Are you not sure how to make good coffee in a French press? Here is a step-by-step guide that helps you brew a tasty cup easily.
Making coffee in a French press isn’t difficult and using good coffee is essential for getting good results. Just add grounds and water to the press and wait for four minutes before pushing the plunger. However, by making a few changes to the process, you can brew much better coffee.
Keep reading below to find out what those changes are exactly and what you need.
What You Need To Make Good French Press Coffee
Making coffee in a French press is easy. You just need a few things:
- French press: Any French press will do as long as it’s in good working order.
- Water: Any drinking water works.
- Coffee: Use high quality coffee beans to make high quality coffee.
- Kettle: For making coffee in a French press the type of kettle is not important like it is for pour-over. Anything that makes hot water is fine.
- Optional: Scale: The scale is optional but helps to get the recipe exactly right and help you brew consistently. Weighing coffee by eye or with a scoop can result in a slightly different cup every time. The Timemore scale (Amazon) is very good and will last a long time.
- Optional Coffee grinder: If you want to use whole beans, a good grinder is essential. The Timemore C2 (Amazon) provides a great value for money
Use the best you can afford. Fresh beans ground just before use is going to give you the best results but does add some complexity to the process. For a French press all roast levels are usable, it just depends on taste. If you like dark and bitter, go for dark. Fruity and more tea like? Go for light roasted or choose the balance of a medium roast.
How To Make Good French Press Coffee
Making coffee in a French press isn’t difficult. However, there are some details to the process that can make your coffee a lot better or worse. Here’s how you make a tasty cup of French press coffee:
1. Boil some water
Start by boiling some water. Boil about twice as much water as fits in your specific French press. Half is for actually brewing the coffee but the other half is to pre heat the French press itself which allows you to brew better coffee. Don’t worry about the water temperature, just bring it to a boil.
An easy way to get enough water is to fill your French press to the design limit (usually there is a line or indicator) from the tap and pour that into a kettle. Repeat this one more time and you have exactly enough water.
It’s also possible to brew less coffee in a French press, you don’t have to fill it all the way. It’s fine to use only half of the capacity.
2. Grind/Weigh Out The Right Amount of coffee
While the water is heating up, there is some time to prepare the coffee grounds. There are two options:
- Using pre-ground coffee (Click here for an article on using pre-ground in a French press)
- Grinding fresh beans
In both cases, it’s important to weigh out the right amount of grounds. Using scoops works if you can scoop consistently but using a scale is better. If you use a scale for both the grounds and water you’ll get the most consistent results that are easy to adjust.
To know how much grounds you need, you need to know how much water fits in your specific French press. Sometimes there are indicator lines with milliliters on the press but sometimes you just have to measure it once. Once you know how much fits in there, you can figure out how much coffee you need.
How much coffee you need exactly depends on the size of your French press and the strength of coffee you like. To get 8 oz.(227 ml) average strength coffee from a cafetière, use about 15 grams of ground. Or 10 grams grounds per 150 ml water.
You can find a handy chart of how much coffee you need to put in a certain size French press here.
In case you grind your own beans, grind them coarsely. This is best for a French press. Coarsely ground beans are easier to filter out later. If you use pre-ground coffee from the supermarket, it’s likely ground much finer which means more sediment but you’ll also have to reduce the steep time later on because finder grounds extract faster.
3. Preheat the French Press
If you pour hot water in a cold press, the water will cool down too fast too much and the coffee will brew at too low a temperature which can lead to sour coffee.
The easy way to fix this is by pre heating the French press. You can do this by pouring hot water into the press and letting it sit for 30-45 seconds to heat up the glass/metal. This will significantly increase the temperature of the press and so significantly reduce how much the ‘real’ brew water cools down.
After the pre heating, just pour out the water. After this, the press will start cooling down quickly again so move quickly.
Suggested article: Which French press keeps your coffee the hottest?
4. Put the grounds in the French press
After pouring out the per heat water, simply pour the grounds into the press. French presses have large opening so it should be pretty easy to just scoop the grounds from the bag or grinder catch can.
It’s not important to distribute the grounds like you would with an espresso puck or even a V60 filter. Since in a French press the grounds hang out with the water for an extended period of time anyways, you don’t need a flat coffee bed. You’ll stir the coffee a little later which will distribute all the grounds enough.
5. Pour enough water in the press
Now is the time to pour water on the grounds. You can use boiling water especially with light and medium roasted coffees. With dark roasted coffees you can wait until the water stops boiling but not too long. By the time the water hits the grounds it’s cooled down enough to brew good coffee.
You can either pour until you hit the max fill line (usually there is one) or you can put the press on a scale and measure exactly how much water you pour in.
There is some discussion about if you should ‘bloom’ the grounds in a French press. Blooming means pouring a little bit of water on the grounds to get everything wet and let the coffee off-gas. In my opinion in a French press it doesn’t really matter since the water and grounds will steep together anyways. However, it can help to make sure all the grounds get equally wet which helps brew better balanced coffee.
To bloom the grounds in a cafetière, just pour about double the amount of water on the grounds. So if you use 15 grams of coffee, pour 30 grams of water. Then swirl or stir to make sure all the grounds are equally wet and wait for 30 seconds. Then pour the rest of the water afterwards.
If you don’t bloom the coffee, just make sure to pour water on top of all the grounds. So you might have to pour around the press instead of in one spot to make sure all the grounds are wet.
6. Wait For Four Minutes
The standard steep time for a French press is four minutes. This is the time from when the first water hits the grounds. If you choose to do a bloom, this time counts towards these four minutes.
If you use pre-ground coffee that’s finer than normal for a French press, start with a roughly 2 minute steep time. If it’s too weak/sour increase it from there.
You can put the lid with the plunger on top during this steep time but don’t press the plunger down yet. The lid is not strictly necessary at this stage but it helps to keep the brew water hotter.
After the four minutes are up, you’ll see a thick crust of grounds floating on top of the coffee. This is normal. To break up this crust, just stir a few times with a spoon. Again, don’t aggressively stir, this can add a lot of extra bitterness. Just gently stir enough to break up the coffee crust.
8. Let the grounds settle
After breaking up the crust, most of the grounds will start sinking to the bottom. Let this happen naturally without using the plunger. Wait 45 seconds to 1 minute so most of the grounds are settled on the bottom. Maybe some grounds are still floating on top. This is hard to avoid but about 90% should be settled on the bottom.
Doing this step instead of just pushing down the grounds with the filter screen on the plunger helps reduce the amount of sediment you’ll get into your cup later.
9. Push the plunger
Once all the grounds are settled, it’s finally time to push the plunger. Of course you’ll have to place the cap and plunger on the press first.
Also read: How long to wait before pushing a French press plunger?
Don’t push down with too much force. Just let the weight of your hand gently push the plunger down. All you’re doing with the filter screen is separate the grounds from the coffee. There is no need for pressure. Too much pressure might force some sediment to be pushed past the filter screen.
Also don’t push down on the grounds at the bottom. Compressing the grounds will stir up the super fine coffee particles that can get through the filter screen and add sediment to your cup. Stop just before you start feeling the resistance of the grounds at the bottom. Yes, you might lose a little bit of liquid by not squeezing it out of the grounds but you get less sediment in your cup.
Is your plunger hard to press all the way down? Click here for more information and solutions.
10. Pour a cup
Now you’re ready to pour a cup of coffee. Pick your favorite cup or mug, pour the coffee in and enjoy!
In case the coffee doesn’t taste as you like, check out one of the following articles:
Why is my French press coffee weak?