Can You Use A Normal Coffee Grind in a French Press? 5 Tips

Can You Use A Normal Coffee Grind in a French Press

It’s common knowledge that playing fast and loose with grind can cause issues, but there are ways to tweak this variable to get a good cup of French press coffee from a normal grind.

A French press is a great way to brew a perfect cup of coffee. According to the specialty coffee world, it’s important to use the right kind of grind to get the best tasting coffee from your French press. Most people agree that it’s best to use a coarse coffee grind combined with water heated to just under the boiling point to achieve decent immersion coffee.

Brewing coffee in a French press can be done with normal, or regular sized, coffee grind by using a filter, lowering water temperature, and adjusting the brew time. Course ground whole bean coffee is preferable, but following the these guidelines can help balance taste.

Can you use regular grind in a French press? Follow these 5 tips to get the perfect cup of coffee.

1. Get the Ratio Right to Develop Flavor

It’s no secret that a French press brew thrives on a coarse grind. It’s also possible to brew a great cup of coffee using any normal light to medium grind that you may have on hand. 

If you want to use regular fine to medium grind in a French press, you’ll want to choose fresh grind if you can. Pre-ground coffee loses its flavor fast, although you can extend its life a bit by keeping it in the freezer.

Since most normal grind is designed for a drip coffee machine, a percolator, or a Moka pot, it can be challenging to get an optimal flavor without over-extracting the coffee beans.

During the immersion process, soluble compounds are extracted faster than usual from the beans into the hot water.

 The same flavors exist in a normal grind as in a coarse grind. The smaller grind just makes the flavors develop right away. In fact, using a medium normal grind will give a chance for hidden acidic notes and fruity flavors that are often muted in a coarser grind to make an appearance.

As you prep to make the brew, check if the grind’s particles look consistent. Evenly ground beans will make a clearer cup with stronger flavors rather than producing a bitter or muddy cup of joe.

If you’re adjusting the size of grind from coarse to a regular light or medium grind, you’ll also want to make sure that the coffee-to-water ratio is on target.

Begin with a 1:12 coffee-to-water ratio. For example, if you’re using about 11.8 fl. oz. of water (or 350 grams), you will need to use 2 2/5 tablespoons or (30 grams) of ground coffee.

With the proper ratio, the coffee will taste better. Make sure that the normal grind is room temperature before you add it to the French press for best results.

You may need to increase the ratio if you find the coffee comes out too weak or starts to taste acidic or bitter. If you have time to experiment, you can play with the coffee-to-water ratio to find the perfect combination that works for you.

whole bean, course grind, medium grind coffee
Course grind coffee is best for a French press, but medium grind can work in a pinch

2. Drop the Water Temperature

This tip is crucial if you want to use a normal grind instead of a coarse grind in a French press. While the optimal water temperature for a coarse grind is 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, or just below boiling point, you’ll want to lower the temperature when using normal pre-ground coffee.

While it’s possible to use near-boiling water with a normal grind in a French press, doing so will make your brew much sharper, more acidic, and bitter.

A simple way to avoid extracting bitter notes with water that’s too hot is to heat the kettle to only around 180F.

You can use this tweak to customize your coffee’s flavor even using a light or medium pre-ground bean.

3. Use an Extra Filter

While pre-ground coffee works like a dream in drip coffee machines, it’s a little more challenging to use this normal grind in a French press. It can be tricky to brew normal grind in a French press due to the size of the coffee grains.

When you press the plunger against the regular fine ground or medium ground coffee, it may feel hard to push down. That’s because a normal grind packs together in a denser crust of coffee compared to a looser coarse grind. Small grounds can slip through the fine mesh filter or escape along the sides of the carafe.

Don’t worry. The good news is that a good filtering process can give you a clean cup of coffee by eliminating bitter tastes.  

Here are several easy options to give your coffee some extra filtration:

  • A second French press filter
  • A fine-meshed sieve
  • A fine-meshed sieve
  • A clean piece of cheesecloth
  • A paper filter used for drip coffee

Paper filters aren’t recommended for use in a French press because they will remove the oils that give fresh coffee beans their unique aroma, body, and flavor. You can use a paper filter if you don’t have another option, but keep in mind that the result may not taste like a cup of French press coffee.

You can easily avoid this by using any of the other filter options above and letting the brew sit for a minute after it’s done to let any fine stray particles settle to the bottom.

4. Decrease the Brewing Time

The key to getting a good cup of French press coffee when using a normal grind lies in getting the extraction time just right.

Normally, when you use a coarse coffee grind, you would need to wait for 4 minutes for the brew to process.

If you’re using an alternative fine or medium ground coffee, it’s important not to steep the grounds for too long. That’s because fine or medium ground coffee has a lot more surface area than a coarse grind. The more surface area that a grind has, the faster the extraction process takes place.

You’ll want to set a timer for 2 ½ minutes to make sure that you don’t over-extract the grind.

5. Plunge and Pour Right Away

When it’s time to plunge, it’s important to stir the brew several times if you’re using a normal grind. This helps break up the thick crust of grounds and lets most of them to settle to the bottom. You can also use a piece of paper towel to dap at the top of the brew to remove any stray grounds that stay afloat.

Go slowly to avoid clogging the mesh strainer. A gentle downward movement is enough to depress the plunger without pushing lots of grind up the sides of the walls between the plunger and the glass carafe. This will help keep floating bits of grind from making their way into your beverage.

Avoid pressing the plunger all the way to the bottom since this can stir up bitter-tasting, murky sediment and leave a layer of sludge in the bottom of your cup.

Once you push the plunger down, make sure that you pour the coffee into a mug or secondary storage container immediately. This will help prevent the coffee from absorbing bitter flavors from sitting in the grounds for too long.

Now you have a good cup of coffee ready to drink.

Final Thoughts On Using Normal Grind In Your French Press

Despite standard French press advice, it’s entirely possible to create a delicious cup of coffee with a normal coffee grind.

While medium or fine ground coffee will extract different types of flavors faster than a recommended coarse grind, you can adjust the temperature, filtering, and brewing time to avoid over-extracting the coffee.

If you normally keep regular pre-ground coffee on hand, tweaking the process for your French press brew is a great way to use up regular ground coffee without sacrificing body and taste.

Christopher Mize
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