What is French Press & How Do You Make It?

Post by: Tim Lee
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A French press is a cylinder coffee brewer made of glass or stainless steel that includes a plunger and filter to separate coffee grounds and hot water.  To make coffee with a French press, you add coarse ground coffee and hot water to it, stir, place the lid on, wait ~4 minutes, press the plunger down, then pour your cup of coffee. 

what is french press how do you make it

Hi, I’m Tim– I’ve studied and enjoyed coffee for decades and have been using a French press for over 9 years. 

It’s one of my favorite ways to brew coffee, so I made this guide to show you how to do it. 

We will cover:

So, read on to learn more. 

What is a French Press?

A French press, also known as a press pot or plunger pot, is a popular coffee brewing device that has been around since the 1800s. You simply add hot water and coarse ground coffee to brew coffee in it. [1]

Then you press the grounds through a fine mesh filter with the plunger to produce a rich and flavorful cup of coffee.

The French press consists of four main components:

  • Carafe
  • Plunger
  • Filter
  • Lid 

The carafe is made of glass or stainless steel and is designed to keep the coffee hot while it steeps. The lid has an attached plunger with a mesh filter that fits tightly against the walls of the carafe. 

How to Make Coffee in a Fresh Press

Making a French Press is a relatively simple process that only requires a few basic ingredients and tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Coarsely ground coffee beans (about 1/4 cup per cup of coffee)
  • Filtered or bottled water (about 8 oz per cup of coffee)
  • French Press
  • Timer
  • Kettle or pot

Now that you have all your ingredients and tools, it’s time to get started. Here are the steps to brew your French Press:

  1. Heat the water to 195-205°F (~93°C or just under a boil). Use an electric kettle or your stovetop to heat the water. I use an electric kettle because I find it is the easiest. 
  2. Place the coarsely ground coffee beans in the French press. Use 1/4 cup of grounds for every 8 ounces of hot water. Most French presses have volumetric marks on the side. Or they come with instructions that tell you how much grounds to add. 
  3. Pour the hot water over the grounds and stir until the grounds are evenly dispersed throughout the water (i.e., no clumps). 
  4. Put the lid on, and do not press down on the plunger yet. 
  5. Set a timer for 4 minutes.
  6. When the timer goes off, slowly press down the plunger until it reaches the bottom of the carafe.
  7. Pour your freshly brewed French press coffee into your cup and enjoy!

Tips for Getting the Perfect French Press Brew

Here are some tips for brewing the perfect French press coffee. 

1. Use the right amount of coffee

The perfect ratio for a French press is 1:15 or 1:16, which means one gram of coffee for every 15-16 grams of water (or ¼ cup of grounds per 8 ounces of water). This will ensure a balanced and rich flavor.

2. Use freshly roasted beans

Freshly roasted beans will have more flavor and aroma than old beans. Look for beans that have been roasted relatively recently for maximum freshness. 

3. Grind the beans correctly

Grind your beans just before brewing. The ideal grind for French press coffee is coarse, similar in size to sea salt. This will ensure that the coffee doesn’t get over-extracted. 

You can buy coarse ground coffee in most supermarkets. But grinding whole beans yourself tastes better and gives you more satisfaction. 

Read more about this in our coffee grind size guide

4. Use Filtered Water

Using filtered water can make a big difference in the taste of your French press coffee. Consider using a water filter pitcher or attaching a filter to your faucet to ensure the water you use in your French press is clean and pure.

5. Use the right water temperature

The water temperature should be around 200°F (93°C). Boiling water can scorch the coffee and ruin the taste. 

I usually let my electric kettle heat the water to boil, then I wait 8 minutes before pouring it into the French press. For my electric kettle, 8 minutes is enough time for it to drop from 212ºF (boiling) to 200ºF. 

You can test time this with your electric kettle and a food thermometer to make the process easier for you. 

6. Steep for the right amount of time

The ideal steeping time is between 4-5 minutes. Leaving the coffee in the French press for too long (more than 20 minutes) can cause it to become bitter.

7. Stir the coffee

After adding the water, give the coffee a gentle stir to ensure that all the grounds are evenly saturated. I use a reusable chopstick to mix mine, but a spoon and other utensils will work just as well. 

8. Use a quality French press

Invest in a quality French press that will keep the coffee hot while it steeps. A good French press will also have a sturdy plunger that won’t let grounds escape into your cup.

Glass tends to be the most popular material for French press carafes because they are inexpensive. Stainless steel ones are usually better quality because they are more robust, easier to clean, and harder to break, but cost 30-40% more.

9. Pour slowly

When pouring the coffee, pour slowly to avoid disturbing the grounds at the bottom of the French press. This will ensure a clean and smooth cup of coffee.

10. Clean the French press after each use

After each use, rinse the French press with hot water and let it air dry. This will prevent any residual oils or flavors from affecting the taste of your next cup.

Other French Press Uses

Here are some other things you can use your French press for and some things you can use to compliment your brew. 

Cold Brew

A cold brew from a French press is perfect for those hot summer days when you need a refreshing, cool drink. 

Simply add coarsely ground coffee to your French press, fill it with cold water, and let it steep in the fridge overnight. In the morning, press down the plunger and pour over ice for a delicious, smooth cup of iced coffee.

You don’t need a special French press to make a cold brew. You can use the same French press for hot and cold. 

Tea Infuser

Not just for coffee, you can also use a French press to brew loose-leaf tea. Add your tea leaves to the press, fill it with hot water, and let it steep for a few minutes. Press down the plunger and pour your tea into a mug for a delicious, perfectly brewed cup of tea.

Spices and Herbs

For an added flavor boost, consider adding spices or herbs to your French press. Cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg are great options for coffee, while mint, ginger, and chamomile are perfect for tea.

Simply add your desired spices or herbs to the press along with your coffee or tea, and enjoy the delicious aroma and flavor. If you’ve never added spice to your coffee before, start off with a very small amount so it doesn’t become too overpowering. 

You can always add more later on. 

French Press FAQs

Here are some common questions about French presses. 

What kind of coffee should I use in a French press?

It’s best to use medium to coarse ground coffee for a French press. Finely ground coffee can result in a bitter and muddy/gritty cup of coffee.

How much coffee should I use in a French press?

A general rule of thumb is to use one tablespoon of coffee for every four ounces of water(or ¼ cup per 8 oz). However, you can adjust the amount of coffee to your personal taste.

What temperature water should I use for a French press?

Water should be heated to around 200-205°F (93-96°C) for optimal extraction.

How long should I let the coffee steep in a French press?

It’s recommended to let the coffee steep for 4-5 minutes, but you can adjust the time based on your personal taste preferences.

How do I clean a French press?

To clean a French press, disassemble the plunger/lid and wash all of the parts with soap and water. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue. Avoid using abrasive cleaners that can scratch the glass or metal.

What is so special about French press coffee?

French press coffee is known for its smooth, full-bodied flavor with low acidity and a deep complexity. 

The mesh filter of the French press allows for some of the oils from the coffee to remain in the cup, resulting in a more flavorful cup of coffee than regular drip or pour-over methods.

Final Thoughts

French press is a simple and straightforward way to make a delicious cup of coffee at home. All you need are some basic ingredients and tools, along with a few minutes of your time. 

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite cup of freshly brewed French press coffee every morning.

Looking for a great coffee grinder to go with your French press? Check out our top coffee grinders for French presses recommendations!

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Author

Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of TimsCoffee.com. He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create TimsCoffee.com.
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