How to use a French press

Beginner’s Guide To French Press Coffee: Make It At Home With No Fuss!

Has the rich press pot coffee left you craving for more? Do you love the idea of French press but it scares you a little? Don’t know where to begin?

French press coffee isn’t a set-and-forget kind of thing. Obviously, it leaves room for experimentation and it may be confusing for many people.

Luckily for you, 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!

There’s no need to starve yourself of press pot coffee anymore! It’s not as complicated as it sounds. I’ll guide you through the whole process step-by-step. 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!

The modern version of the French press coffee maker consists of the following parts:

  • Narrow cylindrical beaker also called a carafe

This part is normally made of three types of material:

    • 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 (in the dishwasher). But the temperature won’t shatter it.
    • 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. It doesn’t break, it can keep your coffee warm for hours, and there are some color options to choose from as well!
    • Ceramic or stoneware is another option for a beaker. It’s not as common but very beautiful! These are resistant to temperature, but not resistant to breaking!
  • A lid (plastic or metal)
  • A plunger with a mesh filter (stainless steel or nylon)

Have a look at step-by-step instructions below on how to make French press coffee!

What do you need for a French press coffee?

  • A French press
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring tablespoons (or a scale to weight the coffee)
  • 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.

It takes a little to master the brewing process and to make a perfect cup of coffee, but as with most things, practice makes perfect!

How does a French press coffee maker work?

Step 1: prepare the coffee

Grind your coffee beans with a burr grinder to get a 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!

Still confused? See the video below on how to make it!

 

What’s the French press coffee to water ratio?

There isn’t one single perfect ratio to make French press coffee. You don’t need to learn by heart an exact table with specific amounts of coffee and water. It all depends on your preference in taste, the strength of coffee, a variation of coffee, roasts, and a number of other factors.

The only real thing you have to pay attention to is to make good coffee and not a bad-tasting brew.

There are certainly recommended ratios between coffee and water.

The standard would be 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water. But it all depends on you.

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. It’s a test-and-try type of brew method, so using one can really be of massive help with coffee to water ratio French press, especially if you’re just starting out. When setting the ratios in the table below, I used this online calculator, but you can use any that you like best.

In any case, French press coffee is strong so start with a smaller amount and build up as you go!

Press Pot Size Ground coffee (grams) Water (ounces) 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
  • The ratio used to make average coffee: 16:1
  • The ratio for the strongest coffee: 14:1

French press coffee grind: what type of coffee should I use?

For the best experience, use freshly ground coffee with the press pot. 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.

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

French press sizes: which one is for you?

Before buying your personal press pot, you should know there are many different sizes available.

It all depends whether you’re brewing for yourself only or trying to caffeinate a crowd. On average, these pots can make between 3 to 12 cups of coffee, depending on a type of brewer.

The standard size is between 4 to 8 cups; keep in mind that these types of brewers count coffee in smaller cups and not mugs, which means that’s normally 4oz coffee per cup (about 120ml).

Let’s have a look at different types of French press coffee makers. Hopefully, I’ll help you decide on which one you need!

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.



The electric French press

Don’t have time to romantically make lazy Sunday brew? Let the electric French press do the work for you because it does it all!

This beauty heats the water, brews the coffee and keeps it warm after it’s prepared.

The only thing to consider is to decant the coffee after it’s ready. This is, after all, an electric machine and it can fail you with time. If that’s happened before, make sure to check this guide on how to make coffee without a coffee maker!

Cold brew French press: how to?

Not a fan of a hot cup of coffee? That’s quite alright, you can make a cold brew French press coffee as well!

This is a great option for hot summer months whether you want to serve it with ice cream or use older coffee that’s been sitting in your cupboard for too long.

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.

I have a detailed guide on how to make cold brew coffee 3 ways, including French press. The process is almost the same as the hot method, but you brew it with cold water for at least 12 hours (best overnight).

Cold brew French press ratio

When making cold brew, you’ll need more coffee than for hot brew. The ratio is pretty straightforward: double the amount of coffee you use for a hot brew.

Again, it’s a test-and-try kind of thing. If you see the brew is too strong, use less and vice versa.

A common ratio is a 1-part coffee: 7- part water but it’s difficult to be completely accurate since it all depends on your preferences, the coffee beans, and the size of the press pot.

How to clean your French press?

You don’t want to brew coffee in a smelly beaker that’s still slick with leftover oil from your Wednesday’s coffee heist, do you? After all, the quality of your coffee also greatly depends on the cleanliness of the carafe!

Dirty coffee makers = disgusting coffee!

Luckily for all of us (even the laziest ones), press pot is very simple to disassemble and clean. It’s even better if you have a mesh strainer on hand!

Before you begin: don’t remove the leftover coffee grounds with your hands and don’t flush them down your sink. They can clog it, trust me (not proud to admit the stupidity, but hey, happens to the best). Throw them in the waste. Use them in a face scrub. Put them into your compost. Seriously, anywhere but your sink. Anywhere that works!

To clean your French press, there are a few ways, but I found this one to be the easiest. All you have to do is to fill the beaker halfway with warm water. Swish the water around a few times then dispose of the leftovers.

Then, 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 well and it’s all clean and shiny, and prepared to use again!

Alternatively, you can also place your French press into the dishwasher; most of them are dishwasher safe. Still, you may risk the breaking of the beaker in there. I run it through for occasional deep cleanse, but the method up there is still my favorite to keep the pot clean!

FAQ on French Press Coffee + Tips

For more details on how to make coffee with French press, I decided to gather a few very common questions and answer them here. These may help to clear up some of the confusion when it comes to French press coffee, how to use it, and a little something about the cold press coffee.

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 you decided on a purchase, ask yourself:

  • 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 these answers down, it’ll be much easier to decide on the best pot for you.

Is French press coffee stronger than espresso?

According to the research that the 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. Maybe not everyone minds bitter coffee but I know many do. Here’s how to make coffee less bitter:

  • 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 French press
  • 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?

When you push down the plunger, the coffee grounds are still in the pot. For best effects, it’s better to decant freshly brewed coffee as soon as you’re done brewing.

Letting the press pot full of coffee sit for hours will result in very bitter coffee. If you’re worried about your coffee getting cold, decant it into a thermos.

What kind of coffee do you need for a French press?

As mentioned before, it’s best to use medium-coarse ground coffee. Ideally, you should go for medium to dark- roasted coffee beans. These contain a lot of natural oils and make the coffee much richer, smoother, and more fragrant!

What’s the best coffee for press pot?

Choosing the best coffee for the plunge pot is a personal preference, but in general, look for medium to dark-roast coffee beans. The few I’d recommend are

Ethiopian Yigracheffe (Volcanica)

Collected from the wild coffee trees, this is an exotic kind of coffee that’s organically grown. It’s a complex coffee with floral and fruity tones that stand out then brewed with press pot. What’s more, it’s medium-bodied with an earthy aroma.

Stone Street Colombian Supremo

A single-origin Arabica beans, this coffee is excellent for a cold brew as well (in case you want to make cold brew press pot). It’s balanced and bold coffee with fruity, caramel, and chocolate notes. This is fair-trade coffee from Peru with low acidity and light-medium body.

How much coffee do I put in an 8 cup French press?

The ratios all depend on your preference for coffee, but in general, this is how it goes:

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

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.

The cleaning process is much easier with the pour over, it’s also much faster. While the brewing time may be about the same, you’ll also need similar preparation before your brew (boil the water, grind the coffee, prepare the terrain). You can easily please a crowd with both of these brewers.

One’s a bit more flexible, other is perfect for lazy weekends. Read for more details on the comparison of these brewers here.

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.

When it comes to cleaning the machines and preparing the brew, they’re more or less the same. But, if you want to enjoy warm coffee over a longer period of time, the drip machine would be your primary choice. While fresh brew always tastes better, it all depends on your preference and time available to get luxurious about that perfect cup.

Overall, you have more control over the kind of brew you want with a press pot. If you’re not too fussy and don’t want to contemplate the how, when, and what of your coffee, go for drip! If you can’t decide on which one to choose, read a detailed comparison of the two brewing methods here.

French press VS Moka pot coffee

Moka pot functions in a similar way as the pressure cookers. Let me break that down for you: 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 can become your new travel companion because it’s more practical, 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 French 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 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 use a French press: a recap

Brewing coffee with a French press 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 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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2 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide To French Press Coffee: Make It At Home With No Fuss!”

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