How to Use a French Press
Step 1: Stop buying the wrong kind of beans.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.
There are so many ways to brew a cup of coffee, but the French press remains one of the most popular. However, the beautiful piece of equipment can be intimidating for first-time users. Plus, you might have to brew multiple pots before you get the hang of it and to find your ideal coffee-to-water ratio. But it’s worth taking the plunge to cradle a cup of the rich, deeply flavorful brew that a French press produces. Here’s how to use a French press plus tips on the best coffee to use and hints on coffee ratios.
What Is a French Press?
A French press is a manual coffee brewing device with a cylindrical carafe, a built-in plunger and mesh filter. Coffee is brewed in a French press by saturating ground coffee in hot water, then applying manual pressure to force the hot water through coffee to the bottom of the pot, producing a concentrated and flavorful brew.
Ratio of Coffee for French Press
Depending on how strong you like your coffee, the coffee-to-water ratio will vary when using a French press. You may need to experiment with proportions to find the ratio that best suits your preferences. You might’ve heard coffee pros refer to the “golden ratio,” meaning 1 gram of coffee for every 17 grams of water. But for immersion brewing like a French press, where the water sits with the ground coffee (rather than passing through it), a lower ratio is ideal. The pros recommend weighing your water and coffee on a gram scale, but for at-home brewing purposes, we’ve provided suggested ratios using cups and tablespoons measurements. For a standard brewed cup of coffee, try a 1:15 ratio, or 3 tablespoons coffee to 1 cup (8oz) water. For a stronger cup of coffee, follow a 1:12 ratio, or 4 tablespoons coffee to 1 cup (8oz) water.
Best Coffee In French Press
For best results with your French press, remember these tips for selecting and grinding your beans.
Start with Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
Seek out high-quality coffee beans that have been freshly roasted. The type of beans you use is a personal preference, but medium and dark roasts tend to lend themselves especially well to producing the richly flavored, full-bodied brews synonymous with French presses.
Grind Beans Just Before Brewing
We get that it’s an extra step to take in the morning and not as convenient as using pre-ground beans. But to preserve as much flavor as possible, it’s best to grind the coffee beans right before brewing.
Use Coarsely Ground Coffee
Grind beans in a coffee grinder on the coarse setting—the coffee should be evenly ground and resemble coarse sugar or sand. Coffee that is too finely ground will impart an oily sheen and bitter flavor. For best results, use a burr grinder, which runs beans through two abrasive surfaces (burrs), which controls the coarseness of your grind and produces even grounds. If you don’t have a coffee grinder at home, ask the person in the coffee section of the grocery store or your local coffee shop to grind the beans for French press.
If you do use pre-ground coffee for your French press, avoid anything that’s ground for espresso as it will be too fine. And keep in mind that the coffee grind in some pre-packaged, pre-ground coffee may still be too small for a French press (no one likes silty or gritty coffee). Plus, since it’s pre-ground and packaged, the coffee won’t be as fresh, nor will the flavors be as pronounced as freshly ground beans.
How to Use a French Press, Step-by-Step
Start with 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) coffee beans and 2 cups (16 oz) water, but tweak the ratio and add more coffee if you prefer your brew on the stronger side.
Note: If you do not have a coffee grinder, ask the person in the coffee section of the grocery store or your local coffee shop to grind the beans for French press. You can use a slightly heaping 1/4 cup of pre-ground coffee.
Step 1: Prepare the Water
Bring a kettle of water to boil. Pour the boiled water into a 4- to 8-cup French coffee press to warm it while you grind your beans. Refill the kettle with 2 cups water and return to a boil.
Step 2: Grind Your Beans
Grind the beans in a coffee grinder on the coarse setting; the ground coffee should resemble coarse sugar or sand.
Step 3: Prepare Water for Brewing
Once the kettle comes to a boil, remove from the heat, and let sit 30 seconds to reach the optimal temperature for French Press. If it's too hot, it can cause the brew to taste burnt.
Step 4: Steep the Grounds
Pour the hot water out of the French press. Put the measured coffee in the bottom. Pour in 1 cup of the hot water, put on the top (but don't press) and let sit 1 minute.
Step 5: Gently Stir and Steep Again
After 1 minute, gently stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to break up the layer of coffee on top. Pour in the remaining 1 cup hot water. Put the French Press top on (but don't press down) and let sit for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, depending on how strong you like your coffee. Taste is subjective, so experiment to find your own target time.
Step 6: Press the Coffee Grounds
Slowly push the plunger down to press the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot. As a rule of thumb, if it is very difficult to press, your coffee is probably ground too fine. If it glides right down with no resistance, your grind is probably too coarse. There is a sweet spot of resistance somewhere in the middle.
Step 7: Serve the Brewed Coffee
Serve coffee right away with milk and sweetener, if using. If you aren't sharing the pot and want to wait to have a second cup, it's best to transfer the coffee to a thermos or carafe. If you leave it in the press, it will continue to brew and can become too strong or bitter.
French Press Coffee
Once you get the hang of using it, a French press delivers consistent results and a heavier-bodied brew. Plus it makes your morning coffee ritual much more enjoyable. There are a few prerequisites: Coffee that is too finely ground will make your final product murky and give it an oily sheen and bitter flavor. If you do not have a coffee grinder, ask the person in the coffee section of the grocery store or your local coffee shop to grind the beans for French press. Water temperature also matters—too hot and it can cause the brew to taste burnt. How long to let it steep is subjective so experiment to find your own target time.