Are you frustrated getting good brewing results from your French Press? Here are some tips to help…
Now that you can buy a cheap French Press (also called a Press Pot) so many places, people seem to think they are missing something by not trying it out. Personally I love brewing in a press. The advantages are many:
- No paper filters to dispose of, to absorb aromatic coffee oils or to impart a “paper taste” to the coffee
- Total control over water temperature and brew time, unlike most auto-drip coffee maker that is rarely at correct brewing temperature (195-205ºF) when the water hits the coffee.
- It is simple, easy and quick.
- It is fairly easy to clean up.
- I don’t mind the additional sediment in the coffee, because there is also more body in the cup.
What are the main issues that result in bad French Press coffee?
- A dirty brewer. Especially if it has sat a while or is used infrequently. If it was left unclean, it’s hard to get all the old oils and residues out. And the screen! Many people don’t take it apart fully to clean on a regular basis. Use Urnex Cleancaf or similar, soaking the press in very hot water, every couple weeks.
- The Grind! It’s hard to get really good French Press coffee with a bad grinder. However see my #8 tip toward the bottom of this article … after plunging, if you let the press settle for 4 minutes, then very carefully and slowly, pour your cup, you will find a cleaner tasting brew with less bitterness, even if your grind quality was a bit uneven.
- Plus … all the other things wrong with brewing … but not specific to French press. Chief among these is poor water quality, or excessively soft or hard water, old stale coffee, water not at ideal temperature (I use 205 since the press itself cools down the brew).
Is French Press Brewing for everyone? No!
Here are some of the drawbacks of Press Pot coffee:
- Firstly, there is more sediment in the cup: You never want take that last sip. it’s sludge!
- To manage the sediment, you need a decent burr mill that can create an even grind. We don’t recommend brewing with a French Press if you are using a whirling blade grinder.
- French Press brewing is used to make fresh coffee to consume immediately …which is ideal. It is not good to leave the coffee in the press for any length of time. Tailor the size of the press or the amount you make to what can be consumed in 10 minutes or so. Don’t try to keep it warm. Don’t let the coffee sit longer in the press, even in the plunged position it continues to extract.
- For the above reason, I discourage the “travel press” design in which the press doubles as a cup and you drink out of it. If you need hot coffee for a longer period and want to use a press, decant the coffee into a thermos after brewing.
How do I brew coffee in a French Press?
Here are our French Press Brewing Instructions:
- Use the finest even grind coffee you can, but coarse enough to avoid having the grind pass through the filter. I use a grind just a few notches coarser than filter drip, and nowhere near a coarse multipurpose or percolator grind. The key to avoiding sediment is the evenness of the grind, and a burr grinder will give you this.
- Pull the lid and plunger out of the glass beaker. We recommend about 3.5 scoops (25.8 grams) for a 4T (16 oz) press or about 7 scoops (51.7 grams) for an 8T press. Many presses measure cups in 4 oz (about 125 ml), also called a Tasse. A 3 Tasse press makes about 12 ounces maximum. (That’s 1 mug of coffee for many people!) Buy a press that’s just a little larger than you need because you can always make less.
- Pour the correct amount of 195 to 205ºF water into the press, slowly at first to avoid creating a dry island of coffee grounds. You can stir the mixture with a spoon if there are dry grounds. Allow the coffee to float to the surface. Don’t overfill the press. The water/coffee should be a little below the bottom of the beaker spout.
- Pick up the plunger by the knob so that the lid is down against the screen. Place it lightly on top of the press so that it keeps the heat in, but does not start to push down on the coffee at all. Leave it for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute either remove the lid and briefly stir the coffee with a spoon, or (and this is what I do) carefully swirl the press in a circular motion to agitate the brew and make the grinds sink. If you removed the top, replace it.
- After a total infusion time of 4 to 6 minutes, begin to plunge. Hold the lid in place with one hand, and carefully start to push on the knob at the top to force the plunger screen downward, pushing the grinds with it to the bottom. Take care right at first, because it is easy to have the filter disc in crooked and allow a flurry of grounds to escape around it. If disaster strikes, don’t worry. Just pull out the plunger and lid completely, rinse quickly in hot water, and start over right away.
- Push steadily and the plunger should reach the bottom in 20-30 seconds or less. There will be some resistance.
- Now here is a game changer: After you plunge the French Press, do NOT serve it right away. Wait 3-4 minutes, without disturbing it, that is carrying it around etc. Then steadily lift and pour slowly. You will be amazed how this additional resting time allows, and a slow steady pour results in a cup with less sediment and less bitterness.
- Pour, serve, don’t save it! Coffee is best right away, within the first 10 minutes. Don’t try to keep it hot, just make more fresh coffee if you need it. Enjoy!
These are intended as a “starting point” for the respective type of brewing. Ultimately, you will figure out the best and most convenient ways to use these brewing devices, so please remake, twist, turn, distort, decomplile, torch, grind and brew these instructions to suit your own need!