How to use a French press

How To Make French Press Coffee: Step-By-Step Guide To a Perfect Brew

Do you love French press coffee but don’t know how to get brewing? Honestly, brewing with a press pot can be confusing. It leaves room for customization and it seems overwhelming at first.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve compiled an extensive guide on how to brew French press coffee at home. We’ll cover everything from beans, ground, roasts, to water-coffee ratio, and even cold brew French press!

Stop starving yourself of the press pot coffee with this step-by-step guide. By the end of this article, you can go and brew your own pot of fragrantly rich plunger pot coffee!

Let’s get to it!

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Oh, if your old coffee machine breaks down, the French press is also an excellent way to make coffee without a coffee machine!

Are you ready to brew your own deliciously rich coffee every morning?

What is a French press?

Coffee in Europe may date back to the 16th century, but the French press maker does not. And you know that’s the fun part about it? The French press isn’t actually French! As many good and quality-coffee related things, this one as well was made by the hands of two Italians back in the late 30s!

Yes, it was Attilio Calimani and Paolini Ugo that invented and patented this device. Over the years, the French press device has seen various variations of the original design, but it hasn’t changed much. And it’s not only used for coffee; many use it to brew tea with it as well!

French press coffee maker consists of:

  • A lid (plastic or metal)
  • A plunger with a mesh filter (stainless steel or nylon)
  • A carafe (a narrow cylindrical beaker)

The carafe is normally made of:

    • Borosilicate glass: a special material that’s resistant to temperature change. It’s extremely useful but also a bit unfortunate since it’s prone to breaking
    • Durable plastic: not my cup of tea, but this type of plastic (styrene-acrylonitrile or SAN) is resistant to temperatures. Another important thing to consider is that the plastic carafe should be BPA-free
    • Stainless steel: another common material that’s pricier but quite handy since it doesn’t break and can keep your coffee warm for a few hours
    • Ceramic or stoneware is a rare option, yet very beautiful

What do you need for a French press coffee?

  • A French press
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring tablespoons (or a scale to weigh the coffee)
  • High-quality coffee beans
  • Coffee grinder
  • Water
  • Stirring spoon
  • Clean coffee cups
  • A kettle for water (optional)

How to make coffee with French press?

The process of making coffee in a French press is pretty straightforward. It includes some grinding, measuring, and pouring. There’s also an additional waiting time while your coffee is steeping to bring out the most flavor.

How does a French press coffee maker work?

Step 1: prepare the coffee

Grind your coffee beans with a burr grinder to get coarsely ground coffee. Measure the amount of coffee you want. For a more specific coffee-water ratio, see the table below, but a general rule is a 1-part coffee to 15-parts water.

Step 2: rinse the beaker with hot water until it’s warm to the touch. Discard the water. Doing this will allow you to keep your coffee hot for longer.

Step 3: add the coffee and water

Boil the water and let it cool down slightly before you pour it into the beaker. The ideal temperature should be around 200 degrees F.

Put the ground coffee into the beaker. Pour a small amount of water over the grounds, enough just to cover them. Stir the concoction of black mud and wait for 30 seconds. In other words, let your coffee bloom.

Step 4: add the remaining water

Pour the remaining water into the beaker, filling it up. Stir again.

Wait for another 4 to 5 minutes to allow coffee to steep. The longer you wait, the stronger the brew you’ll make.

Step 5: press down the plunger

Place the lid with the plunger on the beaker and press the plunger gently as far as it goes.

Step 6: decant the coffee

Step 7: serve and enjoy!

For more details, see the video!

Let’s look at the French press coffee to water ratio

Before we go any further, there’s one thing you have to know: there isn’t one single perfect ratio to make French press coffee.

The best French press coffee ratio will essentially depend on you. You are the one who decides on the strength of the brew, the flavor, etc. In other words, you control your brew.

To make things easier, there are general ratios recommendations regarding grams of coffee to water. For a more detailed ratio, feel free to look at the table below.

Overall, the standard measurements would be 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water. To make things even easier, there are a few French press ratio calculator options online that can help you find the best amount of coffee to water for your taste, such as this one.

Press Pot Size Ground coffee (grams) Water (ounces) Brew Strength
3 cups (12 oz.) 16 10 Mild
3 cups (12 oz.) 18 10 Average
3 cups (12 oz.) 21 10 Strongest
4 cups (17 oz.) 24 15 Mild
4 cups (17 oz.) 27 15 Average
4 cups (17 oz.) 31 15 Strongest
6 cups (24 oz.) 46 22 Mild
6 cups (24 oz.) 40 22 Average
6 cups (24 oz.) 46 22 Strongest
8 cups (34 oz.) 52 32 Mild
8 cups (34 oz.) 59 32 Average
8 cups (34 oz.) 67 32 Strongest
12 cups (51 oz.) 78 48 Mild
12 cups (51 oz.) 88 48 Average
12 cups (51 oz.) 101 48 Strongest
  • The ratio used for mild coffee: 18:1
  • For average coffee, the ratio used is: 16:1
  • The ratio for the strongest coffee: 14:1

How much coffee for 34oz French press (8cups)?

The ratios all depend on your personal taste, but here are general guidelines:

3 cup/12oz press – 1 cup coffee

8 cup/34oz press pot – 3.5 cups coffee

12 cup/51oz French press – 5.4 cups coffee

What’s the perfect French press coffee grind?

The best grind for French press is medium-coarse to coarsely ground coffee. According to Illy,

choose medium, with uniformity and consistency throughout.  Very coarse grinds may clog the filter, while very fine grinds will pass through the filter, muddying the results.

Use a burr grinder to get the right consistency. You’re looking for something resembling kosher salt.

Press pot sizes: which one is best for you?

Before buying your personal press pot, you should know there are different sizes and brands available (such as Bodum Chambord, Coffee Gator, etc.).

Choosing the right size depends on how many people you’re brewing for. You can find anything- from this 1-cup French press to a 12-cup French press. Keep in mind though; the standard French press measurement of coffee per cup is normally 4oz coffee per cup (about 120ml).

The small French press

The typical size makes about 3 to 4 cups of coffee. This is a perfect model for those who are not extreme coffeeholics and only need a boost a few times a day.

It’s excellent for one or two servings and the best part about it is that you’ll always make fresh coffee. If you’re looking to please a crowd, this option isn’t for you.


The large French press

For those of you who love making larger amounts of coffee, this is the model to go for! It’ll satisfy a crowd since it normally makes about 8 to 12 cups of coffee!

This model is wasted on smaller crowds though; your coffee will end up stale; you might even end up wasting a large part of the batch!

The metal French press

For those who’re looking for more functionality and less stylish brewers, metal press pots are very practical as they’re quite unlikely to break. In that way, they’re also travel-friendly and suitable to make camping coffee!

What’s more, hold heat very well, but be careful when dealing with it; you can burn if you’re not too careful.


How to cold brew French press?

Making a cold brew French press isn’t much different than making a regular brew. You can find the step-by-step recipe here, but in general, you have to grind your beans, pour cold water over them, and let them steep from 12 to 24 hours in the fridge.

What’s more, cold brew coffee is much easier on the stomach as it’s less acidic. The caffeine release is also slower so you don’t experience any caffeine crash as you would with hot brewed coffee.

Cold-brew coffee to water ratio

When making cold brew, you’ll need more coffee than for hot brew. The general rule here is to use double the amount of coffee as you use for a hot brew.

A common ratio is a 1-part coffee: 7- part water but take control and tweak that amount until you get the perfect brew. Add more coffee if the brew is too mellow, reduce the amount if the coffee is too strong.

How to clean your press pot?

The press pot is easy to clean, and you can do it in a few quick steps.

Just a word of advice: throw leftover grounds in the waste or compost. Don’t flush them down the drain; they may clog it with time.

There are a few different ways to clean the French press, but I find this one to be the simplest option: firstly, dispose of the ground coffee in the pot. Next, fill the beaker halfway with warm water. Swish the water around a few times then dispose of the leftovers.

Next, add warm water and some soap into the press pot. Put the plunger back on and pump it a few times. By pressing and releasing the plunger, you’ll clean the French press much more effectively than you would by using your hands.

Rinse the beaker, and that’s it!

Alternatively, you can also place your French press into the dishwasher; most of them are dishwasher safe. I run it through for occasional deep cleanse, but I would commonly use the method described above!

FAQ

What is the best French press?

There are different options available when it comes to the best French press coffee maker. You can have a look at a few suggestions listed above, but before making a purchase, try answering these questions:

  • What’s your budget?
  • What size are you looking for?
  • Do you prefer stainless steel or glass beaker?
  • Where will you use it (home use or travel-friendly)?

After narrowing it down, it’ll be much easier to decide on the best pot for you.

Is press pot coffee stronger than espresso?

According to the research that Roasty Coffee did when comparing these types of coffee, espresso isn’t as loaded with caffeine as press pot coffee:

Due to its concentration, espresso contains more caffeine per unit volume than most other coffee beverages. That’s 77mg per 1.5 ounce shot. However, French press coffee contains a jitter-inducing 107.5mg per 8-ounce cup. This actually makes a cup of French press coffee more caffeine-rich than one small shot of espresso.

How to avoid making bitter coffee?

With a few simple tips, you can easily improve the quality of your brew. Follow these steps to avoif brewing bitter coffee:

  • Buy good quality coffee beans, grind them fresh and store them in a dry place
  • Get a good grinder and grind the beans to the ideal consistency
  • Don’t use boiling water; let it cool to 200 degrees before pouring it over ground coffee
  • Regularly clean the brewer
  • Don’t let coffee sit in the press more than necessary. Serve it immediately; the longer it sits in there, the more bitter it becomes.

Should I decant after brewing coffee?

Unless you serve it immediately, freshly brewed coffee will sit on the grounds that are stuck under the plunger. The longer you let the coffee in the pot, the more bitter it will be. It’s best to decant it immediately. If you’re worried about your coffee getting cold, decant it into a thermos.

What’s the best coffee for French press?

While you can use any type of coffee beans, medium or dark-roasted beans work best and produce the most flavor. These types of beans have a higher amount of oils that make the brew extra beautiful!

Can you make French press coffee with cold water?

Yes, you absolutely can, you’ll get cold brew coffee, which is less acidic, easier on the stomach, and excellent for warmer months.

French press VS Pour over

They may seem the same thing, but they’re not. A French press makes bolder, stronger, and more flavorful coffee. Pour over can bring out those hidden notes of coffee you won’t easily produce elsewhere, but the coffee isn’t as strong and bold. Read for more on how the two brewers compare.

French press VS Drip coffee

It all depends on what you’re looking for. French press coffee is stronger, with a more powerful coffee taste, but the drip coffee machine is easier to use. The coffee is smoother, but it lacks the strength of coffee. It’s definitely lighter than press pot coffee.

Overall, press pot offers more control over your brew. If you want a straightforward method of brewing, go for a drip! If you can’t decide on which one to choose, read my comparison of the two here.

French press VS Moka pot coffee

Moka pot functions in a similar way as the pressure cookers. In other words, the steam pressure (from the lowest part of the pot) pushes the coffee to the top part. The coffee is rich, fragrant, and pretty intense, but not as intense as the press pot.

French press coffee is heavy and rich in flavor, but it’s more time-consuming than Moka pot. It takes less time, skill, patience, ceremony, and process to make coffee using moka pot. It’s easy to clean it and you’re free to use pre-ground coffee with it.

Moka pot is my (obvious) choice, just because I have some room for experimentation, but it’s easy to use even when I’m in a hurry.

French press v Aeropress coffee

If you’re looking for a shorter brew time, go for Aeropress. If you want a stronger, fuller coffee, go for French press.

Aeropress comes with a smaller learning curve that makes a strong brew, similar to espresso. The brewing time is shorter than with press pot, but you only have room to make one-size coffee, where the French press comes in various sizes. The same goes for the material; Aeropress is plastic, whereas the French press is made of different materials you can choose to your preference (plastic, stainless steel, glass, ceramic).

Which one to choose? That’s completely up to you! Aeropress is more travel-friendly, but press pot can make more satisfying cups of coffee you can easily share with a crowd.

What is the best grinder to use for Press?

There are many quality press pot grinders available to help you make a great brew every time. You need a grinder that will make a medium-coarse to coarsely ground coffee.

Make sure that the grinder you’re buying is a high-quality burr grinder that’ll produce a consistent grind every time without compromising the quality of the beans. Grinders with cheap blades will warm up the beans during the grinding, ruining them in the process. Also, they won’t produce a uniform grind which is extremely important for excellent coffee quality.

How to make French press coffee: a recap

Brewing coffee with a press pot is a very rewarding process that provides you with a new and unique coffee experience. The rich and fragrant aroma and bold flavor are a few of the reasons it’s become so popular among coffee lovers.

Press pot coffee isn’t a set-and-forget kind of brewing method but once you make it right, you’ll be able to enjoy flavorful and aromatic coffee day after day. Stick to the general ratios and brewing suggestions when you first start out. After that, it gets personal. Change the coffee-water ratio, test different beans, and remember, always grind your coffee fresh for the best results.

If you’re a real coffee lover, give the French press a try. In case you hate it completely, pass it on, give it to someone else. If you’re stubborn like me, you’ll be using it years to come, improving your brewing skills and enjoying the cup, moderated for your taste only!

Happy caffeinating!

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16 comments

Some times its a pain in the ass to read what people wrote but this website
is rattling user pleasant!

Stephanie says:

Thank you Elliesse :)!

This is some very helpful stuff. You explain every step very clearly
Thnx for your effort!

Thank you for such a lovely comment, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the read!

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