What exactly is a French press?
The French press, or the plunger pot as it was originally called (and still is) was invented in France during the mid-1800s and it’s now used worldwide. It’s known by many different names: cafetiere, melior, coffee machine piston, plunger coffee and press pot.
Whatever name we know it by, we should also know that it is an extremely versatile bit of kit that should be in every coffee lover’s kitchen because it brews such a fantastic cup of Joe. Did you know it can also be used to brew teas and infusions as well?
Did you know the French press can also be used to brew teas and infusions as well?
The French press coffee maker is very simple and quick to use and merely consists of a cylindrical pot to hold your coffee and water, a filter and a plunger that are attached to the lid.
What you need
- Medium-coarse ground coffee only. If you try and make it with very coarse ground coffee you run the risk of clogging the filter; on the other hand, if you use too finely ground coffee you’ll end up with the grounds traveling through the filter and into your cup
- Digital weighing scale – this will help you get the right ratio of coffee to water
- Coffee cup or mug
French Press Coffee Measurement Guide
|French press capacity||Water||Coffee||Tablespoons||Yield for 9 oz cup|
|385 grams||26 grams||3-4||1|
|500 grams||34 grams||4-5||1.6|
|975 grams||66 grams||8-10||3.4|
|1475 grams||100 grams||13-15||5.3|
What has the yield got to do with French press coffee? Well the table above gives you an idea of how many 9 oz cups of coffee your press will give you. Although you can buy a 3, 4, 8 and 12 cup French press, the actual number of standard cups of coffee each press pot gives will be smaller. This is because coffee cup manufacturers make coffee cups a standard size of 4.8 – 5 oz and the normal coffee cup size you probably have at home will be 11 ounces which will hold about 9 ounces of coffee.
Although you can buy a 3, 4, 8 and 12 cup French press, the actual number of standard cups of coffee each press pot gives will be smaller. This is because coffee cup manufacturers make coffee cups a standard size of 4.8 – 5 oz and, the normal coffee cup size you probably have at home will be 11 ounces which will hold about 9 ounces of coffee.
So, if you drink several cups of coffee a day then you’re probably better off going for a 34 oz or 51 oz French press.
How do I make French press coffee?
Preheat the French press coffee maker
- Boil the kettle and let the water cool for 30 seconds-1 minute; then pour some of the water into the French press to about ¼ full and push the plunger gently to the bottom.
- Swirl the hot water gently around the inside for around 10 seconds then remove plunger and lid.
- The French press is now preheated so you can tip the water away.
Weigh & add the coffee.
Whether you grind whole beans yourself or you prefer to use pre-ground coffee, it’s important to weigh the coffee using a digital weighing scale.
- If you are using whole beans, grind the beans to a medium-to-coarse consistency. If using pre-ground then just follow from here.
- Place the French press onto the weighing scale and press “Tare” to set to zero.
- Using the measurements above, tip the required amount of ground coffee into the bottom of the French press.
- Once you have the desired weight, shake the French press gently so the grounds are settled and evenly layered.
- You may need to alter the measurements for the capacity of your French press slightly according to your taste, but adding much more and the coffee will end up bitter tasting, and much less the coffee will be too watery.
Fill the kettle again using fresh water
- Place your French press back on the weighing scales and press “Tare” to reset to zero as you are now going to add the water.
- Start to boil the kettle using fresh filtered water, and if you can stop it before it boils completely and once it reaches 195° to 200°F. If this isn’t possible fully boil the kettle and set your timer for 1 minute to allow it to cool slightly to 195° to 200°F – this prevents over-extraction of caffeine in the beans.
- Begin slowly pouring ½ of the hot water you need from the table above over the grounds.
At this point, you will see the coffee “bloom” which is essentially the hot water infusing with the grounds to release CO2. This causes the coffee to expand, leaving a layer of grounds – kind of like a crust, sitting on the top and emitting that wonderful coffee aroma.
- Leave uncovered and set the time for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds carefully stir with a wooden spoon or spatula (this way the glass isn’t accidently broken) so the coffee and water are properly mixed and the layer is broken up.
- Now add the rest of the water from the required amount and fill the press.
- Now place the lid on but do not press the plunger down.
- Set the timer again for 3-4 minutes (this will depend on your preference and type of coffee) for steeping to occur so you get a balanced and robust coffee. If you like a more robust coffee then leave for a minute longer, but no longer than 5 minutes in total. If you like a light coffee then just brew for 2-3 minutes.
- After the time is up slowly lower the plunger all the way down.
- Now pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee. If you leave the coffee in the French press it will continue to brew and become bitter, so decant into a carafe or other thermal container if you have one.
Discarding the coffee grounds and cleaning the French press
- Once you’ve decanted the remaining coffee, it’s time to clean out the press pot by adding a little hot water to the grounds and gently swirling the pot. Instead of emptying the grounds down the sink (as this can cause a blockage if done frequently), recycle them or dispose of them in the garbage.
- Rinse out the French press and plunger with hot water ensuring the mesh is free of grounds.
- If you use your French press every day, then it will need a proper clean every couple of days using dishwasher soap and hot water. This gets rid of the build up of oils that cause your coffee to start tasting bitter.
- Ensure all parts are thoroughly rinsed as you don’t want any remains of lemon-tasting soap in your next cup of coffee. Give it a good dry so it’s nice and gleaming and doesn’t have any water streaks.
- Alternatively, you can just put it in the dishwasher for a good clean. Place the mesh part in the cutlery basket to keep it from moving around and becoming damaged.
Troubleshooting French Press Coffee
Grinding the coffee beans
For perfect French press coffee the beans should be freshly ground, but also just as important is the coarseness of the beans. The grind size needs to be medium to coarse and ideally, it should be the consistency of sea salt (see picture above).
Any coarser than this and the mesh strainer is likely to get clogged and you’ll end up with coffee that tastes weak. Any finer and you’ll get coffee grounds floating in your cup of coffee and getting stuck in between your teeth!
Also only grind your coffee beans when you actually need them, that way you’ll always end up with a fresh cup that tastes exactly like it should…so freshly ground every time is the way to go.
What about the water?
If you can, always use fresh filtered water or natural spring water to make your French press coffee.
A cup of coffee consists of 98% water, so using tap water that you don’t like the taste of is going to make you unhappy and give you an unpleasant tasting beverage. If you are using tap water then let it run for a few seconds for best results so it’s cold and hasn’t been sitting around in the pipes for ages.
Grounds in my coffee
Apart from grinding the coffee beans too fine, the other reason you can find grinds floating in your coffee is if the plunger has been depressed too quickly. The grounds can slide past the outside mesh area when the plunger is pushed too fast, and stay in the coffee. So depressing the plunger nice and slow saves the day and your coffee.
Yuk! my coffee is way too bitter
Check your grind – maybe you haven’t ground to the required coarseness. Remember it should be the consistency of sea salt.
Another cause of bitterness is if you let your coffee sit in the press pot after you’ve poured a cup. Although you will have depressed the plunger, the coffee will still continue to brew and over-extract which leads to that bitter taste.
As soon as you’ve poured your first cup, pour the rest from the French press into a thermal container, or just simply brew enough for one cup if that’s all you need.
My ground coffee isn’t a consistent size
If you’re finding that some of your ground coffee is coarse and some a lot finer, then you’re probably using a blade grinder. Whilst these do a good job, they’re not the best choice for grinding coffee beans. Switching to a burr grinder will give you the results you want.
There you have it! All the info you need to make THE BEST French press coffee. Using a coffee press is so easy and such a great way to make really tasty coffee, so enjoy!