How to Make Coffee in a French Press

French press pots(or cafetiere) are among the most popular type of coffee makers in the world. They’re one of the first ‘gourmet’ type pots that most people find. You’ll find them for sale at Starbucks and many specialty coffee shops, as well as online and in department stores. A French press is a simple enough device. It consists of a narrow glass carafe with a metal plunger. Making coffee in a French press is simply a matter of pouring nearly boiling water into the carafe along with ground coffee. After it has brewed in the pot for three minutes to extract the flavor of the beans, you push the plunger down to the bottom of the pot, and pour off the brew. The coffee made with a French press is rich and flavorful, many experts say, because none of the essential oils are trapped in the filter.

How To Use a French Press

As simple as the process sounds, there are a few tricks and a few caveats to keep in mind when making coffee in a French press. Like any other method, there are ways to mess up and make horribly undrinkable coffee. Once you get the hang of this little ritual, though, you’ll be drinking the kind of coffee that has made the French press the choice of coffee lovers all over the world.

1. Start with a clean press.

Seriously. The oils that make coffee so wonderfully tasteful also cling to everything that it touches. Just rinsing your French press out with water after you use it isn’t enough. You really do have to wash it with soap and water to get make sure that today’s coffee remnants won’t spoil tomorrow’s coffee.

2. Put water in the pot to boil.

Just as the bubbles start coming to the top, turn off the heat beneath it. If you’re really finicky or just want to learn to get the timing right, you can use a candy thermometer to find when the water is at just about 195 degrees. That’s the optimal temperature for extracting the most flavor from your coffee beans, no matter what method of coffee brewing you use. You’re going to let it come down from the boil for just about 1 minute. Which is just long enough to…

3. Grind your coffee and dump it in the bottom of the French press.

Use a burr grinder and set it to deliver a coarse grind. The coffee should actually be a little more coarse than you’d use for a drip coffee pot. Anything finer than that will poke through your filter and end up in your coffee. Use enough coffee!! To get the best flavor, you should start with a full, rounded tablespoon of ground coffee for each 4 ounces of water. Adjust up or down for stronger or weaker coffee.

4. Pour the water into the French press and put the cover on.

Don’t press the plunger yet. Let the coffee steep in the hot water for one minute.

5. Remove the lid

Using a NON-METAL spoon, stir the water and coffee grounds slowly to get the coffee swirling through the water.

6. Replace the lid on the French press and wait for two more minutes.

7. Take a deep breath and get ready to press the plunger.

You really do need to take the deep breath. It will remind you to take your time with this part of the process. It’s tempting to force the plunger down, but that way lies lousy coffee. Instead, press the plunger down slo-o-o-wly, with even, steady pressure until you’ve pushed all the grounds to the bottom of the pot.

8. Pour the coffee immediately.

Do not let the coffee sit in the French press for a second cup. Do not wait a few minutes before pouring your coffee. As long as the beans and water are in contact, the coffee will keep brewing and you’ll end up with bitter coffee. If you’re not going to drink all the coffee at once, pour the remainder into a vacuum pot to stay hot till you’re ready for it.

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  1. Lin burchett says

    I make French press coffee all the time and I don’t use coarsely ground coffee I use find green because I grind the beans myself and it is delicious

  2. Carla says

    You can also use your french press to make a Toddy (low acid, high caffeine, cold brewed coffee).
    First, pour in cold, filtered water to press.
    Add ground beans. (I use 1/2 cup of ground beans for 4 cups of water)
    Tap the coffee down a little to wet it, but don’t stir it in.
    Cover with press lid, but don’t push it down.
    Wait 12 to 24 hours, then push down to separate grinds.

    Try 1 part cold coffee concentrate to 2 parts water or milk to start, and adjust from there. Very smooth! Warning: because the beans are soaking in the water for so long, there is a LOT of caffeine!

  3. Carl May says

    There are some fundamental errors on this advice on making French Press coffee.

    1) The press itself should be pre-heated: filled with the hottest water and emptied just after grinding your whole beans, then the grounds are poured into the press, followed as soon as possible with water from the kettle.

    2) Water from the kettle should be monitored with a probe thermometer (much easier to use than a candy type), and the temperature should be at about 206-8 degrees then pour into the press. The air hitting the water will cool the temp. to about 204-205 degrees F. Make sure there are no gorunds ABOVE the plunger or you will get grounds in your brew…a common error.

    3) You want the ENTIRE brew cycle to remain at between 195-205 degrees F because at that heat only then will all the flavors release from the gounds and into the hot water (this is per the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s well-tested advice..see the website).

    4) The advice here is a 3 minute steep, but the standard is four minute steep before pouring, and some experts recommend waiting 1.5 minutes before stirring instead of one minute, others recommend stirring as soon as you pour, so experiment with steep-time and stir-time to find the best taste for YOU.

    4) Press SLOWLY to avoid agitating the grounds and encouraging the inevitable “fines” to intermix with the brew (“fines” are tiny coffee particles that exist regardless of the quality of your burr grinder).

  4. Nick says

    The BIGGEST mistake so many newbies make is that they buy their french press then just go to the supermarket and buy a can or bag of ground coffee. It doesn’t work. That coffee is ground too fine. This is why you HAVE to grind the coffee yourself using a burr grinder. The burr grinder grinds the coffee COARSE for use in the french press.
    I’m a barista at a coffee bar and I see this happen all the time. People will come in and say “how come it’s so hard for me to press the plunger down? It won’t move”

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