press or pour-over?

The largest difference between the two is that pour-over has a filter, so the grounds don’t touch the end cup of coffee. However, that also means that pour-over coffee is typically not as strong as the French press, although both have distinct flavors.

6. How long do you wait to press coffee?

If you are in a hurry, you can brew French press in three to four minutes. However, for the best results possible, we recommend a coarse ground coffee that is made in six to eight minutes time.

7. Why is my French press hard to press?

If you are experiencing issues pressing the French press, it may be because your grind is too fine. When it is too fine, the particles of coffee can clog up the screen and make it hard to press down. This is why it’s important to use a coarser grind with a French press.

8. Is French press coffee better than Keurig?

Keurig coffee is an automatic mode of making coffee, while the French press requires a bit more work. A French press allows you to vary your coffee much more, but it does take extra effort. With a Keurig, you use K-cups while a French press makes use of coarse ground coffee.

9. What does a French press do?

A French press uses a manual brewing method to make a cup of coffee rather than being a machine that does everything for you. You measure the ingredients, grind the coffee, add the water, time the brew, and then use the plunger to make coffee.

10. Can you add milk to French press coffee?

Absolutely. Once you make your French press coffee, pour it into a mug and you can add sugar, milk, or other flavorings to your taste.

Related Content:

Coffee Making Methods for the Modern Age
Everything You Need to Know to Brew a Great Espresso Shot
Get Up Close and Personal With Your Coffee: Where Coffee is Produced
Understanding the Process of Coffee Cupping