How to Easily Make French Press Coffee

French Press Coffee

French Press coffee is one of the simplest ways to brew coffee, but it can be a little intimidating when you’re first getting started. I know my first attempts ended in bitter and acidic coffee that was not enjoyable to drink. However, with a few simple steps, I learned to make delicious French Press coffee in only about 5-minutes! It really is so simple, and it tastes great!

So when a friend recently asked me how to make coffee in her new French Press, I decided to create this easy guide for how to brew French Press coffee to help her and others who are beginning their journey using this classic coffee maker.

What You Need to Make French Press Coffee

First things first, let’s go over what gear you need to brew French Press coffee.

In the step-by-step instructions, I explain how to make French Press coffee if you are missing some of the gear.  For example, let’s say you have a French Press, but don’t have a hot water maker with a temperature gauge or a kitchen scale, don’t worry, you can still make French Press coffee.  I highly recommend you get the additional gear, as it makes a big difference in the quality. That said, it’s not a requirement.

  • A French Press(You can purchase in various sizes, a popular option is this 34oz Bodum.)
  • Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans (Quality coffee beans really do make a huge difference!)
  • Burr Grinder (Grinding your coffee right before brewing ensures the best flavor.)
  • Water
  • Wooden Spoon or Chopstick (most French Presses are made of glass, so a metal stirring utensil is not recommended.)
  • Kitchen scale (This is to weigh your coffee to get the best coffee to water ratio.)
  • Hot Water Kettle

How to Make French Press Coffee

Essentially brewing coffee with a French Press is as easy as adding coffee grounds and hot water to your French Press, waiting 4-7 minutes, pushing down the plunger, and voila! You’re ready to drink your coffee! However, small but important details like how much coffee to water you should use and getting the right temperature can make all the difference in getting it right.  The components that really set apart a good cup of French Press coffee are quality coffee beans, proper grind, water to coffee ratio, and brew time. So let’s get started!

Here are the step-by-step instructions for how to make French Press coffee.

Step 1: Heat Your Water

If you have a hot water kettle that allows you to set the desired temperature, then set it to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a good starting point. I use anywhere from 200ºF-205ºF when brewing French Press coffee. 

If you don’t have a temperature gauge, then heat your water to boiling and remove from the heat for 1-2 minutes.

Step 2: Pre-Heat Your French Press

Fill your French Press with hot water to pre-heat it. Use hot water from the tap or take some water you boiled and swirl it around the carafe with the lid on to warm the glass. This way, when you add the water for brewing, your carafe isn’t cold and won’t affect the brewing temperature of your coffee.

Step 3: Measure & Grind Your Coffee Beans

When brewing coffee with a French Press, I found the 1:15 water to coffee ratio to be the best.  I’ve tried a 1:13, and it is too weak. 1:15 seems to be the sweet spot.  Use 1 gram of coffee per every 15 grams of water. Here are some of the amounts I use depending on how many cups/ounces I brew.

  • 12 ounces of water: 23 grams of coffee (size of my travel French Press)
  • 34 ounces of water: 64 grams of coffee (size of my regular household French Press)

If you don’t have a coffee scale, the approximate amounts in cups are as follows:

For a 12 oz French Press (Single-Serve French Press), I use 23 grams of course ground coffee, which equals about ⅓ cup.

For my larger 32 ounce French Press, I use 63 grams of coffee which equals a heaping ¾ cup of coffee.

Coffee Grind Size

Grind your coffee to a coarse size about the size of sea salt crystals. I use the second notch of the course setting on my burr grinder.

Step 4: Add Coffee & Water to Your French Press

After you’ve ground and measured your coffee, empty any water in your French Press that you used to pre-heat it.  Then add your coffee to the French Press and give it a little shake to even out the coffee grounds.

Pour in your hot water up to the silver line on your French Press. This usually sits about 1-2 inches below the top. I recommend you measure out how much water your French Press holds ahead of time so you’ll know exactly the water to coffee ratio needed.

Gently stir it with a wooden chopstick or spoon before placing the French Press lid and plunger, so it is just resting on top with the plunger pulled all the way up. It should not be pushing down on the coffee at this point.

Travel Size French Press
This is my travel-sized French Press.

Step 5: Wait for Your Coffee to Brew

Set a timer for 4:00 minutes.  Typically, anywhere between 4-7 minutes will produce a medium to strong flavored coffee.  I prefer 4-minutes for a dark roast like this Portofino Blend and 5-6 minutes for a medium roast coffee like this Costa Rica Reserve.

Optional: Bloom Time

If you’ve read any of my other coffee-making tutorials, you’ll know I normally recommend allowing your coffee grinds to bloom before brewing. I tried making French Press coffee both with a bloom time and without and did not find a noticeable difference, so for simplicity’s sake, I skipped this step.  However, you are welcome to try it and see if you prefer adding it in or not.

If you want to try blooming your coffee first, then follow these steps after completing Steps 1-3 as directed above:

Add your coffee, shake it to level, then add enough water to cover the grounds. Wait 30 seconds, then add the remainder of the water, stir and wait for another 4-minutes before plunging/pressing.

Step 6: Pressing & Pouring Your French Press Coffee

After your 4-minute timer goes off, gently press the French Press plunger down slowly until you feel it touch the bottom, then stop. You don’t need to push hard or flatten the grounds at the bottom; resting on top is enough. Otherwise, you might stir up the coffee grinds resting at the bottom.

After pressing, wait about 30 seconds for it to settle, and then slowly pour and enjoy!

best coffees french press
Slowly pour your aromatic coffee so as not to disturb the grinds on the bottom.

Tips & Advice for Using a French Press

Experiment with your brew times. As I mentioned, I do a 4-minute brew time for my dark roast and a 5-6 minute for medium roasts. The times and coffee amounts I provide are great starting points, but this is your coffee, so find your own personal sweet spot and make it the way you like it. 

Grinding your coffee.  If you don’t have a burr coffee grinder, it is an invaluable tool for making coffee. It is essential to adjust your grind size to the brewing method you use (drip, pour-over, etc.). This can make a huge difference when making French Press coffee. If your grind is too fine, it can increase the bitterness of the coffee, and if your grind is too coarse, it can result in a highly acidic coffee.

Coffee Sediment. A little coffee silt in the bottom of your cup is normal. That is part of the experience when using a French Press. It creates a strong, rich, flavorful cup of coffee. It is a more bitter flavored brew than an AeroPress or Chemex, which brew smoother less-acidic coffee.  I like both types, but for those that prefer a smoother, lighter flavor than using an AeroPress is probably going to suit you better.  Try the French Press and see what you think.  Brewing coffee with a French Press is so simple. It is one of the reasons I traveled with mine for many years.

Don’t leave the coffee sitting in the press if you’re not drinking it right away. It will get more acidic and bitter.  It’s best poured right away or poured into an insulated carafe if you can’t drink it right away.

French Press Coffee and plant

What to Do With Your Used Coffee Grounds

I recently read this article on ways to use your old coffee grounds. It has some great ideas like using it as compost for your garden. It’s also a good pest deterrent for slugs and mosquitos. You can, of course, empty your coffee grounds into the wastebasket, but whatever you do, don’t dump them down the drain. Coffee grounds swell up and stick to the plumbing causing your pipes to clog.

My French Press Coffee Gear

If you want to see the gear I use or purchase your own, here are links to what I use when making French Press coffee.

Additional Uses for a French Press

In addition to making a bold cup of coffee, you can use your French Press as a milk frother and make cold brew in it. It is a multi-purpose coffee-making tool!

To froth milk using a French Press: Add heated milk to the French press, push the French press plunger into the milk, and with short quick and up and down movement, froth your milk until it has doubled in size. It’s so easy, but it froths milk really well to make DIY lattes at home.

Here is a simple French Press cold brew recipe to start with. As with all coffee-making recipes, adjust the water and coffee ratio to fit your preference and always purchase quality coffee beans!

Final Thoughts

The French Press was my first coffee gear purchase as an adult. Before that, I grew up only trying coffee from a drip coffee maker or purchasing a latte from the local cafe.  Since purchasing that first French Press, I have added many other coffee makers and coffee gear to my arsenal of supplies. However, the French Press is still a go-to staple whether I use it for travel or a weekday pick-me-up.

Let me know what you think of French Press coffee. If it is your first time trying it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Remember, this is about brewing coffee you love from the comfort of your home.  You are worth it!

Au revoir! 

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