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How to Use a French Press — Tips and Suggestions for the Best Brew

The French press has long been one of the world’s most popular coffee brewing tools, thanks to its ease of use and ability to create a bold and flavorful coffee experience that is richer and more intense than an automatic drip coffee maker.                 

There are several benefits to using a French press beyond just flavor. For one, there are no paper filters to deal with as waste once the coffee is brewed. Also, you don't need a special gooseneck kettle necessary for many pour-over methods. But perhaps the biggest benefit is the level of control over the brewing process, says John Giuliano, a coffee expert and blogger at Brewing Coffee Manually.

“It is a full-immersion method of brewing, which means you have complete control of how much contact your coffee has with the water,” Giuliano says. That control allows coffee drinkers to calibrate their brew precisely to their tastes, with a little practice.

Using a French press is quite simple, but it starts with using high-quality coffee. For each 6-ounce cup of water, put two tablespoons of ground coffee into the glass carafe. Next, pour hot water over the coffee grounds into the carafe, place the plunger on top of the carafe and allow the coffee to steep for about four minutes. After that time, while holding the carafe handle, slowly depress the plunger completely to the bottom of the press, then pour the brewed coffee into your favorite mug and enjoy.

Although it is a relatively simple method, there are a few guidelines that can help you get the best coffee possible with a French press.

Use the Right Ratio

When brewing with a French press, it’s crucial to use the correct mix of water to coffee. Many coffee experts recommend measuring by weight and using one part ground coffee to 16 parts water. If you don’t have a scale, a ratio of one 6-ounce cup of water for every two tablespoons of ground coffee is a good starting point.

Once your water is boiling, resist the urge to immediately pour it into the glass container — at least for a moment. “I use water that is around 210 degrees — about 30 seconds off of boil,” Giuliano says.

Mind the Grind

A coarser grind is generally recommended for French press brewing, as finer grinds can lead to a flavor that’s too bitter for many coffee drinkers. A coarse grind may also help reduce the amount of sediment in the coffee once the brew is complete, although some sediment is inevitable with this method.

Finer grinds can still work in a French press, but you may have to use a slightly shorter brew time to reduce bitterness.

Keep It Clean

Make sure you clean your French press thoroughly after each brew. In particular, be sure to remove the mesh filter and rinse it thoroughly with water. “You don't want old coffee residue and oils to impact the flavors of your next batch,” Giuliano says.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

Coffees and personal tastes can vary greatly, so don’t be afraid to tweak your brewing formula to get the most out of your French press. Variables like the coarseness of your coffee grind and stirring or not stirring the coffee while it is brewing can impact the final result. The four-minute brewing time is also just a guideline. It’s all about finding the right combination for your personal taste.

“Remember that you can adjust your brewing time in order to find a brewing profile that agrees with you,” Giuliano says. “Try doing really short or really long brew times just to see how it changes the taste.”