How to Use a French Press

French press coffee is robust, rich and delicious, and it's one of the easiest ways to make good coffee.

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When it comes to coffee, I’m an equal opportunist: I love espresso, cold brew, hot brew—if it’s caffeinated and tasty, I’m in. One of my favorite methods for making coffee is actually the simplest: the French press.

Don’t miss the results of our Test Kitchen’s coffee taste test.

French Press vs. Drip Coffee Makers

Regular coffee makers, like your Mr. Coffee, are “drip” brewers. They work by heating water to near boiling and routing the steam to a drip area, which disperses water over coffee grounds. The finished brew filters into a pitcher over a warming plate. Depending on the quality of the machine, your coffee may taste either delicious or a bit scorched, but the method is hands-off and convenient.

By contrast, French press coffee is usually strong, with a rich, earthy aroma. A French press doesn’t require electricity or disposable filters to brew, just hot water and coffee grounds. The grounds steep directly in hot water, and are then filtered out when the user presses down the plunger. French press is probably the second most hands-off brewing method, after drip.

Check out the pros and cons of more brewing methods.

What Is the Best French Press?

While designs range from fancy porcelain to plain plastic, the overall look is the same: a plunger with a metal screen attached, and a vessel for holding water. This Bodum press is a classic. Reviewers on Amazon also love this lightweight Espro press for traveling.

How to Use a French Press

You’ll need:

  • Ground coffee, preferably coarsely ground
  • Hot water (not quite boiling, about 195º F)

The ideal ratio for French press is about 2 tablespoons of coffee for every cup of water. If you’re brewing in a standard 34 oz. French press, that’s 1/2 cup coffee beans to 4 cups of water.

Step 1: Combine coffee and water

Put the grounds in the bottom of the French press. Slowly, pour hot water over them. Make sure the grounds are completely wet; gently stir them with a spoon if necessary. Put the top on the press, but don’t press it down yet!

Step 2: Let the coffee steep

Let the coffee grounds steep in the water for four minutes. This is adjustable to your preference, so if you know you want extra-strength brew, then leave it longer.

Step 3. Press the plunger

Firmly but slowly press the plunger down, filtering the grounds from the coffee.

Step 4. Enjoy

Pour a big cuppa coffee. Aah!

Note that some coffee snobs recommend pouring any coffee you’re not immediately drinking into a carafe. Leaving coffee in the French press can make the coffee taste bitter, because it’s still sitting on top of the grounds.

See the mistakes everyone makes when brewing coffee.

How to Clean a French Press

Cleaning a French press is actually easy. Remove the plunger and rinse, if necessary. Add a splash of water to the grounds and swirl it around to loosen them, then dump into the compost or trash. You can clean all the parts of the press, including the filter, in hot soapy water.

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.