Whether you’re a coffee enthusiast or just enjoy the occasional cup, you’ve most likely heard of the French press.
Although the French press is known for its simplicity and ease of use, making a great cup of French press coffee requires more than mixing some coffee grounds with hot water.
In this guide, we teach you everything you need to know about how to make French press coffee. We not only provide step-by-step instructions but also help you avoid common mistakes and provide some fun ways to add variety to this popular brew.
Table of Contents
What Is French Press Coffee?
French press coffee is a method of manually brewing coffee using a simple yet elegant device known as a French press.
The device itself consists primarily of a cylindrical glass or stainless steel container with a plunger (a metal rod attached to a mesh filter) and a metal or plastic lid.
The brewing process involves steeping medium-coarsely ground coffee beans in hot water for four to five minutes and then pressing the plunger to separate the grounds from the brewed coffee.
In contrast to quicker brewing methods, the French press necessitates a longer steeping time, which contributes to its distinctive flavor.
Compared to other brewing methods like drip, pour-over, or espresso, French press offers a more robust and full-bodied flavor. This occurs because the steeping process enables the infusion of the natural oils and flavors from the coffee beans directly into the water.
Equipment & Ingredients Needed to Make French Press Coffee
Before jumping into how to make French press coffee, we first need to ensure you have the necessary tools.
Here, we’ve highlighted the equipment and ingredients you’ll need and included links to some of our favorites:
- Whole Coffee Beans: Whole beans are fresher and retain more of the coffee’s natural flavor and aroma compared to pre-ground coffee. Additionally, we recommend using a medium to dark roast as they tend to offer the rich flavor profile that French press coffee is known for.
- Filtered Water: Water quality is an essential and often overlooked component of brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Regular tap water often contains excessive amounts of minerals, chlorine, and other impurities that can affect the taste of your coffee. An easy solution is to use spring or bottled water instead. However, if you really want to elevate the quality and taste of your coffee-brewing water, we highly recommend using Third Wave Water.
- Burr Grinder: A burr grinder is preferred over a blade grinder as it produces more consistent and uniform grounds. This ensures even extraction of flavors, preventing the bitter taste that can result from using unevenly ground coffee. If investing in a grinder isn’t feasible at the moment, don’t worry; you can just purchase whole coffee beans from a local coffee shop and ask them to grind them for you.
- Scale: Great coffee requires precise measurements. Although not a necessity, a scale (preferably one that can measure in both grams and ounces) provides more accuracy and consistency than a measuring spoon.
- French Press: Choosing a quality French press that meets your needs is essential. Especially as it relates to brewing capacity. The one you choose should feature a sturdy plunger, a fine mesh filter, and a tight-fitting lid to maintain temperature and prevent spills.
- Electric or Stovetop Kettle: A kettle is essential for heating water to the appropriate brewing temperature. While an electric kettle often comes with built-in temperature settings, a stovetop version gives you a bit more manual control. When using a stovetop kettle, it’s recommended that you pair it with a thermometer to ensure precise temperature. Choosing between the two types comes down to cost and the level of control you wish to maintain during the brewing process.
- Wooden Spoon: A spoon is necessary for stirring the coffee grounds to ensure even saturation and extraction of flavors. Using a wooden spoon versus a metal one is typically advised as it prevents potential damage to the glass carafe of the French press, which can often be delicate.
- Timer: A timer is essential to ensure the precise brewing time and avoid under or over-extraction. A simple kitchen timer or the timer on your phone will work perfectly for this.
How to Make French Press Coffee
While the traditional method for making French press coffee can deliver a nice brew, there are a few tweaks that when made, can produce a fantastic cup of coffee!
Here are the key steps required to make an amazing cup of French press coffee:
1. Choose Your Ratio
The first and perhaps most critical step to brewing the perfect cup of French press coffee is finding the ideal coffee-to-water ratio. This ratio ultimately determines the strength and flavor of the final brew.
A good starting point is a 1:15 ratio, but feel free to experiment and adjust based on your taste preference.
|Whole Coffee Beans (grams)
|Whole Coffee Beans (tablespoons)
2. Boil the Water
Fill your kettle with more water than needed for brewing and bring it to a boil.
Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly to between 195°F and 205°F (90°C and 96°C). If you don’t have a thermometer, wait approximately 1 to 2 minutes before pouring.
3. Measure & Grind the Beans
While the water is being heated, use your scale to measure the amount of coffee beans you need based on your chosen ratio from step one.
Ignore the typical advice to go super coarse with your grind size. Instead, grind the beans to a medium-coarse consistency, ensuring they’re not too fine so as to avoid over-extraction.
Transfer the grounds to a small bowl or container and set aside.
4. Warm the Press
Before moving on to brewing, it’s essential to pre-warm your French press. This will help maintain a consistent water temperature during the brewing process.
To do so, pour some of the hot water you just boiled into the press and swirl it around until the press is warm to the touch. Once warm, discard the water.
5. Bloom the Grounds
Place the French press on the scale and add the coffee grounds. Then zero out the scale.
Next, gently pour twice the amount of water than the weight of your coffee grounds into the press. For example, if you have 30 grams of coffee, you’ll want to use 60 grams of water.
Then, stir the grounds with a wooden spoon, ensuring they’re evenly wet.
This process allows the grounds to release gas and expand, creating a bloom effect.
Wait approximately 45 seconds for the bloom to settle before moving to the next step.
6. Add Remaining Water
Pour the remaining water over the grounds in a circular motion, making sure to saturate them thoroughly.
Then, place the lid on the French press, but do not press the plunger.
7. Steep the Grounds
After adding the water, start the timer and let the coffee steep for four minutes.
Avoid stirring during this time, as it’ll affect the extraction and flavor.
After four minutes, gently press the plunger (don’t force or slam) until it reaches the bottom of the carafe. This will separate the grounds from the liquid.
If you have a little more time and want to take your French press coffee to another level, consider the method made famous by 2007 World Barista Champion John Hoffman.
Instead of pressing the coffee at this point, gently stir the crust at the top of the coffee to break it up. When doing so, much of it will start to fall away.
Then, scoop and remove any foam and floating bits that remain.
Now let the coffee sit for another five minutes.
During this time, the remaining grounds and bits will settle toward the bottom of the carafe instead of ending up in your cup. This will also let the coffee cool to a more drinkable temperature.
After five minutes, press the plunger down, but not all the way. Stop once it’s sitting on the surface of the coffee. Here, it can be used as a strainer, but it shouldn’t be needed if poured gently.
Although this method requires a bit more time, it’s totally worth it as it provides a delicious silt and sludge-free cup of coffee!
9. Serve & Enjoy
Lastly, pour the coffee into your favorite cup or mug and enjoy!
Make sure not to leave any coffee in the French press, as it will continue to extract and become bitter. Transfer any leftover coffee to a thermal carafe or pitcher for later enjoyment.
How to Add Variety to Your French Press Coffee
While drinking a plain black cup of French press coffee can be an enjoyable experience in itself, there’s nothing wrong with giving in to your adventurous side and experimenting a bit.
Here are a few fun and easy ways to add some variety to this popular brew:
- French Press Latte: To make a French press latte, brew your coffee stronger than usual to mimic the robustness and strength of espresso. Simultaneously, warm your milk just shy of boiling. After emptying and rinsing the French press, add the milk and rapidly pump the plunger to froth. After achieving the desired froth, mix it with your freshly brewed coffee to complete your homemade latte.
- Chocolate Coffee: To add a chocolatey dimension to your French press coffee, add one to two teaspoons of cocoa powder to the coffee grounds before pouring in the hot water. This allows the cocoa to blend seamlessly with the coffee during brewing, yielding a smooth and chocolatey cup.
- Spice Infusion: Adding spices such as cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, or vanilla bean can not only elevate the flavor of your French press coffee but enhance its many existing health benefits as well. To infuse, add the spices to the carafe before pouring in the hot water, and then allow them to steep with the coffee grounds during the brewing process. Start with a small quantity, such as a half teaspoon of ground spices or one stick or pod, to avoid overpowering the coffee’s natural flavors.
Pros & Cons of French Press Coffee
Although there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to learning how to make French press coffee, it’s not without its drawbacks.
Understanding the pros and cons will not only help you determine if it’s the right brewing method for you but also help you get the most out of your French press coffee experience.
Although mastering how to make French press coffee takes practice, it’s definitely worth the time and effort. By following the steps laid out above, you’ll consistently be rewarded with a delicious cup of coffee.
Frequently Asked Questions
The amount of coffee a French press can make depends largely on its size. Typically, French presses come in sizes ranging from 12 ounces (0.35 L) to 51 ounces (1.5 L). It’s important to note that most French press manufacturers consider a serving size as 4 ounces (0.12 L). So, a 34-ounce French press could make roughly eight 4-ounce servings of coffee.
Yes, French press coffee can contain more caffeine compared to other brewing methods. This is mainly due to the longer steeping time, which can extract more caffeine from the coffee grounds. However, the exact caffeine content can vary based on other factors as well, such as the coffee bean variety, roast type, and the coffee-to-water ratio.
Although coffee that’s been ground immediately prior to the brewing process is always best, you can definitely use pre-ground coffee when learning how to make French press coffee. However, it’s essential to make sure the coffee has been ground to a medium-coarse consistency. This will ensure proper extraction and prevent a “muddy” brew.
After using your French press, remove the grounds by scooping them out with a wooden spoon. Rinse the carafe and plunger assembly with soap and warm water to remove any residue. Every few uses, it’s wise to do a deeper clean to remove any oils or grounds that have been caked on. This can be done by disassembling the plunger and soaking the individual pieces in a dedicated coffee-cleaning solution.
Absolutely! Making cold brew coffee is another fun and easy way to use a French press. Its unique design simplifies several steps of the cold brewing process. For detailed instructions, check out our guide on how to make cold brew coffee.
How to Make French Press Coffee in 9 Simple Steps
- 30 g whole coffee beans (5 tbsp medium-coarse coffee grounds)
- 450 g filtered water (15 oz)
- Cinnamon stick (optional)
- Vanilla bean (optional)
- Cocoa powder (optional)
- Determine your coffee-to-water ratio. A good starting point is a 1:15 ratio, but feel free to experiment and adjust based on your taste preference.
- Fill your kettle with more water than needed for brewing and bring it to a boil. Then let the water cool slightly to between 195°F and 205°F (90°C and 96°C). If you don't have a thermometer, wait one to two minutes before pouring.450 g filtered water
- While the water is heating, measure the amount of whole coffee beans you need based on your chosen ratio from step one. Grind to a medium-coarse consistency. Then set aside in a small bowl or container.30 g whole coffee beans
- Warm the French press by pouring in some of the hot water you just boiled. Swirl it around until the press is warm to the touch. Once warm, discard the water.
- Place the French press on the scale and add the coffee grounds. Then zero out the scale. Gently pour twice the amount of water than the weight of your coffee grounds into the press. Stir the grounds with a wooden spoon, ensuring they’re evenly wet. Wait 45 seconds before moving to the next step.Cinnamon stick, Vanilla bean, Cocoa powder
- Pour the remaining water over the grounds in a circular motion, making sure to saturate them thoroughly. Then, place the lid on the French press, but do not press the plunger.
- After adding the water, start the timer and let the coffee steep for four minutes. Avoid stirring during this time, as it’ll affect the extraction and flavor.
- After four minutes, gently press the plunger (don’t force or slam) until it reaches the bottom of the carafe.
- Pour the coffee into your favorite cup or mug and enjoy!
- Although the recipe calls for 450 grams (15 oz) of water, be sure to boil more so that you have extra to warm the press in Step 4.
- If you’re planning on infusing your French press coffee with your favorite spice, it should be added to the press with the coffee grounds in Step 5.
- When serving, make sure not to leave any coffee in the French press, as it will continue to extract and become bitter. Transfer any leftover coffee to a thermal carafe or pitcher for later enjoyment.