How to Make French Press Coffee
French press coffee is robust, rich and delicious, and it's one of the easiest ways to make a good cup of coffee.
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When it comes to making a good cup of coffee, I’m an equal opportunist: I love espresso, cold brew and drip. If it’s caffeinated and tasty, I’m in. One of my favorite ways to make coffee is using a French press, which is actually one of the easiest brewing methods. Here’s everything you need to know on how to use a French press.
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.
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
- Ground coffee, preferably coarsely ground
- Hot water (not quite boiling, about 195ºF)
Tools You’ll Need
- French press: This double wall Zwilling Sorrento French press keeps up to 27 ounces of coffee hot on the inside while staying cool to the touch on the outside. Its Italian-designed mouth-blown carafe is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
- Coffee grinder: For the perfect grind every time, this Cuisinart burr grinder has 18 levels from ultra-fine to extra-coarse. Grind enough for four to 18 cups, and keep any leftovers in the chamber for later use.
- Coffee: Because it’s coffee in pure unfiltered form, you want to choose good beans and grind them yourself. Something like Verve Street Level blend, a balanced medium roast from California, would work well. Here are some of our Test-Kitchen approved best coffee brands.
Step 1: Combine coffee and water
Put the grounds in the bottom of the French press. Slowly, pour hot water over them (an electric tea kettle works great here). 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 leave it longer if you know you want extra-strength brew.
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. 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.
Tips for Using a French Press
How much coffee do I use in a French press?
Just like making pour-over coffee or using a percolator, it’s important to properly measure your coffee for the brewing method. 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.
What’s the best coffee to use in a French press?
Any high-quality coffee beans are perfect for a French press. After that, it’s really your taste preference. You can support your local coffee shop and buy freshly roasted coffee beans. Or consider these sustainable coffee brands or coffee subscription boxes to try roasts and beans from around the country and world.
Can I use pre-ground coffee in a French press?
Technically, yes. But most pre-ground coffee beans in the store are a medium grind, which will result in coffee grounds in your coffee. Because a French press doesn’t use a paper filter, it’s best to use coarsely ground coffee so you don’t get too much sludge or floaters in your cup. A finer grind can also clog up the mesh filter in the plunger, and the plunger might not press down.
How else can I use a French press?
This cylindrical carafe, plunger and filter can do more than brew a beautiful light roast. We found plenty of French press hacks, such as making fresh-pressed juice and rinsing grains!
How do I clean a French press?
Cleaning a French press is pretty 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.