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How to use a French press – an easy and classic way to delicious coffee

Expert advice on everything you need to know about how to use a French press

how to use a French press: gold cafetiere by Kitchen Craft
(Image credit: Kitchen Craft)

The traditional method of using a French press will provide a heavy, velvety coffee with coffee fines. But have you always wondered how to use a French press in a way to ensure you're getting the tastiest brew possible? You've come to the right place.

In a bid to ensure you're maximizing the results of one of the best coffee makers for barista-worthy brews, we've spoke to top coffee experts. So what to know about using a French press?

Artisan coffee makers Grind say: 'The French press is extremely simple to use, requires minimal preparation, and makes great tasting, full-bodied coffee. It's classic, timeless, and one of the oldest, most reliable ways of brewing filter coffee at home.'

How to use a French press

Below, you can find everything you need to know about how to use a French press, from the ultimate brewing time to the right amount of coffee.

What is a French press?

A French Press is an immersion coffee brewer. They are also know as cafetières and plunge pots, depending on where you are located in the world. 

'As the name suggests the ground coffee is immersed in the hot water so that the coffee solubles can be extracted from the beans,' says James Gray, co-founder of Barista & Co

'The filter is then pressed down to prevent the non-solubles, namely grounds, getting into the cup. The pressing down of the filter has little to do with the coffee strength, it is purely there to help get a cleaner cup of coffee.'

Choosing the best coffee for your French press

'The choice of coffee is very much personal and I would always suggest trying various coffees to find the one that suits your taste,' says James Gray. 

'French presses are equally as good for brewing lighter more tea-like coffees from the likes of Ethiopia or bolder coffees from Brazil – it is very much personal preference. 

'The thing that is very important is a consistent grind and, in the case of French presses, that grind should be a medium to coarse grind. 

'We tend to grind more to medium for French presses as we recommend a longer brew time. If your budget allows, you can get a good electric coffee burr grinder for just over $130  (£100); anything below this, such as blade grinders, are a waste of money as the grind is so inconsistent and leads to a poor cup of coffee. 

'If your budget doesn’t allow this then ask your local roaster to grind for you.'

How much coffee do you need for a French press?

This depends on size, however the rule of thumb is 15g of coffee to 250g of water, which is also approximately 250ml of water. 

James says: 'It's important to remember that traditionally French press sizing is based on cups with a small 350ml one being three cups and large one liter being eight cups. 

'This can be confusing when buying online as the cup size relates to the old tasse cups sizes, in modern size standards a three cup is one mug and an eight cup is three mugs. It is well worth putting your French press on the kitchen scales to make your first brew as getting the coffee to water ratio right makes a big difference.'

How long is French press brew time?

Brew time may be slightly longer than you expected.

Barista & Co's James Gray says: 'We have been making French presses for 10 years and spent a great deal of time testing this in our roastery. 

'We feel the optimum brew time is seven to eight minutes. In addition to this slightly longer brew time, we suggest a medium to coarse grind for a fuller flavor.'

How to use a French press: a step-by-step guide

  1. Remove the lid and filter and half fill the glass beaker with hot water to heat up the beaker, leave for 45 seconds.
  2. Empty the water and add your desired amount of coarse ground coffee or the correct coffee for your cafetiere coffee press. We recommend 15g of coffee to 250g (250ml) of water. 
  3. Pour in freshly boiled water (ideally filtered water) so it just covers the coffee and then give it a stir. This is called blooming (or degassing) and allows the CO² to escape, leave for 30 seconds.
  4. Top up with your remaining water to the maximum fill line or your desired water level and then stir well.
  5. Insert the lid and filter but do not plunge, leave to brew for 5-8 minutes depending on your preference.
  6. After brewing slowly press down on the knob to plunge the filter through the coffee then serve.
  7. We recommend serving all the coffee immediately or pouring into a separate vessel if you would like to keep for later, this will prevent over brewing and the associated bitter taste.

How to make coffee without a French press

There are many other brewing techniques and ways to make coffee, which include gravity brewers such as pour-over and pressurised immersion brewers such as the Twist Press or Aeropress. 

'Pour over is the simplest and seemingly easiest technique to make a cup of coffee but this comes with a caveat and that is that this technique can be very inconsistent and really is best if you can use your scales,' suggests James Gray. 

'There is a massive community of coffee lovers who are constantly striving with equipment and methods to achieve consistent pour-over coffee; done well it can’t be beaten and who doesn't love the smell of fresh coffee brewing in front of them? 

'If you prefer a stronger cup of coffee then opting for a pressurised immersion brewer can achieve this. They do not make an espresso but will give you a short black coffee that packs more punch than an Americano. This type of brewing does take a little more effort but the result is well worth it if you’re a stronger coffee drinker.'

Ruth Doherty

Ruth Doherty is an interiors writer who has worked for Homes & Gardens and Ideal Home magazines among many others.