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How to Use a French Press

October 17, 2012 by Bethany Ramos
 

In the world of coffee brewing options, many people view the French Press as far too special and fancy for the average coffee drinker. If the French Press seems like a contraption that you can’t wrap your mind around, it helps to know that it’s much easier than it looks!

If you’re in the majority of people who think that a French Press takes too much time in the morning, think again. At the maximum, the brew process takes just 4 minutes. In comparison, an automatic coffee maker can take up to 5 minutes to brew. So, with essentially the same amount of time and effort, you’ll be rewarded with a richer and more flavorful cup of coffee just for using a French Press.

French Press History

French Coffee Press

If you’re looking for a richer and bolder coffee, then the French Press is your man – er, pot. You may be surprised to know that you can also get a fairly clean brew from it too if you learn how to use it well.

The French Press was actually around in the 1840s, but it didn’t become popular in stores until the early 1900s. After that, the 1970s came along with fun colors in the plastic, metal, and glass varieties that led to some of the more classic looking French Press pots that we know today.

Although the actual invention of the French Press hasn’t been attributed to one single person just yet, an Italian designer named Attilio Calimani patented the little sucker in 1929.

Throughout history, a French Press has been known by many names, like:

  • Press pot
  • Coffee press
  • Cafetière
  • Cafetière à piston
  • Coffee plunger

No matter what name your favorite French Press goes by, one thing is for certain: A stylish yet convenient French Press can be used by newbies and experts alike to make top-notch coffee. To match your level of coffee brewing expertise, I have created two different guides for both beginner and advanced brewing.

So here we go!

What to Know About a French Press Before You Begin

If you’re still getting acquainted with your French Press, here are a few important guidelines to remember before brewing:

  • A French Press makes coffee that should be consumed right away! It’s never recommended to let fresh coffee sit in a French Press after brewing.
  • Brew the amount that you can drink within 10 minutes to avoid the problem above.
  • Leaving coffee in a French Press for too long will lead to over-extraction and will bring out bitter and burnt flavors in the brew.
  • If you want to make extra coffee, pour fresh French Press coffee into a thermos or decanter to keep it warm after brewing.
  • For the best taste, freshly ground, fresh roasted coffee beans are always recommended.
  • Coarse coffee grounds are recommended so that they will strain through the mesh filter to prevent sediment in the cup.

French Press Measurement Chart

Without further ado…

A Quick French Press Tutorial in 5 Steps

  1. Boil your (high-quality, filtered) water for the amount of coffee you would like brewed.
  2. Portion out ground coffee to 1-2 rounded tablespoons per cup (4 ounces) of water. Add the coffee to the bottom of the empty French Press as quickly as possible after grinding because the smell of aromas means that it’s starting to go stale!
  3. Add hot water steadily to thoroughly saturate all of the coffee grounds.
  4. Put the lid with filter onto the pot and leave it there. Start your steep time: For a smaller pot, steep 2-3 minutes; for a larger pot, steep 4 minutes.
  5. After steeping, plunge the filter straight down so that no grounds can escape into the brew. Be sure not to plunge too fast, or else hot coffee could spurt out.

More In-Depth French Press Tutorial in 7 Steps

  1. Start by boiling your (high-quality, filtered) water for the amount of coffee you would like brewed. To get technical, the recommended water temperature for optimum extraction is from 195°F-200°F. Coffee Bump experts advise bringing water to a boil and removing it from heat so that it can cool to the desired temperature as you grind your coffee beans.
  2. Grind your coffee. Ideally, you’ll want coarse coffee grounds. And remember to use a quality grinder because that will directly affect the brew and the taste – a burr grinder is recommended. However, grinding isn’t always so simple; you will need to experiment with the coarseness of your grind to find the right consistency for both your French Press and personal taste. If the grind is too coarse, it will not release enough flavor oils into the brew; if the grind is too fine, it will not be effectively trapped by the French Press filter and will create sediment in the bottom of the cup.
  3. Portion out your ground coffee to 1-2 rounded tablespoons per cup of water. In the coffee world, one cup is equal to 4-4.5 ounces of water. If you are using a Bodum French Press, it will come with a 7 g scoop. Bodum recommends one scoop of coffee grounds per cup of water. You can adjust the amount of grounds you add based on taste. Add coffee to the bottom of the empty French Press as quickly as possible after grinding because the smell of aromas means that it’s starting to go stale!
  4. Add hot water steadily to thoroughly saturate the coffee grounds. Check that the water temperature remains between 195°F-200°F to keep the coffee grounds from scalding.
  5. Optional: You can stir the saturated grounds a few times with a wooden chopstick or spoon if you want to aid in the brewing process. Depending on the freshness of your coffee, you may notice brown foam starting to form, called the bloom. Make sure you stir well to prevent partial extraction.
  6. Put the lid with filter onto the pot and leave it there. Start your steep time: For a smaller pot (3-8 cups), steep 2-3 minutes; for a larger pot (over 8 cups), steep 4 minutes. Remember, if you are using a finer grind, the extraction time will be shorter; a coarser grind means a longer extraction time. Make sure to pay attention to your steep time since over-extraction will result in bitter tasting coffee. On the other hand, under-extraction will result in a very weak cup of Joe! As always, you can adjust your steep time to your personal taste.
  7. After steeping, plunge the filter straight down so that no grounds can escape into the brew. Be sure not to plunge too fast, or else hot coffee could spurt out. The goal is to use the plunger to push the coffee grounds directly into the bottom of the French Press. If the plunger tilts and grounds escape, simply remove the plunger and filter, rinse well, replace, and start over again. Practice makes perfect! Plunging should take roughly 20 seconds; some resistance is normal as you separate extracted coffee grounds from the brew.

Voila! You did it! If you followed all the steps listed above, your French Press brew should be rich and full with a visible crema on top. Now pour yourself some tasty java and remember to hold onto the lid as you pour so that nothing slides around.

Final Thoughts

Make sure to wash your French Press well at least once a week so the grounds don’t build up and affect your brew taste. As always, practice, practice, practice. If you happen to get sediment in your cup, you can still enjoy your fresh French Press coffee – although you may have to avoid that last sip!

French Presses are for people who celebrate coffee, so pick the best coffee supplies to celebrate you… and your brew!
For an amazing selection of Bodum French Presses, click here.