The Complete French Press Coffee Guide

Table of Contents

When it comes to enjoying a great cup of coffee you’ll want to take a look at the French press. It’s a high quality machine that will give you a great cup each time and it’s going to be simple to use. But of course, you’ll want to learn a bit more about it.

What’s the Point of a French Press?

A French press is intended to steep your coffee grounds and give you a great cup of coffee every time. But it’s also a little more manual than a standard coffee maker and some believe that it provides a better cup of coffee.

It is considered a type of immersion brewing because the coffee is actually immersed directly in the water, which means you’ll end up with a stronger cup of coffee than you would with a drip coffee maker.

Why Use a French Press?

For many people the main reason to use a French press is that it makes better coffee as a result of the way that it’s brewed, including things like the paper filter, steeping process and a lack of impurities.

So, the French press doesn’t use a paper filter, which means that you don’t have to worry about the loss of a lot of the flavors and oils that get stuck in the filter. With a French press you get all of those oils right in the coffee, which means it tastes more authentic.

Next, you’re going to steep your coffee similar to the way that you would steep a cup of tea. This means that you’re getting even more of the flavor out of the coffee grounds than you would with a drip coffee maker that only runs water through the grounds and leaves a lot of flavor behind.

Because the grounds are actually in the cup as well that means you’re going to have even more flavor in your cup. You’re not drinking only the water with a little bit of coffee. You’re getting the full aroma and full flavor.

Next, a drip coffee machine is going to have impurities in it from the grounds that you use and from the machine that you’re using as well. All of that means you’re not getting the flavor that you really want or that was intended by the manufacturer, but with a French press you will.

You will also get the perfect temperature for your coffee. With a drip machine or even a percolator you may find yourself with coffee that is heated too much then cooled too much before you get to drink it. On the other hand, a French press keeps the same temperature throughout, so you get the ideal level.

Finally, the grounds are fully saturated, which means that there are no dry grounds left behind that the flavor wasn’t fully extracted from. You’ll get even more flavor and a fuller flavor at the same time. That means your coffee is richer.

French Press vs. Drip Coffee

When it comes to brewing a great cup of coffee you want to think about all of the options. One of those options is a French press versus a traditional drip coffee. If you’re looking for the best you’ll want to think about each of these and decide which is going to create the coffee that you really want.

A French press will give you a steeped cup of coffee rather than a drip cup, which means that the coffee is going to be stronger because the coffee grounds are fully saturated and fully extracted. You won’t get that with a standard drip machine.

You’ll also spend about the same amount of time on brewing, with a French press taking about 5-8 minutes and a standard drip machine taking about 3-10 minutes. But it’s important to note that a French press requires a little more work from you versus a drip machine.

Your French press gives you more control over your brew than you get with a drip machine. That’s because you can decide how long to steep your coffee. Not to mention you’ll have more of a full bodied flavor with the French press because of the sediments in your cup.

Another great benefit of a French press is that you’ll spend less to get a machine (in most cases). A French press can range from $10-$70 while a drip machine can start at $20 but go up to $300. Plus the French press comes in all different sizes and brews any amount you want.

French Press vs. Espresso

So, what about if you’re interested in a great cup of espresso versus going with a French press? Let’s take a look at what you’re going to get and how you’ll be able to get a great outcome either way.

The coffee you get out of your French press is going to be stronger and richer than what you would get with a standard coffee machine. It’s going to have more flavor and it’s going to provide more of the oils that you may not get with those other machines.

On the other hand, an espresso is also going to be a stronger flavor for the smaller amount that you will typically drink because it’s more concentrated. You won’t get more caffeine however, because a French press actually gives you around 107.5 mg of caffeine for an 8 ounce cup while a 1.5 ounce shot of espresso is only about 77 mg.

What you’re going to find is that espresso out of a standard espresso machine will be less labor intensive than a French press and it’s going to be faster, but you’ll get similar strength of flavor and a lower level of caffeine. So it’s about the specific flavor and style of beverage that you want.

Is There More Caffeine in French Press Coffee?

The short answer is yes. French press coffee is going to give you even more caffeine than a standard cup of coffee and also quite a bit more than you would get with an espresso shot. That’s because of the way that the coffee is brewed (or rather steeped).

The French press coffee will have approximately 107.5 mg of caffeine per serving, which is generally about 8 ounces. On the other hand, an espresso will give you approximately 77 mg of caffeine per serving, which is generally about 1.5 ounces.

Keep in mind that the exact amount of caffeine in the coffee or espresso that you get will depend on specifics like the way that it’s brewed or steeped and even the way that it’s prepared with darker roasts having less caffeine before you even start than a light roast.

The Two Parts of Your French Press

There are several different parts to the French press but they can be categorized into two main parts, which include the lid, plunger, and filter as one part and the beaker, base, and handle as the second part.

The Lid, Plunger, and Filter

This part of the French press includes a metal filter to provide you with the right oils and particles in your cup of coffee. This is where you will get the richness and body associated with the cup of coffee from a French press.

The filter also connects to a metal rod, which goes through the plunger, which pushes the filter down and presses the coffee out of the unit. This is part of where you get the name for the French press.

Finally, the lid fits over the top of both the beaker and filter to provide the right amount of pressure to keep the coffee from being pushed back up and out of the press while you’re preparing it.

The Beaker, Base, and Handle

The rest of the French press consists of these components. The beaker is typically a glass canister, though it could be made with plastic, ceramic or even metal but it’s purpose is simply to hold the coffee and water during the process of making your cup.

Then, the base and handle will make it easier for you to hold the beaker itself and to make sure that it’s secure for use with hot water. The base and handle can be made with different materials but you may find that it’s made with metal to protect your counters from the hot water in the beaker.

How Does a French Press Actually Work?

If you’re looking to start using a French press then you absolutely need to make sure that you look at the way it works. After all, you can’t just plug it in and go the way you would with a drip coffee maker. Instead, this type of coffee maker requires a bit more effort from you.

The French press works by steeping your coffee grounds directly in water for a period of time that you get to decide. That way you get the flavor profile and strength that you want. You would then press the plunger down to push the water through and out of the coffee grounds.

In this process you end up with a great cup of coffee that has a lot more flavor, richness and body because it’s been steeped rather than being only pushed through the grounds.

What Equipment Do I Need to Make French Press Coffee?

If you’re looking to make your coffee with a French press there’s really only two things that you’re going to need. One of those things is the French press itself. Of course, you’ll need it to be able to get your coffee grounds and water to the great cup of coffee you’re expecting.

The only other thing that you’re going to need is a burr grinder. While you can make your coffee with a French press using standard coffee grounds you’re going to get the best flavor if you actually grind your own beans just before you start brewing. And a burr grinder is the best way to go for that.

If you’re interested in really upping your game you may want to look into a scale, timer and thermometer as well. A scale will help you be even more precise about the amount of coffee grounds you use in your cup, which will provide you with an even better result.

A timer will make sure that you brew or steep your coffee for the exact same amount of time each time that you brew and a thermometer will make sure you get the optimum temperature every time. You don’t have to worry about playing a guessing game.

Step By Step French Press Instructions

Are you ready to brew your first cup of coffee using a French press? If you are then you’ll want to take a look at these steps to get you through the process. It’s actually not difficult, even though there are eight steps involved. And we’ll go through each one.

Step 1 – Heat Water

The first step is the easiest one because all you need to do is heat up your water. You want it to be approximately 195◦F to 205◦F and you definitely want to make sure you have filtered water with a very low mineral content.

Remember, your coffee is primarily made up of water and if you use water that has impurities it’s going to affect the taste of your coffee. If you don’t heat it to the right temperature (too low or too high) you could also end up with improperly brewed coffee.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to boil your water, but if you don’t have a thermometer your best option is generally to bring the water to a boil and then remove it from the heat and let it sit about 4 minutes for a 24 ounce kettle or about 8 minutes for a 36 ounce kettle.

Step 2 – Measure Coffee and Grind It

Next up, you need to get the coffee itself ready. In general, you want to look at the amount of coffee you’re looking to brew and the level of strength that you want to help you decide how much coffee grounds to put into your French press.

For example, if you want a mild, 34 ounce pot of coffee you would want 9 tbsp of coffee and about 30 ounces of water. If you want a medium 34 ounce pot of coffee you would want approximately 11 tbsp of coffee to 30 ounces of water and a strong cup would be approximately 15 tbsp to 30 ounces of water.

The better way to measure out your coffee, however, is to use a scale. Make sure that you’re measuring your coffee after it is ground and not before, and try to use a grinder to get the coffee ready just before you are going to brew it. This keeps as much of the flavor as possible intact.

Set the grinder to a coarse setting so you don’t end up with too fine of pieces. If you grind your coffee too fine you’ll end up with even more grounds in your finished cup of coffee, which isn’t what you want for your day.

Step 3 – Preheat the French Press (Optional)

You don’t have to preheat your French press but it is going to keep your coffee at a better temperature if you do. All you have to do is heat up some additional water and then pour it into your French press until it is about ¼ of the way through.

Slowly push the plunger down and swirl it around a little so the hot water coats the entire inside of the press. You would then pour out the water and you’re ready to start brewing your actual cup of coffee. You can also repeat a similar process with your coffee cup to get it warm and ready as well.

Step 4 – Combine Ground Coffee and Hot Water

Next up is mixing together your coffee grounds and your water. Pour the measured and freshly ground coffee into the bottom of your beaker and make sure that it’s leveled out but not packed. You can do this by gently shaking the beaker rather than pushing it down with the plunger or a spoon.

Next, you want to put the beaker onto your scale if you have one and make sure that you tare it to zero, meaning that you set the scale to zero with the beaker and coffee on it. You would then add your hot water to the proper amount, but make sure to do it quickly.

If you don’t have a scale you can pour in approximately 30 ounces for a 34 ounce pot of coffee or approximately 10 ounces for 12 ounces of coffee.

Step 5 – Stir and Time the Steep

Next you need to stir the coffee and the water together to make sure that all of the coffee grounds have been saturated. Once they have you will want to place the top on the beaker and make sure that the plunger is pulled up, which will keep the temperature level within the beaker.

You want your coffee to steep for approximately 3 minutes and 30 seconds to get the full flavor through the coffee. If you have a timer make sure you set it and leave the coffee alone so that it will steep fully and won’t be agitated.

Step 6 – Deal With the Crust

You’ll find a thin layer of crust on the top of the coffee when you take the lid off the beaker. This is the coffee grounds that have been brought to the top. If you’re looking to have a full bodied and richer coffee you’ll want to use a spoon to stir this crust back into the water and the coffee.

If you’re looking for a lighter body to your coffee you can remove the crust from the top of the coffee with a spoon. You’ll want to remove as much of the grounds as possible to keep the flavor as light as possible.

Step 7 – Press and Pour

Now you’re ready for the press part of the French press. You’ll put the top back on your beaker and push the plunger slowly but firmly down. It should be reasonably easy to push the plunger but not too easy. If it is then the grounds are too coarse. On the other hand, if it is too hard the grounds are too fine.

Once the plunger has reached the bottom you can pour your coffee from the top while keeping the plunger held down to keep the grounds where they should be.

Step 8 – Save the Last Drop

Unlike when you brew a cup of coffee with a drip coffee maker you don’t actually want to drink every drop of your coffee from a French press. That’s because the very bottom is where all of the coffee grounds are. Instead, leave the bottom 10% of the coffee.

You should actually avoid drinking the very last bit of coffee in your coffee cup as well, as this can contain a bit of coffee grounds as well. Instead, drink until you get close to the bottom then pour it out and get a new cup or brew some more.

How Long Should I Leave Coffee in a French Press?

The short answer is not to leave it in a French press longer than it takes to steep and pour out your cup. If you’re not going to drink all of the coffee in your French press immediately you’ll want to pour it into something else to keep it warm until you’re ready.

Leaving your coffee in the French press will cause the grounds to steep even longer in the water. If you leave the grounds in longer the coffee will be stronger, but it will eventually become bitter and no good for drinking.

Should I Pour All of the Coffee Out of the French Press?

No, you should not pour all of the coffee out of your French press. The coffee that is all the way at the bottom of the press is going to have a high concentration of coffee grounds, which will make the coffee bitter and also make it gritty, which isn’t good for drinking.

Instead, you should drink only the top 90% of the coffee that you end up with from steeping in your French press. The last 10% you want to pour out. Also, when you’re drinking the coffee in your cup make sure you leave the last bit in the cup or dump it out rather than drinking it.

Pros and Cons of French Press Coffee Brewing

A French press is actually a relatively popular way of brewing coffee and it has its good points and its not so good points. If you’re looking to have a great cup of coffee and you’re considering using a French press make sure you consider this:

The good thing about using a French press is that it’s relatively inexpensive to get started, you get consistent coffee that tastes great and you have a very small learning curve in order to figure out what you’re supposed to do to make it right.

On the other hand, you’ll need separate equipment for boiling water and you may want to get other pieces like a scale and timer. Not to mention it’s not quite as safe as a drip coffee maker and you could end up with poor quality coffee if you don’t get it done right.

Tips for Making Coffee in Your French Press

If you’re ready to make your first cup of coffee in your new French press or if you’re looking for a way to improve the coffee you’ve made previously you’ll want to take a closer look at each of these tips that will get you started on the right foot in no time.

Use a Coarse Grinder

First, make sure you’re using a grinder to prepare your own grounds. Also, make sure that you’re getting them to a coarse grind so that they will work well with the press but not get into your coffee. It may take a little trial and error to find the perfect consistency.

Weigh Your Coffee Grounds

Remember also that you need to weigh your coffee carefully as different types of coffee will have slightly different densities and therefore will have a different volume and weight than others. You want to have consistency to the weight of the coffee.

Plunge and Pour

Once you’re done brewing your coffee or letting it steep you’ll want to plunge it carefully. Keep in mind that you should be able to plunge all the way too the bottom smoothly but without too much or too little interference.

If your can plunge through the coffee grounds too quickly the grind is too coarse. If you have trouble getting through the grind is too fine. A good balance is to use firm and even pressure to get the plunger all the way to the bottom in one go.

French Press FAQ

Finally, we’re going to take a look at some of the common questions that people have when it comes to brewing a cup of coffee with a French press. After all, you want to make sure you’re actually getting a great cup of coffee, right?

How is French Press Coffee Different?

First of all, French press coffee is going to be different because it is brewed differently. It uses the coffee grounds steeped directly in the hot water rather than pushing the water through the grounds.

This is going to give you a slightly stronger and richer flavor because you’ll end up with the grounds sitting in the water for a longer period of time. That means you can get the benefits of a stronger cup as well, including higher caffeine levels.

Is Pour Over Coffee Healthier Than French Press?

Actually both pour over coffee and French press have very similar effects when it comes to health. While you’ll get a bit less of the potentially harmful effects of coffee through the pour over technique because the coffee is weaker, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy.

With a French press you’re going to get all of the coffee flavor, oils and more, which means you’re also getting all of the not so good aspects that can be bad for your health. With a pour over method you’re getting most of these as well since there is still no filter, but it doesn’t steep in these areas as long.

Is French Press Coffee Bad for You?

You may have heard quite a bit about whether or not French press coffee is bad for you, but it’s something that you want to think about. After all, you don’t want to find yourself drinking something that can cause you health problems.

Unfortunately, French press does have a few potential problems associated with its overall health. One of these is the presence of cafestrol, which occurs naturally in coffee and can lead to the creation of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body.

Unlike other types of coffee makers, like traditional drip versions, a French press does not use a paper filter. These filters can trap the cafestrol, which reduces the risk of high LDL cholesterol. But the French press skips over this and that means you could end up with some health risk.

If you choose to use a paper filter with your French press you can reduce this risk, though you’ll need to create your own paper filter in order to get it to work.

What Size French Press Should I Buy?

How much coffee do you want to make? If you’re looking at a French press you’ll find that it’s usually discussed in terms of how many cups it makes. But keep in mind that the French press is Italian, which means it’s not considering cup size the way you might.

These cups are about 4 ounces in total size and that means a 3 cup French press makes about 12 ounces of coffee. If you’re looking to buy a new French press think about how much coffee you drink or how many people are going to be drinking it.

You want a press that will allow you to make a cup (or two) for each person who expects to drink it. Just as you would brew a pot with enough coffee for everyone out of a drip coffee maker, you want to do the same with your French press.

Can You Put a Filter in a French Press?

The short answer is yes, but there’s a lot to consider about this. First, a French press is not designed to be used with a paper filter, which means that you’re not going to find a filter that’s made to easily fit into it.

Instead, you would need to cut a filter from a different type of coffee maker in order to get something that would fit. You would also spend a bit more on filters, which can cut down on the cost savings that you get with your French press.

Now, the French press uses a metal filter, which allows more coffee grounds to get through as well as the oils that are inherent to getting the right flavor from your coffee. This is part of what makes French press coffee so unique and so great tasting.

You will want to take a look at some of the studies that have been done, however, which show that not using a paper filter actually increases LDL cholesterol because the metal filter doesn’t get rid of cafestrol, which occurs in the coffee naturally.

By adding a paper filter you can get rid of the cafestrol, but you’re also going to get rid of some of the oils from the coffee. That means it’s not going to taste the same as it would normally from a French press and you’re going to miss out on some of the great flavor profile.

How Do You Dispose of Coffee Grounds in a French Press?

Every day you should be cleaning your French press to make sure you get rid of old coffee grounds, oils and anything else that might be stuck in there. If you don’t you could change the flavor of your coffee and that’s going to make you less likely to enjoy your press.

Every month or even a couple times per month you should actually soak the filter and wash the filter and carafe in the dishwasher. This will get you a deeper clean and make sure the entire unit is safe and ready to go.

How Long Do French Press Filters Last?

If your French press has a metal filter you shouldn’t need to replace it at all as long as you’re taking care of it properly. Make sure it’s cleaned each time you use the press and deep cleaned at least once every month.

If your French press has a filter screen, however, you’ll want to make sure that it’s also cleaned routinely and that you replace it approximately every year (though it may last longer). Make sure that you’re using stainless steel French press filters every time you replace it.

Summary and Conclusion

When it comes to enjoying your next cup of coffee going with a French press will definitely be a good way to go. You’ll be able to get the maximum amount of flavor out of each cup and you don’t have to worry about the added cost or time commitment that comes with traditional drip coffee makers (and the lower quality.

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