Though it is one of the most popular brewing methods, a huge chunk of the coffee world does not know how to make perfect coffee using the french press. I know because I was one of those who absolutely hated using the french press because I never got it right.
I put together this simple step-by-step guide to help anyone brew great french press coffee to get their dose of caffeine easily.
Here’s an overview of what you will need before getting started.
- A french press (obviously!)
- Coffee beans/ground coffee
- Grinder (if you decide to grind yourself)
- Scale (optional)
- Thermometer (optional)
Though I would recommend following this recipe in order, here’s a quick preview of the steps if you want to jump around.
Step 1 – Preheating The French Press
First of all, preheat the empty french press by adding some hot water to it. Especially if you are using a glass french press, this step is essential to prevent it from cracking/shattering. Swirl the water and pour it out before adding ground coffee in the following steps.
Pro Tip: Make it a habit to preheat your brewing equipment. This is to prevent the brewing temperature from varying too much as the hot water is added to the cool equipment.
Step 2 – Grind Coffee Beans
Now, this step is very essential. People often complain that their french press coffee turns out mucky and bitter. One of the most common reasons for this is badly ground coffee. Grind your coffee beans right and I bet you will see an instant improvement in your french press coffee.
Use a burr grinder to grind your beans coarsely such that it has the texture of kosher salt or gravel. But don’t worry if you only have a blade grinder. Make sure to grind your beans in quick pulses, pausing in between to shake up the beans. Continue doing so until you have coarsely ground beans.
Be warned though, grind it too coarse and you may end up clogging the filter. Though it sounds complicated, after a couple of attempts, I find it’s quite easy to get a hang of the perfect grind size.
If you want to avoid the hassle of grinding yourself, you can always get it ground at a local coffee shop. If you prefer to buy pre-ground coffee, make sure it is a coarse grind. Some shops may even offer a “french press grind”.
My personal favorite for the french press is darker roasts, although this is completely up to personal preference.
Pro Tip: Be careful not to ground your coffee too finely. This can lead to your coffee being over-extracted. Unless you like bitter and mucky coffee, make sure your coffee grounds are rough and evenly sized.
Step 3 – Measure Ground Coffee
I would recommend starting off following a 1:15 coffee-water ratio. Add 15 grams of water for every 1 gram of ground coffee. I’ve made a useful table below if you prefer to measure without a scale.
|Servings* You Are Making||Water||Ground Coffee|
|1||1 cup||3 tablespoons|
|2||2 cups||6 tablespoons|
|4||4 cups||12 tablespoons/ ¾ cups|
|8||8 cups||24 tablespoons/ 1½ cups|
Measure enough coffee to suit your needs and add it into the empty french press.
Pro Tip: As you become more experienced, you can experiment with altering the 1:15 coffee-water ratio. If you find it too weak, add more coffee. If you find it too strong, add less coffee.
Step 4 – Heat Water
This is another step where I see too many people messing up their coffee. The water temperature is quite vital in attaining that perfect coffee taste. If you add boiling water straight into the grounds, you will end up burning them. On the flip side, if you add water that is not hot enough, you will end with a flavorless coffee due to under-extraction.
Heat enough water to between 195 to 205 degrees F (between 90 to 96 degrees C).
Pro Tip: If you do not have a thermometer, just bring the water to a boil and rest for 30 to 60 seconds. The water should be hot but below boiling point.
Step 5 – Let Coffee Bloom
This is a simple yet commonly overlooked step. Pour some of the hot water into the french press such that it covers all of the coffee beans. The purpose here is to wet and bloom the coffee beans so exact measurements are not important.
Pro Tip: Allow about 30 seconds for the coffee to bloom, stirring the coffee grounds gently. This blooming process helps the carbon dioxide in the coffee to escape. The remaining water we will add later can then fully absorb the flavor in the beans.
Step 6 – Pour The Rest Of The Water
Add the remaining water to the french press. Stir until it starts to foam.
Close the french press using the lid. Please don’t plunge yet! Now is perhaps the hardest part of french press coffee – the waiting time.
Depending on the roast you are using, the steep timing differs. Darker roasts extract faster than lighter roasts as they are drier. However, a good starting point is to let the coffee steep for about four minutes.
Pro Tip: As you become more experienced, you can experiment with the steep timing. A longer time will give you a stronger flavor. But be mindful of steeping it for too long as it can turn your coffee bitter due to over-extraction. You can also experiment with different roasts of coffee which have their own optimal steeping time.
Step 7 – Plunge And Decant
Now comes the fun part! Finally, plunge the press slowly. Most french presses have an extra lid on top which can pop open if we press down too fast.
To get that rich and full-bodied coffee, make sure to decant immediately. Leaving the coffee in the french press for too long can cause it to over-extract, leaving you with a bitter drink.
Pro Tip: If you don’t plan on drinking all of the coffee immediately, don’t just leave it in the french press. Transfer it into a thermal carafe to keep it hot instead.
The Bottom Line
Yes, it is that simple! These simple steps will allow you to brew that perfect flavorful and aromatic coffee within a matter of minutes. Now, why don’t you test your new-found knowledge by brewing yourself a cup (or two!) of perfect French press coffee?