How to Make French Press Coffee with Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Make French Press Coffee with Step-by-Step Instructions

Simple, affordable and easy to use, the French press is a brewing method that is low on technology with high-quality results. Although it often acts as an “entry level” piece of equipment, with its low price and fairly basic instructions, it is still a classic item you’re likely to find on the shelf of most coffee aficionados.

While it’s simple enough to make a great cup of coffee using a French press, it’s important to maintain high standards by following a protocol. Even small details, such as using a different grind setting or getting the water temperature wrong, can significantly change the way your coffee tastes.

The great news is that you can follow our easy, step-by-step guide to make a delicious French press coffee for yourself and a friend. Although, you might find it’s so tasty that you’re not willing to share!

What is a French Press?

A French Press is made up of a few basic parts, including:

Carafe. Typically made of glass, ceramic or metal, this is the flask that holds the hot water and coffee grounds. We discuss the benefits of each carafe type in our French Press buying guide.

Base/Handle. If your carafe is made from glass or plastic, it likely is designed to sit within a base made from metal or plastic. A metal carafe usually has the handle attached directly to it, so it doesn’t require a separate base.

Plunger/Filter/Lid. This is a combination of a round metal filter surrounded by coils, attached to a metal tube the length of the carafe. The plunger is designed to move up and down so that it can filter the coffee grounds out of the water once the brewing time is complete. The lid for the press is typically attached to the top of the plunger.

How to Use a French Press

Using a French press coffee maker is rather simple. Put in the measured coffee grounds, add water, stir, wait and plunge.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Although these are the basics, a significant number of factors need to be taken into consideration before getting started with the brewing process shown below.

Water to Coffee Ratio Chart

French press Coffee to Water Ratios Chart and Table

Mild (18:1)

1 serving = 240 grams water  + 13 grams ground coffee

2 servings =  480 grams water + 26 grams ground coffee

4 servings = 1020 grams water +  56 grams ground coffee (an “8-cup” 34-ounce carafe)

Medium (16:1)

1 serving = 240 grams water + 15 grams ground coffee

2 servings = 480 grams water + 30 grams ground coffee

4 servings = 1020 grams water + 60 grams ground coffee (for an 8-cup/34-ounce carafe)

Strong (12:1)

1 serving = 240 grams water + 20 grams ground coffee

2 servings = 480 grams water + 40 grams ground coffee

4 servings = 1020 grams water + 80 grams ground coffee (for an 8-cup/34-ounce carafe)

Remember, this chart is just a starting point for the French press—it’s not a universal chart for any type of coffee brewing method.

The flavor extracted by using these ratios may depend on the particular coffee beans you are brewing, how darkly the coffee is roasted and how strong you like your cup of coffee to taste. It truly takes experimentation to figure out what works for you.

How to Make French Press Coffee

How to Make French Press Coffee

Tools and materials you’ll need:

  • 8 cup French press brewer
  • Conical burr grinder
  • 56g of freshly ground coffee (about 8 tablespoons) – Ideally single-origin whole beans (sourced from one coffee farm).
  • Filtered hot water just 30 seconds off the boil (200° to 205°F)
  • Wooden spoon or other stirring device
  • Scale
  • Timer
  • Coffee cups/mugs

Step 1: Warm the Press

Step 1 Warm the Press - Making French Press Coffee

Warm up your empty French press with very hot water. This is easily done with just a little boiling water poured in for a few seconds and swirled around. This helps maintain the temperature of your coffee while brewing and will ensure better extraction of the coffee.

Step 2: Weigh and Grind

Step 2 Weigh and Grind - Making French Press Coffee

For an “8-cup” French press, which typically serves between 3-4 people, weigh out 56g of coffee (refer to the chart above) and grind it coarsely using a conical burr grinder for the best grind. The consistency of the texture of sea salt is a good gauge. Most quality grinders should have a “coarse” setting.

Step 3: Add Coffee and Water

Step 3 Add Coffee and Water - Making French Press Coffee

Now that your French press is warmed up, discard the hot water and add your freshly ground coffee into the empty press. Fill up the press halfway, saturating all the coffee. Start your timer as soon as you add hot water (you will be brewing for four minutes in total).

Step 4: Stir

Step 4 Stiring - Making French Press Coffee

After about one minute, use a wooden spoon or other stirring device to break the top layer of the coffee (often called the crust). It’s best to use wood or plastic for stirring so you don’t accidentally crack the glass. Stir the coffee mixture well.

Step 5: Add More Water

Step 5 Add More Water - Making French Press Coffee

Now, fill the carafe almost all the way to the top with water. Leave a bit of room at the top to put the plunger/lid on without spilling the water out. Gently place lid on top and allow the coffee to brew without pressing it down.

Step 6: Press

Step 6 Press - Making French Press Coffee

After four minutes on your timer, the coffee is ready. Firmly push the press all the way down.

Step 7: Drink and Enjoy!

Step 7 Drink and Enjoy - Making French Press Coffee

Once you’ve plunged the coffee, pour it into a carafe or mugs immediately. If the coffee sits in the grounds for very long after pressing, it will turn bitter.

How to Make a French Press Espresso

Feeling the need for an espresso-based drink, but you are in a low-tech moment where all you have is a French press and the tools to go with it? Never fear! You’ve got everything you need.

Of course, it won’t taste exactly the same as coffee from a professional espresso machine, but you’ll get the gist of it at home—and for a fraction of the price. Check out these step-by-step instructions:

What you’ll need:

  • French press coffee brewer
  • Conical burr grinder
  • 28g of freshly ground coffee (per 8 ounces/236 ml of water)
  • Filtered hot water just 30 seconds off the boil (200° to 205°F)
  • Scale
  • Timer
  • Espresso cup or coffee mug

Step 1: Warm the Carafe

To get the best results, warm up your French press ahead of time by pouring in some boiling water and swishing it around.

Step 1 Warm Carafe - Making French Press Espresso Coffee

Step 2: Weigh and Grind

Espresso is made using a fine grind for a stronger flavor. This also means you’ll want to use freshly roasted whole bean coffee that is blended and roasted specifically for espresso.

(Only use espresso beans if you’re trying to get an espresso-type drink out of a French press. For normally brewed French press coffee, use a single origin bean.)

Use approximately double the amount of beans that you would for a typical French press. Try about 28 grams of coffee for 8 ounces (236 ml) of water. Set your conical burr grinder to a very fine (espresso) setting.

Step 2 Weigh & Grind - Making French Press Espresso Coffee

Step 3: Add Coffee and Water

Empty the hot water out of the French press and add your coffee grounds. Splash a bit of water into the press over the coffee grounds and let it rest for just a few seconds. Add the rest of your measured water (just 30 seconds off boil) but do not stir.

Step 3 Add Coffee & Water - Making French Press Espresso Coffee

Step 4: Replace Lid and Wait

Place the lid/plunger mechanism on your carafe but don’t press it yet. Set a timer for about 4 minutes. Steep for a minute longer if you like it really strong. Any longer than 5 minutes, though and your coffee will end up bitter tasting.

Step 4 Replace Lid & Wait - Making French Press Espresso Coffee

Step 5: Plunge

Press the handle halfway down. Raise it up again, then press all the way down in one swift motion.

Step 5 Plunge - Making French Press Espresso Coffee

Step 6: Pour and Enjoy!

Pour the coffee out of the French press carefully, leaving a bit at the bottom to avoid getting any grounds in your up. For a “latte” style drink, add hot milk or use a milk foamer for a “cappuccino” cheat.

Step 6 Pour & Enjoy - Making French Press Espresso Coffee

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press

Cold brew coffee is the perfect treat for a hot summer day! Or anytime of the year, really. If you want to enjoy that cold-brew flavor, you can try making it at home with your French press. Follow these step-by-step instructions:

What you’ll need:

  • French press coffee brewer
  • Conical burr grinder
  • 140g of freshly roasted coffee (choose a “sweet” coffee from Africa for a great taste)
  • 1000 grams (1 liter) filtered, room temperature water
  • Wooden or plastic spoon
  • Fine filter—cheesecloth or paper coffee filter (optional but useful)
  • Sealable pitcher to store your cold brew coffee

Step 1: Measure and Grind Coffee

The best ratio for cold-brewing coffee is between 4:1 and 7:1, depending on how strong you like it. This example uses 7:1 ratio, with 140 grams of coffee per 1 liter of water.

Remember, if it’s too strong at the end, you can always add some cold water to make it better match your personal preference. Cold-brew concentrates of 4:1 upwards of 2:1 are often diluted with water, milk and/or ice.

Grind your coffee to a medium-course grind. This is about the same grind size as you might use for brewing hot coffee in your French press.

Step 2: Add Water

Once you’ve put your coffee grounds into the French press, then add approximately one liter of filtered, room temperature water.

Step 3: Stir

Stir well with a wooden or plastic spoon (avoid using metal in a glass carafe which could cause breakage).

Step 4: Steep

Cold brew coffee requires a bit of patience, which is what makes it so great! But it’s also not a precise measurement of time for steeping, so you can wait between 12 and 20 hours if you leave it on the counter.

Putting it in the refrigerator will slow down the process by a few hours (18 – 24 hours) — making cold brew the perfect coffee to plan out for the next day.

(Remember, letting hot coffee steep in the grounds for more than a few minutes makes it bitter but, for Cold Brew, the chemistry changes due to the temperature difference.)

Step 5: Filter

As with most coffee brewed in a French press, a bit of sludge is usually left at the bottom. At this point, gently press the plunger down, but not all the way.

Avoid stirring or agitating the pot in any way to keep those grounds at the bottom.

Prepare your filtering mechanism (cheesecloth over a pitcher or a V60 brewer with paper filter works just fine), then slowly and gently pour the coffee through the filter. For an even smoother brew, pour your coffee through a rinsed, wet coffee filter.

Step 6: Drink and Enjoy!

Drink what coffee you want (dilute with water if it’s too strong) and store the rest in the refrigerator in an airtight container for another time. You can usually keep this in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but most people can’t get it to last that long!

How to Clean a French Press

Before getting started cleaning, let your French press cool down after brewing. This will ensure that the carafe and the grounds are not too hot for cleaning.

Check out these cleaning recommendations for daily, deeper and hard-core cleaning.

First, you will need to pour out the grounds. Use your hands or a rubber spatula—it’s not recommended using a metal spoon with a glass carafe. Emptying the grounds straight into the garbage or compost bin will work best.

For a lighter clean on a daily basis, mix around some warm water with some liquid dish soap in the carafe.

Moving the plunger up and down for some agitating action and this should be enough of a regular daily clean to get out any residue and oils the coffee has left behind. Pour out the soapy water, rinse in the sink until the water runs clear.

Deep Clean: On a semi-regular basis, for an extra clean, scrub the plunger and the inside of the carafe with the soft part of a sponge or bottle brush. Rinse the carafe and plunger until the water runs clean.

Hard Core Clean: If you feel like your equipment isn’t getting clean enough, go ahead and go the extra mile for an extra deep clean. First, follow the steps above.

Then, disassemble the plunger, scrubbing each part with soapy water or vinegar. Vinegar should help if you find that lime scale from your water is building up on the inside of your carafe or plunger. (To prevent this in the future, use filtered water.)

Letting your French press dry in a drying rack on your kitchen counter is the best way to keep it germ free and ready for use the next time you need it.

Importance of a Clean French Press

Cleaning your French press appropriately is critical in order to make sure every cup of coffee tastes great, as well as to be sure you keep your equipment is tip top shape.

When you use the appropriate coarse setting on your coffee grinder, the coffee grounds aren’t as likely to get stuck in the filter and clog up the plunger.

Important French Press Considerations

Things you need to know before you get started brewing coffee with a French press:

Best Coffee Beans for a French Press

Properly brewing with a French press allows you to bring out the underlying flavors inherent in your coffee beans. Using a single-origin (sourced from one coffee farm), whole bean coffee is perfect.

The best coffee roasters will know exactly which farm their coffee came from and they will roast it in such a way to bring out the best of its flavors. You should be able to tell from reading the bag of whole beans: where your coffee came from, when it was roasted, and what types of flavors you can expect to come out of it.

Avoid using espresso blend beans in your French press (unless, of course, you are specifically trying to brew espresso in your French press).

Some beans are blended and roasted differently for espresso, in order to maximize the flavor that comes through this high-pressure, quick extraction method. Espresso beans will produce a lesser quality coffee flavor when exposed to French press steeping instead.

Best French Press Grind Type

For any type of coffee you plan to brew, the only way to get the best taste is by freshly grinding your whole beans. Once ground, coffee beans can begin to lose their freshness within just a couple of hours, if not sooner.

If you purchase beans that are ground ahead of time, then you’re already beginning with stale coffee. Not only does the coffee lose its own flavor, but it can absorb surrounding flavors and scents.

In order to get the best flavor for any coffee brewing method, you should use a conical burr grinder. This provides the most consistent grind. Blade grinders provide inconsistent results that detract from the rich flavor that is just waiting to come out of your coffee beans.

For the perfect Cup o’ Joe from a French press, plan to use a medium to coarse grind for your beans. The coarser the grind, the less sediment you are likely to find at the bottom of your cup.

This may be an experimental process for you, depending on the specific model of French press as well as your personal preferences.

If you use a grind that is not suitable for a French press (for instance, a fine espresso grind), then you’re likely to find a pile of sludge at the bottom of your coffee cup. The French press simply isn’t designed to filter out the tiny particles of a smaller grind.

The Perfect Water

Anytime you are brewing coffee, you should attempt to use pure, filtered water. Tap water is okay if that’s all you have, but it can often be contaminated with various influences related to your water source or even the pipes in your house. Filtering away these impurities can dramatically improve the taste of your coffee.

Another critical factor about the water you brew your coffee with is the temperature. Use water that is just “off boil”, or somewhere between 200°F. But you don’t have to get out a thermometer each time!

Just boil your water, take it off of the heat source and wait approximately 30 seconds. You’ll find this is just the right temperature for brewing your coffee in a French press.

How Much Coffee Should Be Used for Brewing French Press?

Most coffee experts weigh out their coffee and water in grams in order to be as precise as possible to get the coffee-to-water ratio just right. Although it seems like you should simplify by measuring out the cups of water needed, this is where things get a bit tricky.

The manufacturers of the French press call the standard size “8-cups”. But honestly? It’s not really 8 cups. Somehow, coffee makers all over the place seem to have adjusted the word “cup” to mean something other than what a cup means in other scenarios.

In the case of an automatic drip coffee maker, you’ll find they refer to a cup as around 5 ounces.

For the French press a “cup” is even smaller. It’s around 4 ounces. The entire 8-cup French press holds about 32 ounces and serves approximately 3-4 people. And this is if your cups are fairly small (8 fluid ounces or so). For bigger mugs, your French press will obviously serve fewer people. Confusing enough?

This is why it is recommended to toss the whole idea of “cups” and ounces out the window and simply stick to using a scale for measuring your water to coffee ratio. Gram to gram, coffee aficionados recommend that water-to-coffee ratios be anywhere from 12:1 all the way up to 18:1.

Since coffee making is a blend of art and science, the amount of coffee you use is really up to your personal preferences. However, you still might want some guidelines to begin with and then you can tweak it from there to be stronger or not-so-strong.

Making French Press FAQ’s

What is the History of the French Press?

A simple, classic form of brewing coffee, the French press has been around for at least a century. Other names you might hear referring to this immersion method of brewing are cafetière, coffee press, coffee plunger or press pot.

For our purposes, though, we’ll stick with the most common name: French Press. While some legends state that it does have some roots from France, the current patented version of the “French” press was not actually designed by a French person at all—it came from an Italian.

And since the Italians have proven fairly trustworthy in their coffee-making efforts over the years, it’s a pretty sure bet that this one is no different.

What Coffee Types Can You Make in a French Press?

A French press is designed to make a really great basic cup of coffee, but you don’t have to stop there.

By adjusting the type of coffee beans, the amount of water, the amount of coffee grounds, and the time you steep it, you can also achieve a great espresso or iced coffee with your French press.

How Long Should You Leave a French Press Brewing Before Pressing Down?

4 minutes is the ideal amount of time to let your coffee brew in a French press before plunging.

Why is French Press Coffee Better Than Other Brewing Methods?

Using a French press is often a preferred method of brewing coffee, simply due to its simple, no-nonsense nature. You don’t need a fancy espresso machine or professional paraphernalia—or even paper filters.

All you really need is a way to grind your beans and boil some water, then you’re set! It’s pure, and simply delicious.

Can You Make Tea in a French Press?

Yes, you can absolutely make tea in a French press! Using loose tea leaves, it works on the same principle as making coffee. Depending on the tea leaves you choose, the brewing time may be just a bit longer (up to 5 minutes for black tea, possibly longer for herbal teas).

Some people prefer not to use the same carafe for coffee and tea, as they believe the coffee leaves a bit of a residue that can be then be tasted in the tea. But that’s really a personal preference. If your French press is cleaned well, this should not be a problem.

Can You Take a French Press Camping?

Absolutely! Camping is a great way to use a portable French press to get your coffee fix. As long as you have the capability to boil water, you can take a French press almost anywhere.

Several different portable, non-breakable options are available, for instance the travel mug press and plastic French press listed above.

Cristal Cotton
About Cristal Cotton

After many years of experimenting and learning online about all the different brew methods, types of beans, and intricate details such as grind type, consistency, water type, how tamped the coffee is in the portafilter and much more, Cristal is gradually perfecting the art. Coffee is one of Cristal’s passions in life, and along with a team of baristas and coffee enthusiasts, she aims to share all this knowledge on Luxurious Coffee.

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