How to Use French Press Like a Pro

Coffee enthusiasts around the world have their humble beginnings. And usually, it’s with the French Press.

It’s a common enough kitchen tool that you can find in any American home (next to the Electric Drip Machine). However, it being commonplace doesn’t mean that the brewers always make perfect French press coffee.

french press on a kitchen counter

In this guide, our team of coffee connoisseurs will teach you how to effectively use a French Press for your every day cup of joe.

To help us get a real-life feedback and results, we had a guest, a real beginner, and we will teach him how to use french press along with you.

You will learn:

What is the French Press?

But first… a little history lesson.

Origins

The French Press or cafetiere has its origins in Italy. Ugo Paolini (An Italian) had patent documents for a tomato juice separator which later became a model for coffee brewing. By 1929, the Italian assigned two Italian colleagues, Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta, to file the patent for the Coffee Press in 1929.

old coffee press from the 1900

Although, the French would argue that the cafetiere had French forerunners in the 1800s, the patent the coffee press was dated in 1924, filed by Frenchman, Marcel-Pierre Paquet dit Jolbert.

modern coffee press

In these modern times, it’s still an ongoing debate as to where this magnificent coffee maker originated. Withstanding the test of time, it’s clearly still of great relevance in the coffee industry as a cheap alternative to coffee machines.

Plus, it’s a highly accessible coffee equipment! The French and Italians can hash it out while we enjoy our cup of coffee.

The Anatomy of the French Press

The French Press may look like a small pitcher with a plunger but it’s machinery has more to it.

It has two main pieces that come together:

The Plunger and Filters

The plunger is composed of the lid, the plunger or metal rod, and, the filters. The French press has built in filters to separate the coffee grounds from the coffee. The filters are usually fine mesh filters, either made out of metal or cloth.

plunger and filters

The Beaker/Carafe

The beaker or the carafe is composed of the pitcher-like vessel made of glass, plastic or ceramic. It holds the water to make coffee and is propped up by a base.

coffee beaker and base

What kind of coffee does the French Press make?

The French press coffee maker is an immersion brewer. It soaks the ground coffee to the core and extracts that yummy flavors and natural oils.

Other coffee brews that use paper filters – cold brew and pour over – tend to be on the mellow side taste-wise. This is due to the coffee oils being separated from the coffee yield during filtering.

A french press and a cup of coffee beans

Meanwhile, the French press offers more control like the pour over and retains the natural oils of the coffee. It provides a stronger brew, more intense coffee taste, and added texture of the coffee oils. Perfect for people who like their coffee brews robust.

What’s the French press appeal?

The French press coffee maker is beloved even by the most meticulous coffee lover. It’s lightweight, portable, cheap, and super easy to use. Not to mention it make delicious coffee.

What more could you want?

What do I need to make French Press Coffee?

Here are a few things you need to hit that coffee sweet spot:

Coffee Grounds

For a typical joe, the French press loves to highlight personal preference. You can choose whichever whole bean coffee that you like! May it be in different varieties, blends, or single origin, it doesn’t really matter!

But if you want the best tasting cup, you need the best coffee beans for french press, we listed them for you.

As long as it’s freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee, you wont have a problem. Don’t settle for pre ground coffee that’s been stocked for a long time! Weak brews should be avoided at all cost!

coffee-beans-according-to-roast

But, it will be safe to stay within medium to dark roasted coffee beans since the intensity of the brew may affect acidity more. Lighter roasts are already acidic and work best with pour overs. Though again, it’s all about personal preference.

The grind size should be medium coarse ground coffee for a good cup.

Similar to cold brew, the French Press method is an immersion brewing method, which means that the coffee will steep in the water for a time to extract that delicious liquid gold. But it differs in the use of water temperature, so you have to watch out for the grind size.

different grind sizes of coffee beans

The reason for the coarse setting lies in the type of filtration that occurs in the French Press itself. The filters connected to the plunger are usually made out of metal or cloth. This doesn’t fully protect your perfect cup of stray fine grinds.

It’s not a bad thing though. Most people even claim that the fine coffee particles add more texture to your cup of coffee a cup than a clean one. But if you’re not up to drinking a “dirty cup”, you can opt to use a sift your medium coarse ground coffee before you before you brew it.

muddy coffee press

Additionally, you should stay away from the coffee press if you have finely ground coffee. That’s a spell for disaster. The fine grounds will have difficulty being extracted, turning muddy at the bottom of the beaker and offering you a bitter cup. Don’t over grind!

Under-grinding, on the other hand, can also produce a weak brew. Stick to medium coarse grind and then work from there.

Coffee Grinder

To get the best possible medium coarse ground coffee, use a burr grinder to grind your whole coffee beans.

While a blade grinder can do an okay job for medium coarse ground coffee, it’ll still result in haphazardly ground coffee. They’re pretty asymmetrical and can affect your brew negatively.

burr grinder and blade grinder

That is why burr grinders are better all the way. But we do understand that electric ones are expensive and hand grinder variety take too much arm effort if you’re brewing a big batch.

A French Press Coffee Maker

Although the French Press is cheap, you shouldn’t buy one that isn’t of good quality.

You have to consider the durability of the materials as well. Like if you buy a coffee press with a glass carafe, make sure that the glass is thick enough to withstand heat and a bit of manhandling.

Different sized French Press

It also comes in different sizes. A single French press can make coffee for 1 – 2 cups while a large French Press can make up to 6 cups. So if you share flavorful coffee with people at home, you can buy a bigger French press or smaller if it’s just you.

Quality Water

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. The quality of your cup is tantamount to the quality of your water. Always use filtered water for your coffee for best results.

Food Scale or Measuring Cup

Making French press coffee needs accuracy in terms of the ingredients we use i.e., coffee grounds and water.

food scale and measuring cups

If you have a food scale in your kitchen, that’s great! It’ll be easier to weigh your coffee and water to its exact decimal. But if you only have measuring cups and spoons, that’s okay! Just convert the coffee to water ratio from grams to cups!

The important thing is you weigh your ingredients for the best French press coffee you can make.

(Optional) Thermometer

Food thermometers are great kitchen tools for baking and coffee making. Although it’s an optional equipment for the French press method, having one handy may come to an advantage.

food thermometer

You’ll need one to determine if your water is the right temperature for brewing. For the French press, the ideal brewing temperature is 90 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer, wait for your water to boil and let it rest for a minute before you brew your coffee.

(Optional) Paper Filters

Not everyone likes fine particles in their coffee.

The French press often has fine grounds in the final cup. While others find that it adds character to their perfect cup, others don’t like it. Even if you do manage to sift the fine coffee grounds before brewing, there may still be some left in the cup.

french press pouring coffee into a paper filter

We suggest using paper filters as a catch basin for the fine grounds. But, note that this will also catch the yummy oils from your coffee.

So, use these tools with caution.

How to make French Press Coffee?

I’m assuming that you now have everything you need to make French press coffee, let’s now talk about how to make it!

The brewing time for French Press lasts 3 minutes to 5 minutes. I prefer to keep in in the middle, hence, I brew my French press coffee for about 4 minutes.

Preparation Phase

Here are the following preparations you should do before you brew your coffee:

Weigh and Grind your Whole Beans

Get your food scale and weigh your whole beans according to the recipe you will be using. After weighing them, grind them to medium coarse grind and then set aside.

(Optional) Sift your medium coarse grind beans to remove fine grinds.

Boil your Water

Boil your water to its ideal temperature. You can do this with a thermometer or just allow your water to its boiling point, cool for a minute and then proceed to brewing.

Coffee to Water Ratio

Like any brewing method, the coffee to water ratio is important.

The coffee to water ratio for the French press is 1:12. If you have 30g of coffee, multiply that by 12, and you get 360g of water.

Of course, you can adjust the ratio according to your preference but don’t go over 1:15 or less than 1:10 ratio.

Brewing Phase with Food Scale

Brewing Equipment:

  • A French Press
  • Kettle with thermometer
  • Food Scale

Step 1: Remove the plunger from the beaker/carafe and set it aside. Place your beaker/carafe on top of the food scale and press Tare.

french press without the plunger on top of a food scale

Step 2: Pre-heat your beaker/carafe using your hot water. Swirl the water around to make sure that the vessel is nice and warm.

french press being pre heated

Step 3: Dump the hot water and get your pre ground coffee. Press Tare on the Food scale to remove the weight of the coffee. Since you’ve already weighed the grounds prior to the brewing, it doesn’t make sense to weigh them again during brewing.

coffee grounds being dumped inside a coffee press

Step 4: Dump the pre ground coffee in your warm beaker/carafe.

Step 5: Pour a little bit of hot water inside the beaker/carafe on top of the coffee grounds. Allow it to bloom for 30 seconds. You can stir it.

french press being stirred with hot water

Step 6: After blooming the coffee, pour in the remaining water according to the recipe. Give it a bit of a stir.

Step 7: Place the plunge back on top of the beaker/carafe. but don’t plunge!

plunger being replaced on the carafe with coffee

Step 8: Let the coffee extract itself through the remaining soaking time.

coffee timer and coffee press

Step 9: After the timer dings (I’m assuming you set one), slowly press the plunger down to separate the coffee grounds from the liquid.

plunger being pushed to separate coffee grounds from coffee

Tip: Don’t press the plunger too quick! It might allow bigger coffee grounds to pass through the filter!

Step 10: Immediately pour the coffee to another carafe or pitcher. Don’t allow the coffee grounds and water stay in the French press longer than it needs to! This is how many people screw up French press coffee.

french press pouring coffee into a cup

Tip: Don’t under extract by separating the coffee grounds and water too early. At least let it sit for 4 minutes!

Brewing Phase with Measuring Cups

Do the exact same thing as with the Food Scale! You just convert 30g of coffee into 2 tablespoons of it. Liquid measuring cups have volume indicators, you can use that to measure your water.

tablespoon with coffee grounds

The disadvantage of pouring your water into a measuring cup is that it quickens the cooling of the water.

To do this effectively, you should make sure that your water is at its boiling point. So that, when it cools, it’s still the right temperature for brewing.

French Press Tips

The best French press coffee is the one that follows the most fundamental coffee science: right coffee grind + right water temperature + brew time = the best coffee.

Just follow the steps we told you about, and you’ll be sipping this coffee every morning.

Other Ways to Use the French Press

Our guide will never be complete, we we don’t tell you about the other things you can do with the French press.

Milk Frothing

Bet you didn’t think you could froth milk using a French press.

Well, you can. And it’s easy. Just pour in your milk of choice inside the carafe, replace the plunger and pump it up and down until the milk froths.

french press used to froth milk

You can top your coffee with freshly frothed milk without a hand-frother or steam wand.

Cold Brew

Cold brewing using a French press is also a newly popularized method. It uses the same grind coffee, so it’s a perfect fit!

cold brew in a french press

Cold brew is a brewing method that uses cold water instead of hot water. To use your French press for cold brew, check out our guide on How to make Cold Brew.

Final Beanie Notes…

Any coffee lover can begin their brewing journey with the French press! No doubt it makes great brewed coffee with more flavor than you’d think!

It doesn’t take much time to brew a cup, it’s easy and cheap. And obviously, can give cafe grade coffee at home! So, don’t wait up. Buy that French press and start brewing!

If you still want to deepen your coffee knowledge, read more of our coffee guides!