French Press is a quick and somewhat simple way to make a great cup of coffee. It skips elaborate electronics that we see so often in drip coffee machines, or the elaborate setup seen in other methods like Syphon Coffee. That’s the true wonder of French Press Coffee; it’s simple, it’s accessible, and it makes a great cup of coffee.
Well, you could certainly go out and get yourself a cup of coffee, like you’ve been doing all along. But here’s the thing, making your own coffee at home saves you a ton of money, especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker. And with something as low investment and easy as French press coffee, there really isn’t an excuse for you to spend a fortune on store-bought coffee. Need some help getting started? Here’s a complete tutorial on how to make French press coffee.
French Press Coffee Maker
French Press was invented in 1929 by Paolini Ugo, and was subsequently patented by Italian designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929. While it is famous by the name of French Press, the device has several names, often depending upon the country. The French, for example, call it the cafetière à piston (literally, coffee pot with piston/plunger), the British and Dutch call it the cafetière, and Australia, NZ, and South Africa call it the coffee plunger. This side of the pond, the USA and Canada call it the French Press, a name increasingly popular throughout the world.
French Press Construction And Working
The basic construction of a French Press includes a cylindrical container with a plunger/piston carrying a filter and running through the middle of the container. Modern beaker/containers for French Press are usually made from borosilicate glass or steel. The plunger and filter/screen are usually steel.
To dispel a common misconception, we must add that the plunger does not compress the grounds to release the coffee’s flavor. It’s the hot water that extracts the flavor, while the plunger simply keeps the coffee grounds at the bottom, and prevents them from entering the drink.
Preparation: Things To Keep Handy When Brewing French Press Coffee
Since we are doing a comprehensive French Press tutorial, it would make sense to detail the simple — perhaps even the obvious. Let’s start with the essentials that you must have at hand:
- Coffee grounds – Coffee grounds for the French Press should be medium-coarse. Think of a likeness to breadcrumbs
- French Press
Here are some optional items that you can keep at hand. You don’t necessarily need them, but these are the finer details that put your coffee on the path to awesomeness. They are:
- Kitchen scale
- Freshly roasted coffee beans — preferably roasted no more than two weeks ago
- Coffee grinder, preferably a Burr grinder
- Flat stirrer. Preferably a wooden stirrer if your French Press is made out of glass
If you don’t intend to drink the coffee immediately, keep a thermal carafe or pot at hand.
Coffee to water ratio for the French Press usually follows the general best-practice ratio of 1:15 (or thereabouts). That means for every gram of coffee you add, you should ideally be using 15 grams of water.
Step by Step Guide To Making French Press Coffee
Step 1 — Prepare Water
Heat water in a kettle. A gooseneck kettle would be useful, but any kettle can be used. If you are measuring the water to the exact number of cups required, add more than the minimum. You will need it. Ideally, you should heat water to the ideal French Press brewing temperature of 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, that is, just before it boils. If you have a thermometer, use it. If you don’t, you can allow the water to boil, and wait for about a minute so it cools down to the right temperature.
Pour a small amount of the water into the French press, so you can preheat the cylinder. Remember to empty it before you add your coffee beans. You can also keep some water ready to preheat the cup. Yes, preheating does make a difference!
Step 2 — Grind Your Coffee
Put your coffee beans in the grinder and set it to medium coarse. Your coffee grounds should be as coarse as breadcrumbs. Remember to use the 1:15 ratio we mentioned earlier. For example, if you intend to brew about a liter of coffee, you should put in about 70-75 grams of breadcrumbs.
This ratio is not an absolute or must. You can change it to suit your specific requirements and taste. However, if you’re just starting with French Press coffee, it is a good starting point.
Step 3 — Add Coffee Grounds And Let It Bloom
If your French Press still has water in it from being preheated, throw the water out. Add your coffee grounds. There are two ways to add water. Add it all, or add a small amount first.
If you are using the second method, add twice the weight of water, as the coffee grounds you added. So going by the example, if you added 75 grams of coffee, add 150 grams of water. Let it stay for a few seconds, and you will see the mix developing some bubbles. This is caused by the coffee grounds releasing gases, and is called blooming.
Alternatively, you may skip this step and add the full quantity of water.
Step 4 — Stir
Wait for about 30-50 seconds, and stir the bloom. It’s okay to stir the mix even if you added the full quantity of water.
If you allowed your coffee to bloom, add the remaining water after stirring.
Step 5 — Set The Timer
Get the kitchen timer ready and set it for 4 minutes. During this time, we are allowing the coffee to steep, and the hot water is extracting flavor. It’s good to time it, as allowing the coffee to brew for longer times can make it bitter.
Step 6 — Slowly, Push The Plunger
Right as the timer hits, push the plunger. Remember to push in a smooth, delicate, and steady manner. Do not push the plunger too quickly, as it will disturb the brewing and your coffee might end up being bitter. Use patience, and push it steadily. It is possible that the plunger gets stuck, just pull it back a bit, and continue with pushing it down.
Step 7 — Your Coffee Is Ready
Pour your French Press coffee into a cup and enjoy the drink! If you intend to wait for a bit, keep a thermal carafe handy. Don’t let the coffee stay in the French Press as it will continue to brew you may end up with a bitter tasting drink.
Things To Remember When Using The French Press
As you see, the process of brewing a fine cup of coffee with the French Press is quite simple. Even so, there are a few common mistakes and tripping points that you should avoid:
- Don’t Use Boiling Water: As already mentioned, the ideal brewing temperature for French Press is 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is quite close to the boiling point of water, but not exactly there. And it makes all the difference. Using boiling water will burn the coffee grounds and the coffee will be bitter.
- Don’t Push The French Press Plunger Swiftly: Adding force and speed to plunging will just disturb the brewing process and give you bitter coffee.
- Don’t Over-Extract: Pour your coffee into a cup or carafe as soon as you are done. Letting your coffee steep for several minutes will turn it bitter.
- Use Good Quality Coffee and Grinder: Well, starting with good quality materials just leads to a better coffee. Good quality coffee and a burr grinder are great.
- About the Water: When making French Press coffee, avoid using distilled or reverse-osmosis water. Minerals in water can add flavor to coffee. If you’re using tap water, run it through a filter to remove chlorine.
A Few Interesting Things About The French Press
It Goes Beyond Filtering Coffee
The French Press screen only serves to separate coffee grounds from your coffee. It does not stick to simply filtering the coffee, and does not remove any oils that make their way from the grounds to your coffee.
French Press Coffee Is Brewed At A Consistent Temperature
Your French Press Coffee is brewed by steeping coffee grounds in hot water. That means your coffee grounds stay at a near-perfect temperature throughout the brewing process. Unlike most other methods, it’s not like water running through coffee grounds and heading to the cup.
You Can Brew Tea In A French Press
Ever wondered about how to brew tea in a French Press? The process is similar to brewing coffee. If you are using green tea, use water temperature at 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it steep for 1–3 minutes before pushing the plunger. For herbal tea or black tea, keep the temperature from 190–212 degrees, and let them steep from 3–7 minutes, depending on your preference.
Generally speaking, you should avoid using the same French Press for your coffee and tea. Even if you clean it thoroughly, the French Press will carry the flavor of your favorite brew. So there’s a good chance you might end up with tea flavored coffee, or vice versa.
It’s Cost-Effective And Low Maintenance
You don’t have to spend a lot on buying a French Press. It’s fairly cheap, and makes a great cup of coffee comparable to far more expensive machines. Making coffee with French Press is a simple process, and rather easy to understand. As long as you maintain the device and keep it clean, it will work wonderfully for a very long time.
Cleaning The French Press
You should clean the French Press after every use. Much like making coffee, cleaning is a simple process too. Just fill it with mild warm water, and add a few drops of soap. Place the plunger, and press and release it a few times. Empty, and rinse with water.
Where To Buy?
Want to buy a French Press? Checkout our guide and reviews for some excellent suggestions.
How To Make French Press Coffee — Conclusion
Using a French Press is simple and cost effective. Even if you’re buying just one or two cups from your local coffee shop, moving to the French Press will save you a significant amount of money. French Press coffee is rich in flavor, and you will enjoy the taste, as well as the surprising strength of this coffee.