French press brewing is one of the most popular coffee brewing methods in the world. If you are new to this method or haven’t yet mastered it and want to learn how to make french press coffee, you have come to the right place.
In our French Press coffee guide we share everything you need to know about brewing coffee in a french press. We share step by step french press instructions, the ideal roast and grind for french press coffee, the best ratio for french press coffee and much more.
So whether you want to learn how to use a french press coffee maker, discover the best french press coffee beans or uncover the ideal brewing time, I have no doubt you will find all the information you need in our guide to brewing french press coffee.
What Is French press Coffee?
The French Press is among the most common brewing techniques for homemade coffee. The reason behind its popularity is not only how simple it is to use, but also the fact it is one of the best coffee brewing methods due to its distinct taste and rich flavor.
Commonly known in North America as a “french press” or “coffee press”, it is also known in parts of Europe as a “cafetière” and in Australia and New Zealand as a “coffee plunger”.
The french press coffee method is a simple immersion process. Coffee grounds are steeped in hot water before a mesh filter is used to separate the coffee grounds from your coffee before drinking.
The resulting coffee tends to have a more complex flavor profile than other brewing methods like regular drip coffee. It also has a heavier mouth feel due to the immersion process and the lack of paper filters that tend to remove some of the natural coffee oils from your cup of coffee.
So what are the secrets to making good french press coffee? In the next few sections we explain the key factors that will help you make perfect french press coffee.
What is a French Press Coffee Maker?
One of the best things about French Press coffee makers is their simplicity. Unlike high end espresso machines, automatic pour overs and regular coffee makers, french press coffee pots all work in the same way.
The Basic Parts of A French Press Coffee Maker
To have a good understanding of french press coffee brewing, let’s take a look at the three essential components.
The beaker is the carafe that holds the coffee and water. Traditionally made of glass, there are now many different materials available including stainless steel, ceramic and plastic.
The beaker is usually fitted with an insulated handle to make it easy to hold.
How does a french press coffee maker work? It all comes down to the most important component – the mesh filter.
Made of three pieces – a spiral plate, filter screen and a cross plate, it should fit snugly within the beaker and touch all sides. High quality presses will often come with metal microfilters to reduce the fines in your cup. The filter is attached to the plunger and lid.
Lid and plunger
The plunger is connected to the filter and is the mechanism to move the filter through the coffee to push the grinds to the base of the beaker. The lid connects the plunger and filter and covers the beaker for easy pouring and heat retention.
Types Of French Press Coffee Makers
French Press coffee makers have undergone design changes throughout the years, most notably in the material used to manufacture the coffee maker. Each one has its own pros and cons, which we cover here.
The first French Press coffee maker was thought to have been made of stainless steel. This design has been popular ever since for a number of reasons.
The primary benefit of a stainless steel french press is its durability. While other materials may shatter on impact, metal presses hold up very well. They also tend to retain their heat better than glass.
On the flip side, the main disadvantage is you can’t see the coffee as it brews and monitor the grounds settling. This makes it more difficult to judge when your coffee is ready and you will need to rely on a timer.
Stainless steel presses might be popular in restaurants, but the glass french press is what comes to the mind of most people thinking of the french press design.
It’s the most commonly used type of french press in households as they look stunning on your counter, they are easy to clean and the coffee does not absorb any flavors from the glass.
The main downside of the glass french press carafes is that they’re shatter-prone. Fortunately, replacement glass carafes are relatively affordable and easy to obtain.
Ceramic presses are excellent for retaining heat and they are the perfect addition to a country style kitchen. They are more durable than glass but can still shatter if dropped.
They often come in a range of colors but note they tend to be heavier than glass or steel. They are also more expensive than most other coffee press types.
Plastic coffee presses are designed as a budget and travel friendly alternative to glass carafes. They are not our top choice for everyday use, but are useful for camping trips and the occasional weekend away due to their lightweight construction and durability.
Best Coffee Roast for French Press Brewing
One of the best things about the French Press is that it works quite well with a wide variety of coffee roasts. But we think a medium to medium dark roast is best suited to making coffee in a cafetiere.
Let’s have a brief overview of the best roasts for French Press brewing, so you can pick your favorite.
They’re light brown in color because they’ve gone through the mildest level of roasting. The mild roasting results in higher acidity and mild bitterness with little to no oils on the surface of the bean.
If you’re a fan of light roast french press, it is best to drink black. The delicate flavor of light roasts makes them remarkably subtle in flavor, so milk can easily overpower the taste.
Medium to Medium-Dark Roast
Medium and medium-dark roasts are the best roast styles for french press brewing. Medium roasts are slightly darker in color with a little oil on the beans’ surface. Medium-dark beans have more color again.
The longer roasting time gives the beans greater complexity and depth of flavor which is helpful in immersion style brewing. They also lack the bitterness often associated with dark roast beans.
Their tasting notes often include nutty and chocolate hints with a smooth finish. These stronger flavors makes them suitable for adding milk to your coffee.
The balance in this roast is the reason why they’re the favorite roasts for many French Press lovers. See our favorite french press coffee beans here.
Dark roast beans have the longest roasting time and are dark brown to black in color. They typically have a smokey flavor mixed with bitter notes from the long roasting time.
They’re good for those who love exceptionally strong coffee, always with milk. However, they’re more suitable for espresso than the French Press.
Best Grind for French Press Coffee
If you have a lot of fines or silt in your cup, or if your coffee has a muddy taste, part of the reason may be you are using the wrong grind for french press coffee.
Most experts recommend a coarse grind for french press. This will be the consistency of sea salt.
A finer grind may result in more grit in your coffee as the mesh filter will struggle to separate it from your coffee. A poor quality grind (from a low end grinder) will also generate more fines as a result of an inconsistent grind.
An extra coarse grind (used for cold brew) may result in a weaker brew as there is less surface area for the natural oils to be released from.
So how do you ensure you get the right grind? Pre-ground grocery store coffee is unlikely to be ground right for making great french press coffee. So what are your alternatives?
If you buy from a local roaster, ask them to grind the coffee for you. But if you want to improve the quality and taste of your coffee, our best tip is to invest in a good quality coffee grinder. It is the secret to improving your home barista skills for all styles of coffee. We review 10 of the best french press coffee grinders here.
With your own grinder, whether you make drip coffee, espresso or french press, you are in control and can prepare the right coffee grind for each coffee style, every time. Plus, you get to enjoy the freshest tasting coffee every time.
Best French Press Coffee Ratio
There’s a lot of debate on the ideal coffee to water ratio. The starting point should be 1:15.
What does this ratio mean? It means that for every 1 measure of coffee you add 15 measures of water. This ratio works in both ounces and grams.
So in a standard 34 oz french press you would add 2.3 oz ground coffee (approximately 12 tablespoons). Obviously a coffee scale is helpful to obtain this level of accuracy.
The ideal ratio will depend on your coffee strength preferences, the coffee roast and the age of the beans.
- If you prefer stronger coffee, experiment with increasing the coffee to water ratio.
- If the coffee beans were roasted more than a few weeks ago, adjust your coffee ratio up. The less fresh and older the beans, the less flavor they will impart.
- With dark roast beans try a higher water to coffee ratio.
Ideal French Press Steep Time
French press brew time is called the “steeping process”. While brewing, the hot water starts extracting the flavor and oils in the ground beans into the water.
Here’s a simple rule to follow – the longer your steeping process, the more flavor extraction occurs.
So what is the ideal french press time? Most experts recommend 4 – 6 minutes. A shorter brewing time will result in a fainter taste profile. That’s why it’s essential to never brew for less than 3 minutes, especially if you have a coarse grind with a moderate coffee to water ratio.
If you enjoy a heavier, richer flavor in your cup, a brewing time of 7 to 8 minutes is worth trying. Be warned if you immerse your grounds for too long, the coffee will become bitter and over-extracted, so run a timer to ensure you don’t ruin your coffee.
How To Prepare French Press Coffee
Before we walk through our coffee press instructions, here is a summary of the essential equipment and tools you’ll need to make good french press coffee.
1. French Press Coffee Maker
No doubt you already have a coffee plunger on hand, but below are three of my favorite french press coffee makers.
2. Coffee Beans
Try a medium roast coffee. For something unique and a little different try one of these for your next brew:
3. Hot water Kettle
Any kettle will do the job, but if you want to refine your coffee making skills, a gooseneck kettle with variable temperature controls will take you to the next level. We review the best electric gooseneck kettles here.
4. Coffee Grinder
As I previously mentioned, a good quality coffee grinder will your best friend if you want to make a barista-grade french press brew at home. We love the the Baratza Virtuoso Plus with digital timer display.
If you are in the market for a French Press Coffee Grinder, our in depth reviews of the best coffee grinders for french press brewing will help you pick the right one.
5. Optional Tools
There are some optional tools too. Not essential, but will take your french press brewing to the next level if that is what you are looking for.
- Coffee scale for accurate coffee to water ratio.
- Electric Kettle with temperature control for the right water temperature.
- Carafe for decanting your left over coffee.
How to Use a french press coffee maker
Now that you know the different types of french press coffee makers and the ideal roasts and grind, it’s time to make some coffee.
As promised, I’ll walk you through the french press coffee instructions so you can start making the best French Press coffee cup there is!
What You Need
- Coffee press
- Coffee beans
- Measuring spoon
- Coffee scale (optional)
- Thermal carafe (optional)
1. Boil the water and preheat your press
Boil enough water to preheat your press and make your coffee.
Once the water has boiled, add enough water to your beaker to warm the sides, then empty the water out of the beaker. This will help keep your coffee warm for longer if you are not decanting it into a thermal carafe.
2. Grind your coffee beans
Calculate the coffee beans required using our recommended coffee to water ratio and use a coarse setting to freshly grind your coffee beans. Measure your ground beans, or use a scale for a more accurate weight reading.
Add the coffee grounds to your french press coffee maker.
3. Add water to the press
Once the water has reached the ideal temperature between 195 – 205 degrees F, measure the correct amount of water (or use a scale to weigh it as you pour) and pour enough water over the grounds to submerge and saturate the grounds. Allow the grounds to bloom for about a minute before gently stirring.
Add the remaining water to the beaker, skim any froth sitting on the top of the coffee with a spoon, replace the lid (do not plunge) and set the timer for 4 minutes.
4. Time to plunge
Slowly press the plunger down to the base of the beaker. Press gently and slowly to prevent grounds filtering up the sides of the mesh filter into your coffee.
5. Pour and enjoy
Slowly pour the coffee into your cup. Be careful not to fully empty the beaker as you may end up with grounds in your cup. Enjoy black or top with milk or your favorite creamer.
6. Decant remaining coffee
If you have coffee left over, we recommend you decant it into a thermal carafe to prevent over extraction.
How to Make Iced Coffee in a French Press
You can use the french press to make your favorite iced coffee recipe. The process is the same as brewing hot coffee with one key difference.
To account for the dilution that will occur when you pour hot coffee over ice, increase the coffee to water ratio. Try a 1:9 coffee to water ratio to start. So in a 34 oz french press, add 3.8 oz of coffee grinds.
- Grind your coffee as above and add to your French Press.
- Add hot water and stir and leave to brew for 4 minutes.
- Plunge your coffee and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Pour into a glass filled with 1 cup of ice cubes.
- Add milk and flavor if desired and enjoy.
How to Make Cold Brew in a French Press
Adding to their versatility, French Press coffee makers are great for making cold brew as well. If you plan ahead, cold brew is a great alternative to the iced coffee recipe above as the cold brewing process results in a much smoother and less acidic brew. See the full cold brew french press recipe here.
Preparing your cold brew in a French Press is somewhat similar to the process of regular brew but with a few key differences:
- Use cold water instead of hot water.
- Try a darker roast – medium-dark or dark roast beans work well.
- Use a higher coffee to water ratio of 1:5 for cold brew.
- Finally, increase the grind to an extra coarse for the best results.
- Grind your coffee to an extra coarse grind.
- Add the required amount of ground coffee to the beaker.
- Gradually add cold or room temperature water to the beaker.
- Stir the mix gently to ensure the coffee grounds are well saturated.
- Replace the lid but don’t press the plunger!
- Let the brew sit at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.
- Once it’s ready, press the plunger slowly.
- Add water or milk to the cold brew concentrate (with a ratio of 1:1) and enjoy.
- Decant any remaining concentrate into a jar or jug and refrigerate.
How to Clean the French Press
Whether you’ve made a regular, cold, or iced french press, there is a dirty coffee maker that needs to be cleaned at the end.
Cleaning the french press is essential not only for aesthetics but also for the taste of your next coffee.
Thankfully, most french presses are dishwasher safe. So if you’re in a hurry, you can clean it in the dishwasher most of the time.
Place the french press parts in the silverware compartment to prevent them from moving around the dishwasher.
Alternatively, a simple hand wash also does the trick. Here’s a quick rundown on the cleaning steps, so you can enjoy a squeaky clean French Press.
- Once the beaker has cooled down, empty the grounds into your compost, the garbage or put them aside to sprinkle on your plants (trust me, they will love it).
- Fill the beaker to the midpoint with warm water and soapy detergent.
- Put the lid on and plunge a few times to dissolve the coffee oils on the side of the beaker. Rinse, fill and plunge again.
- Use a soft sponge remove any hard residue.
- Rinse with clean water and leave to dry.
- For a deeper clean (recommended every couple of weeks) repeat the steps above and also disassemble the plunger filter and rinse well.
- Use a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar for tougher stains if required.
- Rinse and reassemble the components. Allow to dry well before storing.
In Summary: 6 Expert Tips to Make Great French Press Coffee
- For maximum accuracy, use a scale and weigh your ingredients instead of dosing by volume.
- Warm your coffee plunger before adding the coffee grounds.
- Skim the top before plunging, as it helps keep the sediment down.
- Use a timer to monitor your brewing time.
- Decant any remaining coffee after plunging and store it in a coffee carafe to prevent over-extraction.
- Never add the last 10% to your cup, it will be muddy.
Frequently Asked Questions
With pour-over, the coffee grounds are saturated in a filter and never come in to contact with the final brew. This results in a smoother coffee that is usually not as strong as a french press brew. The immersion process of french press coffee results in a fuller body and more intense brew than pour over.
Drip coffee makers tend to be larger, can produce more coffee and require less manual intervention than a french press pot. The flavor also differs – with drip coffee makers generally producing a lighter flavor due to the shorter grounds saturation time. French press brewing gives you more manual control over the brewing process and generally produce a deeper flavor coffee.
While drip and pour-over have some similarities with french press coffee, espresso is an entirely different beast. For espresso coffee, hot water is forced under pressure through finely ground coffee beans to extract a small concentrated shot of coffee.
Ready to Make French Press Coffee?
Congratulations, you now know how to make the best french press coffee. It is a stylish and smooth brewing style that packs a flavorful punch.
Learn more about making coffee in our brew guides here.