How to Use a French Press: A Step by Step Guide

How to Use a French Press

French press coffee is often regarded as the best way to make quality coffee. The reason people say this is because using a french press allows the natural oils and flavors of the coffee grounds to remain in the coffee instead of being filtered out. 

Using a french press isn’t a difficult process. Of course there are some people that jump through all of the hoops when it comes to getting the most out of their french press coffee. Whichever way you choose to use your french press it can be boiled down to seven simple steps.

How to Use a French Press:

  1. Heat Your Water
  2. Preheat Your French Press
  3. Measure Your Coffee
  4. Add Your Coffee Grounds and Water
  5. Steep Your Coffee
  6. Stir in or Remove the Crust
  7. Press Your Coffee, Pour, and Enjoy!

Keep on reading to take a closer look at how to properly make coffee using a french press, as well as how to keep it nice and clean for every brew.

Things You Need to Use A French Press

french press, kettle grinder and coffee

When it comes to making coffee in a french press you’re going to need a few things at the very minimum. There are a few optional tools you could use to refine the accuracy of your coffee brewing, but these aren’t absolutely necessary to the process.

You will definitely need:

  • Hot Water – To steep your coffee in
  • Coffee – Either pre-ground or fresh coffee beans
  • French Press – For making the coffee in
  • Measuring Cup – To measure your water
  • Tablespoon – To measure your coffee

You can also use:

  • Burr Grinder – The best method for grinding fresh coffee so that the grind is consistent
  • Scale – A more accurate way to measure your coffee and water
  • Timer – In case you want an exact steeping time
  • Thermometer – To accurately measure your water temperature

Making coffee in a french press doesn’t have to be an exact science to get good coffee. You can just as easily use whatever you have on hand to measure and make your coffee. 

Pre-Ground vs Fresh Ground Coffee

Coffee-beans-in-a-mug

It’s not a requirement for using a french press that you grind your own coffee beans just before putting them in. However, freshly ground coffee does give you’re a brew a more lively taste. 

When coffee is ground it starts to oxidize and lose some of its flavors. It is entirely possible to use pre-ground coffee in your french press, though it may not result in the most quality cup of coffee. Pre-ground coffee is often made on the finer side, which can allow more silt into your coffee through the filter.

When using freshly ground coffee, you want to get a coarse to medium grind that won’t leave a lot of residue in your coffee after it is pressed. Too fine of a grind will make a stronger and often bitter coffee. Too coarse of a grind will make your coffee weak. Using a burr grinder will ensure your grind is consistent.

When choosing your coffee beans, keep in mind that lighter roasted beans have a heavier weight compared to dark roasted beans. This is because of their higher moisture content.

Pre-ground coffee is the more convenient way to go without a doubt. But if you’re looking to get the best quality coffee from your french press then you should absolutely go with freshly ground coffee.

Find Your Coffee to Water Ratio

It can be difficult to figure out how much water and coffee should be added to your french press to get the strength of coffee you’re looking for. And because the french press comes in so many different sizes it makes it even harder to get that ratio just right.

A good rule of thumb is to start with 2 tablespoons or 10 to 14 grams of coffee for every 1 cup of water or 200 grams. This will still be on the weaker side of coffee, so you can always add more coffee to suit your tastes if you desire.

Step One: Heat Your Water

Now that you have everything ready to go and you’ve decided on what strength of coffee you’d like to brew, it’s time to get to the actual brewing process.

The first thing you are going to do is heat up your water. The more filtered your water, the better your coffee will be.

The ideal temperature of water for french press coffee is 195 to 205 Fahrenheit degrees or 90 to 96 Celcius. This is where a thermometer can come in handy if you have one. You should aim for your water temperature to be at an even 200 (F°) or 93 (C°).

If you don’t have a thermometer on hand then you can just put your water on the stove until it is boiling. Once it reaches a boil you should remove it from the heat and allow it to sit for a few minutes to reach a good temperature for your french press.

It will take 24oz of water around 4 minutes to lower from boiling to 200 (F°) or 93 (C°) 36oz of water takes about 8 minutes. Don’t pour boiling water directly into your french press. It’s too hot. You should always give it a few minutes to cool.

Step Two: Preheat Your French Press

This is mostly an optional step as it won’t affect the overall taste of your coffee. But if you haven’t used your french press in a while it can help to break up any dust or debris in your press. It also warms it up for your coffee making.

Take your warm water and pour it into the press until it’s about 1/4 of the way full. Press the plunger all the way down to the bottom and swirl the water around to break up any particles that may be leftover. 

Once you’ve rinsed the french press, take the top off and discard the water. Now your press is all warm and rinsed out and ready to go!

Step Three: Measure Your Coffee

weighing coffee beans

There are a few ways you can measure your coffee. 

If you are using coffee beans that you intend to grind, you can use a scale to measure the beans before grinding. Measure out their weight in grams that coordinate with your desired coffee strength for your french press size.

Measuring your coffee after its ground can be done either way. You can use a tablespoon to scoop out your coffee grounds and dump them in your french press. This will still provide you with an accurate measurement.

If you prefer using a scale, you can set a container on it and reset it to zero. Then simply scoop in your coffee grounds until you reach the right amount for your needs. 

Step Four: Add Your Coffee Grounds and Water

Once you have your coffee ready to go, it’s time to add it to your french press. Dump the coffee grounds in and give the press a shake to even them out. Use a measuring cup to measure out the amount of water you’ll need for your size french press.

It’s better to let your coffee bloom before pouring the full amount of water on top of it. To do this, you should pour your warm water over the coffee grounds just until they are covered, stir, and leave them to sit for 30-35 seconds.

Pour the rest of the water into your french press and give it another good stir for about five seconds to break up any crust formed from the bloom. Put the lid on with the plunger pulled all the way up and left it there.

Step Five: Steep Your Coffee

French-press-with-a-timer

As soon as the lid is put on you should check the time or start your timer. It’s important to only steep your coffee for a few minutes or else it could result in over extraction and make your coffee taste too bitter.

You’ll want to steep your coffee for 3-4 minutes. If you’re unsure about the exact time, start with 3:30 minutes and then adjust the time longer or shorter depending on how it suits your tastes. 

Make sure the lid stays on your french press for the entire steeping time so that your coffee stays hot!

Step Six: Stir in or Remove the Crust

After the steep time has ended you can lift the lid of your french press. There should be a crust that formed on the top of the liquid while it was steeping.

If you’d like a fuller-bodied taste to your coffee, you can use a spoon to stir the crust back in, which will help it fall back to the bottom of the french press.

If you prefer a lighter-bodied taste then you can use the spoon to scoop the crust from the top and discard it entirely.

Once you’ve dealt with the crust, replace the lid on your french press so you can press it.

Step Seven: Press Your Coffee, Pour, and Enjoy!

French press coffee in a cup

It’s time to press your coffee. All you have to do is press down on the plunger so that it goes all the way down to the bottom of your french press. This will filter out the coffee grounds from the liquid.

If you feel a lot of resistance from the plunger as you press down then your grind is too fine. If there is no resistance at all then your grind is too coarse. Next time you should adjust accordingly.

You should pour your coffee into your mug immediately after pressing to keep the coffee from over extracting. If you have more than you need and want to save the rest for later, you should pour it into a thermos. It will keep your coffee hot without leaving it sitting in the french press with the coffee grounds.

There will usually be some silt in the bottom of your cup of coffee as a result of using a french press. It’s usually recommended to leave the final sip in your mug if you don’t want a mouthful of grit.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in Your French Press

Sometimes you aren’t in the mood for hot coffee. Maybe it’s summertime and you’re in the mood to enjoy your caffeine with a nice refreshing touch. It’s totally possible to make cold brew coffee with your french press in a similar fashion to making hot coffee.

Use your preferred ratio of coffee to water and add it to your french press in the same manner as described above. However, you won’t be using hot water. For cold brew coffee, you will want to use room temperature or even cold water to steep the coffee.

When it comes to steeping, cold brew coffee takes considerably longer than its hot counterpart. Cold brew coffee in a french press should be steeped for at least 12 hours. If you want to steep it in a refrigerator you should steep it overnight at the minimum.

Once your coffee is steeped, give it a nice slow press. You want to make sure to take your time pushing the plunger down so that you catch all of the coffee. You can also pour the coffee into your cup over a paper filter if you don’t think the plunger caught all of the grounds.

With your coffee poured you can add ice, milk, or cream for a nice sweet drink that is perfectly refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. Just another way your french press can give you a tasty beverage.

How Does a French Press Work?

A french press uses a process of brewing known as immersion brewing. Unlike drip brewing where the coffee is run through the coffee grounds, in a french press, the coffee grounds are allowed to steep in the water for a period of time.

Immersion brewing is better for getting a consistent extraction from all of the coffee grounds because they are mixed into the water. However, it is also much easier to over-extract the coffee which results in a bitter taste. 

A french press is made up of two main components. 

The beaker, base, and handle are the main part of the french press. The beaker is usually made of glass but can be made of other materials. They also come in a variety of sizes to suit different needs.

The lid, plunger, and filter are the top of the french press that does all of the work. The metal filter at the bottom of the plunger allows oils and small particles from the coffee grounds to pass into your coffee, giving it a richer taste than other methods of filtering. 

Variations of the French Press

It’s possible to get a french press in different sizes as well as made of different materials. What kind of french press you get could change the quality of your finished coffee. Cheaply made french presses won’t hold up as long and may not filter the coffee as well.

Deciding on what size french press you will need depends on how many people will be drinking the coffee, or how much of it you want to make at a time. It’s important to note, however, that just because it’s called a 3 cup french press doesn’t mean it will produce 3 good cups of coffee.

Number of 9oz Cups of Coffee From a French Press:

  • 3 Cup French Press – 1 Cup
  • 8 Cup French Press – 3 1/2 Cups
  • 12 Cup French Press – 5 Cups

If you purchase a larger french press but don’t need all of the coffee all of the time, you can always just brew the amount needed for a single cup. Just cut down on the amount of coffee and water you add to it before steeping. You can also purchase a decanter or thermos to save the leftover coffee for later in the day so that you don’t have to make more.

When it comes to what your french press is made out of, each material has its own properties that it brings to the table.

Glass is the most common kind of beaker on a french press. It is the most attractive to look at but is also the most fragile. If you drop your french press it’s probably not going to survive the fall. 

Ceramic beakers retain heat really well and look nice sitting on a countertop. They are also extremely breakable, but are often coated on the inside to prevent stains or odors.

Metal is an ideal material for a french press if it’s going to get beaten up a bit. They are the most resilient and won’t break if they get knocked onto the floor. They also retain heat really well but could potentially add an undesired flavor to your coffee.

Plastic beakers are resilient. If you’re considering a plastic french press make absolutely sure the plastic used to make it is BPA free, as BPA can potentially have negative effects on your health.

If you don’t feel like spending the time to make french press coffee but still want the results, you could go with an electric french press. These handy machines heat the water, brew the coffee, and keep it warm after it’s finished. Just remember not to let it sit for too long or it may not have the best taste anymore.

How to Clean Your French Press

When you’re paying such careful attention to using your french press to make delicious coffee, you probably want to make sure you’re cleaning it correctly between uses.

What You Will Need:

  • Spatula
  • Dish Soap
  • Water
  • Sponge or Bottle Brush

1. Empty the french press and let it cool off. Once all of your coffee is gone let your french press sit on the counter until it’s completely cool. You don’t want to burn yourself by touching it too soon.

2. Using a soft spatula or your hands dig out the coffee grounds. You don’t want to use metal in your french press because you risk breaking the glass. Empty the coffee grounds into the garbage or dump them down a garbage disposal. If you try to pour a lot of coffee grounds down a regular sink drain you might clog it up.

3. Add water to the french press and drop in some liquid dish soap. Put the lid back on and move the plunger up and down a few times to get the water all bubbly.

4. Dump out the soapy water and rinse the french press out. Move the plunger up and down again and then use a soft sponge or bottle brush to scrub the plunger and the inside of your french press. Rinse it out again until there’s no more soap remaining.

If you are just giving your french press a daily cleaning, then you can stop here. It’s best to deep clean your press at least once a week. In order to better clean out the filter, you should follow a few more steps.

5. Disassemble the plunger. Make sure to take apart all of the filter pieces so that you can give them a nice deep clean.

6. Mix together water and baking soda into a sort of paste. Use the paste with your soft sponge or bottle brush to scrub the pieces of your plunger. Rinse the paste off completely.

7. For hard water build-up, you can use a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar. Use the solution to scrub the disassembled plunger as well as the inside and outside of your french press. Make sure to rinse it off completely.

8. Leave the pieces out to dry before reassembling. Your french press should look shiny and new once you’ve cleaned it up but make sure everything has time to dry thoroughly before you put it back together.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your French Press

Using your french press is relatively easy but you might still want to know how to get the very best coffee possible out of it. If you’re looking for the best coffee you can possibly make, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

Use fresh coffee beans and freshly grind them just before making your coffee. This will preserve the taste of the coffee the best and result in a better tasting cup of coffee.

Use a burr grinder to grind your coffee beans. Blade grinders can lead to an uneven grind that puts coarse and fine particles in your press. For the most consistent grind, a burr grinder is the way to go.

Use the cleanest water possible. The majority of a cup of coffee is water and the quality of that water will most certainly affect the taste. 

Transfer the coffee immediately after brewing. Put the coffee into a thermos to keep it hot. If you leave it sitting in the french press then it will turn bitter from over-extraction.

With a few extra touches, you can elevate your french press coffee to a quality that makes you and your tastebuds happy. 

Enjoy Your French Press

Using a french press is a quick and easy way to make coffee for anyone that wants a more robust flavor than what other types of coffee making can provide. This immersion-style brewing extracts all of that delicious coffee flavor directly into your cup without the need for any paper filters. 

Just remember to follow these steps:

  1. Heat your water to the perfect temperature – between 195 and 205 degrees.
  2. Use some of the water to preheat your french press to keep your coffee even warmer.
  3. Measure out your coffee beans or ground coffee to match your desired coffee to water ratio and get the right strength for your tastes.
  4. Add your coffee grinds to your french press and then your warm water and give it a stir.
  5. Let your coffee steep for 3-4 minutes. Aim for 3:30 minutes and adjust accordingly once you’re familiar with how it tastes.
  6. Deal with the crust that forms at the top of your coffee after steeping – either stir it back in or take it out and discard it.
  7. Press the plunger all the way down to the bottom of the press to filter out the coffee ground and pour yourself a nice cup of joe!

While there are ways to make your french press coffee even better quality, it’s easy to get a good result from a french press no matter what you use. You have to pay some attention to it to make sure the water is at the right temperature and that it doesn’t steep too long. But this extra time and effort will pay off in the end with a delicious cup of coffee.

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