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What Is a French Press? A Complete Guide

French press with coffee inside

The French Press is one of the most popular manual coffee brewing devices out there. Not only is it the name given to the device, but it is also the name for the brewing technique. Some other names commonly used include the cafetière, coffee press, and coffee plunger. If you want to know more about what is a French Press then keep reading.

If you are new to manual coffee brewing methods then you probably won’t know how to use a French Press. Although it can be easy to grasp, there are certain timings, techniques, and ratios that must be followed to ensure you get the best brew possible. If the process is done incorrectly, you could ruin the experience of using a French Press.

Although there are many other brewing methods that require less time, effort, and are more convenient, the cup of coffee that a French Press creates is worth all the time and effort. Not only does it allow you to extract some of the best flavors from the coffee grounds,  but the French Press allows you to create a strong and smooth coffee. 

As the process is manual, you will have full control of the time, grind size, water temperature, strength, and ultimately the flavor of the coffee. Aside from creating a perfect cup of coffee, a French Press is also very handy to travel or commute with. You can bring it on your favorite hike or camping trip, since all you need is hot water and coffee grounds. 

Related: Best French Press coffee makers.



What Is a French Press?

The French Press is a manual coffee brewing device made up of a glass cylinder and a plunger mechanism. They come in a range of different sizes which can be enough for 1 cup or 15 cups depending on which you choose.

There are also different styles of French Press, you can get stainless steel, plastic, and other types. It is recommended that you invest a little more money into the Frech Press as the cheaper ones tend to fall apart (the plunger) and ruin the coffee.

It is best to use freshly ground coffee at a medium-coarse ground size. This is then placed in the glass chamber, the hot water added slowly, and then stirred. Finally, the plunger is lowered just below the waterline to allow the coffee to steep for 2-5 minutes. In order to maximize the extraction process of the oils and the flavor, you need to slowly push the plunger down.

A French Press can be enjoyed at any time of day, but it is best suited to breakfast times. You can make a large pot to sit on the table for the whole family to enjoy. There is a common misconception that French Press coffee takes too long, but once you nail the process down, it can take minutes to get a great-tasting carafe of coffee for the whole family.

In some countries, the French Press is also referred to as a cafetière, which is French for glass coffee pot. 

Related: French Press VS Aeropress

The Story Behind the French Press

In 1852, two French investors (Mayer and Delforge) first patented a precursor of the French Press but on August 5, 1924, the first officially published patent was filed by a Frenchman named Marcel-Pierre Paquet dit Jolbert.

The story of how the French Press came about is a long one, and there are many modifications that happened to it before it came to the final French Press design we have come to love. After the first patented design in 1924, two more modifications were made – one in 1929 by Milanese designer Attilio Calimani and another one in 1958 by Faliero Bondanini. 

The most iconic design of a French Press is the narrow cylindrical beaker, either made from glass or plastic. French Press comes with a lid, a nylon mesh filter, and a plunger that sits perfectly at the top of the cylinder.

However, there are now different types of French Press being created that include stainless steel options. Not to mention other takes on the plunging mechanism, such as the Aeropress.



French Press Guide

In order to create the best coffee, follow the recommended French Press guide below. The process of brewing coffee using a French Press is to brew, press, and strain all in one container. Make sure you know the best French press coffee ratio before preparing your brew.

Related: What is a Chemex

The Best Coffee for French Press

When shopping for coffee beans, this would depend on your coffee preference. If you want a smooth, and sweeter cup then it’s highly recommended you buy Arabica beans. If you want a stronger cup with more caffeine content, then you should buy Robusta beans. 

The variations of coffee after that are your choice, you can do flavored beans, dark roasted, or just regular Starbucks beans. Our particular favorite is the Blonde Roast or Sumatra beans from Starbucks. 

It is recommended that you grind the beans fresh but if you don’t have time or don’t want to, you can use pre-ground coffee.

Related: Does French Press have more caffeine?

The Best Coffee Grind Size

The recommended grind size is medium-coarse to coarse ground coffee. The reason behind this is that it reduces the presence of tiny particles that the filter might not be able to catch. When finer grinds are used, there’s a chance that they will get stuck in the mesh filter and sometimes can slip right through it into your cup. If you don’t want a mucky cup, then try to avoid a finer grind. 

Also, a coarse grind will retail more flavors than a finer grind, so it’s always best to use this grind type where possible.

The Best French Press Ratio

The ratio of coffee to water should be 1:12 for a strong brew or more commonly 1:15 for a standard brew. This means that for every 1 gram of coffee, you have 12 grams of water. You can adjust this ratio depending on your preferences, but it might take some trial and error to get it right.

You can use our French Press ratio calculator to help.

The Best Water Temperature

The optimum temperature of water you should be using is around 90 Degrees Celsius or 195 Degrees Farenheit. There are temperature gauges you can add to your kettle, or even purchase a gooseneck kettle which will allow you to control the pouring technique too.

The Best Steeping Time

This varies depending on who you ask. Generally, we recommend between 2 to 5 minutes. 2 is the minimum, and that’s if you are in a rush. If possible, try to leave it for 3 minutes as an average marker.


How to Make Coffee in a French Press

French Press full with coffee by window

How to Make Coffee in a French Press

Print Recipe
How to make the best cup of coffee using a French Press coffee maker.
Course Drinks
Cuisine French
Keyword Coffee, French Press
Prep Time 4 mins
Brewing Time 4 mins
Total Time 8 mins
Servings 1 Cup
Cost $5

Equipment

  • Kettle
  • French Press / Cafetière
  • Coffee Grinder
  • Scales
  • Spoon
  • Cup

Ingredients

  • 8 Grams Ground Coffee
  • 200 ML Boiling Water

Instructions

  • The first thing that you need to remember is to grind your coffee beans (unless you are using pre-ground coffee). The reason for this is to be able to get the best quality coffee with more flavors of the coffee bean. If you don’t have a grinder, don’t worry, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind your beans. The proper ground size in medium-coarse to coarse ground coffee. 
    You should grind 8g of coffee per 200ml of water.
    If you are using pre-ground coffee, it will tell you on the packet how many scoops, so you don't have to weigh them.
  • Boil the water and let it rest for a while. Remember to use hot water rather than boiling. The best temperature for a good cup of French Press coffee is between 195F to 200F. 
  • Add the coffee into the French Press. Depending on the size of your French Press, always remember to follow the 1:15 ratio of coffee to water. This means that for every gram of coffee, you need 15 grams of water or to better convert it, for every 3 tablespoons of coffee, use 1 cup of water.
  • Pre-wet your coffee grounds to create a more aromatic coffee with intense flavors. The reason behind this is to let your coffee bloom first before the final process of brewing. All you need to do is pour a small amount of water over your coffee grounds for about 30 seconds so the chemical reaction can take place.
  • Finally pour the rest of the hot water over the coffee grounds. Most French Press guides tell you to stir the coffee before putting water in, but we don't recommend it. The best you can do is just let the coffee sit. When the coffee is left unstirred, the suspension extraction provides a better and flavorful cup.
  • Wait for around 4 minutes for the coffee to be fully brewed. After the coffee has extracted, slowly push the plunger all the way down. Make sure that you don’t get coffee grounds on the other side of the filter. 
  • Pour the freshly brewed coffee into a cup and enjoy! Once you’re done, make sure to pour out the extracted coffee grounds and properly clean out your French Press for your next coffee break.

The Final Sip

When brewing using a French Press, remember that it needs to follow a specific order and requires time to brew perfectly. It might seem intimidating at first to do but you’ll get the hang of it the more you practice. Remember the 1:15 coffee to water ratio and always use a medium-coarse ground coffee in order to avoid sediments in the cup. 


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