What Is French Press Coffee? French press coffee is when you combine coarse grounds with hot water and brew it in a French Press for 4 minutes. Then you depress a plunger that separates the coffee from the grounds. French Press coffee has a strong taste so use it if you like the taste of coffee.
In this complete guide we will teach you how to use a French Press coffee maker. We will go over everything you need to know about how to make French Press coffee.
From which French Press coffee maker to buy, to how to get the right grind size and instructions on brew time and plunge your French Press coffee.
I will even give you a tip about how to fix your French Press plunger when it gets stuck and you can’t push it down anymore.
Does Any Coffee Work with a French Press?
Yes, any type of coffee will work with a french press!
Whether you grind your beans yourself or use already ground coffee from a can or bag.
If you have coffee for a drip coffee maker, it will likely work for French Press.
If you’re not sure, you could try it to see if it will work. Just make sure that the grind size is not too small and the grounds are consistently sized.
What Kind of Grinder Should I get for French Press Coffee?
The type of grinder that you use to grind the beans will definitely affect your final cup of coffee.
There are two types of grinders that you can use for French Press:
- Blade Grinders
- Burr Grinders
Quick grinder summary
If you are just starting out and are on a budget, get an electric blade grinder like this one ($24).
If you are a serious coffee drinker, get a good burr grinder ($59.95).
Blade grinders are the cheapest type of grinder but are inferior to burr grinders since they will leave you with particles of different sizes.
If you already have a coffee grinder and you don’t know which type of grinder you have, you probably have a blade grinder. It probably has a shiny, metal blade that spins really fast.
Basically what happens with a blade grinder is that some chunks of the coffee beans end up getting cut more times than others.
This causes some of the coffee grounds to be much smaller than others. Some particles can become powder even. So you are left with some finely ground coffee and some coarsely ground coffee.
If you have coffee particles that are too small, some may make it through the French Press filter and end up in the coffee you drink.
This is often why you will see a small amount of coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup of French Press.
But few grinders are perfect (even very high quality, expensive burr grinders will do this).
If you are just starting out, we suggest going with a blade grinder.
If you are a connoisseur you probably already know that you should have a nice burr grinder, or you are already saving up for one.
The best thing about burr grinders is that you will end up with consistently sized grounds.
How do Burr Grinders Work?
The way burr grinders work is that coffee goes into a piece of metal that spins around. That spinning is what grinds the coffee.
As soon as the coffee reaches a certain size, it falls through the grinder (from gravity) to a container.
The particles are not ground more than once. This leaves us with particles that are a consistent size.
Metal French Press versus Glass French Presses
Should you get a metal or glass French Press?
This matters for two primary reasons:
- Heat Retainage/Insulation
The primary drawback of glass French Presses is that they are breakable.
I have definitely broken one or two French Presses in my day.
Thankfully you can usually order replacement glass. But then you may end up with no coffee that morning or until your new glass container arrives. That would suck, right!?!
So metal French Presses definitely win the durability contest.
Metal French Presses retain heat longer than glass French Presses. They usually have insulation between layers of metal (like a double-paned window).
So if you like your coffee to stay hot a long time like I do, we recommend buying a metal one ($25.96).
The only downside to metal French Presses is that the metal can impart a slightly metallic taste to the coffee. This is slight, but if you are a connoisseur, you may notice it.
But then again if you are a coffee connoisseur, you probably already know this and are using a glass French Press. You probably only use a metal French Press when camping.
Why Do People Like French Press Coffee?
The reason some people like French Press is because it tastes stronger than paper-filtered coffee.
The result is fuller-bodied cup of coffee.
Paper filters filter some particles from the final cup of coffee. This reduces the taste.
So if you like the taste of coffee and/or you are drinking your own beans that are high quality OR they have been roasted within two weeks of when you are brewing the coffee and drinking it, French Press is a great way to get a robust cup of coffee (run-on sentence alert)!
Step by Step Instructions on How to Brew the Perfect French Press Coffee
Here are instructions on how to make perfect French Press coffee without a scale to weigh the coffee and water. For a more detailed and precise version (with a scale) with a few tips and tricks, skip to here[TODO].
The key is to get the right water to coffee ratio. The way we can do this without using a scale is to measure “cups” of coffee using the tried and true way of getting the right amount of coffee by using the two spoonfuls per cup approach.
- For each cup of coffee, put two heaping teaspoon fulls of recently roasted, coarsely ground coffee grounds into the bottom of your French Press
- Fill up your coffee cup the number of times the cups you want to drink and boil that water plus a little bit more
- Pour the very hot water slowly over the ground coffee
- Let the coffee sit for roughly one minute. This will allow the “gases to escape”
- Grab the top/plunger, put it in the French Press container and slowly depress it down (TODO) TIP: The plunger may get stuck. Simply pull it up slightly (if you are using a clear French Press you can see the coffee that caused it to get stuck spring off the plunger where it was stuck) and continue to press down on it.
- Start a timer for a 4 minute steep time
- When the timer is done, pour and drink your perfect French Press coffee immediately
If you follow these instructions and your coffee isn’t good, it is likely that you are using coffee that was not recently roasted (within two weeks) or the coffee was a darker roast coffee.
What Coffee Grind Size Should I Use for French Press?
We recommend using a coarse grind for French Press coffee.
We do not recommend using a French Press with fine ground coffee.
If you use a small grind size for French Press coffee some of the grounds may seep into your coffee, through the filter.
If you have a blade grinder, we recommend running it for approximately 5-6 seconds (slightly more if your grinder is full; slightly less if there is not much coffee in the grinder).
This is the length of time that works best for us with a few different blade grinders we’ve tried.
If you have a burr grinder, there should be a setting on that is specifically for French Press coffee.
Sometimes there is a slider or dial that lets you set the size of the coffee grind. Start with the slider or dial towards the coarse side.
In fact, I would start it on the coarsest setting, since it is unlikely anyone would ever want coffee grinds to be ground any coarser or larger than for French Press coffee.
Does Any Coffee Work with a French Press?
In general, any coffee will work with a French Press if the grind size is not too small.
If the beans have been pre-ground, you will not get as much flavor from them since they have already lost some of their essential oils and aromas.
Since French Press is a very bold way to brew coffee (in part because it uses coarse ground coffee), we recommend using coffee beans that have just been ground to make delicious coffee.
We also recommend using lightly roasted coffee. The lighter the roast, the less coffee tastes bitter or burnt.
The darker the roast, the more bitter and the less caffeine it has.
The roasting process removes some of the parts of the coffee bean.
Can You Use French Press for Espresso?
Can you use a car to fly across the ocean?
The short answer is no.
Using French Press for espresso would be like using an espresso machine to make drip coffee. It wouldn’t work.
The whole point of espresso is to presso the coffee under high pressure.
With French Press, not much pressure is applied. We just let the coffee sit in very hot water for four minutes.
French Press Coffee Ratio
What is the right water to coffee ratio for French Press?
In general, it is in the range of 12:1 to 15:1. It depends on your coffee.
This means that for a single cup of coffee you should use approximately 300 grams or milliliters of water to 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of coffee.
The roast, quality, type of coffee and personal preferences will determine what ratio you should use at home.
How Much Coffee for A French Press?
How much coffee should you use in a French Press?
That is entirely up to you and whoever else you may be drinking coffee with. We recommend 20 gram or 0.7 ounce per cup of coffee (with approximately 300 grams or 11 ounces of water) per cup.
But again, this depends on how much coffee you plan to drink.
If you have a large family or you share coffee with a partner, you can get 4-cup French Presses. Or if it’s just you and you want only 1-2 cups, go with a 2-cup French Press.
You can even get 8-cup French Presses!
French Press Benefits Compared with Paper Filter Coffee
What are the benefits of French Press coffee vs filter drip coffee?
- The main benefit is that you get a fuller, stronger flavor for your coffee with French Press.
- French press can also help maintain heat better since it will have less surface area exposed to the cooling air.
- You save money on paper filter costs
- You taste the pure essence of coffee
- You can use a French Press anywhere you can boil water unlike a paper filter coffee maker that requires electricity to use (just don’t break it if you are camping; buy a metal one)
French Press Benefits Compared with Chemex Coffee
What are the benefits of French Press coffee vs Chemex coffee?
- The main benefit is that you get a fuller, stronger flavor for your coffee with French Press. Because Chemex coffee uses a paper filter, some of the taste of coffee is filtered out. This doesn’t mean Chemex coffee can’t be good; just that the taste of French Press coffee is generally fuller and thicker.
- French press also maintains the temperature of coffee longer than Chemex. With Chemex, the water falls through the air which cools the water before it even hits the coffee.
- You save money on paper filter costs
- Again, you taste the pure essence of coffee (probably the biggest benefit!)
Is French Press Coffee Bad for You?
To the extent that you get more oils and other particles from the coffee, French Press coffee could even have health benefits.
Studies have shown that. See our article about the health benefits of coffee[TODO]
Does a French Press Make Better Coffee?
I don’t know. Is black coffee better than coffee with cream? Is McDonald’s better than Burger King? Is Saturn better than Jupiter?
It all depends on your preference. If you enjoy the taste of coffee or you want a stronger coffee experience, then French Press coffee may be for you. If you don’t necessarily enjoy the taste of coffee and cover it up with cream and/or sugar, then we probably would not recommend French Press coffee to you.
Filters for French Press
One of the benefits of French Press is that you don’t need filters. You need ground coffee (so you may need a grinder), boiling water so perhaps you need a kettle and you need a French Press.
Cost to Get Started Making French Press Coffee
The total cost to get started making French Press coffee can total as low as $30.
- Cost of a French Press: ~$30
- Cost to buy a blade grinder is roughly $20
- Beans — You need beans no matter how you make coffee. But here are some dark roast beans that are good and should do well for French Press.
You can buy pre-ground coffee but we strongly recommend buying beans that have been roasted within two weeks of brewing and buying a grinder to grind your own coffee at home.
If your budget is higher than $30.26 for a French Press you can go with what might be considered the best French Press (although that is a subjective statement), at least on Amazon right now. That metal French Press will keep your coffee hot longer than glass ones will.
How to Clean a French Press
What is the fastest and easiest way to clean a French Press?
If you have a garbage disposal
(This is overall the easiest way to clean a French Press)
- Fill your French Press half way up with water
- Pour the water and grounds down your drain. Just make sure to aim the water and grounds directly into the garbage disposal so you don’t get grounds in your sink
If you don’t have a garbage disposal
- Fill your French Press half way up with water
- Get a handheld metal sieve/filter that is quite a bit bigger than the top opening of your French Press. This type of filter is what we are talking about in case you don’t know
- Pour the water and grounds that are in your French Press into the sieve over your sink.
- Only the water should make it into your sink and down the drain.
- You should be left with only coffee grounds in your sieve/filter.
- Take your metal sieve/filter and dump it into your trash or compost bin. You may have to bang it on your trash can once or twice to get all of the grounds out.
Here’s a short video on how to do this:
What does Coarse Ground Coffee for French Press Look Like?
Here is what the optimal size ground looks like.
Keep in mind that the optimal size ground is the one that does not make it through your French Press filter! That’s it. It also needs to be small enough to brew and extract the actual coffee content. If the grounds are too large the surface area is not high enough for the water to extract the coffee.