How to Make French Press Coffee Like a Pro: Three Methods for Equally Awesome Results

Coffee Geek Lab / How to Make French Press Coffee Like a Pro: Three Methods for Equally Awesome Results
Yurii Brown

Certified Barista

September 14, 2021

Ah, there are so many French things I am grateful for: croissants, wine, long dinners, language…

And the French press, of course.

This little and ridiculously simple device is able to make an exquisite cup of coffee, but only with your help.

So, today we will look at different ways to make coffee in a French press and learn how to achieve the best flavor every single time. Are you excited? Let’s get started then!

How to Make French Press Coffee

What Is a French Press Exactly?

Believe it or not, but a French press was actually invented by an Italian – Paolini Ugo. In 1929, the device was patented by an Italian designer Attilio Calimani, and later in 1958, it was modified by Faliero Bondanini. This modification became the final version and underwent the manufacturing process in France. Now, you must already know that all modern French presses have the same construction: a cylindrical beaker, a plunger, a lid, and fine filters. But did you know that there are different variations available these days? For instance, you can even find a travel French press, which usually has a thick plastic body and a closable drinking hole. Additionally, different models use different materials. The most popular and widespread ones are stainless steel and plastic. There are also many versions with metal parts and glass beakers. Here’s the kicker, though: No matter which material you will give your preference to, you will always be able to brew a good cup of coffee. Just remember the following pieces of advice and enjoy your delicious beverages!

Did you know that making French press coffee is actually called “immersion brewing”? Why? Because this brewing method implies the immersion of coffee in the water (unlike dripping, for example, where the water goes through the grounds.

Method 1: Classic, Fast, and Flavorful

This first way to make coffee in a French press has stood the test of time. Of course, it did go through certain modifications and improvements. But as for now, this method remains the classic one. It does not require much effort or experience but results in a cup of perfectly strong and slightly bitter coffee. Of course, only if you take the following guidelines into consideration.

What you will need:

  • a French press;
  • clean water;
  • a kettle;
  • freshly roasted coffee beans;
  • a grinder;
  • a long spoon;
  • a thermometer (optional);
  • kitchen scales (optional);
  • a timer (you can use your phone);
  • your favorite mug.

Preparation time: 6-7 minutes.

What’s really special about the French press brewing method is that it allows all the bean oils to get into your beverage. You see, when using a coffee machine, all those natural oils get absorbed by paper filters. But with the French press, you get those oils and, as a result, a more enhanced flavor.

Step-by-step guide:

  • Measure your coffee and water. The ideal scenario would involve kitchen scales, but if you don’t have those, you can use a spoon. However, I highly recommend investing in good kitchen scales. They aren’t that expensive but make a huge difference when it comes to making coffee with a French press.
  • Now, the common ratio is 7 grams of coffee (approximately a tablespoon) and 4 ounces of water (a medium-ish cup). Of course, you are free to experiment with different quantities to find the perfect ratio for your drink. So, consider this ratio as your baseline.
  • Grind the beans coarsely.
  • Transfer the ground beans into your French press.
  • Heat the water up. If you have a thermometer (or a temperature control kettle), keep your water between 195 and 205 F. If you don’t own such kitchen equipment, simply let the water boil and then leave it to cool down a bit for around a minute.
  • Add some water to your grounds, just enough to cover them. Let the mixture steep for 30 seconds (there’s no need to put the lid on). This process allows the grounds to pre-infuse and release more aroma.
  • Once 30 seconds have passed, stir the grounds nicely (for around 5 seconds, don’t be too vigorous). A thin “coffee crust” may appear after those 30 seconds of brewing, so stir it nicely to blend everything together.
  • Add the rest of the water.
  • Put the lid on (without pushing the plunger down) and let your coffee steep for another 3.5 minutes.
  • Push the plunger down and pour the beverage into your mug. Enjoy!

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • When making coffee with a French press, you absolutely need a proper grind. Make sure it’s coarse or medium, with a nice consistency throughout. Finely ground coffee may pass through the filter and end up in your mug.
  • There’s one step that I didn’t include in the guide: warming the French press and your mug. This isn’t a necessity but can drastically improve your coffee drinking routine. Simply rinse the beaker and your mug with some hot water. I mean, you have some hot water for your coffee, right? So why not heat up a bit more to warm your beaker and mug?
  • If you don’t drink your beverage right after brewing it, make sure that you transfer it to a carafe. Leaving your coffee in a French press will make it steep more, which will result in over-extraction and an unpleasant bitter flavor.
  • For this classic recipe, I personally love using this stainless steel French press by SterlingPro. It is very nicely made and has a double filter system, which I appreciate when it comes to making French press coffee. Additionally, this is a double-wall model, meaning you don’t even have to warm the beaker beforehand: it will keep your coffee hot just fine, retaining the flavors and the aroma.

Method 2: Perfect for a Warm Day

If you need your caffeine fix to be refreshing, you should definitely try making iced coffee with a French press. This method is fast and easy. Because the coffee turns out quite strong, you don’t have to wait for it to cool down. When combined with ice, it will get diluted a bit and cool down at the same time. And you will be able to enjoy your beverage right away!

What you will need:

  • a French press;
  • clean water;
  • a kettle;
  • freshly roasted coffee beans;
  • a grinder;
  • a long spoon;
  • a timer (you can use your phone);
  • sweetener of your choice;
  • creamer of your choice;
  • a nice tall glass.

There are countless ways to make coffee, but the French press remains one of the easiest yet very effective methods of brewing. This device is not expensive but can make a great cup of strong, flavorful coffee.

Preparation time: 7-8 minutes.

Step-by-step guide:

  • Repeat the steps of the classic French press brewing method. However, this time, use more coffee. I recommend taking 4 tablespoons of coffee and 8 ounces of water. Such a ratio will be strong enough to still taste great when mixed with ice and creamer.
  • While your coffee is brewing, add some ice cubes and sweetener of your choice to a tall glass. You can divide the coffee and even use it for 2 glasses of an iced beverage.
  • Start pouring your steeped coffee over the ice. If you have two glasses, take turns and add small splashes to each glass alternately. This will help the beverage cool down a bit faster.
  • Add the creamer of your choice and enjoy your delicious, refreshing iced coffee!

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • When it comes to making iced coffee with a French press, you need to keep your water temperature in mind. You see, even though your coffee will cool down, the temperature still needs to be appropriate. So, use a thermometer or let the water cool down a bit after boiling before you pour it into a beaker.
  • If your French press has a glass beaker, it’s better to stir the beverage using a wooden spoon in order not to break it.
  • If your beverage turns out too bitter (or you get some gunky coffee parts in your glass), you must be grinding the beans too finely.
  • For this simple and refreshing recipe, I enjoy using this insulated stainless steel French press by Coffee Gator. It comes with two filter screens added to the plunger. This means no bits of coffee in your beverage. I love drinking my iced coffee to the last drop, and with such a filtration system, I don’t have to deal with the unwanted coffee grounds in my glass. If you’re anything like me, you will really appreciate this feature too.

Method 3: For the Best Flavor

Now, I would really love to teach you how to make cold brew coffee in a French press. Why? Because this brewing method will guarantee the best flavor. You see, cold brewing makes coffee more than 60% less acidic, which means coffee will reveal its other flavor notes better (chocolaty, fruity, nutty, depending on each specific bean kind). And yes, it does require a lot of time. But trust me, it’s worth the wait.

What you will need:

  • a French press;
  • clean water;
  • freshly roasted coffee beans;
  • kitchen scales (optional);
  • a grinder;
  • a long spoon;
  • your favorite mug or glass.

Preparation time: 12 hours 5 minutes.

Step-by-step guide:

  • Grind your beans first. Unlike other methods, I am not urging you to use specific measurements here. You can take around 2/3 of a cup of ground coffee and 3 cups of room-temperature (or even cool) water. If you add a couple of grams more (or less), this won’t be a huge mistake. The thing is, making cold brew coffee in a French press results in a very strong, concentrated brew, so chances are you are going to dilute it with water or milk. And this means that even if your measurements are 100% precise, you will adjust your beverage anyway in order to find your desired strength.
  • Make sure the grind is coarse.
  • Place your coffee into the beaker.
  • Add the water and gently stir the mixture.
  • Put the lid on but don’t push the plunger down.
  • Place your French press into the fridge and leave it there for at least 12 hours.
  • Once the brew is done, push the plunger gently down and pour your beverage into a mug or a glass. It may be quite strong, so feel free to dilute it with water or creamer of your choice. The cold brew is perfect for iced coffee too. Enjoy!

Because the French press method involves coffee sitting on the grounds for some time, the final product is usually quite strong and very full-bodied.

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • Before brewing, make sure that your French press has been cleaned very thoroughly after the previous use. The old coffee residue and even the tiniest bits can completely alter (and ruin) the taste of your fresh beverage.
  • If you have a blade grinder (and not a burr one), you can still grind your beans evenly. To do that, use short and sharp pulses. Stop the grinder every 3-5 seconds and give it a sharp shake, then proceed with grinding.
  • For this awesome recipe, I love using the double-wall stainless steel French press by Secura. This model comes in two sizes, which means you can brew larger batches and enjoy your favorite beverage longer. Additionally, the design and the build of this French press keep the coffee safe from any exterior factors (for instance, the smell of food lingering in your fridge). This allows for the freshest, purest flavor every time.

Pieces of Advice from Yurii Brown

Now that you are familiar with different ways to brew coffee in your French press, let’s step your barista game up. Here are my favorite tips and tricks to help you get a perfect cup of coffee every time:

  • You already know that if you don’t have a thermometer, you need to boil the water and let it cool for some time. However, if you wait for too long, it may be too cool. How can you tell? If your coffee grounds float upwards instead of sinking down when brewing, this means your water is too cold and the beans will be under-extracted.
  • Always buy high-quality beans. They need to be freshly roasted, of course. Pay attention to the roast date and mind how the beans look. They need to be glossy and smooth.
  • Grind your beans right before brewing them. This is the best way to get a full-bodied, freshly tasting beverage.

There are many benefits of using a French press to brew coffee, including the simplicity of this device and the ability to brew coffee for several people in one go. However, this device does have some flaws too. For example, it requires exact measurements if you don’t want your coffee to be too bitter or too acidic.

  • Because a French press is not an automatic machine, you can experiment with it as much as you want. Try different ratios and brewing periods to find your perfect beverage.
  • It’s better to not pour all the coffee into your mug. Try to leave around 10% of it in the beaker. You see, the 10% is mostly coffee silt and residue, which is bitter and unpleasant-tasting.
  • Never forget about the proper grind! For a French press, your beans need to remind you of coarse table salt or breadcrumbs.
  • If you want your beverage to taste less bitter, you can experiment with water temperature. Something lower than 195 F would make your coffee less bitter (try 180-185 F). Also, reduce the steeping time for a smoother flavor.
  • Of course, clean your French press after each use. Even the tiniest coffee particles and oil residue can ruin the flavor of your beverages.

Common Coffee Brewing Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid

Obviously, it’s great to know what to do. But what about the things you shouldn’t do? Take a look at the most common French press coffee brewing mistakes and try to avoid them at all cost:
  • Leaving your coffee in a French press. This will over-steep the grounds, resulting in a bitter taste. If you aren’t going to drink your coffee right away, it’s better to transfer it to a thermal carafe or a travel mug.
  • Not cleaning a French press thoroughly. Again, all the residue can ruin the flavor of your beverages. Besides, it isn’t hard to clean a French press. The whole process takes minutes!
  • Grinding the beans too fine. This can end in two scenarios. First, you will get the grinds in your mug. Second, the coffee will over-extract, which means it will taste bitter.
  • Buying pre-ground coffee. Just remember one thing: once the beans are ground, they start losing their flavor. So, when you buy pre-ground coffee, it’s definitely not fresh and won’t taste that good.

Here’s the great news: the majority of French press models are dishwasher safe. This means the cleaning process will be fast and breezy. However, mind the way you place your French press into the dishwasher. It might get scratched by other kitchen utensils or even break. Therefore, make sure you place it nicely and carefully.

  • Using tap water. The chemical compounds of tap water not only change the flavor of your beverages but also might be harmful to your health.
  • Overheating your water. Using boiling water on the grounds can burn them. This, again, can result in bitterness or even an unpleasant drying taste.
  • Storing your coffee beans in the wrong place. Remember: coffee doesn’t do well when in contact with heat, light, or moisture. It is better to store your beans in an airtight container somewhere away from those environmental factors. A cupboard would be great. And avoid keeping your beans in the fridge: this will create excess moisture that will make them go bad.
  • Not changing the filters. French press filters can often clog or even develop mold if kept in a humid environment. So, make sure you get new filters once in a while.

So, which method of making French press coffee is your favorite? And have you already got yourself this cool brewing device? Which one do you use? Let us know in the comments down below!

Yurii Brown

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