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How to Use Your French Press—Plus 5 Tips for Better Tasting Coffee

How to Use Your French Press—Plus 5 Tips for Better Tasting Coffee

Learning how to use a French press is easier than you think.

9 min read

One sip of coffee made with a French press and you’re sure to fall in love with this simple and classic brewing method. Not sure how to use a French press? No problem. Our easy instructions will help you brew the perfect cup coffee and maintain your French press for years of use.

french press coffee with breakfast
french press coffee with breakfast

What is a French Press?

It might sound fancy, but a French press is essentially just a simple contraption that allows you to submerge coffee grounds in water, extract their rich flavor and then filter them out all with one piece of equipment. Superbly straightforward, right? Another great characteristic of the French press: Its metal mesh filter lets more coffee oils into the finished drink than paper filters do, and that enhances the coffee’s texture and taste. So if you prefer coffee with a strong aroma and a robust flavor, this approach might suit you better than the pour-over method or drip coffee.

Feeling curious and craving your next great cup of joe? Then let’s get started.

Step 1: Pick the Right Coffee Beans

You might not know this, but it’s important to select the best kind of coffee bean for your brewing method. For the French press, try a darker roast, which tends to be more full-bodied and can stand up to being fully immersed in water. Also ensure that your beans are fresh by storing them in an airtight container.

coffee grounds going into french press
coffee grounds going into french press

Step 2: Choose the Right Coffee Grind Size 

Details like the size of your coffee grinds have a huge impact on your finished product. Since the mesh on a French Press can’t capture as much sediment as a paper filter, use a conical burr grinder to grind your beans coarsely—not finely—so that the particles don’t slip through the filter when you pour the coffee out. If you’re using pre-ground beans, make sure they say “coarse” on the package. Grounds that are too fine will leave a muddy sediment in your mug and might also cause the plunger to get stuck when you push it at the end of the brew.

Step 3: Heat Your Water

Ideally, the water you use in your French press should register between 195-205 °F. Any hotter and the flavor that the water extracts can be too bitter. Colder water can result in a slow extraction process, which can lead to weak coffee.

Ensure your water is at the correct temperature by using an adjustable temperature electric kettle that allows you to heat the water to your desired temperature. Or use a digital instant read thermometer to get a reading just before the water boils. If your water gets too hot, just remove it from the heat to let it cool for a minute or two before brewing with it. And if you have extra hot water, use it to pre-heat the French press or your mug by pouring it in, swirling it around a few times and then dumping it out before pouring in your coffee.

plunging the french press
plunging the french press

Step 4: Understand the French Press Coffee to Water Ratio

The more coffee grounds you add into your French press, the stronger your cup of coffee will be. Lighten things up by adding less. Or think of it this way: If there’s too much water and not enough coffee, you’ll over extract unpleasant flavors from the grounds. If there’s too much coffee, the water won’t be able to extract everything you want.

One way to get your ratio right is to weigh the ground coffee using this general rule: Use a precision scale to measure out 8 grams (1 tbsp.) of coarse ground coffee per 4 oz. (118 ml) of water. Or use a well-marked scoop to help you arrive at the same ratio.

It might take a few trial runs to get the grind size and water-to-coffee ratio just right, but as a general rule: If your coffee seems strong enough but tastes bitter, adjust the grind size on your conical burr grinder to a bit coarser. If your coffee seems strong enough but tastes sour or astringent, try to make the grind size a little finer—but not so fine that it can pass through the metal filter!

pouring coffee from french press into mug
pouring coffee from french press into mug

Step 5: Stir in the Grounds

This part is simple. Just go ahead and add your ground coffee to your heated water. Some experts believe in allowing the grounds to “bloom” by pouring in only a small amount of water to moisten the grounds first, and waiting for 30 seconds before adding the remaining water. Once you’ve filled the carafe, stir with a spoon if needed.

Step 6: Steep Your French Press Coffee

Got a lot going on in the morning? That’s exactly when and why you’re going to be happy you know how to use a French press! It’s also a great option for brewing a great-tasting coffee at work since the slow, steeping method of brewing is one you can set and forget—at least for a few minutes. Just set a standard kitchen timer for four minutes and start it as soon as you begin pouring water onto your coffee grounds. Once you’ve added all your water, put the top on the pot and gently push the plunger just enough to make sure the grounds are all submerged under the water. While the coffee brews, you can whip up a breakfast smoothie or send an email.

cleaning a french press
cleaning a french press

Step 7: Enjoy Your Coffee

After allowing the coffee to steep for several minutes, slowly push down the plunger, which forces the grounds to the bottom of the carafe. Once they are secured, your coffee has been filtered and is ready to drink, so get your mug or insulated tumbler ready! Craving a cold brew or taking your coffee to go? Pour it into a travel tumbler with a handle and flexible straw that will keep it at your desired temperature for hours. Just make sure that if you have leftover coffee, pour it out of the French press so that it doesn’t continue to extract flavor from the grounds.

 

Step 8: Clean Your French Press

Since oils, minerals and other residue from your coffee beans and water supply can build up on your grinder and coffee equipment, it’s essential to clean your French press and other apparatus regularly. On a daily basis, wash the carafe and plunger with a gentle soap and water then let them air dry. Every so often, do a deep clean to descale and freshen up all your equipment to keep your coffee tasting fresh.

Once you have your French press technique perfected, why not try your hand at a tasty coffee cocktail? Plus, try one of these delicious coffee-flavored frozen desserts.

Additional reporting by Audrey Brashich.

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