How to Use a French Press for Coffee
I made one small change to my morning routine about 5 years ago, and it’s one of the best changes I’ve ever made. What change did I make? I started using a French press to brew my coffee.
I would have started doing it earlier. But I need to learn how to use a French press for coffee. If only I’d known how easy it is to learn and to do …
Don’t make the same mistake I did. French presses are inexpensive if you don’t have one, and they make terrific coffee if you have one sitting on your shelf that you haven’t dusted off yet. So, here’s everything you need to know about how to use a French press for coffee.
The Materials You’ll Need to French Press Coffee
If you have an actual French press, you most likely have everything else you need lying around the kitchen. Here’s a look at the materials required to French press coffee:
- A French press
- A kettle
- Fresh water
- Coffee grounds
- Coffee grinder (if you only have beans)
- A mug
That’s it. And the good news is that a French press is a relatively inexpensive appliance, so there’s not a huge investment to get started. It’s a lot cheaper upfront and month-to-month than getting a Keurig and buying pods — that’s for sure.
Finding the Best French Press for You
There’s not a lot to a French press. You want something that’s quality, of course, but most people shop for a French press based on style more than anything else.
I would recommend getting a 34-ounce French press (1,000 milliliters). A 34-ouncer can make up to 8 cups of coffee, which is great for when you have guests over for brunch or a similar event. But the beauty of a larger French press is that you don’t have to fill it up all the way — you can press just enough for a cup or two.
Here’s a look at some different styles you might like for your kitchen.
Glass French Press
Full disclosure: I use a glass French press. They are relatively affordable, and there’s one benefit that I love above all else: You know how much coffee you have left! I drink lots of coffee, all morning long and sometimes into the early afternoon. And it’s nice to know how much is left.
The glass French press pictured here is made by Café Du Chateau, and it can be yours for less than $30. I’ve had to replace my French press every couple of years or so, but that’s mostly because I use it everyday. A glass French press is also dishwasher safe, and that’s really nice to have.
Stainless Steel French Press
I will say this about a glass French press: it will crack eventually. There’s a lot of hot coffee brewing, and then there’s getting into and out of the dishwasher. Mine almost always breaks after a few years. But that wouldn’t be a problem with a stainless steel French press like the one pictured here.
Like glass, stainless steel is dishwasher safe. You’re not going to know how much coffee is left just by looking at the press, but at least you don’t have to worry about your coffee maker breaking on you. I’ve never owned a stainless steel French press, but the benefits are evident.
The one pictured here is made by LINKYO, and you can buy it in a bunch of different sizes — 34 ounces, but also 12 ounces or 50 ounces. Also, you can get it in a classic of matte finish.
Copper French Press
This copper-colored French press is actually made of stainless steel, though it provides a much bolder style statement. I will say: I’ve had bad experiences with copper-colored stainless steel kitchen utensils and appliances in the past.
They end up turning a kind of washed out and faded color that doesn’t look good at all. I can’t say that specifically about this French press by La Jolie Muse, and I certainly don’t want to disparage the brand’s good name. But you may want to hand wash a copper-colored French press just to be safe — even if it is made of stainless steel.
Steps to French Press Coffee
OK now that you have your product, you’re ready to do some French pressing. Here are the exact steps you want to follow:
1. Boil Water
The taste of your coffee is partly dependent on the quality of your water. Use filtered if you can, but tap works just fine in most places. Fill up your kettle to be sure you have more than 34 ounces — because there’s nothing more frustrating than boiling to little water to fill your French press.
You want your water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for brewing coffee. Water boils at 212 degrees. So I always let me water cool for between 1 and 2 minutes before adding to my French press.
2. Add Grounds to Press
Here’s where things get tricky. How much coffee do you need to make 34 ounces of coffee in a French press? You should start with about 10 tablespoons of grounds for a medium roast and if you like your coffee not too weak and not too strong.
That said, be prepared to throw out a couple of rounds of French-pressed coffee. Some coffee may taste best when you add 12 tablespoons; other coffee may taste best with just 7 or 8 tablespoons. But, once you’ve tested it out and found the perfect formula, you never have to go through that testing again.
And here’s the beauty of having a 34-ounce French press. If you only want 12 ounces of coffee, just add about a third as much coffee and use a third as much water. Then, while steeping (more on this below), just lower the plunger down until it’s resting atop your water. It works perfectly, and you don’t have to waste any coffee you don’t want to drink.
3. Add Water to Press
OK, your water is boiled and your grounds have been added to the French press. Now it’s time to add water. Slowly pour the hot water over your grounds until the press is about half full. Then do a little bit of stirring to help the grounds blend into the water.
They say not to use anything metal to stir because it might break your glass French press, but I always use the blade end of a regular knife — and I’ve never had an issue.
After you stir, fill up the rest of your French press with water. Then place the lid on top with the plunger extended outside of the press itself. And now your coffee is brewing!
Steeping is the term for how coffee brews while inside a French press. With the lid on top of your press and hot water inside with the grounds, you’re actually brewing your coffee — which to say that you’re steeping!
But how long does your coffee need to steep in a French press? It could be anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes. Start with 3 minutes your first time, and then work your way up until your find the optimal time for creating a great taste that you love.
Once your coffee is done steeping, all you have to do is force down the plunger. And that’s it — your coffee is ready. You may feel a little bit of tension as you push the plunger down, but that’s nothing to worry about.
Now pour your coffee and enjoy. Once the plunger is down, there’s no more timing of anything. Your coffee is ready to go, and it can sit in the French press or in your mug without affecting the taste. I like to pour a little bit into a mug and leave the rest in the French press until I’m ready for my second cup.
That may seem like a lot of steps and a big hassle. But it really goes quickly, and you’ll have it down pat in no time flat. In fact, I’ve loved drinking coffee even more since I’ve been pressing it.
Final Thoughts on How to Use a French Press for Coffee
I had my French press for a long time before I started using it. And then, once I figured it out, I wondered why I hadn’t been using a French press all along.
Which is to say: Go for it! If you don’t have a French press, choose one of the products listed above. They’re all affordable. And, if you do have a French press, give it a shot. I promise you’ll be making fantastic coffee by your second or third try.
Send us a message or a leave a comment below if I left out something important or if you have another tip about French pressing coffee.
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