How to Use a French Press

A picture of a man pouring coffee from a french press.

 

Like most things that are French, French Press coffee is attractive, dark, and dense—yet it has its own undeniable elegance. A je ne sais quoi—a certain… “I don’t know what.” 

As with most things in coffee, attention to detail pays off. To achieve the best tasting, most “expressive” French Press coffee, treat it like a fine French wine. That is, you’ll want to decant it (pour it into another container) immediately after brewing. This pro tip will help keep your French Press coffee from turning bitter or chalky. 

Here’s how you make coffee in a French Press:

  1. Pour enough water to fill your French Press into a pot or kettle and bring it to a boil. For a 17 oz. French Press, you’ll need approximately 12 oz.
  2. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, grind your coffee beans. Since you’re making it in a French Press, you’ll definitely want to make sure you use a coarse, even grind.

    While there are no exact measurements written on stone tablets for brewing French Press coffee (at least, not that we’ve discovered yet)—a good place to start is a 1 part coffee to 12 parts water ratio. (Just for example, if you’re using ~360 grams of water, you’ll want to use ~30 grams of coffee.)
  3. Gently pour the heated water over your coffee grounds until it’s roughly twice the amount of coffee.
  4. Stir your coffee grounds gently with a straw, chopstick, or a bamboo paddle if you have one. Stand back and allow the coffee to “bloom” for 30 seconds before you add more water.
  5. Pour the rest of the water in and place the lid on top of the grounds (without plunging yet). Wait four minutes.
  6. With the French Press on your counter, press the filter down. If it’s hard to push it down, that means the grind is too fine—if it plunges down immediately to the bottom, that means the grind is too coarse.

Once you’ve finished pressing, serve the coffee immediately. If you’re not pouring all of it out into cups just yet, pour it (decant it) into a separate container.

The decanting step is critical, because if you leave it in the French Press (a very common mistake people make when brewing with French Presses) your coffee will continue to brew and over-extract. This will make it taste bitter and ultimately get that “chalky” consistency that literally no one likes (if you know someone who does, suggest that they seek help).

That’s all there is to it! Serve and enjoy.

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