How to brew French press coffee for a perfect cup made easy

how to brew coffee in a french press

There’s nothing better than the perfect cup of joe to start your day off right. If you’re used to prepping and pushing a button on an automated coffee machine, figuring out how to make a French press brew can seem a little daunting. 

The good news is that it is easy to make a perfect cup of French press coffee with a few simple steps.

To brew coffee with a French press, you’ll want to pay attention to the size and type of grind, coffee-to-water ratio, water temperature, and immersion time. A French press can extract the maximum bold flavors and rich oils from the coffee beans with practice and patience. 

If you need to know how to brew French press coffee, the easy way is for a perfect cup every time. Then check out these 6 simple steps to make a delicious cup of joe in your French press.

What You’ll Need

  • A French press (a classic Bodum Chambord press is a great way to start)
  • Quality dark roast coffee beans
  • Burr grinder (electric or manual)
  • Water
  • Kettle
  • Scale (recommended)
  • Wooden spoon or bamboo stirring utensil
  • Mug
  • Timer
  • Total time required: 6-8 minutes

With these items on hand, you’re ready to start these 6 easy steps to make a perfect cup of coffee in a French press on the go or from the comfort of your home.

Know Your Coffee Grind

Getting the grind right is one of the key ways to produce a cup of French press coffee bursting with flavor and a heavy body. 

A dark roast will get you a dense, full-bodied java in less time, while light or medium roast can take longer to immerse to bring out taste and color.

First, it’s best to use coffee that’s freshly ground. Using whole coffee beans and grinding them fresh in a grinder is recommended before you start making coffee. 

If possible, don’t grind your coffee too far ahead of time since coffee tends to lose the compounds that give it aroma and flavor the longer it sits.

You will also want to make sure that you clean your French press in between uses since old bits of grounds stuck to the metal mesh filter will add a bitter taste to a fresh cup of coffee.

If you prefer to use pre-ground coffee, available in supermarkets or online, you can skip this step and go straight to the next one.

A good burr grinder can give the correct consistency for French press coffee if appropriately used. 

A blade grinder can also work if you shake it while grinding to mix everything up for a more even texture.

When you grind your beans, you can ensure that the consistency looks right and evenly sized each time. This will result in a more balanced cup of coffee.

Next, weigh your coffee beans on the scale. While there are different amounts recommended, depending on how strong or pale you like your coffee, here are some general rules of thumb to follow.

When grinding for a French press, you will want to aim for grounds that have a texture that’s like coarse sea salt or breadcrumbs. 

This grind looks coarser than the fine powdery grind you’ll see for espresso or the medium-coarse grind used for drip coffee.

You’ll want to aim for a coffee-to-water ratio that’s 1:16. This means you’ll add 1 gram of coffee grounds for every 16 grams of water. 

To get the ratio right, you’ll typically want to grind around 11 tablespoons of whole coffee beans.

Remember that super coarse grounds can make a cup of coffee taste weaker with sour tones. In contrast, a medium coarse grind can produce a better-balanced flavor without hitting the wrong notes.

Watch Your Coffee-to-Water Ratio

While French press is a relatively straightforward process, there are a few things that you’ll want to get just right to produce the perfect cup of coffee.

One of these is the coffee-to-water ratio. This means how much coffee you add compared to water.

Depending on how strong you like your coffee, a French press ratio can range anywhere from 1:12 for an intense, bold cup of coffee to a ratio of 1:17 to achieve a milder cup. 

Since these ratios are measured by grams and based on weight, you’ll have to know their imperial equivalent. 

For example, a large cup of coffee with around 16 oz. of water needs 6 tablespoons of ground coffee to make a 1:15 ratio. Use 8 tablespoons to make a stronger 1:12 ratio, and 12 tablespoons to make weaker 1:17 ratio.

Since most French presses hold 32 fl. oz., it will hold about 12 tablespoons of ground coffee to make regular-strength coffee. 

Check out the chart below for more information on how many cups of coffee you want at various strengths.

 Coffee Brew Ratios

Use this table to determine the ratio of coffee to water for French press, weak coffee, medium, and bold.

Cups of French PressLight Coffee (1:17 ratio)Medium Coffee (1:15 ratio)Bold Coffee (1:12 ratio)
1 cup or 8 oz.14 grams or 1.5 tablespoons16 g or 3 tbsp20 g or 4 tbsp
2 cups or 16 oz.28 g or 5 tbsp32 g or 6 tbsp40 g or 8 tbsp
4 cups or 32 oz.56 g or 10 tbsp64 g or 12 tbsp80 g or 16 tbsp
French Press Coffee Brew Ratios

 Using a scale is an excellent way to easily measure coffee amounts to ensure you have what you need. Use a little more coffee than you think you need since a French press immerses the coffee and uses the time to extract caffeine from the bean.

For many coffee experts, a 1:18 coffee-to-water ratio is the “golden ratio” for delicious French press coffee.

Get the Temperature Right

Once you’ve ground the coffee beans and determined how much ground coffee you need for the right strength cup vs. water for your French press size, it’s time to get your water ready.

Heat water in a stovetop or electric kettle to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. While you’ll want to stay within a few degrees, a range of 195-205 degrees is acceptable. For reference, the boiling point is 212° F. 

Avoid boiling the water since water that is too hot will over-extract the coffee grounds and make your brew taste bitter.

Suppose you have trouble getting the water temperature right. In that case, you might want to consider investing in a kettle with preset temperatures, such as the Airyoyo Electric Kettle, which can help take the guesswork out of the brewing process. 

Let the hot water sit for 30 seconds after reaching 200 degrees. If you accidentally boil the water, this is easy to fix by letting the water cool for one minute to reach the correct temperature. 

If you have extra hot water, you can preheat your mug and French press by pouring water into it, letting it sit for a minute, and then pouring it out.

Next, remove the plunger and attached metal strainer from the French press. Finally, pour the ground coffee into the bottom of the glass carafe.

Now you’re ready for the next step.

Let the Coffee Bloom

It’s important not to rush this next step. Once you’ve poured the coffee grounds into the French press, shake it gently to let the grounds settle together. 

Take the kettle with the hot water and pour around half the water over the bed of coffee grounds. You’ll want to use a water amount roughly twice the weight of the coffee already in the French press. 

For example, if you have 30 grams of ground coffee, you’ll need 60 grams of hot water. Pour slowly and evenly until the grounds are submerged.

This is called the bloom stage. The hot water saturates the ground coffee and forces the grains to discharge carbon dioxide gasses trapped in the coffee.

This process helps the coffee expand and brings out the delicious aromas that make coffee smell wonderful. The expansion also allows water to thoroughly saturate the grounds. 

You’ll notice that a thick crust of coffee grounds will also start to appear during the blooming process.

While you can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, allowing the coffee to off-gas and expand will make your coffee taste better.

Set your timer. Let the coffee grounds bloom by sitting for 30 seconds.

After the time is up, use a wooden spoon or a bamboo chopstick or paddle to gently stir the grounds to make sure that all the grounds are soaked.

Avoid using a metal spoon since the French press is full of hot water and made from glass, so it’s easy to crack the carafe by smacking the hot glass with a metal spoon. This is the only time that you will stir the French press.

Stirring helps break up the thick crust, mix the water, and distribute the grounds evenly for extraction. However, too much stirring can agitate the grounds and make the coffee taste bitter. 

Once you’ve finished stirring, set your timer for 4 minutes.

Blooming Coffee In A French Press Makes It Taste Fantastic

Set a Timer and Wait

Now comes the waiting game. 

Put the lid on top of your French press. Ensure the plunger is retracted and pulled up instead of pushed to the bottom. Pour the other half of the hot water over the coffee grounds and water mixture. 

Ensure that your kitchen timer or the timer on your phone is set for 4 minutes. This isn’t the time to guess.

A French press uses hot water immersion to extract the flavor, oils, sugars, and other compounds from the ground coffee beans. This method is like steeping a cup of tea, and it’s crucial to making a perfect cup of French press coffee. 

Hot water will make a perfect brew in just 4 minutes. If the water has cooled, it can take a little longer. Dark roasts should finish in 4 minutes. If you choose to use a light roast, keep in mind that it can take up to 10 minutes to fully steep.

Plunge and Pour

Once the 4 minutes are up, slowly press the plunger down close to the bottom of the French press. This helps strain most of the coffee grounds and keep them in the base of the press. 

Take care not to rush this step since pushing the plunger down quickly can agitate and stir up the grounds, making more grounds land in your cup.

Use a spoon to skim off any grounds floating on top of the brew.

With a French press, it’s normal to see some tiny bits of coffee grounds or muddy sediment appear at the bottom of a cup of brew. 

That’s because a French press doesn’t use a paper filter like drip coffee. This allows coffee bean oils that provide much of a French press’s heavy, bold, and aromatic flavor to seep into the drink.

Be careful not to push the plunger all the way to the bottom of the French press. This will avoid getting excessive coffee sediment in your cup. You’ll get fewer grounds and less bitter flavor.

While some coffee lovers disagree, people who follow the James Hoffman French press brewing method like to give the coffee an extra stir once the process is complete. 

You can also let the coffee sit for 5-7 minutes. The extra stir and wait time help any stray coffee bits fall to the bottom of the press. 

If you don’t want to risk over-extracting the coffee grounds, push down the plunger after the 4-minute timer is up.

It’s best to decant your coffee into a mug right away. Coffee that sits too long in a French press will continue to extract and start to taste bitter or chalky. 

Suppose you have time to do these little slow extra steps. In that case, it will result in a cleaner, more robust coffee without a heavy, bitter aftertaste. 

Don’t worry if you don’t drink coffee all day. French press brew will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Check out my French press cold-brewing article for more details.

From grinding fresh beans to a 4-minute brew time, you can make this rich, heady drink in a big batch in just 6 minutes total.

Final Thoughts – How to brew French press coffee

Brewing coffee in a French press takes more time than an automatic coffee maker. Still, it’s a reliable method that results in a dark, full-bodied, and robust brew that falls between drip coffee and espresso.

Dense, rich, and bold with an elegant flavor, French press coffee uses a hot water immersion method to slowly extract the maximum flavors, sugars, and oils from the coffee beans. This gives it a more intense flavor and unique texture than drip coffee.

While it can add a few minutes to your day, brewing coffee in a French press can produce a perfect cup of coffee that’s worth the wait.

Christopher Mize
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