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How to Make French Press Coffee

Great For
Fuller Bodied Coffee • Enjoying with Milk • Darker Roasts

A classic for a reason, the French press could hardly be easier to use. No worrying about how long it takes for water to flow through the coffee bed, it’s as easy as brewing a cup of tea. Once you know the right water temperature, ratio of liquid to grounds, and how long to brew your coffee, you’re well on your way to making French press coffee.

Because there’s no paper filter to stop them (just a stainless steel fine-mesh screen), tiny dissolved particles and essential oils from the coffee grounds end up in your cup and give the coffee a richer, fuller body. So if you’re a coffee drinker who’s into big-bodied coffees, the French press might be the perfect brewer for you. That slightly oily feel and big body reflect the qualities of most dark roasts, so those are great in a French press.

Let's Get Started
Warm with Water
1. Warm with Water

Preheat the French press by filling it with hot water from a kettle. Whether you have a classic glass or stainless steel model, this step will make sure the whole coffee maker stays warm during the entire brew process — ensuring you get all those tasty flavors out of the grounds and into your cup. Temperature is one of the key variables in brewing consistently tasty coffee, so you do not want your hot water hitting a cold coffee brewer and immediately cooling down. While you wait about 30 seconds, now is a great time to grind your coffee. Because French press is an immersion brew method (meaning the coffee is completely submerged in water and stays in contact until the brewing is done), you want a very chunky, coarse grind size. The larger the surface area, the longer it takes for the water to extract the delicious stuff out of the coffee beans. If you’re using a burr grinder (which we very much recommend for its vastly more even grind size), you’ll want the higher number settings. If you use a blade grinder, just don’t grind for as long as you would for, say, a drip machine. If you’re getting your coffee beans pre-ground at a shop, odds are you’ll just be able to ask for it to be ground for a French press, but if all else fails just remember the word “coarse”. Empty the hot water from your French press before continuing; you’ll be using fresh water to brew.

Add Coffee Grounds
2. Add Coffee Grounds

Whatever delicious coffee you’ve chosen to brew, now is the time to add that coarsely ground coffee to the carafe. Remember to measure! The right coffee to water ratio is one of the keys to a good, consistent cup, no matter the brew method. For our recipe, we like to use around 15 grams of water to each gram of coffee. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when measuring:

  • One milliliter of water weighs exactly one gram, so if you’re using a scale you can measure everything really easily by placing your carafe onto the scale before pouring
  • You can measure your water in a measuring cup as well. Just make sure you consistently use the same coffee scoops every time and measure them the same way.
  • If you usually measure a level tablespoon, but one day decided to measure a heaping tablespoon, just pay close attention to how high you’re filling the French press, to make your brews are that much more consistently tasty.
Bloom to Enhance
3. Bloom to Enhance

Ladies and gentlemen, start your timers. Pour your water around in a spiraling motion, or really any pattern that ensures your water is evenly submerging all of the grounds. If you see any dry spots up top, try and aim for them with your stream of water. You want to get all the grounds wet at as close to the same time as possible, so the water starts extracting flavor from them simultaneously. That even extraction will make the coffee taste more balanced and delicious. You may notice your grounds “growing” or bubbling in the hot water. This process is called blooming, and it helps prepare the grounds to be brewed to perfection. That first pour helps release gases like carbon dioxide from the coffee, which then allows the rest of the water you pour to fully penetrate the grounds and extract all of that tasty stuff more evenly. Let that water work its magic and wait until the timer reads 30 seconds before continuing.

Fill & Stir
4. Fill & Stir

Fill the carafe the rest of the way with hot water and give the coffee a gentle stir. This will make sure that crust of grinds that has formed on top of your brew gets integrated into the water and doesn’t just hang out up top. You don’t want to stir too violently, though, because that will agitate the grinds and speed up the extraction, which might release some bitter flavors (plus, while variables like time and temperature are really easy for us to control, agitation is super hard to measure). Place the lid on the French press and, if necessary, press the plunger down just a bit so that the mesh filter is just touching the top of the hot water, which will also help keep all the grounds submerged. Resist the urge to press all the way down, though. In a French press, you want to be brewing at a ratio of around fifteen parts water to one part coffee, which is just slightly stronger than the traditional drip coffee brewing ratio. The metal mesh filter (compared to the paper filter in many other brew methods) doesn’t stop the oils of the coffee from getting into your cup, and that extra bit of strength helps the flavors cut through those oils. That said, if you brew your French press at a ratio of fifteen to one and the coffee tastes stronger or weaker than you prefer, feel free to use more or less water next time. That’s part of the fun of brewing at home. In fact, if the coffee seems too strong for you, simply add a little water to your finished cup after the fact (sadly, if the coffee seems too weak, you can’t really take water out after the fact).

Wait for it
5. Wait for it

When the timer reads four minutes, your coffee is ready to drink! Finally, you can press that coffee plunger all the way down, until the coffee grounds are packed on the bottom. Careful not to push too hard — it’s better to press gently, so as to not over-agitate the coarsely ground coffee, which can lead to a few extra-bitter flavors winding up in your coffee. Don’t feel the need to press down on the grounds at the bottom like you’re trying to forcefully squeeze every last bit of flavor out of them. You already ground the coffee to a specific size and used time and temperature to gently coax those desired flavors out. Brute force won’t make it taste any better. Plus, even the sturdiest French press can only withstand so much force, and the last thing we want is a broken French press.

6. Voila!

Pour the hot coffee from the French press into your cup or travel mug and you are good to go. Even if you don’t want to drink all the coffee right away, try not to leave any extra coffee in your French press for later. While the plunger is great for making the coffee easier to pour out, it doesn’t completely separate the coffee grounds from the liquid. So if the coffee sits in that French press too long, it will get bitter from oversteeping, as the water is still in contact with the coffee grounds through that mesh filter. If you want to slowly enjoy it throughout, say, a leisurely brunch, pour it into a separate carafe or pitcher. If you have any left over that you’re not going to get to within the hour, put it in a cup or jar and stick it in the fridge. Now you have iced coffee for when you return home.

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Coffee Talk
Our coffee expert says

Can you burn French press coffee?

You can indeed burn coffee and create an acrid brew if you use water that’s too hot. Even for coffee drinkers who like their coffee as hot as possible, brewing with boiling water is not a good idea. To ensure you’re using water at a perfect temperature, first bring it to a boil. Then, when it’s boiling, take it off the heat source and let it cool for 30 to 45 seconds. Your water should have come down to 205 degrees by then, which is in a perfect window to begin brewing, though you’ll be fine within a few degrees off 200 on either side. If you’re willing to invest in some new equipment to make this process easier, there are also plenty of electric kettles on the market with temperature controls, so you can program the kettle to 200 and have the kettle hold it there until you’re ready to start brewing.

How do I clean my French press?

Like any coffee brewer (or really anything in your kitchen), you’ll want to keep your French press clean. Between brews, simple dish soap and hot water is more than enough, and, if you want to save yourself the effort, most French press models are dishwasher safe (though if yours has a large number of plastic parts or unusually thin glass, you might want to double-check the packaging just to be safe). Regardless of your day-to-day cleaning method, you’ll want to do a monthly deep clean. In addition to any bacteria buildup that soap might not catch, this deep clean is important for getting rid of scale (also known as limescale), which is a layer of calcium carbonate that builds up in any device that constantly comes into contact with water — especially in regions with harder water. There are commercial descaling products you can use, but you’ll also be fine using a 1:1 mixture of hot water and distilled white vinegar. Just fill your French press carafe with that mixture and insert your plunger so that it’s submerged. Leave it for four minutes, and then clean your French press thoroughly with hot water to get that vinegar taste and aroma out of there.

Can I make anything else in my French press?

Yes, you can make your cold brew recipe in a French press with relatively easy cleanup. Using about an 8:1 ratio of water to coffee instead of 15:1, because cold brew is traditionally brewed stronger to account for ice. If you want to simplify, just use twice as much coffee as you normally would. Use room temperature or cold water instead of hot water, and extend the brew time from four minutes to 12 to 18 hours. Other than that, the grind size and technique are the same. Just put your coarse ground coffee and water in the French press and leave it at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Cover it with a lid, but don’t plunge — you want the coffee to keep extracting and stay in contact with the water during the entire brewing process. When you’re ready to drink, just plunge all the way down and strain. The stainless steel filter will leave a little more sediment in your cold brew than some other filtration methods, but the flavors will be just as delicious. The principles that make a French press great for coffee also make it a really useful device for separating any kind of infusion. You can use it for tea, or to infuse water with cucumber, lemon, and spirits with herbs, citrus peels, and spices. (Ones with less flavor like vodka are a great blank canvas!)