What Is a French Press

A French press is a simple Italian invention to brew (usually) South American coffee in your home. Weird, right? It’s also one of the best ways to prepare your morning cup of joe. No fancy equipment or electricity is needed. Just the French press, hot water, and your coffee grounds. Much simpler than your favorite coffee machine for making tasty cappuccinos. Also a lot smaller. 

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Benefits of Using a French Press

Filter-Free Coffee

With a powerful built-in filter, you don’t need paper filters for your coffee anymore. This way, your coffee tastes good without spending money on paper filters. You will also achieve complete extraction of flavor and aroma from your grounds without using any complicated equipment.

Maintaining the Temperature

Drip coffee will cool down as fast as it was warmed up. Of course, you can use heating pads, but that also alters the taste. A nice, firm body of French press maintains your cup of joe’s optimal temperature, without any extra equipment.

Customization

The usual ratio for a French press is 1 part of coffee to 15 parts of water. However, that’s not written in stone. You can experiment by adding more or fewer grounds to find the ratio that will delight your taste buds. 

Money-Saving

You can find a French press for under $25. That’s the price of 5-6 coffee shop coffees. By investing in nice equipment and good beans, you will save money and drink top-quality coffee, much better than most coffee shops.

How Does a French Press Work

You put the coffee grounds inside and follow it with the hot water. Press the plunger to filter the coffee, and you are good to go. This is the simplest of all explanations, but we’ll provide you with a detailed guide later in the article. 

Types of French Press

Types of French Press

Small French Press

It’s a common choice for all the single ladies and gents. Small, practical, easy to use, and easy to clean. Depending on the type, you can usually make a few cups of joe. It won’t take your kitchen space.  It also comes in handy for people who drink one cup of coffee per day or want to limit their daily intake.

Large French Press

You will see this giant press in offices or households crowded with coffee lovers. The biggest ones can serve up to 12 cups of coffee at one serving. Beats the single-serve or pod coffee brewing machine capacity any time. 

Metal French Press

Usually made from stainless steel. Light, durable, and retains heat for quite a while. That’s why stainless steel is a popular material when it comes to coffee equipment. The steel’s properties also prevent the coffee from burning in a thermal coffee maker. The only downside is that steel can alter the taste of your coffee in some cases. 

Electric French Press

Sounds cool and automated, but it isn’t. The only difference between the electric French press and the usual one is heating the water. An electric French press will heat your water, and that’s all, folks! You will still need to use the usual steps to make French press coffee. The downsides of electric French press are:

  • Less brewing process control – the press will heat the water automatically, not to your desired temperature.
  • More expensive than the classic French press – and the heating part doesn’t justify the price.
  • Harder to clean – extra parts mean extra cleaning.
  • Much easier to break – and the electrical spare parts can cost an arm and a leg.
  • Not travel-friendly – you won’t be making coffee on the beach or in the forest without electricity.

Travel French Press

Also known as an all-in-one solution. It’s a travel mug, and you can brew the French press inside. Nicer models will also keep your coffee warm and will fit your car’s cup holder. The only downside is they can also be quite pricey, and the taste won’t be the same as with your kitchen French press. But the world’s best French press travel mug will be your faithful companion in many, many adventures and certainly will provide you with good memories. 

Anatomy of a French Press

Moving Parts – Filters, Lid and Plunger

Opposite to some other brewing method, a French press uses a solid metal filter. This perk allows all the natural coffee oils to find the way to your cup and enrich your beverage with exceptional flavor. Something that paper filters will never achieve. Better French press models also have multiple microfilters. 

The round metal filter is attached to a metal rod. The rod passes through the center of the filter, through the lid, and ends as a plunger. The plunger is used to press the filter to the bottom of the beaker. Both the lid and the filter must have perfect measures, the lid to fit onto the beaker, and the filter must easily slide on the beaker walls.

Anatomy of a French Press

Static Parts – Beaker, Handle and Base

The beaker is also known as the carafe. Usually, it’s made of glass, but some models also use plastic, stainless steel, and ceramic. The purpose of the beaker is to serve a container for your coffee and water. You steep the coffee in it and pour it into your mug. Base and handle can also be made using various materials, but the sole purpose is easy handling. The base is there, so you don’t burn your table or counter with the beaker’s hot content. The handle saves your hands from first-degree burns and makes the pouring process simpler.

How to Choose the Best French Press

With all the modern gadgets and guides, some would think it’s easy to go online and pick the first French press that appears. After all, they are all the same, right? Wrong. You don’t want to end with low quality or even hazardous French press in your kitchen. So, here are some things you should look after when choosing your new kitchen gadget. 

Capacity

Most of the French press capacities are between 3 and 12 cups. If you live alone, opt for the smaller one. Having a French press that’s too big will only make handling and cleaning harder. On the other hand, you should get the largest one for a larger family or office purposes. Nobody likes to wait for the coffee, especially morning coffee.

Material

The usual materials used are glass, metal, ceramic, and plastic. Glass beakers are the most common ones, as they are transparent and look stylish. However, they can also break easily. The fragileness is also the issue with the ceramic beakers. Plastic beakers are a good option, but only if they are made from BPA-free plastic. Otherwise, they may be harmful to your health. Luckily, there are a plethora of choices for BPA-free coffee makers. Most of the bean heads will recommend you get a nice, stainless steel French press. Steel is durable, almost unbreakable, and will keep your coffee hot for a long time. 

Price

The most expensive option isn’t necessarily the best one. If you are a coffee lover, you already noticed that SCAA guarantees the quality of some coffee machines. But those aren’t the most expensive ones, just the best ones. So, the price doesn’t have to mean quality. As the French press is a simple mechanism, prices can vary depending on the seller. You can find more than decent French press for the price of a few Starbucks lattes. Of course, the higher quality materials cost substantially more, but they always pay out in the end.

Tools for Making Coffee in a French Press

French Press

Choosing the type and size of your French press depends on a few things:

  • your budget
  • desired capacity
  • convenience of use

The market is overcrowded with different models, and our job is to teach you how to choose the one that will fit your needs.

Filtered Water

Cca 99% of every cup of joe is water. So, you need to use the best you can get. People often forget this part of the equation and end up with a bad cup of coffee. Use clean, filtered water if possible, or even opt for bottled water. Avoid tap water, as in some locations; it can be full of heavy minerals that will negatively impact the taste of your coffee.

Coffee Beans

Tools for Making Coffee in a French Press - Coffee Beans

You should only use fresh, top-quality beans for your coffee. Whether you brew pour-over or French press coffee, the beans must be fresh. The experts recommend using darker roasts, or medium ones, as the final product is much tastier. Also, French roast coffee is good for the stomach, as well as the other darker roasts. Under no circumstances should you use stale beans or pre-ground coffee in your French press.

Coffee Grinder

Pre-ground coffee is a big no-no when it comes to true coffee lovers. You should always grind the exact amount of coffee you will need and spend it immediately. Coffee becomes stale pretty quickly and loses a lot of flavor and aromas. Get yourself a proper premium French press coffee grinder. If possible, use a burr one. The burr grinder is the favorite tool of baristas, as you can set the grind size and be sure you will get the desired one. Also, all the coffee grounds will be the same texture.

Kettle

You need a way to heat your water. The kettle is the most convenient choice, as it will heat your water in a couple of minutes. But if you don’t own one, no problem! Put a bowl of water on your stovetop or a fireplace, and wait for it to boil. 

Scale

As you already know, you can’t weigh the coffee beans precisely just using your spoon. Different bean types and different roasts just don’t have the same volume. Using a small kitchen scale is the only way you will be sure you used the proper amount of beans. 

Timer

Time is not just money, as old Ben Franklin would say. Timing your coffee process is essential so that you can make a perfect cup of joe every time. Letting your coffee grounds soak too much will only get you an over-extracted, bitter beverage. On the other hand, if you rush the process, you will get a pale, under-extracted liquid. Use your kitchen timer or a stopwatch on your smartphone. 

How to Make Coffee in a French Press 

Nothing is too simple in the coffee world. Wrong steeping time or water temperature can drastically alter the taste of your beans. So, we provided you with this handy detailed guide. Just follow all the steps mentioned, and you are guaranteed to drink the best French press coffee you ever tried in your life.

Step 1 – Boil the water

By using your favorite kettle, or some other method, boil the water. For this recipe, we will be using 250 ml of hot water, but boil some more. We will need it for the preheating process. Use only clean, filtered water with low mineral content. 

Step 2 – Preheat your French press

Pour hot water into your cup and your French press to preheat it. This is important as you don’t want your precious liquid to go cold in contact with the cup or the French press. Swirl it a little bit, then empty both the cup and the French press.

Step 3 – Weigh the correct amount of coffee

Using a small kitchen scale, weigh your desired amount of beans. For a French press coffee, the rule of thumb is 1:15. Meaning, you will need 15 grams of water for every gram of coffee. 

Step 4 – Grinding

Set your grinder to a coarse setting and grind your precious beans. Enjoy the smell of fresh beans being crushed for your maximum pleasure.

Step 5 – 4-minute brewing

Put the coffee grounds in your French press and immediately pour hot water over it. Stir it gently, so all the coffee grounds are wet. Place the lid on the top of your French press. The plunger should be pulled up. Set the timer to 4 minutes or some other interval you prefer.

Step 6 – Remove large coffee grounds pieces

After four minutes, carefully lift the top. You will notice some of the coffee grounds floating on the surface. If you want a full-bodied taste, break those grounds with a spoon and stir it slowly. For a lighter taste, remove those grounds from your French press.

Step 7 – Beans extraction

Put the lid back on and slowly press the plunger. It should go all the way down for maximum bean extraction. If your plunger goes down too fast, you used too coarse grind. If your plunger resists too much, your grind was too fine.

Step 8  – Pour it in your favorite mug and enjoy

Pour 90% of the French press content into your mug. The last 10% usually has a nastier taste, full of sediment. Don’t leave your coffee sitting in a French press for too long, as the taste changes with the temperature drop and oxidization. 

 

How to Clean a French Press Daily 

Let’s face it; nobody loves cleaning. But if you want your coffee machine to provide you with a tasty cup of joe every time, you will need to clean it after every use. Whether it is Bunn coffee maker maintenance, descaling your Moka pot, or cleaning your French press, it must be done. Coffee grounds and oils have a bad habit of sticking to your filter and beaker walls. Uncleaned French press means a bitter, acidic cup of coffee next time. So, let’s learn how to clean a French press properly.

Step 1 – Let it cool down

Wait for the French press to cool down to avoid injuries. Then, remove the used grounds. Take your beaker and tap it over your garbage bin or compost container. The coffee grounds make a great compost addition, and your plants will love it. Using silicone or wooden spatula, carefully remove all the excess grounds. Avoid using a metal spoon, as it might damage the beaker.

Step 2 – Disassemble your French press

Dismantle all the parts: plunger, lid, filter screens, and the disks. Rinse all the components with a lot of water — especially the disks, as they are probably clogged with the grounds. Avoid using any chemicals in the washing process, as they might alter the taste of your next cup of coffee. Scrub the beaker walls using a gentle sponge to remove all the excess oils.

Step 3 – Scrubbing 

Using a gentle brush or sponge, scrub all the French press parts thoroughly. Again, avoid using soap, but if the stains are too stubborn, use mild soap. Be sure to rinse after, so there is no trace of chemicals left. 

Step 4 – Let it dry

If you have enough time, leave all the French press parts to dry on air. If not, use a soft cotton cloth to remove any trace of water. 

Step 5 – Assemble

Slide your beaker into the French press base. Attach the disks back together and screw them to the rod. Your French press is clean and ready for the next use. 

 

How to Deep Clean a French Press 

Cleaning your French press after every use is crucial, and you should make a habit out of it. However, for maximum satisfaction, you should also deep clean your French press at least once per week. Don’t worry. The process isn’t complicated or time-consuming.

Step 1 – Don’t assemble it after regular cleaning

After you finished your usual cleaning of the French press, don’t assemble it back. Put all the pieces on your counter.

Step 2 – Make a cleaning paste

Make a paste using a solution of baking soda and water. Grab a toothbrush and scrub the smaller parts. For the beaker and the base, use a sponge or kitchen brush.

Step 3 – Rinse, rinse, rinse

No trace of baking soda should be on your French press maker. Our next cleaning agent is the vinegar. And as you know, vinegar and baking soda will provide you with a DIY home volcano and a lot of mess in your kitchen. 

Step 4 – Re-assemble it

Assemble the French press again. Then, fill the beaker with equal parts of vinegar and hot water. Vinegar is a superb choice for the deep clean, as it removes the hard water buildup. 

Step 5 – Plunge, plunge, plunge

Plunge your French press a few times, just like you do when making coffee. Leave it to soak for a couple of hours.

Step 6 – Disassemble it and rinse it

Again, disassemble the French press and rinse all parts to remove the smell of vinegar. Let it dry, and assemble again. You are now 100% sure your French press is clean as the day you bought her.

 

Do’s and Don’ts With a French Press

Do’s

  • Always use a coarser grind for the perfect extraction.
  • Soak all the grounds evenly for better taste balance.
  • Use a timer, scale, and thermometer.
  • Clean your French press right after the use.
  • Recycle your coffee grounds as compost, if possible.
  • Choose classical instead of the electrical French press.
  • Replace your stainless steel French press if it alters the taste of your brew.

Don’ts

  • Avoid using dish soap or chemicals when cleaning your French press.
  • Don’t use your spoon or eyesight to measure the grounds.
  • Never use a metal spoon, as it will damage the beaker.
  • Don’t drink French press coffee if you have high cholesterol, as unfiltered coffee can sometimes raise LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Don’t use pre-ground coffee, as it will plunge your French press and taste awful.
  • Never forget to deep clean your French press once a week.

FAQ About French Press

Can you use regular ground coffee in a French press?

No, you can’t, and there is a good reason why. Regular ground coffee will mostly pass through your filter or clog it, leaving you with a liquid you don’t even want to taste. The only good choice for the French press is the coarse grind.

Why is my French press coffee bitter?

The first reason would be over-extracting your coffee grounds. If you leave your beans to steep for more than 4 minutes, they get more bitter each second. The second usual issue is – you didn’t wash your French press thoroughly. So, the smaller grounds and coffee oils are stuck in the coffee filter, causing the bitter taste. If your coffee is still bitter even after cleaning the filter, it’s time for a new filter.

How do you dispose of coffee grounds in a French press?

FAQ About French Press

Your first reflex would be to pour the coffee grounds down the drain. However, that’s the worst solution, and you will end up calling your plumber. Coffee grounds will clog your drain or sewer system in no time. The simple trick is to buy a small mesh strain at a dollar store. When emptying your French press, strain the grounds and throw them into the garbage. Alternatively, you can dispose of them in your compost container. Coffee grounds are low acidic and full of nutrients your garden plants will appreciate. 

How much coffee will the French press make?

Also known as, why is the cup size chart so weird? Well, most of the companies that produce French presses offer them in four sizes:

  • 3 cups
  • 4 cups
  • 8 cups
  • 12 cups

The tricky part is the cup size they used is much smaller than the regular coffee cup. To be precise, 4 ounces counts as one cup. The smallest French press size is 3 cups and can fill one and a half 8oz mug.  The largest 12 cups press is good enough for six mugs with a volume of 8 ounces. 

Most of the bean heads opt for 8 cups sized French press. 

What’s the right grind size for a French press?

Anywhere between coarse and medium coarse is a fine choice. Make sure you have a good, high-quality grinder to achieve that. Avoid using preground coffee, as it’s usually fine ground. No matter what it says on the packaging, the structure will be too fine for your French press. A coarse grind is needed so it won’t go through your French press filter or clog it. 

How long should French press coffee steep?

The rule of the thumb is four minutes of steeping. This steeping time will get you a standard French press coffee. For a weaker taste, shorten the steeping time. If you like harder flavor, add a minute or so. Just make sure you don’t over-extract your beans. 

What’s the best coffee for a French press?

As with every other brewing methods, it’s your personal preference that counts. But generally, dark roasted beans are a better choice. If the taste isn’t satisfying, you can always opt for a medium roast. Sadly, not everyone has the luxury of roasting your coffee at home, so you better find a respectable local roaster. 

How often should you change the French press filter?

It’s always a good thing to have a spare filter if anything happens to the one you are using. So, if your primary filter is damaged or some parts are missing, you should replace it immediately. The same goes if you start noticing too many coffee grinds in your beverage. A good, quality French press filter should last you at least a year. If possible, opt for one made from 18/8 stainless steel.

Conclusion

French press coffee is one of the best ways to prepare a cup of joe. In this article, we taught you everything there is to know about this coffee-brewing device. However, you don’t have to like it. If you lack the patience needed for brewing French press, you can always choose a coffee pod machine that’s simple to use or stick to your faithful drip coffee maker. The only important thing is enjoying your coffee.

Photos from: stenkovlad / depositphotos.com, Multiart / depositphotos.com, Gulsen_Ozcan / depositphotos.com, Sandralise / depositphotos.com and image_hit / depositphotos.com.