How to Use a French Press

Wondering how to use a french press?

Perfect because I’ll you how to create the perfect cup of coffee using a french press in this guide.

how to use a french press

Using a French Press may be the ideal solution as it provides reliable results despite minimal input. When added to the affordability, this is surely a recipe for success.

Here’s all you need to know about the French Press coffee brewing method to take the taste of your daily coffee to the next level.

What is a French Press?

The French Press is a simple coffee brewing device invented in France during the mid-to-late 19th century and patented by two Italian designers in 1929. It is otherwise known as a press pot, coffee press, or coffee plunger. In other countries, you may hear it described as a melior, cafetiere, cafetier a piston, or cafeteria.

Related: coffee makers with grinders

A modern French Press utilizes a cylindrical jug. Inside this is a rod that commonly uses a plunger and a three-part filter system, including a spring filter, micro-mesh filter, and base filter. This is used to press hot water through ground coffee beans for an intense flavor, and strong caffeine hit. The resulting coffee can be used as the foundation for many different beverages, giving you immense control over the final taste and consistency.

Early incarnations of the device were very basic, using a cheesecloth screen fitted to a rod. However, the design has seen several revamps over the decades, not least Faliero Bondanini introduced his version in the late 1950s.

The French Press gained even greater mainstream fame when popularized in the hit 1965 film The Ipcress File. While the National Coffee Association found that only 3% of people use the French Press on a daily basis, millions of devices can be found throughout American households, while it is also a winner in many parts of Europe, including Britain and Scandinavia.

It remains one of the best home brewing facilities on the market. Here are just some of the reasons to love the French Press;

  1. Using it is very easy you are almost guaranteed the perfect results time and time again.
  2. The device is pleasantly affordable, while (assuming you buy quality) the parts don’t need replacing regularly.
  3. The French Press is a portable machine, meaning you can also take it on caravan holidays and other trips.
  4. Creating your perfect morning coffee in this manner is far quicker than lining up in Starbucks.
  5. You can create enough coffee for the whole household while the ability to personalize each person’s drink remains intact.

Where to Buy a French Press

While the French Press is a fairly basic appliance that’s even easier to use, you must avoid the danger of simply picking the first device that you see. There are several factors to consider before making your consumer decision.

Here are just five questions that you need to ask:

  1. How big does the French Press coffee maker need to be for my personal requirements?
  2. Do I want a clear beaker or a metal one?
  3. Will I use the device often enough to vindicate an expensive item, or would a budget option be better?
  4. How easy will it be to clean after use?
  5. Does the device have a lot of elbow grease, or is the plunger easy to use?

Knowing exactly what you want from the French Press coffee blending device will make purchasing far easier. Nevertheless, it’s imperative that you take the necessary steps to find the perfect option for your needs.

French Press products can be purchased from an array of stores, ranging from furniture outlets like IKEA to home electrical stores and supermarkets. Thanks to online systems, it is possible to read honest reviews from impartial customers on any given item in a matter of seconds. This is something you should always be eager to embrace.

Nevertheless, some manufacturers boast better reputations than most. The following four are highly regarded for designing reliably French Press machines that produce amazing results and are built to last:

  • SterlingPro: As the manufacturer of the first French Press to use a double filter screen, SterlingPro has been an innovator in the industry for several generations.
  • Bodum: Commonly accepted as one of the premium French Press manufacturers, Bodum is particularly loved for its Chambord model, which has been around since the 1980s.
  • Frieling: Creators of arguably the best stainless steel French Press coffee makers on the market. Their streamlined designs are also insulated.
  • Grosche: Ranging from small and inexpensive products to premium quality doubled walled items, Grosche has quickly established its place at the top table.

Even with the right manufacturer, it’s worth checking out the different models to satisfy your specific needs. Achieve this goal, and you’ll be set for years of happiness.

How to Use a French Press

Using French Press is simple but allows you to make minor changes to suit your specific needs. Nevertheless, the process will follow a similar path regardless of those finer details and personal modifications.

Follow the process as detailed below, and you’ll surely gain great-tasting French Press coffee.

1. Prepare All Items

Getting a quality french press is the first step, but the most important element of producing delicious coffee is the coffee itself. I’ll use a local coffee roaster blend, Mississippi Mud for this demonstration.

french press ingredients

In addition to your french press and coffee, you’ll a coffee grinder, filtered water, a kettle, and a timer (I use my phone). You may also want a thermal flask for the leftover coffee. More on this later.

Once you’ve got everything, it’s time to brew some coffee using a french press!

Here’s the first thing you need to do:

2. Boil The Water

As already mentioned, the quality of your ingredients will hugely influence the final taste of your drink. The coffee beans are the primary concern, but it’s worth noting that water is the main ingredient in coffee.

If you want to use mineral water, that’s great. At the very least, though, you should filter the tap water. This is why anyone without a filtering tap should invest in a filter jug, which is readily available.

boiling water using 34floz coffee kettle
Coffee Gator Pour-Over 34floz Coffee Kettle (Link)

For the best results, you should aim for water that is just under boiling. Around the 200-degree F mark is roughly perfect as it’ll allow you to start enjoying your coffee right away. A thermometer will enable you to test the heat of the water. Alternatively, if you want to use a kettle, let the water sit for two minutes after it has boiled.

The volume of water needed is naturally a crucial factor too. For a 17-oz French Press device, around 12 oz will suffice. On a separate note, you may wish to gently heat your mug and the beaker for a minute too. This will help your finished coffee stay hotter for longer.

3. Grind The Coffee Beans

Using instant coffee granules would somewhat defeat the point of using the French Press method, so it’s almost certain that you’ll be using coffee beans. However, you won’t be putting them whole, or you’ll be left with nothing short of a disaster. The grinding of your coffee beans is crucial.

whole coffee bean in electric griner
Electric Coffee Bean Grinder by Grocery Art (Link)

French Press coffee requires coarse ingredients, so the choice of a grinding mill is key. Opting for a grinder commonly used for spices simply won’t do. You’ll see far better results when the blades are built to create that even breadcrumb-like texture.

freshly ground coffee in electric grinder

Some people mistake grinding their beans and storing them to save time. Unfortunately, only the freshly ground beans will bring that intense flavor you crave. Thankfully, it only takes a minute to complete this task. So, why not do it while the water is heating up?

Once you’ve gained the right consistency, transfer the desired amount of the newly formed powder to the bottom of the French Press beaker.

ground coffee in french press
Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, 1 Liter, 34 Ounce (Link)

As a general rule of thumb, opting for 12 parts water to 1 part coffee is a good option. However, this method doesn’t require perfect accuracy.

4. Create a Coffee Bloom

Instead of pouring all the water onto the grounds at once, you should instead pour a small amount of water on the grounds. Just enough to saturate them.

pouring water into french press

This small deviation in the coffee brewing process is known as coffee blooming. Coffee blooming occurs when CO2 escapes from the ground coffee.

So, just pour enough water to saturate all the coffee grounds and set a timer for 1 minute.

coffee blooming for 1 minute

After the minute is up, pour more water (not all of it) into the french press and gently stir using a wooden spoon or paddle.

stirring coffee in french press

This is to ensure that all of the coffee is touched by the water rather than having some bits stuck to the bottom of the beaker.

Let this coffee infuse for between 30 and 60 seconds before moving to step five.

5. Let the Coffee Steep

Fill the beaker with the rest of the water, as desired. Then quickly place the lid on top so that any potential heat loss is minimized.

coffee infusion

Do not press down on the plunger just yet because you want to let the coffee steep for 4 minutes. This is a fundamental stage of the French press brewing process because it will extract the flavor profile from the beans and give that smooth, rich taste.

The key is to avoid over or under-extracting during the steeping process. To be safe, steep for at least 3-4 minutes to avoid weak, watery coffee. On the flip side, you should also avoid going over 10 minutes because it could make your coffee too bitter.

6. Press & Serve!

Once this time has finished, it’s imperative that you serve the coffee quickly. Otherwise, it will keep brewing to ruin the taste. Use the plunger to push down on the coffee beans. If you need to use a lot of pressure, the coffee is still too fine. The coffee is overly coarse if there is no resistance as you push.

pressing coffee with french press

You should have the perfect blend when the press moves with a little pressure.

pouring coffee with french press

All you need to do now is pour your coffee, add cream and sugar (or drink it black), and enjoy!

black coffee from french press

7. Transfer the Leftover Coffee

The last thing you want to do is let the coffee remain in the French Press as it will continue to brew. This will result in an extremely bitter-tasting coffee, rendering it virtually undrinkable.

So, if you have any leftover coffee that you’d like to keep, transfer it to a thermal flask. This way, it can stay warm throughout the day. Alternatively, if you wish to turn this into an iced coffee for later, simply transfer the coffee to a sealable pot and leave it in the fridge until it’s needed.

What to Expect

Even with the right equipment and technique, getting the right blend for your tastes may take a little trial and error. This may mean adding more coffee for a stronger flavor or fewer coffee beans for a less intense final drink.

Another option is to change the brewing time. Reduce it for a weaker coffee or increase it for a stronger one. Either way, staying within the 3-5 minute bracket is essential. Anything outside of this will spell disaster.

A French Press can ultimately enhance your daily coffee drinking experiences. You’ll gain the delightful tastes and full caffeine boost associated with the local coffee bar without encountering the costs or time consumption. Perhaps nothing will if that doesn’t encourage you to invest in a quality French Press.

I hope this helps you learn how to use a french press and if you liked it, please share this with your friends so they can start enjoying better coffee too 🙂

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Nathan is the founder of The Darkest Roast (featured in the NY Times, Yahoo, and Tasting Table). He is a self-taught coffee expert and has tried 100s of coffees from around the world. Nathan's goal is to help you find the best coffee, so you only drink the best.