French Press - How to make the best coffee

How to Use a French Press for the Best Cup of Joe

How to Use a French pressThis page will teach you how to use a French press and make great coffee like a professional barista.        French press brewing has always been a great way of making delicious coffee. The brewing seems very simple, however, as simple as it seems, there are many variables that can give you different results in your cup. That means you have to be pretty precise when you brew. This coffee brewing method leaves you with an aromatic and strong flavored coffee meant to spoil your taste buds and energize your mornings. Although the technology we have today allows us to make super-fast coffee with super automatic machines, the French press has those classic perks you can’t have with a super automatic. This is the reason so many people still use this coffee maker.

The press pot, how is often referred to, is a traditional French coffee maker also known as a coffee plunger (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia), a cafetière à piston (France), a caffettiera a stantuffo (Italy), a cafetière (Netherlands and UK) or French press (Canada and US).

The coffee brewing industry has advanced a lot in the latest years, and ever improving coffee brewing technologies keep appearing on the market. Appliances such as espresso machines, coffee drip machines, or pour-over kits are great alternatives, attempting to replace the humble classic French Press. Despite the assault, French press brewing is still a great way of making delicious coffee and many of us keep one in their kitchen to brew a cup from time to time.

French press experts make some of the best coffee you ever tasted and are always happy to share the knowledge.

For a fats step by step reminder on how to brew coffee with a French press, read the next section. If you want to improve your coffee, make sure you read the entire article. It is full of tips and tricks, and teaches you how to brew your coffee “your own”.

How to Make French Press Coffee in 12 Steps

How to use a French pressYou probably know how to use a French press, if you saw it once, it's hard to forget. The details, however, are very important. While the picture above is beautiful, thanks Kim Piper Werker for sharing it, there is a little detail that will raise an eyebrow. I bet you can find it, after reading this article. 
This 12 steps list is probably more detailed than what you know about brewing with a French pot, and it might give a clue about the brewing slip in the picture.

  1. Always keep the beaker and plunger clean by rinsing them with hot water and soap. Coffee sediments impart a specific taste to your coffee.
  2. Using a good quality burr grinder, grind your beans coarsely. Coarse grind is the best for a clear cup.
  3. Before brewing, pour some hot water in the pot. This will help stabilize the brewing temperature and maintain your coffee hot for longer. It will also prevent the thermal shock, common with glass beakers.
  4. Dump the hot water used for pre-warming the pot.
  5. Put the ground coffee in the pot. The coffee grinds will be placed uniformly on the bottom of the beaker.
  6. Time for the brewing phase: pour hot water at 194-200 °F in the pot. Pour to fill only a quarter of the pot, and give the mix a few stirs with a wooden spatula or spoon.
  7. Pour the rest of the water and give it another short stir.
  8. Place the plunger in the pot and push it just enough to come in contact with the water.
  9. Cover the beaker with the lid and screw it on so it insulates the brew. It is important to maintain the brewing temperature longer.
  10. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Longer steeping gives you a stronger coffee.
  11. With a slow and steady movement, push the plunger down until you get to the beaker’s bottom.
  12. Open the spout by lifting the lid and pour into cups.
  13. Enjoy it.

SO this is it, doesn’t sound like a big deal does it? And it isn’t, really, but at the same time you need to know a few other things to ensure the perfection of your cup of joe. Read on for more tips and tricks.

Bodum Brazil French Press Coffeemaker, Red

This 34-ounce French Press serves 3 people. Although is presented as an 8 cups pot, it the beaker is not that big. The 8 cups are not the US measuring cups, but coffee cups, (4 ounces cups).

Brazil is one of the first products made by Bodum, and it is one of their most popular products. Here are some great things about it:

  • Colorful - You can choose a colorful Bodum to match your personality, or your kitchen style.
  • Compact - A great coffee maker in a compact size. No need for electric bulky devices; the Brazil can be stored just about anywhere.
  • Very lightweight, the borosilicate glass is weighing close to nothing, it's a pleasure to work with. 

 

How to Grind Beans for a French Press

Bunn commercial coffee grindersAs with any coffee brewing method, grinding is very important for French press brewing. It is very important to grind the coffee beans right before brewing, but you must already heard this before. Spending an extra couple of minutes in the morning by grinding the coffee yourself is a very small price to pay for greatness in a cup. On top of that, grinders are not very expensive, you can get a really good domestic grinder for under $100. It is common sense that for fresh drinkable coffee you need fresh ground coffee. Beans start losing their flavor and aroma instantly when grounded, the best way to maintain that aroma and flavor is by grinding the beans just before brewing.

Contrary to the opinion of many coffee experts, you can play a little with the grind size for French pot. Yes, grinding coarse will get you the clearest cup, but that is not the best tasting one. The common advice you find on Internet is to grind coarsely. And that is fine, it’s the safe route. The safe route will not reward you with amazing coffee, however. My advice is to try with finer grinds. The trick, when you use a fine grind is to use a great quality grinder that will give you uniform coffee. In coffee brewing the dust and boulders grind is one of the common thing to ruin your coffee. With French press is even worse, this is where the silt is coming from. Another trick with finer grind is to not press the plunger until the end of the steeping period. The grinds will absorb water and expand in size, hence will not pass through the screen.

How to Use a French Press - Italian Recipe

French Press Coffee Water Temperature

The most critical aspect of French press brewing is the steeping temperature. The recommended temperature for French press is 194-200 °F. Some people like their coffee with more bite, so they’ll use boiling water, but that’s just a personal preference. I personally use water at the lowest temperature, this gives me a delicate tasting coffee. There are some problems with this approach though. Because glass beakers lose temperature very fast, the initial 194 °F temperature drops very fast, so you have a small time window of efficient brewing.  

 By brewing with low temperature water, you also get tepid coffee, which is fine for me, but most of coffee lovers hate lukewarm coffee. In order to avoid these two problems you need to pre-warm the pot before brewing, and insulate the beaker. To insulate the beaker wrap some towels around it during the steeping phase. Now, the wrapping technique works, I used it in the past, but I am all for convenience and efficiency. So I ended up using a double wall stainless steel French press. Another great alternative is the Impress coffee brewer.

As far as getting the right water temperature, you can use a thermometer and measure the water temperature. I personally like to use a variable temperature kettle, for perfect control; I found the intelligent kettle to be best way to heat water for French press. The advantage is that there is no waiting for the water to cool off, it is very precise, and it is very convenient.

French Press Coffee to Water Ratio

The standard coffee to water ratio for French press is 8.8 ounces of water to 2.3 ounces of coffee. Don’t get stuck on these numbers, make it your own. I like stronger coffee so I always tend to use more grounds. In cups and tablespoons, that would be cup of water to a heaping tablespoon of coffee. I use a cup of water for almost two tablespoons of coffee because I like my coffee strong. You can also tamper with the water to coffee ratio by adjusting other things such as the grind size or water temperature. With a fine grinder, as well as with hotter water, less grounds are needed. However, keep in mind that using water too hot will result in over-extracted coffee.

How to Brew French Press Coffee Video

French Press Coffee Blooming and Steeping Time

Blooming and steeping are very important with French press, as they are with any manual brewing method. Yes, the process requires for an extra 5 minutes, compared to drip coffee, but it’s definitely worth it.

  • The total brewing time for a French press, is between 3 and 5 minutes.
  • Blooming is as important as steeping and it takes less than a minute. Blooming, or pre-infusion, is the initial phase when you pour a little hot water over the grinds and stir it for about 30 seconds. This ensures all the grounds will properly absorb water, which makes for a better extraction.
  • Once the blooming is done, you can pour the rest of the water and preferably give it another slow stir.
  • Put the plunger above the pot, but don’t press for now.
  • Leave the coffee for another 2.5 to 5 minutes to brew and then, with a slow and even movement, press the plunger.
  • You coffee is ready to be served.

Procizion Coffee French Press

There are a few Below are a number of reasons no other French press even comes close to comparing with the Procizion French press:

  • Triple filter screens system for retaining any grinds. No more silt in your coffee.
  • Smart design: The carafe is made of durable heat resistant borosilicate glass and the white plastic under the lid is BPA free to protect you from burning your hands when pouring coffee.
  • 100% Guarantee: If you do not love your French press for any reasons, Procizion will refund you no questions asked.

 

Why Does My French Press Coffee Taste Bad

Troubleshooting French Press Coffee

Just knowing how to use a French press is not enough if you aim for great coffee. It's also knowing about steeping, and how changing brewing parameters can affect your coffee. Beginners can make some mistakes early on that may result in less-than-optimal coffee. Below is a list of some common press pot problems and my solution.

Coffee Tastes Bitter

The coffee may have been ground too fine. Next time use a coarser grind. If the coffee is dark roasted, make sure the coffee is fresh and lower the brewing temperature to 195 F.

Coffee Is Too Strong

If the 5 minutes total brew-time gives you a coffee that is too strong, lower the steeping time to 3 minutes. As soon as the three minutes have passed, pour the coffee into cups, and move the excess into a thermal carafe. I like my coffee stronger, but for drip coffee lovers French press might taste too strong at first.

Coffee Is Not Hot Enough

Many people don’t drink French press coffee because it’s not hot enough. Like already described in this article, there are efficient ways to maintain the coffee temperature. From the moment you put on the lid, just wrap a towel on the pot and you will have hot coffee. You can also use an Espro press, or an Impress brewer, they have double walls for greater insulation, among other improvements.

Coffee Is Weak

If you infused for 5 minutes and your coffee is still weak, then you need to grind finer. Dial your grinder just a little bit.

My Coffee Has Too Much Silt

French press coffee sediments
This amount of sediment is normal for a mug of French press coffee. Picture taken by Matt Davis via Flickr.

Grind a little coarser and use a little more grounds to compensate. The coarser the grind the weaker the coffee, for the same amount of ground beans. If the bottom of the cup is covered with larger grinds that shouldn’t pas through the screen, then your filter doesn’t fit snuggly against the pot. This is very common with cheap French pots. It could also be the sign you need to replace the filter.

With French press you will always have a little grit in your cup occasionally, even with the best grinders. A great technique, but a little time consuming is to sift the grounds. This post on home-barista.com is very thorough, if you consider this technique. Another hack is to use a paper filter as shown in this article. But using a paper filter defeats the purpose. I could stick to my drip coffee machine, instead.

Conclusion

People like or dislike the French press based on some particular reasons. Even though the French press pros weigh more than the cons, debate is always valuable when trying to be documented and up-to-date on a subject.

Many manufacturers in the industry have come out with improved French press versions. A successful product is the Impress coffee brewer with their hybrid between French press/AeroPress.

Ultimately, the French press really is a great device meant to adjust many different tastes through its adjustability characteristics and I like to think that this article will inspire people to experiment with the French press and learn how to properly make French press coffee.