How To Use A French Press: A Complete Guide
Using a French press doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. French press coffee’s complex and rich aroma is an easy morning drink that you can complete in about 15 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if you are making coffee, tea, or any other beverage with your French press; the process is simple. Really.
A French press helps you deliver delicious and aromatic coffee, excellent tea, and many other hot drinks. The mechanical process is almost like daily meditation, although the ratios needed for the various drinks may be different.
Still, you will be set for a new morning routine with a bit of information and practice. Read on to find out all you need to know about how to use a French press.
What Are the Components of a French Press?
A French press is a popular method of brewing coffee that involves steeping coarsely ground coffee grounds in the hot water for a few minutes. After this time, the liquid has had all of the extracted flavors from the grounds and can be served by pressing a mesh filter at the top of the container to separate it from its spent grounds.
The main components of a French press are the carafe, plunger, lid assembly, filter screen, and structure disc.
The large carafe jug usually has a pouring spout and handle for easy use. The sizes of carafes on French presses vary from single-serve up to 12 cups or more like the size of an ordinary coffee pot.
Plunger and Lid Assembly
The long cylinder with a small handle at the top is called the plunger. The plunger lets you strain coffee grounds from the final brewed hot drink at the bottom of the carafe.
The plunger rod comes up and out of an opening in the French press lid and is attached to the filter assembly at the bottom of the rod. As you move the plunger up and down, the lid stays on the carafe, allowing for easy immersion of the grounds and straining.
Usually, the filter screen on a French press is made of a metal disk with small, perforated holes or a fine and sturdy metal mesh disk. This disk filters out most of the grounds from your final brew.
Since the grounds have such fine coffee particles, the filter gets clogged after each use and must be cleaned before the next brew.
The structure disk is usually a metal or plastic part that connects the plunger and the mesh filter screen. It has a catch wire around its perimeter that holds the filter firmly in place so that no ground coffee can sneak into your cup of good coffee.
When necessary, you can remove the structure disk and access the filter screen for cleaning and maintenance purposes.
Material of a French Press Coffee Maker is an Important Consideration
The materials of a French press vary but are usually made of either metal, clear plastic, or glass. Most coffee connoisseurs would never dream of making french press coffee in a clear plastic French press, so the main two options for traditional French press coffee makers are usually glass or metal.
However, a plastic french coffee maker still offers some advantages over the other materials.
Metal French Press Coffee Maker
One of the most common and traditional French press coffee makers is made entirely out of metal. The metal of a French press is thick and durable, usually made of difficult to dent material.
However, dents may still occur, and even though a metal French press will last many years in your kitchen, it may not always look like it is in prime condition.
One thing that is a letdown with the metal French press is that you cannot see the extraction process when brewing your perfect cup of coffee. However, you won’t have to worry about smashing the glass container if you are a little rough with your French press or groggy and clumsy in the morning.
Another downside of the metal French press that the glass French press doesn’t have: each time you make French press coffee or other hot drink with your metal French press, it requires pre-heating. Nevertheless, only hot, metal insulation tends to retain the heat better than glass or plastic French presses. So if you prefer your hot cup of coffee to last longer, then the metal one is ideal for you.
Finally, the metal French press is great if you travel or buy it as part of a busy industrial kitchen. These French presses are sturdy workhorses and long-lasting, one buy-for-lifetime type of kitchen appliance with minimal downsides.
- Well insulated
- Extremely durable
- Requires pre-heating
- You can’t enjoy watching the brewing process
Recommended Metal French Press Coffee Makers:
- Mueller French Press Double Insulated 310 Stainless Steel Coffee Maker
- Secura French Press Coffee Maker, 304 Grade Stainless Steel Insulated Coffee Press
- Bodum Columbia 8 Cup Thermal French Press
Glass French Press Coffee Maker
A glass French press gets the job done stylishly and uniquely compared to the metal French press. Glass French presses look great, and you see your hot water turning into delicious coffee right before your eyes. However, there is a real danger that the thin glass walls may break or shatter if used too roughly.
Because of the danger of breaking or shattering the walls of a glass French press, these are not ideal for busy or industrial kitchens. You may not want to bring your glass French press with you while you travel for fear of breaking it.
On the other hand, the clear glass gives you a beautiful glimpse of the mixing and brewing of flavorful coffee.
Finally, the glass French press is incredibly efficient for both time and energy since you don’t need it pre-heated before brewing. Heat your water, dump it in, and then immerse the pre-ground coffee or tea leaves into the hot water and watch as the carafe gets filled with your favorite hot drink.
Some glass French presses even allow you to add them to an open flame.
- Lighter and more stylish
- Easy to use and efficient
- Does not require pre-heating the French press
- You can watch the lovely brewing process.
- Delicate glass can shatter
- Not valid for busy kitchen settings
- Not great for traveling with
Recommended Glass French Press Coffee Makers:
- Bodum Chambord French Press 8 cup (34 oz)
- Bodum Brazil French Press Coffee and Tea Maker (34 oz)
- Cafe du Chateau French Press Coffee Maker (34 oz)
Plastic French Press Coffee Maker
French press users usually like the sturdy durability and charm of a metal material or the elegance and interaction of glass. However, the less expensive and functional option for French press material is clear plastic.
Clear plastic has the best of both worlds between metal and glass French presses. Not only is the plastic durable and easy for transportation, but it is clear so you can view the brewing process in its entirety.
Another significant aspect of a French press made from transparent plastic material is that it is incredibly lightweight. The very light plastic French press gets so nicely balanced that it makes an ideal material for traveling distances, taking on vacation, or making a part of your permanent camping or recreational vehicle mess set.
- Lightweight and great for traveling and transporting
- Clear plastic lets you see the brewing process
- Plastic can get scratched and unappealing looking
- Not as durable as metal
- Cheaper-feeling quality
Recommended Plastic French Press Coffee Makers:
- OXO BREW Venture Travel French Press- 8 Cup
- Bodum Bean Sustainable French Press Coffee Maker (34 Oz)
- Clever Chef French Press Coffee Maker
How to Use A French Press
French press models vary slightly. Some require different processes for brewing French press coffee or your blended cup of tea. Bodum is one of the companies that makes French presses; an industry leader in quality and durability, often touted to make the perfect french press coffee.
If you are thinking of buying a French press, consider looking at the different types Bodum offers. Their French press designs are durable and offer many different sizes, from individual use to large family sizes.
There are four different sizes of Bodum French presses. Each has different-sized carafes and requires different amounts of ground coffee.
- Bodum Chambord French Press 3 cup (12 oz)
- Bodum Chambord French Press 4 cup (17 oz)
- Bodum Chambord French Press 8 cup (34 oz)
- Bodum Chambord French Press 12 cup (51 oz)
The chart below gives you the amount of coarse pre-ground coffee necessary for an average strength brew of coffee (at the maximum water-filled amount for each of the four Bodum French press unit sizes).
|Size||Ground Coffee Amount|
|0.35 Liters (12 ounces)||20 grams (1.5 Tablespoons)|
|0.5 Liters (17 ounces)||28 grams (2 Tablespoons)|
|1 Liter (34 ounces)||55 grams (4 Tablespoons)|
|1.5 Liters (50 ounces)||80 grams (5.5 Tablespoons)|
How to Make French Press Coffee
Before you begin brewing coffee or any other hot drink with your Bodum French press or any other French press coffee makers, there are a few precautions that you should take and be aware of. Make sure you read through these before adding any hot water to your French press:
- You could be burned or scalded from hot liquid if you plunge too hard; hot liquid could shoot out of the pot.
- Never plunge with excessive force.
- Ensure that the lid gets turned so that the spout end is closed.
- Only use coarsely ground coffee, not whole coffee beans.
- Only metal French presses are suitable for stovetop use; do not use them on the stovetop if your French press is made of plastic or glass.
- Visually check the glass beaker for any signs of wear like breaks, chips, cracks, or scratches; install a replacement if necessary.
- Keep out of reach of children, especially while brewing.
Once you are in a safe environment and have reviewed the safety instructions listed above, it is time to brew your perfect cup of French press coffee.
Ensure that you have the French press cleaned out or at least rinsed and that you have available coffee beans for grinding or coarse ground coffee.
For French presses, the grind size required is a coarse or medium-coarse grind. The ideal water temperature is 95 degrees Celsius (or 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
Ensure that you adhere to the coffee-to-water brewing ratios, typically 12:1 for moderately strong coffee. If this is your first time, consider buying coarse pre-ground coffee so that you don’t need to figure out the grinding process. However, it is better to freshly grind your coffee beans prior to brewing.
If you grind your own coffee beans, make sure you open the coffee grinder, mix, and get all stubborn bean pieces ground into a uniform coarseness.
A conical burr coffee grinder is preferred for home baristas like you and me. A conical burr grinder grinds coffee beans more consistently than blade coffee grinders. My recommended list of coffee grinders for French press brewing is detailed in the linked article.
- Heat the water: Either using a tea kettle on the stove, a mug of microwaved water, or a hot plate for a carafe, heat the water to the desired brew temperature of around 180 degrees Celsius. You can get a pour-over coffee kettle at Barista Warrior.
- Grind the coffee beans: If you use whole coffee beans, you need to grind them into a uniform coarseness. For the best French press coffee, you need to use consistently coarse ground coffee for superior brewing flavors and aroma.
- Measure the grinds: Measure out your grounds into the French press filter at a ratio of 12:1. So if you have 24 grams of water, use two grams of ground coffee.
- Add the water: When the hot water is ready, open the lid of the French press. Pour the hot water over the filter and grounds into the French press. Stir gently and steep for around three to four minutes.
- Filter and serve: When the coffee is ready, use the filter to gently press the grounds down and out of the water, squeezing slightly if you want a more potent brew. Then pull the filter container and plunger off of the carafe. Serve the brewed coffee from the pouring spout and enjoy!
The French Press Ratio
The French press ratio’s general rule is 12:1 water to ground coffee. Other measurements can also create adequate brew cups. For example, you may need less of a ratio if you have darker roast coffee grounds. Blonde roast grounds may require more.
The Golden Rule of coffee to water ratio that professional coffee brewers and baristas use is 17.42 units of water per one unit of coffee. In other words, six ounces of water for every two tablespoons of coffee grounds.
For some lighter flavored and intensity French press coffee recipes, a 15:1 water to coffee grounds ratio is required. This means that you should add three tablespoons of coffee grounds for every cup of water.
Factors Affecting coffee taste
French press coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks because of its rich aroma, deep and reviving taste, and excellent energy-giving properties. However, not all coffee cups made from a French press taste the same. The factors that influence the taste of coffee include:
- The coffee roast: There are several different coffee roasts, but the most common forms range from light to dark roast coffee types. For the best results, use medium-dark and dark roasted coffee beans for French press brewing.
- The coffee to water ratio: Most French press users want a medium cup of coffee with water-to-coffee grounds ratio of 12:1. However, you should add more grounds at a higher water-to-ground ratio for darker or espresso roasts coffee.
- How coarse your coffee grounds are: Coarser grounds of coffee give more robust and different flavor notes since some of the finer grind material gets through the mesh filter. Generally, finely ground coffee offers a more robust and bitter flavor.
The Bloom and Crust of French Press Coffee
Two terms used quite regularly in French press brewing are bloom and crust of the coffee brewing process. Both terms describe an individual part of the brewing process as the grounds get plunged into the hot water.
Understanding bloom time, speed, and the amount of crust, and what you should do with it give your coffee brews different and more unique flavors and sensations.
When you first plunge the filter filled with coffee grounds into the hot water in the pot, the color of the grinds begins dissolving and diffusing into the water. If you have a clear glass or plastic French press pot, you should see this process begin. The color seems to billow and grow as if it were blooming out of the water. The process of blooming is the beginning of the brewing process.
When you first add water, only add enough to submerge the filter in. Let the coffee grinds bloom for around 30 to 45 seconds, and then add the rest of the hot water into the carafe. You should also notice a froth or bubbling from the grind’s bloom. This process gives a fuller body to the coffee.
At the end of the brewing process in your French press, you may notice a layer of foam around the top edge of the coffee brew. This is called the crust, and you have two options when dealing with the crust.
If you decide on keeping the crust in the mixture, you should get a more decadent, more full-bodied, and stronger coffee. You can also remove the crust with a spoon or knife for a light and airy tasting coffee.
Does French Press Have More Caffeine?
It has been a long debate whether or not French presses produce a more jittery cup of extra caffeinated coffee or not. However, the answer is that it depends on what you are comparing French press coffee brew to.
Espressos tend to have more concentrated levels of coffee and thus have more caffeine than French press coffees or even standard drip coffee brews. However, French press coffee generates over 105 mg of caffeine per eight-ounce cup! So it still packs quite a substantial of caffeine.
If you require more information on the amount of caffeine per coffee cup, feel free to read my other article on it.
How to Clean Your French Press
Since your French press is used for coffee primarily (and even if it is not), leftover residue from past brewing might mingle with the taste of the new brew and ruin your flavor experience.
Use a clean damp cloth or paper towel to wipe away all stubborn coffee oil. If you can smell any aroma of coffee still in your French press, keep wiping and rinsing it out. The smell and oily aroma of coffee will taint your final brewed tea.
You can also buy some of the best coffee oil cleaning products for your French press, which could get used regularly after each brew or occasionally as a deep clean that keeps your brews fresh and tasty. Some of these coffee oil cleaning products are detailed below:
PHILIPS/SAECO Coffee Oil Remover
Even though these tablets of coffee oil cleaner get made for percolator brewing pots, they can get used in French presses. Break the tablets into smaller pieces and use a smaller portion for the size of the carafe and French press that you own.
- Descales while it cleans the coffee oil
- Free of parabens and toxic chemicals
- Premium quality ingredients
- Difficult to break apart rugged tablets
- Not specifically designed for use in smaller French presses
Astonish Premium Edition Cup Clean Tea/Coffee Stain Remover
This stain remover for cups and bottles works wonders on a French press as well. The product is a powder that is moistened and then massaged into the surface of the French press. Sometimes you don’t even have to rub it on the surface; it is that strong!
- No scrubbing
- No aftertaste
- It comes with powder that is easy to portion out for smaller French press units.
- Challenging to spread inside a French press carafe
How to Use French Press for Tea
Another great way of using a French press is for your loose tea leaves. Tea drinkers know what coffee drinkers may not: there is much more flavor and richness in hot brewed tea than coffee (but this is a debate for another article). A French press is an excellent way of brewing hot teas with loose tea leaves and allows you many benefits that you don’t get with standard tea bags.
Since tea drinking and brewing goes back thousands of years, this rich history of flair and warmth might be something you want to try, even if you primarily brew and drink coffee from your French press. Below are some of the simple french press tips you should take before brewing tea in your French press, no matter if it is a metal, plastic, or glass unit.
Get a Thermometer
When brewing your tea, varying temperature levels make for mediocre final tea, at best. For the best results when brewing your hot tea in a French press, make sure that you use a thermometer and only brew the tea at the ideal brewing temperature suggested for that tea varietal.
Temperatures outside of these specific ranges can cause weak tea that is tasteless or strong tea that is too robust and tannic to drink. Some carafes come with variable temperature kettles with the temperature set to a specific degree and maintain that degree throughout the brewing process.
The golden rule for tea ratios is about 2.5 grams of loose tea leaves for every eight ounces of water. Tea is unlike coffee because too much of the flavor makes the tea unbalanced and unappealing tannic in flavor. You also don’t want weak tea that has little to no flavor.
2.5 grams gets usually defined as about one to two teaspoons. However, measuring in grams is the only way to measure your tea leaves for French press brewing.
Teaspoons are generally not accurate enough for tea since the volume to weight ratio is a bit different from tea varietal to tea varietal. For example, a teaspoon of green tea leaves maybe 2.5 grams, while a teaspoon of oolong tea leaves may only contain one gram of tea leaves.
In the end, the best way of being sure that your tea ratios of loose tea leaves to ounces of water are correct is by using grams for measurement instead of the more accessible but less accurate method of using teaspoons.
The Steps for Brewing Tea in Your French Press
Once you have your measuring method finalized and have your French press cleaned of any stubborn coffee oils, smells, or stains, it is time for brewing tea in your French press. Below are the step-by-step instructions for brewing any type of tea in your French press. Remember that temperatures are different for each varietal of tea leaf, which gets listed below the steps:
- Measure the tea leaves: Measure out 2.5 grams of your tea leaves and place them into the French press filter.
- Heat the water: However, you are heating the water (either in a kettle on the stove or your carafe hot plate), get the water to the desired temperature, usually 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the water: When the hot water is ready, open the lid of the French press and pour the hot water over the filter and tea leaves into the French press. Steep for around two minutes.
- Filter and serve: When the tea is ready, use the filter to plunge the tea leaves into and out of the water, squeezing slightly if you want a more potent brew. Then pull the filter container and plunger off of the carafe. Serve the tea from the pouring spout and enjoy!
As the saying goes, if you want a great-tasting cup of coffee, use a French Press. Brewing coffee or tea with a French press is a beautiful experience. Many coffee enthusiasts vouch that the best coffee they ever tasted is brewed coffee from a French Press, regardless of the coffee maker’s material.
I hope this guide has been useful to you. Happy brewing!