How to Prepare Great Coffee Using a French Press

Posted on Thu, Jan 29, 2015

I have always been incredibly intrigued by the french press coffee brewing method.  It seemed as if all the cool, ultra hip kids were doing it. While I was outside looking in, asking how the heck do you make coffee with that thing. One day I decided to take matters into my own hands and buy myself a beautiful little glass french press (like this one) ...boy she was pretty but, gosh darn it I made really bad first.  Then I learned the ropes and fell in love with the amazingly rich results a french press prepared coffee has to offer. 

The simplistic approach to brewing coffee with a french press is is very appealing.  However, as simple as it is, it can be a bit time consuming.  For those of you like me who are used to popping in a K-cup, hitting brew on your Keurig and going on my marry way, using a french press may seem like a bit of a hassle. This is precisely why I save it for special occasions such as lazy Sunday mornings.  

There are three key element that determine your success:

- grind size

- water- type and temperature

- steep time

Let's start with grind size.  You should start with whole bean coffee but, we are by no means elitist around here, if you choose to use pre-ground that is okay with us. Whichever you choose, use a uniform medium coarse grind. A finer grind will result in weak coffee. On the contrary, if you go too coarse your coffee will taste bitter. A nice happy medium is your goal. Getting an even grind is more easily obtained with a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder.  But, I have a blade type simply because of the price and I am perfectly happy with the results. 

Next, what type of water should you use?  Filtered. Always. Tap water contains odors and heavy metals that will affect the taste. You have gone to this much trouble, don't ruin it by being lazy with your water choice. 

You should prepare your french coffee with water somewhere around 200 degrees.  There are constant arguments about what the perfect temperature is so please adjust to your liking.  A good rule of thumb is to bring the water just to a boil and pour 30 seconds later.  This seems to get the water temperature right where it needs to be.

Steep time.  I like three minutes but,  this is another element that is open to interpretation  I would go no more than five and no less than two.  Common sense will tell you what happens on either end of the spectrum- the longer you steep, the stronger the brew.

That all well and good but how do you use this gizmo?

1) Put your filtered water on the stove top to heat

2) While you are waiting grind your coffee (P.S. when you grind, if you are using a blade type unit, 7-8 pulses works nicely).

3) Add your now ground coffee to the french press.

4) Add the heated water.

5) Give it a gentle stir.

6) Place the plunger on the top of the carafe in the up position to preserve the heat.

7) Wait 2-5 minutes.

8) Push the plunger down slowly and evenly.

9) Pour and enjoy!

If you will not be serving your prepared coffee right away, you will want to transfer it to a separate carafe as it will continue to brew while sitting in the french press.

You will probably notice that this is more of a rustic type of coffee, with sediment and maybe even a few grinds. Personally, I am totally ok with that.  If it bothers you, try pressing the plunger down a little slower and more evenly.  Also, you may not want to use the last inch of coffee- that is where the sediment usually resides. 

You will also notice and incredible richness that you may have not experienced before.  This can be easily confused with strength. Its not "stronger" you are simply extracting more of the wonderful elements that make coffee coffee with this brew method. However, to adjust the "strength" add more water, less coffee and/or shorten your steep time. 

Three things you will need to brew with a french press (if you are careful you snag all three for under $40, another reason to love french press coffee brewing!):

Have you tried french press brewing before or where you too intimidated like me?

Additional information:

  • Confused about coffee terms and lingo?  Learn how to speak coffee like a pro here.
  • Need an excuse to drink more coffee?  Learn about the health benefits of coffee here.

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