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How To Make the Perfect French Press Coffee Every Time

How to make the perfect French Press Coffee

French Press Coffee Tutorial

Are you looking to up your coffee game without breaking the bank?  Look no further than the humble French Press.  It is extremely inexpensive (as cheap as about $20), and requires no additional equipment other than a method of boiling water and grinding coffee (you can even use pre-ground!).

Depending on how you grind your coffee, and how much body you like in your cup, French Press brewing can take as little as 3-4 minutes, or up to 10 minutes, if you want a lighter body and no grounds in the bottom of your cup.

In this tutorial, we'll go over a couple different options when it comes to grind level, water temperature, timing, and common issues and how to fix them.

Step 1: How to measure

There are two ways to measure your water and coffee - either by weight or by volume.  Either will work, but weighing your coffee will give you more consistent results between brews as compared to measuring by volume.  That said, you can make excellent coffee with either method, but if you're going for consistency, go for weighing your ingredients.

Measuring by Weight

Ratios for coffee to water vary widely, and ultimately it all comes down to personal preference.  You can go as much as a 10:1 water to coffee ratio, or as low as 18:1 or so.  Using more coffee will lead to a stronger brew with a little bit more body, and using more water will lead to a lighter body with a little bit more of a watered down cup.

I usually use about a 14:1 ratio of water to coffee.  For my normal morning cup, this works out to 35 grams of coffee and 500 grams of water.  Keep in mind that you will lose a little bit of water as steam when you boil it, and the coffee will absorb some as well, so you should boil more water than you ultimately want to use, to make sure there's room for that loss.

Measuring by Volume

In general, when measuring by volume, you should use about a tablespoon of coffee for every 4 fluid ounces of water.  This can (and should) be tweaked to your personal taste.  A tablespoon of coffee per 3 ounces of water will make your cup stronger, and a tablespoon in 5 ounces of water will make it a little bit weaker.

Here are rough estimates for measuring by volume, using my favorite french press brand, Bodum:

  • Bodum 3 cup (12 oz) = 3-4 tablespoons of coffee
  • Bodum 4 cup (17 oz) = 4-5 tablespoons of coffee 
  • Bodum 8 cup (34 oz) = 9-10 tablespoons of coffee
  • Bodum 12 cup (51 oz) = 13-15 tablespoons of coffee

Bodum Brazil French Press

 

Step 2: Start Heating Your Water

The French Press is a very forgiving form of coffee brewing, and doesn't require a specific temperature for your water.  Generally, just below boiling is best, to avoid scalding the coffee, but it doesn't matter too much.  To achieve that temperature, I usually just boil my water in an electric kettle, and the swirl it around in the kettle for 20 or 30 seconds to cool it off by a few degrees before pouring it over the coffee.

There is also no specific pouring technique for French Press, so you don't need a particular type of kettle, but a Gooseneck kettle will give you more control over where you're pouring, if you'd like that.

This Hamilton Beach Electric Kettle is a great option for a kettle with a regular spout, and can be used for all kinds of applications, including tea.

This Gooseneck Electric Kettle from Willow & Everett is a nice upgrade over the regular kettle, and will give you more control over your pour.

 

Step 3: Grinding Your Coffee

If you have a coffee grinder, use it!  Freshly ground coffee will have more flavor than pre-ground, and will of course taste fresher.  It will also have a stronger aroma, and more pronounced flavor notes than pre-ground coffee.

Usually for a French Press, you should use a medium-coarse grind for your coffee - something similar in texture to coarse sea salt.  This, just like every variable in coffee brewing, can and should be adjusted to your personal taste.  A finer grind will result in higher extraction of the coffee (and potentially over-extraction, so be careful), and a heavier body, as more of the coffee may slip through the filter.

Step 4: Brewing!

There are two main methods of brewing in a French Press.  The first is quick (3-4 minutes), and will result in a heavier bodied coffee that may leave some coffee in the bottom of your cup with a silty texture.  The second method is a little bit slower (9-10 minutes), but will have a lighter body and no coffee grounds in the bottom of your cup.

Method 1 - Quick Method:

  1. Take out the top of the French Press, along with the filter.
  2. Add your coffee to the French Press
  3. Add your water over the coffee, and try to make sure all of it gets hydrated, but pouring all around the press (this is where a gooseneck kettle may be helpful)
  4. Give it a quick stir (this is optional, but it helps to make sure all of the coffee gets hydrated)
  5. Steep for 3-4 minutes (you can adjust this timing to your preference).  If you like your coffee very hot, you may want to put the lid back on the French Press while it steeps, but don't push the filter down yet!
  6. Once the coffee is finished steeping, slowly press down the filter.  This should take 30 seconds.  The reason you should do it slowly is to avoid agitating the grounds in the bottom, to help keep particles out of your cup.  There should be a little bit of resistance - if there isn't, try a finer grind, and if there's too much resistance, you may want to try grinding a little coarser.
  7. Pour and enjoy!  If you don't want sediment in the bottom of your cup, leave a little bit of water in the bottom of the press when you pour, so the majority of the coffee silt stays in the press

Method 2 - Slow and Steady (recommended):

  1. Follow steps 1-5 above
  2. After the 3-4 minute steep, take the top off the top of the press and use two spoons to skim the top of the coffee.  There will usually be a little bit of foam and coffee sludge at the top.
  3. Put the top back on and slowly press the filter down about 1/2 inch into the liquid.  This is to clean the grinds off the side of the press, and get them into the liquid so they can sink to the bottom.
  4. Steep for another 5 minutes without disturbing the press.  This is so that all of the sediment remaining in the press can sink all the way to the bottom.  Check out your press while this is happening, you can see it!
  5. After the second steep, don't press down the filter!  That's right, we aren't going to press the filter at all in this method.  We're just going to use it as a strainer.
  6. Gently pour out the coffee into your cup and enjoy!  If you've done it correctly, there should be no sediment at all in the bottom of your cup.

 

Troubleshooting:

Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we just need to adjust to our personal preference, and that's absolutely okay.  Here's how to solve some common problems:

Coffee is Weak

Either your grind is too coarse, you used too much water, or you didn't brew long enough.  Try changing one variable at a time, so you don't overshoot your target.

Coffee is Too Strong

Either your grind is too fine, you didn't use enough water (or used too much coffee), or you brewed too long and it's over-extracted.  If it tastes bitter or otherwise unpleasant, it's probably over-extracted.  You can try brewing for a shorter time, using a coarser grind, or using more water.  Also, keep in mind that if you're used to drip coffee, French Press coffee will usually be inherently stronger by nature.

Coffee is Bitter

Your coffee is likely over-extracted, particularly if you're using a dark roast, which has more bitter qualities to it naturally.  Try using a coarser grind, shorter steep time, or even a lighter roast coffee.  Medium roast is a great middle ground between flavor notes and roast level.  You may also want to try lowering your water temperature to about 195° F.

Coffee is Gritty / Too Much Sediment

If you used Method 1, try Method 2!  If done properly, there will be zero sediment in your cup, and you can drink it down to the last drop.  If you used Method 2 and still have sediment, make sure you aren't agitating your coffee after you skim the top, so that the coffee grounds don't get stirred back into the liquid.  Also make sure your French Press has a high quality filter.  Bodum is known for their excellent filters and great price - see the link above for where to get one.

 

Cleaning

If you use your French Press every day, a quick rinse after use is fine, with a more thorough cleaning once a week or so, to avoid oil buildup on the inside of the press.  If you use it less often, you may want to do a thorough cleaning more often, so the oils aren't sitting for a long time between brews.

 

Final Thoughts

French press is my favorite way to brew coffee at home.  It's inexpensive, extremely easy, and when done right, can make an incredible cup of coffee.  It's also extremely versatile, and can even be used to make cold brew!  If you have any questions about your technique, or if you'd like coffee recommendations, feel free to reach out to us by email at support@sevenstarcoffee.com.

And remember - if the coffee that winds up in your cup is how you like it, then you made it correctly :)

Happy brewing!

 

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