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How to brew the best French Press Coffee

In this post you’ll learn:

  • How to make the best French Press Coffee
  • How does a French Press work?
  • What is the best grind size for French Press coffee
  • How long to brew French Press Coffee

Quick Read: Pour 900g (900ml – about 4 cups) of boiling water over 60g (8-9tbs) of medium ground coffee. Wait 4 minutes. Stir very gently. Wait 4-5 more minutes for sediment to settle. Pour coffee through the screen into mug without plunging. Full French Press recipe is at the bottom on this post!

Written by Jeff Mooney, Certified Q-Grader and Head Roaster of Folly Coffee Roasters

How to make French Press Coffee

French Press Coffee

How French Press coffee works: Steeping Coffee in Water

The French Press is one of the easiest ways to start making great coffee at home. It doesn’t take long to master and makes a nice bold cup. Because it makes a bold cup, we recommend using coffee beans with stronger flavors vs. a more delicate, tea-like coffee. Our SOB Espresso is a great option for a full bodied-rich French Press coffee.

The French Press is an immersion brewer meaning that coffee is submerged and left to steep in water rather than pouring water through coffee and a filter (infusion). By brewing this way, you are letting the hot water extract the delicious soluble compounds from the coffee over a set period of time. It’s the simplest way to brew coffee. Pour water on coffee and wait. That’s it. Well…mostly.

There are only a few variables that will majorly affect how your coffee tastes. Those are your grind size, the ratio of coffee to water, the time your coffee brews, and water temperature. The ratio, brewing time, and water temperature for this recipe are fixed so all you need to master is getting the grind size right.

French Press Grind size: It matters – make it medium (with a burr grinder)

Grind size is all about surface area. Grinding your coffee increases the surface area of the beans and allows more of the coffee to be exposed to water. The more surface area exposed to water (i.e. the finer the grind) the faster water can penetrate the grounds and pull flavors out of the coffee. I recommend a quality burr grinder for the best coffee grind. A burr grinder creates more consistency of grind size when compared to a blade grinder. The Baratza Encore Conical Burr Grinder is a great entry level home burr grinder.

Because brewing with a French Press means that coffee is in constant contact with water, this extraction happens very quickly. Using too fine of a grind will result in quickly overshooting the good flavors and pull out some negative flavors like bitterness and dryness. These are signals of over extracting or pulling too many solubles out of the coffee. On the other hand, if we start with too course of a grind the water will not penetrate enough of the coffee leaving some desired sweetness and body inside causing the brew to taste sour and thin.

We want to hit the sweet spot of deliciousness which means using closer to a medium grind which allows the water to penetrate the grounds and return with the extracted solubles. Because this is one of the determining factors of how your coffee tastes, be willing to experiment with the grind size from brew to brew to find which size tastes good to you.

Coffee Grind Size for French Press

Picture of coffee grind size for French Press

How Long to Brew French Press Coffee

Timing: It kind of matters – make it longer

A French Press myth is that you should brew for 4 minutes and that’s it. However, it is okay to let your brew time run much longer and will in fact result in a better cup.

The first reason is the water will extract nearly all of the flavor compounds from coffee that the grind size allows within the first few minutes. The rate at which hot water extracts flavor out of the grounds will decrease significantly as the temperature cools and the brewing water fills with a higher percentage of dissolved coffee solids, but it will continue to extract more flavor without becoming bitter.

Secondly, more time will allow for the suspended coffee sediment to sink down to the bottom of the brewer resulting in a cleaner cup free of the unpleasant sludge a French Press is known for. So, allow the coffee to brew for the the customary 4 minutes, give the crust of grounds at the top a little stir, and then wait another 4-5 minutes. This extra time both allows the coffee more time to extract, results in a cleaner cup, and gives the brew a little time to cool to drinkable temperature.

To add some extra clarity in this step, skim off the layer of foam and remaining grounds on the top of the slurry (picture below).

French Press Coffee stir

Remove the foam after grounds settle for a cleaner cup

Finishing up: Pour it through the strainer, don’t plunge

When the time has finally come (9-10 minutes) you are ready to pour your coffee. This means we get to plunge right? NO. Plunging will stir up all of the extra fine coffee sediment that took an extra 5 minutes to go away! Don’t let the waiting time go to waste. Push the plunger until it just touches the top of the coffee and we are going to pour through it like strainer. Gently pour into your mug or carafe to serve. Enjoy!

French Press coffee pour

Pour the coffee through the strainer without plunging fully

Full Recipe:

60g (8-9tbs) whole bean coffee
900g (900ml) of hot water (just off boil, 195-205 Fahrenheit)

Step 1: Use good coffee
Step 2: Grind 60g of coffee to a medium coarseness and add it to the press – It should look about size of table salt
Step 3: Pour 900g of hot water in over the coffee in a circle motion trying to hit all dry grounds
~Wait 4 Minutes~
Step 4: Break the crust of grounds that has formed on the top of your brew with a gentle shallow stir and let the grounds sink to the bottom.
Step 5 (optional): Use two spoons to scoop off extra foam remaining on top of the brew.
Step 6: Replace cap and plunger to help retain heat and push screen down only to the point of touching the coffee.
~Wait 4-5 minutes~
Step 7: Hold the stem of the plunger steady and pour the coffee through the screen into your mug or carafe to stop the brewing process.
Step 8: Drink and enjoy!

Note: If your brew didn’t turn out the way you liked, start by adjusting the grind size. If it was too bold and bitter use a courser grind. If it was too light and a little sour use a finer grind. If you are using a blade grinder or don’t have control over your grind size, adjust the coffee to water ratio. Keep your water volume the same. Use more coffee to fix a light and sour brew. Use less coffee to balance out a bold and bitter brew.

Interested in learning how to make the best cold brew at home? Check out this post!

SOURCES:

French Press Method based on the recipe by James Hoffman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st571DYYTR8
https://jimseven.com/2012/07/12/cupping-protocols-and-extraction/#discussion
https://youtu.be/kI3zOwFG9mg
https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/coffee-extraction-brewing-concepts/