Want to learn more about the French press brewing method? Need a recipe for French press coffee?
In this post, you’ll discover everything you want to know about the French press: how it works, what’s the best French press ratio, and how to use a French press at home.
What is French press coffee
A French press is a manual method for brewing strong, heavy-bodied coffee at home. French press produces strong, bold, and rich cups of coffee. That’s because this method keeps the coffee oils and flavors of the beans. The French press coffee is usually much stronger than drip coffee.
The design is very simple and hasn’t changed much since its invention in 1929. There’s a chamber where you put grounds and water. There’s also a lid with a plunger which you use to separate the grounds from coffee once you finish brewing.
Did you know: Even though it is called the French press, it was actually invented in Italy, in 1929.
There are many reasons why people love the French press. It’s cheap, it doesn’t require space or electricity, it doesn’t use paper filters, and probably most important – there’s no plastic that comes in contact with water while brewing.
For these reasons, it’s one of the most environmentally friendly ways to make coffee, and it’s also a great option if you’re worried about BPA and its health risks.
How does a French press work
A French press works by steeping coarsely ground coffee in hot water. You simply add ground coffee to the coffee press, bring water to a boil, and pour water over coffee grounds. After 4 minutes, you push the plunger down to filter out the grounds and the coffee is ready.
Besides Aeropress, the French press is one of the easiest manual brewing methods. It requires little work and precision – unlike pour over or Chemex. Even if you’re a beginner you can make a great cup of coffee with this method.
You’ll find detailed French press instructions at the end of this post.
French press sizes
A French press is available in a number of sizes: 12 oz, 17 oz, 34 oz, and 51 oz.
For regular daily use, I would go with a 34-ounce French press.
You can get a 51-ounce press if you often have guests and you need to serve coffee to a crowd, but it’s not very handy for everyday use.
Glass vs stainless steel French press
You have two options when it comes to the material: glass and stainless steel.
Bodum glass French press is a classic and it’s always the best-selling model. As you know, glass is one of the most recommended materials for a healthy kitchen. The downside of a glass press is that it’s delicate and you’ll need to treat it with care.
The stainless steel press is a fantastic option because it’s impossible to break. You don’t need to be careful when stirring coffee or cleaning your press. It’s perfect for busy households, and it’s much easier to handle than a glass one.
Note: You’ll often hear that stainless steel press is better because it offers long-lasting heat retention. But it’s not something you need.
One of the main rules of good French press coffee is that you don’t leave the coffee just sitting in the press once the brewing is done. Even if you’ve pushed the plunger down the coffee will keep brewing, so you’ll get over-extracted, bitter coffee.
The best way to use a coffee press is to brew the amount of coffee you’re going to drink in one sitting, or brew a big batch but pour leftover coffee in a thermos or carafe.
The ratio for French press
The question I get the most is “How much coffee to put in a French press?”
A recommended French press ratio is 2 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee per 8 ounces of water.
French press ratio grams: 15 grams of coffee per 8 ounces of water.
In fact, I have an entire post dedicated to the French press coffee ratio with exact amounts of coffee in tablespoons and scoops, for different French press sizes, so make sure to check out that post as well.
French press brew time
Once you have the hot water ready, it takes 4 minutes to brew the coffee.
I usually prepare the press and the coffee while the water is heating, so an entire process takes 6-7 minutes from bean to cup.
How long to steep French press coffee? 4 minutes.
French press grind size
The French press calls for coarse, even grind, similar to sea salt. The coffee needs to be coarser than the medium grind we normally use for drip coffee.
Pro tip: One way to know whether the grounds are too fine or too coarse is when you press the filter down. If the grounds are too fine, you’ll have a hard time pressing it down. If you can push the filter down with absolutely no resistance, then the grounds are too coarse.
Best coffee for French press
You should only brew dark roast coffee in your French press. Wrong.
Since it keeps all the flavor notes of the coffee, a French press is good for brewing any type of coffee. From dark roasts to specialty single-origin light roasts. So, the best coffee for the French press is simply the one that suits your taste preferences when it comes to coffee roasts.
If you’ve decided to use French press because you love a strong cup of coffee, of course you’ll use dark roasted coffee.
But, if you’ve chosen this method simply because it makes good coffee, or because it’s plastic-free but you prefer the mild taste, you’ll want to use medium or even light roast.
So, you can absolutely use any coffee that you like, just make sure that the coffee is freshly roasted for the best possible experience.
If you’re trying to find some good coffees on Amazon, Kicking Horse 454 Horse Power and Peets Major Dickason’s Blend taste great when prepared in a French press. Stone Street Cold Brew Reserve is also super popular, especially for cold brew.
I also recommend visiting your local specialty coffee shop. In most cases, you’ll be able to find some great coffees for your press. Their coffee is always freshly roasted and you can also ask them to grind the beans for you if you don’t have a grinder. Plus, you’re supporting small local businesses this way so it’s a win-win.
Even if you’re ordering coffee online from a specialty coffee roaster, in most cases you can ask for French press grind.
French press water temperature
An ideal French press water temperature is around 195 degrees Fahrenheit. No worries, you don’t need a thermometer to get it right. Hot water just off the boil has this optimal temperature.
Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, wait 5 – 10 seconds and pour over coffee grounds.
How to make the best coffee in a Frech press
Invest in a quality French press. Avoid the cheap $1 shop options.
Use freshly roasted coffee. This rule applies to any brewing method actually. Using freshly roasted coffee is the best way to make a good cup of coffee.
Grind the beans right before brewing. It’s not a must, but the coffee will taste so much better if you grind it before you brew it.
Don’t use softened or distilled water. Use tap or filtered water instead. Hard water extracts more flavor than soft water. In most parts of the country, tap water is actually ideal for making coffee. If your tap water is not good or has a strong odor or taste, you can use filtered or bottled water.
Use proper coffee to water ratio.
Steep for 4 minutes.
Don’t leave the coffee sitting in the press after brewing. Pour leftover coffee into a thermos or a carafe to prevent over-extraction.
Now you know everything you need to know about French press coffee so it’s time to make some coffee!
How to use a french press
Step 1: Measure out the coffee. Use 15 grams (2 tablespoons) of coarsely ground coffee for every 8 ounces of water. For a full 34 ounce press, you need 8 tablespoons of coffee and 32 ounces of water.
Step 2: Rinse your press with hot water to warm it up and add ground coffee to the press.
Step 3: Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and wait for few seconds. Pour the water over the grounds and stir. Make sure all the grounds are saturated.
Step 4: Let the coffee steep for 4 minutes.
Step 5: After 4 minutes, put the plunger on and gently press all the way down. Serve immediately, or pour leftover coffee in a carafe or thermos.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is French press coffee bad for you?
Paper filters remove most of the coffee oils. Since it doesn’t use paper filter, French press coffee has been shown to have greater concentrations of cafestol compared to American-style coffee.
French press vs drip
While French press brews coffee by steeping, a drip coffee maker makes the coffee by slowly pouring hot water over medium-coarse ground coffee.
There are two reasons why French press coffee is stronger than drip coffee. With a French press, all coffee grounds are in contact with water during the entire process so you get a full extraction. With drip machines, the machine slowly pours hot water over the grounds why the contact with water is much shorter.
Second, paper filters filter out most of the coffee oils. When you remove the oils, you get a clean, light cup with slightly less flavor.
Some good reasons to choose a French press: it’s more affordable, it’s small and doesn’t require electricity, and the brewing chamber is completely plastic-free.
The drip machine is better if you want to make big batches and keep coffee hot for a longer period of time. With a French press, you need to drink it straight away or transfer it to a thermos to keep it hot.
While the coffee press is one of the easiest manual brewing methods, the drip coffee makers are still fully automated. You simply place ground coffee inside the filter and turn on the switch. It’s then up to the machine to do the rest. If you have a programmable option on your machine, you can even have the coffee ready in the morning without doing anything.
French press vs pour over
Similar to a drip machine, with pour over filter you make the coffee by slowly pouring hot water over coffee grounds. The pour over method makes a rich, flavored brew, but the taste is clean and light.
The pour over dripper also doesn’t require space or electricity. You only need hot water, paper filters, and coffee.
The dripper is easier to clean than the French press and it takes literally 30 seconds. You just dispose filter with grounds and rinse the dripper.
But, this method does require your full attention. You can’t just pour hot water and let it sit. You manually pour the water over the grounds and this requires some practice at the beginning. But considering how good the pour over coffee tastes, it’s worth the effort. This actually allows you to control the brewing process entirely.
This can also add some charm to your morning coffee ritual, help you slow down and really enjoy it.
You can only make one to two cups at a time with this method, so you’ll need to repeat the process if you need to make more than that.
French press vs Chemex
Chemex is sophisticated, charming and a fit for a crowd. It makes a clean cup and maintains the flavor notes of the coffee beans. Coffee from Chemex is very similar to that from a drip, but you can make several cups in one go.
Just like a dripper, Chemex requires your full attention and it takes some time to learn how to do it right. The French press wins in this category since it’s much easier to use.
You’ll also need to treat your Chemex brewer with care.
Choose Chemex if you love the charming design and you want coffee that is more similar to drip, but you want a brewer that can make several cups in one go.
French press vs Aeropress
People absolutely love Aeropress. It’s especially popular among travelers since it’s so light and impossible to break.
The Aeropress is very fast. It can make a cup of coffee in about 60 seconds once the water is hot.
It’s also inexpensive – a full set of Aeropress gear retails for about $30.
The Aeropress produces a fantastic cup of coffee with clear, clean flavors, without bitterness or sludge at the bottom of your cup.
Last but not least, cleaning is a dream. Unlike the French press where you have to scoop out the grounds, the Aeropress cap comes off and you simply press out the puck of compressed grounds into the compost or trash. Give it a rinse and you’re done.
The drawback of an Aeropress is that it can only do one cup at a time and that it’s made out of plastic.
French press delivers a tasty, strong cup of coffee and it’s one of the easiest manual brewing methods.
Use the tips listed above and this French press recipe to make the best cup of French press coffee at home.