The French press method makes delicious, full-bodied coffee. It’s fairly easy to make if you have the right equipment. To produce the best pressed coffee, you’ll want to have the following:
- Burr coffee grinder
- Gram scale
- Kettle with thermometer
- French press
- Freshly roasted coffee beans
- Count-up timer (or phone)
- Carafe or server (optional)
After you’ve collected your equipment, follow these instructions to make delicious French pressed coffee.
Get a burr grinder…seriously
Something I can’t stress enough is that you should get a burr grinder. We’re partial to the Breville Smart Grinder Pro as a solid entry-level option. I’ve talked about this extensively in the past for other coffee brewing methods. It’s extra important for French press because you need consistency. Unfortunately, most blade grinders on the market aren’t very consistent. If you use one, you’ll get a variety of finer particles in your coffee that shouldn’t be there, which can result in over-extraction and bitter coffee. Trust me; get a burr grinder.
Pick the best coffee for French press
Your selection of beans can have quite an impact on the flavor of the French press. Since this method is prone to over-extraction, I’d say the best coffee for French press is a medium roast. Darker roasts will taste even more burnt when over-extracted, and nobody wants that in their morning cup. Dark roasts also tend to have more body, which only strengthens the French press. Personally, I find dark roasts a bit overpowering, but if you like your coffee strong, you may want to go that direction.
If you’re familiar with the various roast grades, I’d recommend something in the range of City+ to Full City. Although there is a roast grade called French roast, I wouldn’t recommend it for French press; it’s also a bit darker and more full-bodied than I prefer.
Weigh out your coffee beans on a gram scale
After selecting the coffee beans that suit your preference, weigh them out on your gram scale. Grab a cup or bowl and begin scooping whole coffee beans into it until you reach 30 grams. Don’t forget to tare the scale so you’re not weighing the container!
Heat up the water to specific temperature
Before you grind your beans, make sure to heat up your water. Coffee is freshest if brewed right after grinding, so we’ll hold off on that task for now. Fill your kettle with 400 milliliters (mL) of water. We won’t be taking this water to a boil, so you should have to worry about losing some to evaporation.
After filling your kettle, heat it until the water reaches 200°F, just shy of boiling. Our target temperature is going to be around 198°F, but the water will lose some heat to the room-temperature coffee beans.
Preheat your equipment
Once your water is to temperature, pour up to 40 mL into the French press. Swirl the water around and push the plunger into it. The goal of this step is to warm the equipment up so that it doesn’t cool down the brew. When you’re finished preheating the apparatus, dump the water out of the beaker.
If you’d like, you can also warm up your mug by pouring the water from your press into your cup, but be sure to leave at least 360mL of water in the kettle.
Grind your beans to a coarse consistency
With our water hot, the equipment preheated, and the beans weighed out, we are ready to grind the beans. Set your grinder so that the ground coffee comes out in a sand-like consistency. This is the best coffee grind for French press. Anything finer will lead to over-extraction. Anything coarser will lead to under-extraction.
With the grind settings just right, go ahead an grind your 30 grams of coffee.
Add beans to the press
As soon as you’ve finished grinding the coffee, put your French press on the scale and dump the grounds into the beaker. Your scale should read 30 grams. We are going to use a 12-to-1 ratio of water-to-grounds, which is why we needed to leave 360mL (equal to 360g) of water in the kettle.
Pour in the water
When you’re ready, start your count-up timer (likely on your phone) and pour 360 grams of water into the beaker.
Stir the coffee
After you’ve added the necessary amount of water, put your stirrer into the beaker and gently stir the mix for a few moments until all the grounds look wetted.
Wait exactly three minutes
Let the coffee sit for three minutes. You can place the plunger in the press, but make sure it’s at least 1/2” from the top of the liquid. A sort of “head” of grounds will form on top of the liquid and you’ll notice it begin to darken.
The (almost) final step
Once the timer reads 3:00, you can do one of two things:
Option 1 – Stir the coffee again
- This option yields a more full-bodied coffee, as it allows additional extraction to take place. If you like your coffee bold, this is the option for you.
Option 2 – Scoop the grounds off the top
- This option results in a more delicate cup, as it stops the extraction in its tracks. If you like your coffee a bit gentler on the palate, go for this option.
Take the plunge
Once you’ve done the (almost) final step, you’re ready for the final action before drinking your delicious pressed coffee: the plunge.
Place the plunger in the beaker and gently press the knob toward the base of the unit. As you do so, you’ll be able to determine if your grind was coarse enough. If you feel a ‘clunk’ as the plunger rockets to the bottom, you probably ground the coffee too coarse. If you feel like you’re pushing a shovel into almost-dry cement, you probably ground the coffee too fine. The optimal case is somewhere in between. If you accidentally ended up with the plummeting plunger or the shovel in cement, be sure to adjust your grind coarseness before your next brew.
You’ll want to apply 15 to 20 pounds of pressure. If you don’t know what that feels like, you can push down on a bathroom scale until you get close, then replicate that pressing action on your French press.
It should take about 15 to 20 seconds to press the filter all the way to the bottom of the beaker. It may take some trial and error to get there, but it’ll be well worth it when you reach the sweet spot.
Pour it all out (into a carafe)
Once the press has been pressed, you’ll want to pour all of the coffee out of the press into a thermal carafe or a mug or two. If you leave it to sit in the press while you sip your first cup, the coffee will continue to brew, resulting in an over-extracted sludge that will make you question why you even drink coffee.
French press coffee is full-bodied, so condiments such as cream or sugar go much better with it than they do in a smooth, highly filtered brew. I’d recommend experimenting with drinking it black first, then adjust your condiment addition until you’ve found the perfect recipe.
Clean the press
After you’ve emptied the press of its coffee, you’ll want to clean it. French presses can be pretty hard to clean if you leave them to sit. The coffee tends to form a thick puck at the bottom that is difficult to remove without adding more water.
If you take my advice to clean it right after emptying the coffee, a couple of shakes of the beaker upside-down over a trash can remove most of the grounds. The beakers are usually dishwasher safe, but if not, be careful when washing by hand. These beakers are made of tempered glass, but they still are rather delicate.
The final step in cleaning is to disassemble the plunger. This step varies by manufacturer, but most plungers can be broken down by twisting the stem and the filter in opposite directions. Both components are often dishwasher safe, but be sure to check the instructions that came with your press.