If you love coffee like we do, then you’ll want to try as many different flavors and brewing techniques as possible.
Here we’re going to share our French press coffee tutorial so you can use this simple option to enjoy a delicious drink.
So what is French press coffee?
It takes its name from the device in which it’s made. And depending on where you are in the world, you may call it something different.
Whilst for those in the US and Canada it’s a French press, for the French themselves it’s cafetière à piston. And in the UK and the Netherlands, people shorten the French name and know it as a cafetière.
In Italy, the word is similar: a caffettiera a stantuffo. Go to New Zealand or Australia, though, and it’s simply a coffee plunger, with the results known as plunger coffee.
So now we all know what we’re talking about – let’s get on with making some coffee!
What you will need to follow this tutorial
A French press
There are lots of options here: a browse online will show you dozens of different types of pot. However, all French presses have the same three components: the carafe, the plunger, and the lid.
The carafe is the main section and holds the coffee and water. It can be made of stainless steel, plastic or glass. Some experts consider that plastic carafes interfere with the flavor of the coffee and should be avoided.
Most French press enthusiasts prefer glass carafes because it allows them to watch the coffee as it brews. They’re also usually much cheaper than stainless steel. On the other hand, glass has a higher risk of breakage and won’t retain heat as well.
It’s also worth checking out the plunger before you buy. Always inspect the edge of the attached filter to make sure there’s no damage. If there is, you’re in danger of finding coffee grounds in your cup!
Next, check the lid. More expensive French presses will have lids that insulate the coffee while it’s brewing. Some may even have a guard to cover the spout.
Finally, consider the size. French presses are commonly available in 12-cup, 8-cup, 4-cup or 3-cup sizes. A cup is equivalent to 4 fluid ounces.
You don’t want to leave coffee in your French press for long after it’s brewed. The grounds will still be sitting in the water and the coffee will become over-extracted and bitter. So to avoid waste, choose the smallest size to meet your needs
We recommend a good quality glass French press with a stainless steel lid. There are many different designs available between $20 and $40. They’ll make a great cup of coffee without breaking the bank.
For best results, buy whole beans and grind them yourself just before brewing. You’ll get a much fresher flavor.
Just as important as the bean itself is the size of the grind. Too fine and you’ll have a bitter or tasteless coffee. Too coarse and the taste will be sour or acidic. To get the best results, aim for a grind of a similar consistency to sea salt. Pre ground is also great choice if you want convenient.
It’s worth investing in the right equipment here. That means a burr grinder, rather than one with a metal blade.
A blade grinder, which looks like it has propeller blades inside it, literally chops the coffee beans into grains. The problem is that those grains aren’t of a consistent size.
Why does that matter? It’s all about the extraction process.
You’re relying on the hot water to dissolve parts of the coffee grains to give you flavor and aroma. If the grounds have a larger surface area to volume ratio, the water extracts more flavor than for lower ratios.
If you’ve used a blade grinder, the ideal extraction time will be different from grain to grain. That means that whatever you do, you’ll end up with a combination of over- and under-extracted coffee.
A burr grinder, on the other hand, works by squeezing the coffee beans between two revolving surfaces known as burrs. This gives a consistent grind size.
Burr grinders are generally more expensive than blade grinders. They’re well worth it, though, to get a better flavor.
For the best results, go for filtered or bottled water. This eliminates the risk of any unpleasant flavors from your tap water distorting the flavor of your coffee.
How to make french press coffee: step by step instructions
Step 1: Decide how strong you want your coffee
The precise measurements of coffee and water will vary depending on how strong you like your drink. If you want a stronger tasting beverage, you’ll need to use more grounds for the same amount of water.
For a coffee that tastes bold, thick and heavy, use a ratio of one part coffee to ten parts water. If you want a lighter, subtler tasting coffee, increase the ratio. One part coffee to sixteen or seventeen parts water will give you the flavor you’re looking for.
So you’ve made your decision on coffee strength. Now check the size of your French press. Both those things will determine how much coffee and water you need in the next step.
Step 2: Measure out your coffee
For a really bold coffee in a 3 cup carafe, you’ll want 30g of ground coffee and 300g of water. If you’re using an 8 cup carafe, increase the quantity to 90g of coffee and 900g of water.
For a more subtle flavor, try 18g of coffee and 300g of water in a 3-cup carafe. For an 8-cup version, it’s 55g of coffee and 900g of water.
If your French press is a different size, adjust the measurements accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to find the right ratio to suit you. Just make sure that you measure your quantities carefully and keep notes of the results. You want to make sure you know what you’ve done when you create the perfect flavor!
Always measure by weight rather than volume for best results. Use a kitchen scales that’s accurate to 0.1 grams to make sure your measurements are precise.
Step 3: Heat the water
It’s really important to get the water temperature right when making coffee. If the water is too hot, you’ll burn the coffee and get a bitter taste. If it’s not hot enough, you won’t properly extract the flavor.
You should aim for a temperature of between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a thermometer will guarantee accuracy.
If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer or don’t want to fuss about with one, use time as a guide. A good rule of thumb is to wait 30 seconds after the kettle has boiled before using the water. That gives it a chance to cool slightly before it hits the beans.
An electric kettle with an automatic cut-off is also useful. They usually switch off just before the water reaches boiling point.
Make sure you measure out at least as much water as you need for your coffee. You will need a little extra for the next step.
Step 4: Warm your carafe and coffee cup, and measure your water
Use a little of the heated water to warm your carafe and coffee cup. This will help the coffee to maintain its temperature while brewing. It will also give you a coffee that stays warmer for longer in your cup.
To do this, simply pour some water from the kettle into the French press. Then swirl it around and flush it away. Do the same for your cup.
Now measure out the amount of water you need for your recipe. You can either weigh this, or use a jug to measure by volume.
For a more accurate measurement, place your French press on a kitchen scales then set it to zero. Now add the water until the gauge reaches the right weight.
Step 5: Add the coffee and water to your French press
Next, place the coffee grounds into the carafe. Slowly add about one-third of the water over the top.
Now give it a gentle stir with a spoon to ensure that the grounds become fully saturated with water. This will prevent the coffee from clumping together and not making sufficient contact with the water.
Add the rest of the water and give it another stir.
Place the lid onto the carafe, making sure that you keep the plunger pulled up to its highest level.
Step 6: Four minutes to coffee
Set your timer. Your starting point should be to brew your French pressed coffee for four minutes. If you brew for a shorter time, your coffee may taste sour and thin. Leave it to infuse for too long and it will taste bitter.
The ideal brewing time will depend on how coarse or fine your beans have been ground. A coarser grind will take slightly more time to extract the coffee flavors than one that’s finer.
This may be another area where you want to experiment for your personal tastes. Use your timer to record the brewing time next to the measurements of water and coffee you’ve used. That way you’ll be able to repeat the combination that’s right for you.
Step 7: Time to extract the coffee
When your timer reads four minutes, gently press down all the way on the plunger. You should expect some resistance, but not too much.
If there’s little or no resistance when you press down, you may need to grind your coffee finer next time. If you find it hard to press the plunger down, you’ll probably need to use a coarser grind in future.
Step 8: Time to pour
Now it’s the easy bit! Pour your coffee into your favorite mug and enjoy, possibly with a few warm pastries and a good book.
If you still have coffee left in your French press, decant it into a thermos. This will prevent the coffee continuing to brew in the carafe. If you find you have a lot of coffee left over, adjust the amount you brew next time.
This YouTube video has some more hints and tips for getting the perfect cup every time.
Step 9: Cleaning your French press
So I know what you’re thinking – can I just tip the wet coffee grounds down the sink? The answer is no. You run the risk of clogging up your pipes and running up large repair costs.
Remove the grounds from the carafe either by tapping the bottom or by using a spoon to scoop them out. Set them to one side – we’ll show you how to use them in the next step. You won’t get all the grounds out, so rinse those that remain down the sink.
Now wash the carafe, plunger, and lid in some warm soapy water. Make sure you rinse off all the soap so it doesn’t affect the taste of the coffee next time.
This YouTube video shows you how it’s done.
Step 10: Recycle your coffee grounds
Coffee grounds have some valuable properties, particularly if you’re a gardener.
They can prevent ants, snails or slugs from eating your plants. Just sprinkle them around the bottom of the plant.
If you have any acid-loving plants like roses, azaleas or rhododendrons, the grounds also make an excellent fertilizer. Mix them with dead leaves or grass clippings and spread them around the bottom of your plants.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a garden: your coffee grounds can still be put to good use. Place a bowl of them in your fridge or freezer to eliminate any unpleasant odors.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our French press tutorial! We love this way of making great coffee. For us, the beauty lies in its simplicity.
In just a few minutes, your cup can be ready while your kitchen is filled with delicious aromas. Pop some croissants in the oven and you have everything you need to pretend you’re breakfasting in a Parisian café! There’s no better way to start the day.
Please let us know what you think in the comments. And if you’ve enjoyed this article, share it with your friends so they can enjoy French press coffee too!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.