Using a French press is actually much simpler than many Americans may think. It takes up less space than most traditional coffee makers, it doesn't require any electricity and it allows you to make a truly customized cup of delicious coffee.
French press coffee utilizes a manual brewing method. The brewer has ultimate control over all aspects of the coffee-making process — from the grind of coffee bean to the water temperature and even the brew time.
The design of the actual French press hasn’t changed much since its inception about 100 years ago. Despite being associated with artisanal coffee shops, French presses are surprisingly easy to use.
At its simplest, making French press coffee just requires you to add ground coffee beans and boiling water to the beaker-shaped carafe, steep it for a bit, then press the filter down to get your brew. However, there are some tips that all home cooks should keep in mind when making coffee with this device.
First, it's best to warm up the beaker of the French press with hot tap water before adding the grinds. This will help maintain a more even heat level throughout the steeping process.
Ideally, the boiling water should actually be around 200 degrees, which is just under the true boiling point of 212 degrees. So once water comes to a boil, let it sit for a minute or two while adding coffee to the warmed, emptied beaker. If you want to be super scientific about it, get out a kitchen thermometer and test the water temperature before pouring it over the coffee grounds.
When it's time to start pushing the plunger down, carefully and slowly apply pressure to move the filter down. It's normal to encounter a little resistance, however, if it’s going down too easily then the grind is too coarse; if it’s way too hard to push, then the grounds are too fine and they may be clogging up the filter.
Since the coffee grounds are always in contact with the water, even after plunging the filter, you’ll want to pour out all of the coffee once steeped. Otherwise, it will over extract and begin to taste bitter. Pour the coffee into mugs or a thermos to keep it warm.
Keep in mind: A standard cup of water is 8 ounces, but a French press cup is 4 ounces. Most French presses come in four different sizes: 3-cup/12-ounce; 8-cup/34-ounce and 12-cup/51-ounce.
How to brew the perfect cup of coffee in a French press
Beans: Coarse grind
Coffee to water ratio: Roughly 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 8 ounces of water
Equipment: French Press and teapot or sauce pot
- For 3-cup French press: 3 tablespoons coffee, coarse grind and 10 ounces water, just below boiling
- For 8-cup French press: 8 tablespoons coffee, coarse grind and 30 ounces water, just below boiling
- For 12 cup French press: 12 tablespoons coffee, coarse grind and 48 ounces water, just below boiling
- Fill the French press with hot tap water. Set aside to warm up beaker.
- Fill teapot or sauce pot with water and bring just to a boil.
- Pour the hot tap water out of the French press and add in measured coffee grounds.
- Pour boiling water into French press.
- After 30 seconds, stir the coffee with a wooden spoon to break up the cap that forms.
- Place the lid on the French press and let brew steep for an additional 3 ½ minutes. (Total steep time will be about 4 minutes in an 8-cup press.)
- Press the plunger down slowly and carefully. Check to ensure no grounds are coming up through the filter.
- Pour the hot, filtered coffee into coffee cups or a carafe for serving.