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How to Use a French Press?

Seeking to know more about French press coffee makers? In this article, you’ll learn more about how the French press works, the best ratio of coffee to water when using this coffee maker, and a guide on using it.

French press

The Basics of French Press

The term French press refers to a manual coffee maker that brews heavy-bodied and strong coffee. It’s a process you can easily do at home. In this technique, the brewed coffee keeps the flavors and oils of the coffee beans. Consequently, the coffee has a bold and strong taste with a rich flavor. It’s stronger than that made using the drip method.

The coffee maker has a simple design that hasn’t changed a lot since the time it was invented in 1929. It has a chamber for putting water and coffee grounds. There’s a lid housing a plunger for separating coffee grounds from the brewed coffee upon completing the coffee-making process. Although it’s known as a French press, this coffee maker was first made in Italy.

There’re several reasons why coffee lovers like using this coffee maker. It doesn’t need a lot of space. Also, it works manually without any electricity and doesn’t use a paper filter. Besides, water doesn’t come into contact with plastic while brewing. Consequently, it’s an environment-friendly coffee maker and great for anyone who has concerns about health and BPA risks.

You can use this coffee maker to brew hot coffee, cold brew, and iced coffee.


The Functionality of a French Press

It functions by steeping coarse grounds in very hot water. To do this, you’ll add grounds to the appliance, boil water, and pour the boiled water over the grounds. After allowing the grounds to steep in the hot water for 4 minutes, you’ll press the plunger downward to filter the used grounds. Once done, your hot brew is ready for drinking.

It’s an easy-to-use manual coffee brewing appliance. It requires little precision and effort, unlike other coffee-making methods such as the pour over method. It’s also suitable for beginners who want to make tasty coffee.


Sizes Available

French presses come in various sizes including 12 ounces, 17 ounces, 34 ounces, and 51 ounces. The best size for daily use is the 34-ounce option. If you want to be making coffee to serve a crowd or guests, the 51-ounce option is the best. However, the 51-ounce option is not great for daily coffee brewing.


Stainless Steel vs. Glass French Press

The materials used in making French presses are stainless steel and glass. Glass is a great material for making French presses and healthy for kitchen use. However, glass is delicate and has to be handled with care.

Stainless steel French presses are great for their tough construction. They don’t break easily. Stainless steel is easier to handle and better for busy usage than glass. Stainless steel also retains heat better than glass. However, you should clean it or stir coffee carefully.

If you want to make hot coffee with your French press, ensure you serve the coffee as soon as you finish brewing. Avoid leaving the brewed coffee in the appliance as you’ll over-extract the coffee grounds and end up having a bitter brew. Thus, it’s recommended to brew only what you can drink once. Any leftover coffee should be poured into a carafe or thermos.


The ratio for Brewing Coffee in a French Press

It’s important to use the right amount of coffee grounds with your French press to make tasty coffee. The recommended amount of coffee is exactly 2 tablespoons or 15 grams (coarse grounds) for every 8 ounces water.


French Press Brewing Time

Upon heating water, you’ll steep coffee grounds in the water for 4 minutes. The entire process can take less than 10 minutes, including the time needed to prepare the appliance and boil water.


Best Grind Size for Your French Press

It’s recommended to use coarse coffee grounds when brewing coffee with your French press. The grounds should be of the same size as sea salt. They should be larger in size than those used in making drip coffee.

You can easily tell whether you’re using the right grind size when pressing down the filter. In case the coffee grounds are fine, you’ll find it hard to press down the filter. If the ground beans are coarser, you won’t feel any resistance when pressing down the filter.


Best Coffee Roast to Use with Your French Press

Some coffee lovers assume that only dark roast beans should be used in a French press. However, this assumption isn’t factual. You can use any roast level, including light roasts, medium roasts, and dark roasts. All flavor notes in the coffee beans are kept when using this coffee maker. Thus, choose the roast depending on your preferences.

In case you’re using this coffee-making method for your love for strong coffee, then use dark roasts. However, if you prefer this method because it brews tasty coffee, being free of plastic, or you prefer a mild tasting coffee, then consider using medium or light roast.

Ultimately, you can use any preferred coffee. Just ensure the beans are freshly roasted to brew the best-tasting coffee.

You can buy coffee beans online or visit a local coffee shop. Preferably, buy freshly roasted coffee beans. If you don’t own a grinder, some coffee shops will be more than glad to do the grinding for you. After all, buying from a local coffee shop would be supporting a local business. If you’re buying coffee grounds online, make sure you order for grounds meant for use with a French press. The grounds should be coarse.


Best Water Temperature for Your French Press

The best temperature for brewing coffee with your French press is about 195 degrees F. However, it’s not a must to use a thermometer. Hot water that’s allowed for rest for some seconds after boiling has attained this temperature. You can allow the water to boil, turn off the heat, and give it about 5 to 10 seconds to settle. Then pour it over the coffee grounds.


Tips for Making Tasty Coffee in Your French Press

Tip #1- Buy the Best French press

You should avoid buying cheap alternatives. Buy a top-quality model for the best results.


Tip #2- Brew with newly roasted beans

You can only make the best brew by using newly roasted beans. They’ll make the best-tasting coffee with maximum flavors.


Tip #3- Grind coffee beans just before brewing

Although you can use stored coffee grounds for brewing, the best tasting coffee is the one brewed with freshly ground beans. Thus, only grind the amount of coffee beans you’ll use for the day.


Tip #4- Avoid brewing with distilled or softened water

It’s advisable to brew coffee with filtered or tap water instead of distilled or softened water. Hard water tends to extract more flavor from coffee grounds than distilled or soft water. If the tap water in your home is treated and clean, it’s safe for brewing coffee. However, if the tap water has a foreign taste or smell, or it’s not clean or safe for consumption, then use bottled or filtered water.


Tip #5- Use the right ratio when adding water to coffee

Don’t add excess coffee or water. Similarly, don’t use too little coffee or too little water.


Tip #6- Steep for exactly 4 minutes

Only steep for exactly 4 minutes for the hot water to extract enough coffee flavors. Steeping longer will over-extract the flavors and your coffee will have a bitter taste.


Tip #7- Avoid leaving the coffee in the appliance after brewing

Once you’re done brewing, pour out any leftover brew into a carafe or thermos to prevent any over-extraction.


How to Make Coffee with a French Press

use French press

Now that you’ve learnt more about the French press, you can read on to learn how to make tasty coffee with this appliance. Here’re the steps to follow:

Step #1

First, measure the right amount of coffee. Use 2 tablespoons coffee (equivalent to 15 grams) per 8 ounces water. Only use coarse grounds. For instance, if you’re using a 34-ounce French press, you’ll need 32 ounces water and 8 tablespoons coffee (equivalent to 60 grams).


Step #2

Warm the appliance by rinsing it with some hot water. Add the ground coffee.


Step #3

Boil some water. Once boiled, turn off the heat and allow it a few seconds for the temperature to go a little lower. 10 seconds should be enough for the water to attain the recommended temperature. Add the hot water to the appliance. Stir the water and coffee mixture. Ensure all the coffee grounds are fully saturated in the water.


Step #4

Give the coffee 4 minutes to steep.


Step #5

Next, press the plunger down gently. Doing so will separate the grounds from the brew. Serve the coffee immediately. Store any leftover brew in the thermos or carafe.


Is It Safe To Consume Coffee Made With A French Press?

Essentially, coffee makers that use paper filters get rid of most coffee oils when brewing coffee. However, the French press doesn’t require paper filters. Thus, coffee brewed with this coffee maker has a higher amount of cafestol than other brewing methods that use paper filters. Excessive cafestol elevates cholesterol.


Drip vs. French Press

While drip coffee makers brew coffee by pouring very hot water on medium ground coffee, French presses brew by steeping coarse grounds in water.

There’re two main reasons why coffee brewed with a French press is stronger with a deeper taste than coffee brewed with a drip coffee maker. One of the reasons is that coffee grounds come into contact with coffee grounds when brewing with a French press. Thus, there’s maximum extraction. With a drip coffee machine, hot water is poured over coffee grounds slowly, meaning there’s shorter contact with the water, thus less extraction.

The second reason is that paper filters in drip coffee makers filter out a high amount of coffee oils. Once the oils are removed, the brew is light and clean with a light flavor.

One of the reasons why you should choose the French press is that it costs less than a drip machine. Also, it’s smaller and works manually without electricity. Its brewing chamber doesn’t have any plastic material.

On the other hand, a drip coffee maker is great for anyone who wants to make a lot of coffee and keep it hot for longer periods. With French presses, you have to consume or store all the coffee you’ve brewed.

Although the French press is among the easiest coffee brewing method with manual functionality, drip machines are also easy to use as they’re fully automated. With a drip machine, you only need to put enough coffee grounds in the filter, then turn it on to start brewing without further intervention. Some drip machines are programmable such that you can set it to brew at a certain time. For instance, you can set it at night to brew coffee during the morning.


Pour Over vs. French Press

Pour over method works almost similar to drip machines. However, with the pour over method, you pour very hot water slowly over the coffee beans placed on a filter. With this method, you get a flavored and rich brew, but with a light and clean taste.

Also, pour over coffee makers don’t require any electricity or much space. You just need coffee grounds, hot water, and paper filters. Besides, it’s easier to cleanse a drip machine than a French press. With a drip machine, you simply dispose of the used grounds, then rinse out the dripper.

However, the drip method requires a lot of attention throughout the brewing process. You pour enough hot water manually and slowly over the coffee grounds, a process that requires practice to learn. Regardless, coffee made with the pour over method is tasty and worth the time and effort. Besides, you control the entire brewing process.

The slow brewing process adds charm to the daily coffee brewing ritual among coffee lovers. Thus, it’s a process you’ll enjoy.

With the drip method, you’ll only make 1 or 2 cups per brew. Thus, you’ll repeat the brewing process to brew more than 2 cups.


Chemex vs. French Press

A Chemex is a charming and sophisticated coffee maker. It brews clean coffee and extracts maximum flavor notes from the beans. Its coffee-making process works almost the same as that of a drip machine. However, a Chemex can brew several cups per brewing process.

Just like drip makers, Chemex coffee makers require maximum attention throughout the brewing process. Also, it requires time and practice to use a Chemex properly. As a result, French presses are simpler to use than Chemex.

A Chemex should be handled with care. However, its design is extremely charming. It’s also a great choice for anyone who wants to brew coffee using a brewing method that’s similar to the drip method but with the ability to make many cups per brew.


Aeropress vs. French Press

The Aeropress is loved by many coffee lovers, especially travelers. It’s lightweight and doesn’t break easily. Thus, you can travel with an Aeropress without worrying about its safety.

The Aeropress boasts of being a very fast coffee maker. You can brew 1 cup in approximately 60 seconds upon heating the water.

Also, an Aeropress is inexpensive. Besides, it brews coffee with clean and clear flavors. Its brews don’t have any bitterness. Also, there are no issues of sludge settling in the cup.

You can easily clean an Aeropress. Unlike with French presses where you remove the used coffee grounds by scooping them out, with an Aeropress, the cap is removable. Upon removing the cap, you press the puck holding the coffee grounds in place and pour them out into a trash can or compost. Next, you rinse it out. With that, your Aeropress is clean.

However, an Aeropress brews 1 cup per brewing cycle. Also, it’s made of plastic.


Final Words

The French press brews strong and tasty coffee. It’s among the easiest coffee brewing methods. With these tips in mind, you’ll find it easier to make tasty coffee with your French press.


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