How to Use a French Press to Make Your Best Coffee Ever

Wondering how to use a French Press? We’re breaking it down from start to the yummy finish. Discover the easy steps and top tips for delicious coffee with Waaqa.

We love guiding people to the right coffee, even if sometimes this means getting into all the nitty-gritty of coffee making (which we also enjoy). So, if you’ve always been curious to find out more about one of the most awesome inventions ever, aka the French Press, we’ve prepared a fun guide for you. Discover how to use a French Press, so you can get the best aromas and flavours out of every coffee bean. You’ve got this!

What is a French Press?

The French Press is a coffee brewing technique that uses a cylindrical pot with a plunger and a built-in filter (high-brow, we know) to press the fresh coffee grounds through the hot water. Created in 1852, it’s a golden oldie in any barista’s book. The French Press, also called a cafetiere, uses gentle force and pressure to push the coffee to the bottom of the pot after brewing.

In comparison to a pour-over, the filter is made of a thin metallic grid. Fine particles of non-soluble of ground coffee stay in the brew giving your cup more body and a slightly twist to the flavour.

The result is a full-flavoured mug of delightful coffee (inspired yet?).

To French Press or not to French Press?

The French Press is an immersive brewing method, which means the coffee is steeped in water. This is the same method used to assess coffee during the cupping method. Using a French Press is simple, and consistent.

The Pros of using a French Press

There are many pros to using the French Press – quelle surprise! Let’s get started on them, so that you can enjoy your French Press in all its glory.

French Press brewing is easy to master

The French Press coffee brewing process is easy. The only labour-intensive part of the French Press method is grinding your coffee beans, and boiling the water. The brewing time is quick, and effective!

Learning to brew coffee with the French Press is simple. Even though it may take a few attempts to master this technique, you’ll be a French Press brewing master in no time!

It serves delicious coffee, every time

Due to more oils getting into the French Press coffee, it gives the coffee its distinct taste which is part of the cafetiere’s ability to make great coffee.

It is portable

The French Press is small and convenient, so, you can take it with you anywhere and, well, everywhere. You won’t compromise on your coffee quality ever again!

The Cons of using a French Press

As with all coffee-making equipment, they do unfortunately come with a few cons. But, not enough to turn us away!

The clean-up can get…tiresome

Due to the way the French Press coffee is brewed, you will end up with coffee grounds at the bottom of your pot. This means you have to empty and clean out the French Press every time you brew a cup of coffee.

Grounds may slip into the coffee

Due to the size of the coffee grounds used for French Press coffee, they can sometimes slip into the coffee. While a few very fine particles in suspension will be part of the experience and will participate to the full bodied taste, you don't want too much... For the best results, remember not to grind to fine for the French press (look at our how to grind article). This can cause a thick and gritty like residue at the bottom of your brewed coffee. This may have been enough to turn your nose up – Sorry!

What do I need to make a French Press coffee?

There are eight key ingredients to making sure your French Press coffee, before launching into your brewing journey. It may seem self-evident, but sometimes the most obvious things slip our minds (we’ve all been there!). So, here are the most important things you need to make your French Press coffee, besides the French Press itself.

·       Whole coffee beans. We highly recommend grinding your own coffee beans, as with all good coffees they start with good beans. The key to getting a good French Press coffee is uniformity of flavour.

·       Filtered or low mineral bottle water with absence of chlorine smell and taste.

·       Burr Coffee Grinder. This will be your best friend, and right-hand man, when it comes to grinding your beans to the correct consistency for your French Press coffee.

·       A Digital Scale

·       Stirrer

·       Timer

·       Your chosen mug!

If you want to find out more about the coolest gadgets and coffee-making equipment, check out our handy guide.

What is the coffee to water ratio for French Press coffee?

The usual coffee-water ratio is 1:16, but you’re free to break the rule depending on how strong or weak you like your coffee. So, if you prefer to have a weaker coffee go for a 1:17 ratio to achieve a more floral mouthfeel. For a stronger coffee with a more impactful flavour, you can adjust your French Press ratio to 1:15.

How do I make coffee with a French Press?

The simplicity and ease of the French Press is one thing that will make your coffee taste even better - not as good as knowing you’ve made it from scratch, of course! The secret to a truly authentic French Press coffee is all in the grind. We suggest going for a medium roast, as the uniformity and consistency of the grind will help you reach your goal of a full bodied, rich taste in your daily cup of coffee.

Of course, that is not us saying that dark and light roasts wouldn’t result in the same taste, by any means, we are just offering you our Waaqa knowledge on the best coffee grinds  for the job! If your grinds are too fine, they may end up leaving a muddy layer at the bottom of your cup, which could result in a rather miserable looking and tasting coffee – pas merci!

How to use the French Press?

This is the simple French Press way to brew your coffee. So, let’s get started with the basics.

1.       The first step in the fabulous French Press brewing process is to warm up the press. This can be done by boiling water and then rinsing it through the press, this will help to maintain the temperature throughout the brewing process

2.       Now it is time to measure and grind your coffee beans. Measure your desired amount of coffee beans, then use the burr grinder to grind your beans into coarse, and evenly-sized grounds.

3.       If there is any residue warm water in the French Press from step 1, remove. Add the ground beans to the now empty French Press.

4.       Bring your chosen amount of water to the boil, and then allow to cool for a minute or two. Then, pour into your French Press.

5.       Use you stirrer to stir vigorously to break the top layer up.

6.       This is when you need to allow the coffee to steep for around 4 minutes. So, get your timers set!

7.       After the 4 minutes is up, carefully and slowly push the plunger all the way to the bottom of the press.

8.       After plunging, wait 1-2 minutes before serving (The particles moved by the plunging will go to the bottom of the press. The taste is even cleaner & The slight drop in temperature will "open up" your cup delivering an even more juicy experience):

9. Serve into your chosen coffee mug! And there you have it, your very own French Press coffee is served.

5 common mistakes when learning how to use a French Press

No one is perfect, and neither is every cup of coffee. But that’s okay! We’ve made a list of a few things to avoid during your French Press brewing, so that you don’t make the same mistakes. After all, every mistake is a lesson learned!

·       Grinding the coffee too finely. The filter in French Press coffee is used to catch the coffee grounds and prevents them from seeping into your cup, if you grind them too finely, the filter won’t be able to catch them and you may end up with a gritty coffee – What a way to ruin a good day!

·       The water is too hot. Water temperature does matter, if it is too hot you won’t get the desired French Press taste, try and aim for water that is around 202 degrees, or let your water cool for a few minutes once boiled.

·       You are brewing for too long. If you put all the effort in to the creation of your coffee and then end up leaving your French Press on the side for a long time, you’ll end up with a bitter taste in your mouth – both from the coffee, and from the wasted effort!

·       Coffee quality. If you aren’t prepared to stick to the good stuff then you shouldn’t be surprised if the flavour of your French Press coffee doesn’t turn out the way you were expecting!

You aren’t cleaning you French Press regularly. It can seem like an added effort after the brewing and enjoyment process of French Press coffee, but if you don’t rinse and clean your press every time, you may end up with residue in the French Press, which will give your next brew an odd taste – So, get those marigolds on! 

Now that you know all there is to know about French Press coffee, you’re one step further in your coffee journey. Why not celebrate with a great cup of homemade French Press coffee! Next, check out our article on what speciality coffee is, to boost your coffee-making skills even further.

Or why not try the pourover brewing technique and learn the ins and outs of Aeropress ?