The Complete Guide to French Press Coffee
The French Press: a favorite way to brew among coffee experts and amateurs alike. What makes the French Press so popular? Its elegant mechanics make a clean, fantastic cup of coffee. And there’s no need for a manual to use a French Press: it’s simple and easy to use and clean. It’s no wonder the French Press has surged in popularity the last few years.
But how did the French Press become so popular among coffee snobs and beginners alike? And as simple as it is to make coffee with a French Press, how do you make the perfect cup of French Press coffee?
We at Roasty care a lot (and I mean a lot) about how we brew a great cup of coffee at home. So we took a deep dive into the French Press:
- What makes the French Press so darn good
- The history of how the French Press got so popular
- French Press technique and the right coffee-to-water ratios and beans
- How to use the French Press step-by-step
- Pro tips and common mistakes
- The best French Presses on the market
1. What Makes French Press Coffee So Good
Smooth, rich, full-bodied, an excellent cup of French Press coffee tastes incredibly different (and better) than a cup out of a standard drip coffee machine. Why is that? Two reasons: flavor and control.
Unlike making coffee with a drip coffee machine, the French Press process lets coffee to steep in hot water for a considerable amount of time instead of simply passing through the beans. So each cup of coffee retains more natural oils from the coffee grounds and therefore a finer taste. The resulting coffee is often more flavorful, slightly bitter and often stronger.
The French Press process also lets you control the water temperature and saturation of the coffee grounds. We all know that the best part of the brew-at-home process is getting to experiment with your favorite ratios and methods for brewing your coffee just how you like it. If you consider coffee an art form (like we do), the French Press is an easy way to create your perfect cup of coffee.
Hipster TipThe key to perfect French Press coffee: freshly ground beans at a coarse grind.
2. The History Behind The French Press
The French Press makes a high-quality, simple cup of coffee – so it’s no surprise the French Press is now everywhere. But it wasn’t always as popular as it is today. While there’s a lot of debate about its true origins, the first patent for a French Press was obtained by an Italian by the name of Attilio Callimani back in 1929. The French Press was invented as an easy, flexible way to brew coffee.
The first French Press had a basic design: a metal or cheesecloth screen fitted to a rod that was then pressed into a pot of boiling water.
Over the years, the French Press evolved into the machine we know today. As it changed design, it expanded across Italy, Europe and made its way to other parts of the world, like the United States. Many believe it began a resurgence in popularity after it was used by the Michael Caine film The Ipcress File in 1965. Today, it’s one of the most popular methods for coffee lovers.
3. The Right Way to Make Coffee With a French Press
Not only does the French Press make a great cup of coffee, it makes an easy cup of coffee, too. All you need to brew your French Press is ground coffee, almost boiling water, your French Press, and your favorite coffee cup.
But the French Press can be deceptively simple: the coffee-to-water ratio is extremely important to the brewing process and too much or too little water can result in a weak or overly bitter cup of coffee. Luckily, there’s a simple ratio to help you remember how much coffee and water to use: 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon ground coffee = 1 serving. If you want more coffee, simply add an equal ratio of cups of water to tablespoons of ground coffee.
What Beans and Coffee Grind Do I Need? (Hint: Size Does Matter)
Almost any kind of bean can be used in a French Press. But there’s a huge difference in flavor between freshly ground beans versus pre-ground beans. Because the French Press process extracts so much of the natural oils from the coffee beans, it’s important to use beans that were roasted recently and freshly ground, ideally at home.
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During the roasting process, carbon dioxide is trapped inside the beans, which plays an essential role in the extraction process of the coffee’s essential oils. The older the beans, the more the carbon dioxide has escaped, reducing the amount of essential oils you can extract during the brewing process. The same is true of pre-ground beans. The closer you can grind your beans to the actual brewing process, the more essential oils and flavor will make it into your cup.
You’ll also want coarsely ground coffee beans when brewing with a French Press. This allows for optimum flavor extraction and will prevent coffee grounds from leaking into your final cup of coffee and creating any coffee sludge. If you coffee is ground too finely, it can pass through the French Press and make its way into your cup.
4. How To Brew Coffee With a French Press
What you’ll need:
- 8-Cup French Press
- Freshly roasted coffee beans
- Hand Burr Grinder or Automatic Grinder
- Scale for coffee measuring (or a tablespoon)
- Electric Gooseneck Kettle or Stovetop Kettle
- Mugs or Carafe (we recommend the Yeti Tumbler)
Ready to brew a kickin’ cup of French Press coffee? Here’s the step-by-step process for brewing 4 servings of French Press coffee (half of a standard 8-cup French Press).
1. Measure & Heat the Water
Measure out a little over 4 cups or about 950 ml of filtered water. Heat it to 205 degrees F or 96 C. If you can’t measure the exact temperature, just boil the water and remove from heat for 30 seconds. You’ll use some of the extra water in Step 3.
2. Grind The Beans
While the water is heating, grind 60 grams (about 4 Tablespoons) of beans using an automatic burr grinder or a hand grinder. It’s always best to grind only the amount of coffee you need for each individual brewing session, so your coffee is always as fresh as possible. The ground coffee should be about as coarse as kosher salt.
3. Preheat The Press
Rinse the press with some of the hot water to preheat your French Press. Make sure the wire plunger is clean and free of old coffee grounds.
4. Bloom & Steep
Add your coffee grounds to the French Press and set a timer for 4 minutes. Fill your French Press up halfway with hot water. Leave the coffee there to “bloom” for 1 minute before adding any more water.
4. Add Remaining Water
After 1 minute has passed, evenly pour the remaining hot water over the grounds. Put the lid and plunger on top (do not plunge yet). Let it steep for 3 minutes.
5. Press & Serve
When your timer goes off, slowly press the plunger down, using only the weight of your hand. No pressure! Serve immediately or pour the coffee into a carafe or insulated mug.
Hipster TipServe your coffee immediately to avoid over-brewing, which can leave a bitter taste and sludge at the bottom of your cup
5. Pro Tips and Common Mistakes
For the best cup of French Press coffee, remember to keep these tips in mind:
- Rinse your French press with hot water to warm it before brewing your coffee
- If you don’t plan on drinking the coffee right away, pour the coffee into a carafe. If the coffee sits in the French Press for too long, your coffee will get bitter.
- Use the right size of coffee ground. French press brewing requires a very coarse grind of coffee for optimum flavor.
- Keep your coffee-to-water ratio tight. The key to good French Press coffee is the right balance between ground beans and hot water. Use too much or even too little water, and your coffee just won’t taste right.
- To clean the French Press, discard any grounds and water from the brewing process. Pull the press apart and shake off any remaining grounds into the garbage. Rinse each part of the French press thoroughly and allow it to air dry before you use it again.
6. The Best French Presses on The Market
Now that you know how to use the French Press, it’s time to find the right one for you! Whether you get a stainless steel French Press or a glass French Press, the type doesn’t really impact the flavor (although we would avoid the plastic variety completely). The main difference? How well each French Press retains heat and holds up over time. Glass varieties look elegant and are a favorite among many french press connaisseurs. But stainless steel retains heat longer, though it doesn’t look as glamorous as the glass variety.
Most standard French Presses come in the 8 cup French Press variety, though there are also single cup varieties if you only brew a single serving of coffee each day. The size doesn’t affect the flavor but a larger French Press will lose heat more quickly if you’re not filling it up all the way.
In our opinion, here are the best French Presses on the market:
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If you’re looking for a classic glass French Press aesthetic, look no further than the Bodum Chambord French Press. This French Press will brew 34-ounces or about 8 cups of coffee, perfect for 2 to 3 people. Made from durable and heat resistant borosilicate glass and wrapped in stainless steel, this french press is both easy to use and safe to the touch, even when filled with steaming hot coffee. Its 3 piece mesh filter is perfect for extracting every exquisite ounce of essential oil and flavor. This press is well designed and easy to use and clean, making it the perfect French press for daily, regular use.Buy Now On Amazon
An interesting but elegant take on the French Press, the Le Creuset Stoneware model is made from durable stoneware that resists stains, chipping and cracking. Designed with an impermeable exterior enamel and a glazed interior that makes cleaning easy, the Le Creuset is designed to be tough, look great and clean easy. This gem of a press is truly unique, making it a great addition. Not only is it stain resistant, but it is also dishwasher safe, meaning that it is easier than ever to clean up after you make your coffee. While a bit more expensive than other French press options, this one will make heads turn and will truly look great while brewing a spectacular cup of coffee.Buy Now On Amazon
The SterlingPro Double Wall French press adds a modern and elegant feel to any kitchen. This French Press features double wall construction that keeps your coffee hot while still keeping the outside cool to the touch. The SterlingPro also comes with two extra screens for filtration to help ensure that those pesky coffee grounds stay out of your final cup of coffee. Cleanup is simple: it easily disassembles for rinsing and can even placed in the dishwasher for a good cleaning. If you love stainless steel and modern design, then this is the French Press for you.Buy Now On Amazon
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You’re Ready to Start Brewing!
That’s it! You know everything you need to know to brew coffee with your French Press. Just pick out some high-quality beans and remember your water-to-coffee ratios and you’ll be ready to enjoy the perfect cup of French Press Coffee.